Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sit Like a Champ at the Chess Museum

Patzer n. [Slang] an amateur or inferior chess player

There's not a whole lot to see at Moscow's Chess Museum.

The museum, which opened in 1980 and is located on the second floor of the Central Chess Club at 14 Gogolevsky Bulvar , features some chess-related paintings, a few black-and-white photos of Soviet grandmasters and 18th-century chess sets from China, Germany and England.

The thing is, it's a small, one-room operation, and there's only so much you can fit in there.

"I have so many photographs and other items to display," said Tatyana Mikhailovna Kolesnikovich, the museum's director since 1998. "I would like to have one room for the chess sets, one for the photographs, one for the paintings. ... But I don't think it will happen for a while. The club doesn't have the money right now."

That doesn't mean it's not worth a visit, however.

The museum is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Tatyana Mikhailovna will show you items like a picture of the 1909 Mikhail Chigorin Memorial Chess Congress in St. Petersburg signed by second world chess champion Emanuel Lasker.

Or a gulag chess set made from matches and matchboxes in 1937 during the Great Terror. The resourceful prisoner, a certain Shilov, was shot that same year.

Tatyana Mikhailovna is also proud of the autographed picture of U.S. grandmaster Samuel Reshevsky with Soviet world champion Vasily Smysolov at the museum in 1991.

The prize of the museum, however, has to be the original table used for the first Kasparov-Karpov match at the Hall of Columns in 1984-85.

You know, the match to six wins that stretched to 48 games over six months because Karpov, with five victories, just couldn't get that final win. The match that saw Karpov lose almost 9 kilograms because of the mental strain. The match that was canceled without a winner because FIDE president Florencio Campomanes said he was worried about the players' health. That match.

I asked Tatyana Mikhailovna for permission to sit down at the table, which she gladly granted. I took a seat behind the white pieces.

It's a light wood table with the board built into it. The squares are faded, as if it sat in the sun for years before being rescued by the museum.

The table is decorated with the two original tiny Soviet flags affixed to small chrome flagpoles with the original chess clock between them.

"Those aren't the original pieces, though," Tatyana Mikhailovna said of the neatly arranged black and white armies. "We weren't able to get them after the first match."

That was fine by me. For about 10 seconds I just sat there bobbing my head anyway. I couldn't even bring myself to defile the e2 pawn with my patzer hands by making a first move. It wasn't out of respect for the two players, but rather the uneasy feeling I get when other people watch me move pieces around by myself. I'm scared to show them I'm a fraud.

Nothing was going to stop me from fiddling with the clock, though. Tatyana Mikhailovna nervously agreed to let me start and stop it.

I popped white's button down emphatically, pretending I was Garry Kimovich staring down Anatoly Yevgenyevich. Black's clock actually started ticking.

When I tried to start white's clock, though, I discovered it hadn't been wound. That spelled the end of my clowning around. I stood up, thanked Tatyana Mikhailovna and left.

A bit anti-climactic, I know. Kind of like that first Kasparov-Karpov match.

35...Ba8! 36.Rxd6? Rb7!! 37.Qxa6 Rxb3 38.Rxe6 Rxb2 39.Qc4 Kh8 40.e5? Qa7 41.Kh1 Bxg2 42.Kxg2 Nd4! Black resigns

 Here's the position after Karpov's 35.Qb6 in the final game of the match arranged after the canceled one. If Karpov can win, he retains the title with a 12-12 tie. A draw or a win for Kasparov will make him the youngest world chess champion ever.



November 9, 1985

Black to move