The world’s oldest grandmaster, 95-year-old Yuri Averbakh, played 4-year-old child star Misha Osipov yesterday, while Sergey Karjakin gave a simultaneous display and 80-year-old former World Champion Boris Spassky looked on. The remarkable meeting of the chess generations took place as part of a Day of Chess in the Ostankino TV studios in Moscow, helping ensure it was covered heavily in the Russian media.
Yuri Averbakh was born in 1922 and as a child saw Emanuel Lasker play. The highlight of his long and successful career as a player, arbiter, journalist and now historian was perhaps winning the formidable USSR Championship in 1954, 63 years ago. Needless to say, his 4-year-old opponent, Misha Osipov, wasn’t around back then.
Misha caught the Russian public’s imagination last year as a 3-year-old when he played Anatoly Karpov in a TV talent show. The 12th World Champion offered a draw and asked the boy to “objectively assess the situation”, but the boy was having none of it. Then Karpov explained to the kid that he’d lost on time. Cue tears and instant fame.
Now, a year later, 4-year-old Osipov is perhaps the 2nd best known active Russian chess player after Sergey Karjakin and already has his own sponsorship contract.
He can also claim to have beaten a grandmaster, since he won the exhibition game against Yuri Averbakh – a 10 minute plus 5-second increment rapid game where Yuri is said to have had an advantage before missing a tactic that won a rook. This time Misha was right to reject a draw offer!
The other main event was a simultaneous display by Sergey Karjakin. The event was sponsored by the “Change One Life” charity, which works with orphans, and Sergey’s opponents were eight children from foster families. The reigning World Blitz Champion went on to win on all boards.
One more exhibition saw team chess with Karjakin and Osipov defeating a team consisting of Averbakh and Alexander Zhukov, a noted politician and the President of the Russian Olympic Committee.
Perhaps the most memorable images from the event, however, were of Averbakh and Spassky reminiscing after over 60 years spent together in chess.
Next up for Sergey Karjakin, of course, is the FIDE World Cup that starts in Tbilisi on Sunday. Sergey is the defending champion and in the first round he plays the youngest player in the competition, 16-year-old Australian IM Anton Smirnov. If he wins that match he’ll face the winner of Dubov-Fridman in Round 2. Of course Sergey can relax in Tbilisi since regardless of his result he’s already qualified to play in the 2018 Candidates Tournament.