Person of day - 9 AUGUST 2023
It is difficult to pinpoint an area of chess where grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek did not prove himself. A chess organizer, arbiter, coach, journalist, author and winner of multiple awards, he is, above all else, a brilliant grandmaster. He was born on the 9th of August, 1943, in Prague. Success came quickly for Lubomir: he won two Czechoslovakian championships, with the second one bringing all the country’s strongest chess players. After victory in Varna in 1965, he became a grandmaster.
In 1968, the young champion was sent to the prestigious Rubinstein Memorial in Poland, where Lubomir finished second. At the same time, the armies of the Warsaw Pact entered Czechoslovakia and replaced Alexander Dubcek’s government. Kavalek supported the Prague Spring and decided to emigrate immediately.
Lubomir’s flight was reminiscent of spy stories: the grandmaster used his winnings to buy a few bottles of alcohol, which he then gave to border guards to let him pass into West Germany. Soon after, Kavalek ended up in the US. In 1970 in Caracas, he played under a flag that was half filled with American stripes and half with the Czech tricolor. However, his desire to continue his career forced Lubomir to get American citizenship and soon enough, the man who originally trained as a journalist immersed himself fully in endless tournaments.
Lubomir Kavalek is the three-time winner of the US championship, winner of prestigious tournaments in Caracas, Amsterdam, Netanya, Solingen and participant of several inter-zonal tournaments. In 1974, he was tenth on FIDE’s ratings-list with an Elo of 2625. He is the winner of the 1976 Olympiad with the American team and a five-time prizewinner of the Tournament of Nations. In 1978, he defeated Swedish chess player Ulf Andersson 6,5:3,5 in a match when his opponent was considered one of the strongest players in the Western world. In 1984, Kavalek led the World Team in the second Match of the Century and he captained the team against the Soviet squad.
When his results began to decline, Kavalek started to train others, including Robert Huebner, Eugenio Torre, Yasser Seirawan, Robert Byrne and world junior champion Mark Diesen. He was one of Robert Fischer’s assistants for the match against Boris Spassky.
He trained Nigel Short during the 1990 inter-zonal match and his victorious candidates’ matches against Jonathan Speelman, Boris Gelfand, Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman. Short was about to play Garry Kasparov when he had a quarrel with his trainer; soon, both teacher and student disparaged each other in the press. It is thought that Short’s conflict with his respected mentor stopped the PCA from garnering the support of most Western grandmasters during its stand-off with FIDE.
He organised a super tournament in Montreal in 1979. He was the acting director of the International Chess Players’ Association in 1988-1989 and he authored the report of the Association about the state of the World Cup. In 2001, Lubomir Kavalek was elevated to the Hall of Fame of American chess. He is the author of The Sicilian Defence, The World Cup, Wijk aan Zee 1975 and Tilburg 1977. He was actively cooperating with ChessBase and multiple chess magazines, tirelessly working on promoting his favourite game.
Lubomir Kavalek died on the 18th of January, 2021.