a passion of 75 years ... memorable moments and "bittersweet"
Family: Roberto jr, Roberto senior,
Ana Maria, Maria del Carmen, Juanita and Eugenio in
1941. © E. Salomon
Salomon - © History
of Spanish chess )
was the year 1941, in my home town, Gijón. At
that time all good things were from "before the war",
all people had been "right or left", red or
father not only taught me how to play, but he also
inspired a lifelong passion in my heart with the story of
his experiences.Some of his anecdotes are written in his
memoirs "Walking and Wondering":
giving chess lessons I earned a living ... and playing
chess at dusk at Café de la Plaza, the best way to reach
nirvana, which is also achieved with good music".
was the year 1942 when my "Uncle Casi" (Dr.
Casimiro Rugarcía -painter, poet and chess player,
besides Alekhine's doctor-) introduced me to his chess
club "The Casino de la Union de los Gremios", on
the famous Corrida Street, and at the same time helped me
to appreciate, with his games and his poetry, the poetic
dimension of chess:
is unparalleled chess - faithful image of life - desperate
departure - against time and chance - ... full of illusion
begins - like life this game .-- Just as love is fire --and
as art, beauty .-- How many times your greatness - humbles
and your ardor is shattered! - Because this game or combat
- also has its agony - in short or slow stubbornness -
that ends in checkmate".
It was the year 1944 when
during a simultaneous exhibition timed with clocks
against ten of the best players in Gijón I received a
masterful lesson from my idol,
Alekhine, the reigning World Champion. Perhaps
without realizing it, I learned the value of coordinating
the Queen and the Knight in attacking games....It was move
number 45. Alekhine and I were playing hand to hand
because the other 9 players had already lost. With the inexperience of only a
year participating in tournaments, I played 45 ... Qd3 + (to
simplify, I thought ... and to lose, it turned out). If
I had played 45 ... Nd3 !, the attacking "team"
Queen-Knight would have resulted in a draw. View
From my first serious
tournaments in Madrid 1946 and Gijón 1947, to the last
ones in 1998 (Open Anibal -- Linares and World
Open -- Philadelphia), the theme of combinations
with queen and knight has appeared in many of my games,
several of them selected for the book "40
Years of Friendship - 100 Games of Chess" that
I wrote with my friends and teammates Steve Pozarek and
my uncle Casimiro (my second teacher) and my uncle Eugenio © E. Salomón
A year ago, when I discovered
the group "History of Spanish Chess" through
Facebook, and Javier Cordero proposed to translate my
section of the book to share it on the Internet through
his website, I felt honored. A great translation with accurate
comments, complemented with a selection of 4 attack games
(two of them, by the way, with combinations of Queen and
can find the translated book, plus its selection of games,
by going to his web site "Ajedrez de Ataque" or
to the "the
attic section" of the "History of
Spanish Chess" webpage.
It is pure coincidence that
each of the four games that Javier selected have their own
life or history:
The game against GM Sargisian
was recognized in the Informator # 71,
page 356, as one of the 25 best combinations of the
quarter October 1997 to January 1998 ... an honor for
someone who, like me, was never and never pretended to be
a professional chess player. View game.
The game against the strong
master Eugene Shapiro, an impressive theoretician in the
openings, has a curious story: not wanting to play a
Sicilian or a King's Indian, for the first time in my life
I chose to open with 1.f4. I
did not know the Bird opening , but having successfully
used the Dutch defense with black in my youth, I had a
good strategic concept of this type of approach. I
thought that this would allow me to play as an equal in
the opening. I won with a nice Queen sacrifice. View game.
Two years later I had to play
against Master Shapiro again, what to do? There
was no doubt that Shapiro would have studied and improved
his approach to the previous game, but anyway I wanted to
avoid playing openings in which he was a recognized expert...
solution: play again 1. f4, but with a small change: Instead
of developing the bishop to b5, I placed it on e2. Again
I won with a combination that included a Queen’s
sacrifice (or pseudo-sacrifice). View game.
The game against the Russian
Murzin (Philadelphia 1998, perhaps
created some chess poetry at age 70…) and my game
Klug, reflects a frequently
repeated leitmotif : the value of
cooperation between the Queen and the Knight! (See also my game against IM
Rogelio Ortega (Havana 1952) or against the
strong master Adam Leif,
played in 1986).
ago, commenting on "History of Spanish Chess"
the details of the International de Gijón of 1947 (always
present in my heart), someone published my game against
Antonio Rico (thanks, I did not have it!). That
game was the first in a long string of "bittersweet
games" in my life as a chess player. I
remember saying that one day I would write about it ...
and here I am!
call bittersweet games those
that combine, in a certain way, opposite sensations that
can go from joy to agony or ecstasy. Like
some Chinese dishes, they have a sweet flavor and a sour
aftertaste. I am sure, dear reader, that as you
see my examples you will remember some of your games, as
it is a disease that afflicts all tournament players (even,
though rarely, the Grand Masters).
In my game with the friend
Antonio Rico (champion of Asturias), played in my native
Gijón in July 1947, the joy of a nice combination (started
with a bishop sacrifice to continue with Nf6 +) was
clouded by the regret of having to accept his offer of a
draw in winning position because the flag of my watch was
falling. View game.
