Person of day   -  12 JANUARY 2021

VLASTIMIL HORT

VLASTIMIL HORT

Vlastimil Hort was born on 12th January 1944 in the Czechoslovak city of Kladno. 13-year-old Vlastimil’s first performance at the final of the national championship was a pleasant surprise to local supporters: the young chess player lost to the venerable Ludek Pachman by a mere point and split 2nd-4th places. Soon, Mikhail Tal visited Prague and gave a session on 20 boards- the match between the Riga wizard and Hort finished as a draw. However, the ingenious Tal soon joked that it was he who should take pride in the result.

In 1960, Vlastimil visited the USSR for the first time and performed well in the round-table tournament at the Central Chess Club. Two years later, his visit to Moscow brought him the title of master. But Hort had not desire to rest on his laurels: first places in Harrachov in 1964 and Marianske Lazne in 1965 (which he split with Keres) made him a grandmaster. As a member of the Czechoslovak team, the new national champion became a silver medallist at the Olympiad and a winner and prize-winner of students’ world championships. In 1963, the Czechs managed to overcome the fearsome Soviet students- Hort’s team won 2,5:1,5 and its leader drew with Vladimir Bagirov.

In 1966-1967, Hort won the Eastern armies’ military championship twice and soon became a five-time champion of his country. The Czechoslovak chess player immediately began to fight for contention for the candidates’ cycle. At the European zonal tournament of 1967, Hort came second, after Portisch, and at the inter-zonal tournament he split the qualifying place with Reshevsky and Stein. An additional match-tournament was called in which all the participants won 4 points out of 8 and the American progressed as a result of a higher coefficient. 

Vlastimil Hort’s successes in super-tournaments led to the Czechoslovak grandmaster’s selection for the fourth board of the world team in the Match of the Century, where he beat Leg Polugaevskiy 2,5:1,5. At the inter-zonal tournaments in Mallorca in 1970 and Petropolis in 1973, Hort performed unsuccessfully by his own standards, but his candidate’s time came three years later in Manila. Vlastimil split 2nd place with Polugaevsky and won the coveted invitation; his opponent in the quarter-final was the ex-world champion Boris Spassky.

The match’s main time finished with a 5:5 draw and after the start of the additional matches Spassky was taken to hospital with appendicitis. All time-outs of the Soviet player were taken up, so Hort could demand victory in the match, but he nobly gave his opponent a chance and took his last time-out. Spassky was still feeling unwell and, with the score at 7:7, he emerged in a losing position with whites. Alas, choosing between two options for victory, Hort forgot about the time and dropped the flag…fate did not give him another chance to storm the Olympus.

Immediately after his defeat, the grandmaster held a record session of 600 matches- he claimed that he thus wants to put the unfortunate time lapse out of his mind.

In the 1980s, Hort often played in the Bundesliga, moved to West Germany and became a prie-winner of the European team championship and a three-time champion of his new homeland. Nonetheless, the famous grandmaster still partakes in events in Czech Republic and has trained multiple well-known Czech chess players. During his long career, Vlastimil has successfully played against world champions, starting with Mikhail Botvinnik and ending with Vishy Anand- he has something to tell young players.

Together with Vlastimil Jansa, the author of the iconic textbook The Best Move also published a humorous collection of chess-themed detectives. An engineer-economist by education, he became a well-known author in later age.

Vlastimil Hort is a repeated participant in Veterans vs Women matches and a regular commentator of matches with David Navara.