Evgeny Sveshnikov, Grandmaster and Theorist of Chess, Dies at 71
Evgeny Sveshnikov, a chess grandmaster who was among the world’s best players in the 1970s and who made significant contributions to the theory …
Evgeny Sveshnikov, a chess grandmaster who was among the world’s best players in the 1970s and who made significant contributions to the theory of the game, particularly in the openings, one of which is named for him, died on Wednesday in Moscow. He was 71.
His death was confirmed by his son Vladimir, himself an international master — the title just below grandmaster — who won the Latvian Championship in 2016. No cause was given.
Openings — the initial moves of a match — are usually named after those who did the most to promote them, usually by playing them regularly. Sometimes they are named for the regions where the players are from. One system, a variation of a well-known opening called the Sicilian Defense, had a somewhat dubious reputation in the 1950s. Named the Pelikan (after Jiri Pelikan, a Czech and Argentine master) and sometimes the Lasker-Pelikan (after Emanuel Lasker, a German who was the second world champion), it saddled black with a permanent pawn weakness and allowed white to easily occupy and control part of the center.
In the 1960s and ’70s, as Mr. Sveshnikov began rising up the ranks of players in the Soviet Union, he began playing the Pelikan. He discovered new ideas that gave black dynamic chances to counter and began to have good results.
Mr. Sveshnikov was not the only one to look into the system. Gennadi Timoshchenko, who was less than a year older than Mr. Sveshnikov and, like him, had been born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, also began studying and playing the Pelikan. It was rehabilitated and renamed the Chelyabinsk Variation, which it is still called by some.
Mr. Timoshchenko did not continue to promote the variation as much as Mr. Sveshnikov, who wrote a book about the opening and used it often. Before long, the opening became synonymous with him and is now mostly known as the Sveshnikov Variation.
It has become a standard part of the repertoire of the world’s best players. Magnus Carlsen, the current world champion, who is from Norway, employed the Sveshnikov four times in his 2018 title match against Fabiano Caruana of the United States.
Evgeny Ellinovich Sveshnikov was born on Feb. 11, 1950. His father, Elin Kaparushkin, was a physical education teacher. His mother, Tatjana Sveshnikova, was a doctor. Evgeny learned to play chess from his father and solved chess problems to distract himself from chronic tooth pain.
Mr. Sveshnikov studied engineering and worked for a time in that profession doing research into improving internal combustion engines. But he soon turned his full attention to chess.
He became a master at 17 and, in 1973 and 1976, he won the U.S.S.R. Championship of Young Masters. His victories qualified him for the Soviet Championship, which was then considered the toughest tournament in the world. Though he never won it, he would compete in the tournament multiple times.
Playing abroad, he won or tied for first in tournaments in Czechoslovakia in 1974, Italy and France in 1977, Cuba in 1979 and England in 1984-1985.
In 1977, he was awarded the title of grandmaster by the International Chess Federation, the game’s governing body. At the time, he was ranked among the top 25 players in the world.
In later years, he lived in Riga, the capital of Latvia, where his second wife is from. He won the Latvian Championship three times, in 2003, 2008 and 2010, and in 2017 he won the world championship for players older than 65 at a tournament in Italy.
Mr. Sveshnikov was also a trainer, working at various times with Anatoly Karpov, the former world champion, and Alexandra Kosteniuk, a former women’s world champion.
Mr. Sveshnikov’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his second wife and their son Vladimir, he is survived by another son from his second marriage, Alexandr Sveshnikov; two daughters from his first marriage, Larisa and Tatjana Sveshnikova; and his sister, Irina Sveshnikova.
Since he did not necessarily want to play against someone who was employing his pet opening, or the ideas that he had developed for it, Mr. Sveshnikov began playing the Alapin opening when he had white, a series of moves that allowed him to sidestep having to confront the Sveshnikov Variation. Mr. Sveshnikov became an expert in the Alapin, developing new ideas and writing a book about it. He also wrote a well-respected treatise on the French Defense.
Though Mr. Sveshnikov was proud of the work he had done on the opening that bore his name, he mostly stopped playing it in his later years, as he felt that most of the ideas had already been discovered. Instead, he started playing a slightly different system that was sometimes called the Neo-Sveshnikov but more commonly goes by the name Kalashnikov, as in the name of the rifle that is named after a former Russian general.