After tasting this
bittersweet dish, I was able to taste similar ones
throughout my career on the board:
After not having played
tournaments for 4 years, I faced I.M Eldis Cobo (champion
of Cuba and, like Medina, winner of a US Open). The joy
of the success of "getting him out of the book"
with a rather unknown variant of the Dutch, gave way to
the anguish (or the shame) of seeing, but not executing,
the simple winning move. T5d3 !. The
fight ended in a Draw. View game.
In spite of everything, I had
the enormous satisfaction of finishing sixth
of 14, earning a place in the Cuban team that would attend
the Olympics in Helsinki ... although by avatars of fate,
I finally declined to be part of the Cuban team.
* NEW JERSEY OPEN 1968:
After being away from chess
for 16 years (due to my professional life, and a new
emigration, this time from Cuba to the United States,
where I created a family), I returned to the board at the
New Jersey Open. Things
were going surprisingly well: I was leading, unbeaten and
I was facing one of the best New Jersey players, George
happiness of being playing a good game and having it
"won" disappeared by the agony of throwing
everything away with a simple bad move. The game ended in a draw.
Finally I could not achieve
the victory in the tournament, but it was sensational to
see that I could still play against "the best"
after so many years: I managed to be among the 10 best of
Gijón (1944) and the 10 best of Madrid (1946), and years
after being among the 10 best of Cuba (1952) I was among
the 10 best in New Jersey (1968).
playing a game with his son Henry with the same pieces
that Alekhine used in the international tournament of Gijón
As one of many strong fans
who can give a scare to any Grandmaster some times, I had
a nice experience in Connecticut. I played in two successive games
against two famous Grand Masters: Arthur Bisguier and
Robert Byrne. Result: one won and one draw.
game against Bisguier reminds me of
what I experienced against Rico
44 years earlier. A
nice combination, which resulted in a winning position,
was truncated by having to offer a draw due to the
pressure of the clock. View game.
Could I have won my games
against the two Grandmasters? ... NO! As I
mentioned before, even the Grandmasters go through moments
in which they experience the sour taste: my game against
GM Robert Byrne was a gift, even in the end Byrne could
have got a draw playing 60 ... Ke5 instead of Kc5. View game.
* LAS VEGAS
- National Open 1995
67 years old, retired and with my own consulting business
already organized, I found myself freed from the enormous
pressure typical of business
executives and also having free time...a new experience!... That
is to say, I was finally able to dedicate myself to
playing chess seriously, which was reflected in a
considerable increase in my "rating" (up to
2289) and also had an impact on the quality of my games in
the creative aspect.
With the maturity of age I
begin to put more emphasis on "creating art",
with the result of the game taking a second seat. In this tournament I played against
a G.M (Bisguier), an I.M (Saidy), a F.M (Pupols), an IWM. (Belavskokaya) and a Master from
Brazil. I defeated Pupols and drew the rest
This time the bittersweet
game was for a second time against Bisguier, but this time
it was bittersweet for him! When I played 46. e6 !!, Bisguier
looked at me with astonished eyes and offered me a draw. In
the post-mortem analysis he confessed to me that he was
sure he would win, it seems that he had previously won
several endings with this same type of position. View game.
My best attack game and my best combination ... bittersweet
* In the "Invitational
Tournament" of Westfield (1976) I played an
original attack game against Scott Massey. For
years I felt proud of this victory, which was really
exciting. When I selected it to publish it in
our book ... the damn program Fritz transformed it, going
from being "brilliant" to being "bittersweet". Sweet
for its emotional content during the fight and for its
originality, but also bitter because according to Fritz, I
should have lost it !. For that reason, we did not publish
it in the book, but I do think it is worth mentioning, at
least as a "bittersweet game". View game.
Finally, the most frustrating
game I ever played, the most bitter among my "bittersweet"
... and yet still sweet:
It was the US Open, in
New York 1976, and I played against the young Brazilian
Regina Ribeiro. During the game I conceived what is
perhaps the most original combination of my life. It was just 6-7 moves deep, but the
combination would end in checkmate when my pawn crowned by
taking the king's white bishop on f1 and choosing a Knight
instead of a queen !! However, inconceivably I got
confused in the order of the moves and I lost everything! (See item # 24 in my book. - Play
34 ... e2 ?? was a fatal transposition!). View game.
Finally, I want to end this
section of games with “sweet and sour” flavor with a
note as sweet as sugar (of so much meaning in my life), I
suggest the reader to play my game against I.M. John
Watson in the World Open 1996, a sweet game -sweet because
I think I played it well from start to finish and I had
the pleasure of finding a simple but beautiful combination
in the ending with 30.Rc4 !!: View game.
A sweet farewell
My beginnings in the world of
chess took place in the country where I was born: Spain. I
remember with special fondness the games won against J.M.
Fuentes in 1946 and against F.J. Pérez and the victory
against Antonio Medina both in 1947, all of them good
attacking games, tactical productions of wich one always
When I decided to retire from
Chess, 50+ years later, I wanted to do it playing a tournament in my
native Spain; What
better way to close the circle than remembering my
beginnings. My old friend Mauricio Perea had
told me several times: "You have to come and
play in Linares" ... and there I went, in 1998, to play
some of my
last games. In Linares I had the pleasure of
seeing that the fire of combination and attack games was
still burning: Munk
Moretensen - Salomon and Ríos
del Moral - Salomon.