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Kasparov's Most Exciting Game

"What was the most exciting chess game you ever saw?” former world champion Garry Kasparov is asked in the latest issue (2011 no.1) of New in Chess magazine. The highest rated player in history made the unlikely pick of the board 1 game from the Scotland v Greece match from the Malta Olympiad in 1980. Play over game

Swanson v Makropoulos  The game between Stephen Swanson (the 1975 joint Scottish champion) and Georgios Makropoulos (now a leading FIDE official) isn't held in any special regard in Scottish chess mythology but Kasparov had a particular reason to nominate this obscure encounter. 17-year-old Kasparov was making his Olympiad debut as 2nd reserve in Malta: “Makropoulos's victory gave the USSR the better Buchholz score over Hungary for my first gold medal.”

(Photo: Swanson v Makropolous supplied by SS, Tim Upton in background)

Reigning champions Hungary had been ahead of a formidable Soviet side for the whole Olympiad but had been caught on the line. The winner would be determined by a tie-break system in which the scores of all the countries who faced the tied teams would be tallied. Hungary had crushed Scotland 4-0 in the first round and the USSR later defeated Greece 3.5-0.5. The Scotland v Greece pairing was the only final round match where both teams had played only one of the joint leaders. A narrow defeat for Scotland would guarantee the gold medal was retained by Hungary.
         Scotland captain Gerald Bonner relates that his own game as well as Swanson's went to the adjournment session and was watched by an array of stars including then world champion Karpov and former champion Tal. Kasparov had even assisted the Greeks with their analysis during the break. Swanson (White) missed several wins and went on to lose, gifting an unlikely gold to the Soviets. First published in Scotland on Sunday February 20, 2011.

Scotland scores in Malta from Olimpbase


Extract from Gerald Bonner's Olympiad report in Scottish Chess magazine SCM 61: The final round brought us the chance for death or glory. With the likelihood of a tie between Hungary and USSR, the performance of many other teams was likely to decide the issue, and the Scotland-Greece pairing brought this into sharp focus since it was the only one in which both teams had played only one of the joint leaders. Every point for us was a nail in the Russian coffin, while Greek points helped the USSR and pulled back Hungary.

As expected, the leaders both won heavily (3.5-0.5) v Iceland and Denmark, and Scotland adjourned two games with the match standing at 1.5-0.5 aginst us. The Greeks now found themselves an extra member called Kasparov, whose help was no doubt very valuable in adjournment analysis. (When resuming his game, Stephen had to ask Kasparov to "de-occupy" his seat - Ed). On resumption, Stephen and I found ourselves the centre of attention of a crowd of distinguished spectators including reigning World Champion Karpov, ex-champion Tal, and GMs Polugaievsky, Kasparov, Ribli, Csom and Sax. In this unique moment of glory I lost my way in a possibly drawn ending of K+R+N+P v K+R+2P, and Stephen could do little to save a position already lost at adjournment time. Score 3.5-0.5 for Greece and victory for the USSR with 449.5 points to 448. Download full Gerald Bonner Olympiad report SCM 61


Stephen Swanson reflects on his disinterred memories: Who would believe it! Colin McNab mentioned this to me at the weekend during the 4NCL matches and I do recall this game far too well - it caused me a great deal of pain at the time. 

Yes, we were aware of the significance of the match and yes I was winning over the board for a fair part of the game, plus he was in serious time-trouble as we approached the first time-control.

Kasparov moved into my chair as soon as I got up at the adjournment and started analysing with Makropoulos and we did also comment at the time that Hungary made no offer to help us with the analysis despite their own interest in the outcome.

Kasparov wasn't the only World Champion to annoy me at that Olympiad as I vividly remember Karpov dismissing me with the back of his hand  when I asked him for his autograph on a chess post-card.

On a more positive note from the event, I had a game against Yasser Seirawan that also went to an adjournment and though I eventually I lost it spent a long and enjoyable time analysing it with Pal Benko and Seirawan himself. Benko was great, telling me how he had spent most of the night analysing another possible sealed move (a5)  even though he was sure I hadn't played it. Of course, that had been the best sealed move and yes, I'd sealed an inferior one. 


30 years later some Hungarians are still annoyed that Scotland no.1 Craig Pritchett was not playing in the match v Greece.

"At least now I give two unfair-play prize. One will get the regulation of this Olympiad concerning to dead heat. The second unfair-play prize which is due to Pritchett. "

Insulated from economic reality with a state sponsored team the communist Hungarians didn't appreciate that Craig had already left after round 9 since he was taking up a new job with the National Audit office in London. This had been agreed with the SCA in advance of the Olympiad.


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