Brilliancy Prize CollectorChess has to be played with pleasure.
International Grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek is one of the world's most respected chess professionals, with over 30 wins in top class international and national championship tournaments to his credit. In addition to frequently ranking among the world's top ten players, he is also a world class chess analyst, coach, organizer and chess journalist.Born in Prague, what is now the Czech Republic, on August 9, 1943, Kavalek studied journalism, communications and Russian literature in his youth. He believes good physical condition is important for high level chess play, and enjoys playing tennis to keep in shape. Kavalek attracted international attention by winning the Czech national championship in 1962 at the age of 19, and represented Czechoslovakia twice on its Olympic team. He earned the IM and then the GM titles in a space of about 7 months in 1965, an unusual achievement. In 1968 he again won the Czech title, in what was possibly the strongest Czech national championship ever, as well as winning the prestigious IBM tournament in Amsterdam.
Coming to AmericaKavalek left his homeland after the Soviet invasion of 1968, joining an exodus of talented émigrés that included Academy Award winning director Milos Forman and internationally acclaimed author Milan Kundera. He settled in the United States in 1970, and has lived in the Washington, DC suburb of Reston, Virginia since 1974. He has been the highest ranked Virginia player for many years, and one of the highest ranked American players. Many chess fans will remember Kavalek as the mainstay of the 1976 U.S. Champion Washington Plumbers team in the National Chess League.
He tied for first place in the 1972 U.S. Championship, losing the playoff for an interzonal slot to Robert Byrne. He tied for the U.S. Championship again in 1973 (photo of Kavalek at the 1973 U.S. Championship in Chicago -- 39K JPG), and won it outright in 1978. He has represented the United States on seven Olympiad teams, usually on First Board.
International CompetitorThroughout the 1970s Kavalek was the most consistently successful American player in international competitions. He finished first in Caracas 1970 ahead of Stein, Karpov, Ivkov and Panno, among others, and won Netanya 1971.
Kavalek had a banner year in 1973, with five tournament wins, including Netanya, Bauang and Montilla. He was the dominant player on the world tournament scene that year. Kavalek's 1978 match victory over renowned Swedish GM Ulf Andersson, considered one of the toughest players in the world to defeat, by a score of 6 1/2 to 3 1/2, is another career highlight.
Kavalek has played in nine chess Olympiads, often leading the USA team to medals. He also captained the USA team at the 1971 Olympiad.
Kavalek has played in few tournaments in recent years, but he won the Chess Mentor Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament, held in August, 1996 in Alexandria, Virginia. The photo at right shows him at the post-tournament press conference.
The world's most knowledgeable chess players have great respect for Kavalek's theoretical knowledge and analytical ability. One illustration of this was his selection as chief analyst and acting captain for the World All Star team in the 1984 match against the Soviet Union team. Another example is his selection as a jury member (1989 - 1993) responsible for selecting the best and most important games played around the world for the authoritative anthology, the Chess Informant.
A Chess ArtistKavalek's artistic temperament displayed itself in the chess arena, as he developed a reputation not just for being a strong competitor, but for playing complex and original chess. In addition to his large number of tournament victories, he has collected many brilliancy prizes for his often spectacular and artistic play. Especially in his younger days, he always sought to make the game as complex as possible. A few of his brilliant games are his often-anthologized 1962 win against Gufeld (as annotated by Kavalek in his Dec. 31, 2001 Washington Post column), Kavalek vs. Pietszch (selected by the Informant as one of the 10 best games of 1967, and Portisch--Kavalek, Wijk aan Zee 1975. Kavalek won the Leo van Kuijk Prize for the Most Spectacular Game for the latter game, a complex draw against the eventual tournament winner. He wrote in the tournament book: "Lajos was surprised that we did not share it. I got the prize, he got my queen and I feel it was a good deal."
Throughout his career, Kavalek has stressed fighting chess and artistic merit over ratings, as one of his remarks evidences:
Most top players know where they stand, and a number will not change anybody's style. The only thing that counts is what you create on the board.
Similarly, while Kavalek was leading the field in the 1978 U.S. Championship and Zonal tournament, he disdained a boring draw against the dangerous IM Kim Commons in the later rounds:
I was leading, but I did not feel that some of my victories had demonstrated a clear, convincing touch. I badly wanted to play a very good game. ... I could have locked the spot for the Interzonal with a quick draw--there are plenty of variations designed for this purpose--but I felt that chess was too deep and too rich a game just to grab the necessary points and leave Pasadena on an early morning bus. There was something I owed myself: a fight full of life.
The chess world would be a better place if more competitors shared such sentiments. Kavalek polished off Commons with a Kingside attack and finished in first place, thus validating one of his statements in a 1973 Chess Life article:
If you play fighting chess you should bring home the tournament points, sooner or later.
World Class Writer, Journalist, Organizer and TrainerKavalek is widely acknowledged to be a superior chess writer, with books such as the highly praised Wijk aan Zee -- Grandmaster Chess Tournament 1975 (RHM Press 1976) and World Cup Chess (Bloomsbury, London 1990) to his credit. He was also Editor in Chief for RHM Press, Chess Publishing, 1973 - 1986, one of the world's top publishers of high quality chess books.
Kavalek speaks seven languages. He has been a frequent contributor to the world's best chess magazines, covering all the world's top chess events for the past 30 years. He was long one of the most popular writers for Chess Life, and he received awards from the Chess Journalists of America for work written from 1986 through 1994.
Kavalek has not limited his journalistic efforts to chess-only magazines. He was sports editor of two newspapers in Prague, and wrote weekly cultural and chess columns there as well. He worked for the Voice of America in Washington, D.C., 1971-72. He has reported on top level chess events for one of the world's most respected newspapers, the Washington Post, since 1986. In 1995 he began an acclaimed weekly column for the Post as well.
GM Kavalek has also made his mark as a chess organizer. His 1979 Montreal Man and His World tournament (won by Karpov and Tal) is considered one of the best tournaments in world chess history.
The tremendous success of this tournament led to Kavalek's selection as Organizational Director of the highly prestigious World Cup series, the first ever Grandmaster Grand Prix in 1988-89. Kavalek was also the Executive Director of the Grandmasters Association (organization for the top 300 plus chess players in the world) between 1987 and 1993. He organized the first tournament in the new Czech democracy under the auspices of Vaclav Havel in Prague 1990.GM Kavalek has developed a reputation as an extraordinarily successful chess trainer. He coached Mark Diesen of Maryland, who won the World Junior Championship 1976. World Champion Robert Fischer (1972 match), Candidate Yasser Seirwawan (1982), Candidate Robert Huebner (1983) and Challenger Nigel Short (1990-93) number among those who have benefited from his insights. In addition to working with other top professionals, Kavalek teaches chess to children on as a volunteer for the Reston, Virginia elementary schools. A photo of him with his Fairfax County Elementary School Chess Championship team is available.