Person of day - 6 SEPTEMBER 2023
The chess world first heard about Zoltan Ribli in 1969. The prize-winner of the European junior championship was included in Hungary’s team for the match against USSR, in which he sensationally defeated Evgeny Sveshnikov 2:0 and even beat Anatoly Karpov in one game. Only six years later, Karpov became the world champion, while Zoltan won the juniors’ Old World Championship, three Hungarian championships and several large international competitions, as well as becoming an international grandmaster.
He won the 1978 Olympiad with Hungary and took home several gold medals from Tournaments of Nations. He also won silver and bronze medals at European team championships alongside a silver medal at the world championship. In addition, he was the winner of several European zonal tournaments.
In the mid-1970s Ribli challenged for the world championship. Atthe 1976 inter-zonal tournament in Manila, Zoltan split 5thplace and three years later in Riga, he was left by the curb of the candidates’ matches after he lost an additional match to his fellow countryman, Andros Adorjan. The exceptional Hungarian grandmaster’s time came in 1982, when he won the inter-zonal tournament and knocked out Eugenio Torre- the star of the East- in the quarter-finals.
In the semi-final, Ribli was drawn against Vasily Smyslov, who didn’t seem like the strongest of opponents in the candidates’ matches. Hungary rejoiced in anticipation of victory against the “Soviet grandfather”, especially so given Ribli’s confident victory against Smyslov in the inter-zonal tournament in Las Palmas. As a result of intrigues and politics of the Soviet Union, the ICF initially awarded defeats to Smyslov and Garry Kasparov, setting up a Korchnoi - Ribli final. However, after a compromise was reached between Florencio Campomanes and the Soviet chess federation, the semi-finals were held, where Vasily Smyslov decisively defeated his younger opponent. Years later, Ribli wrote that the hassle had affected him much more than the experience of Vasily Smyslov.
In 1984, Ribli played for the World Team in the Match of the Century at the 5th board and defeated Rafael Vaganian 2,5:1,5. For many years, Ribli’s rating was among the world’s highest 10- in the 1980s, his Elo coefficient was 2630. Soviet grandmasters often noted that Ribli’s strongest suit was his ability to convert a minimal advantage into a decisive breakthrough.
At the 1987 inter-zonal tournament, he split 4th place with Mikhail Tal, but Jonathan Speelman and Gyula Sax scoredhalf a point more and qualified for the candidates’ tournament. In the 1990s, Zoltan Ribli quit the chess elite under pressure from a younger generation.
He is the author of Winning with the Queen’s Indian and Winning with the English. He is married to international grandmaster Maria Grosch.