Apr 19, 2001

Just a few words about the grandmaster and man
In memory of Vladimir Bagirov

He was a Senior World Champion, a grandmaster, a journalist, a trainer and simply a good man. The assiduous boy was noted by Vladimir Andreevich Makagonov, the trainer of the combined team of the USSR. For many years Vladimir Bagirov was the leader of the Azerbaijan Republic. He played in prestigious championships of the USSR. He was a very good strategist, dangerous for any opponent. In the eighties Bagirov moved to Riga and became a worthy player who defended Latvian chess redoubts. His investigations of the English Opening, of the Caro-Kann Defence and of several other opening systems attracted the attention both of amateurs and professionals. Bagirov's analyses helped many grandmasters of the world to win their games. It so happened that he always was my only serious rival in Baku. And though I used to win easily in my duels with any opponent, it was very rarely that I managed to defeat Bagirov. Of course we played blitz. There was a whole gulf between us in serious chess. It turned out that in the Senior World Championship (Gladenbach,1999) we met for the last time.

Curiosity and inquisitiveness are useful qualities for a chess player. The playing hall was nearly empty, yet one table was surrounded by a whole crowd. I went to it too.

Bagirov (Latvia) - Rotstein (Ukraine)

Diagram 1

The Ukrainian international master has already parted with a pawn. His bishop on f8 is not very good. Both opponents are in time trouble.

1... Rf3!

A good chance.

2. g4?

Diagram 2

The World Champion of 1998, that man of sense, strategist, grandmaster – and such a blunder! Now Rotstein will exchange his rook for the knight and draw the game: 2... Rxc3 3. bxc3 Qf1. No, the Ukrainian sees nothing.

2... Qf4 3. Qf5

Diagram 3

Passed. Bagirov will win now. The bishop f8 and the rook f3 will be exchanged for the white queen. Black will lose the game in several moves. It should be mentioned that the grandmaster meditated for some time before he played g4. It turned out that he had been dreaming. There was no bishop on f8 in his dream and the white queen got to c6. And then a crucial sacrifice followed: 1. Qb5+! ab 2. Ra8.

Diagram 4

The idea could have been realised. But the first thing that should have been done was to put the rook on a good place. In the time trouble instead of 2. g4 Bagirov could have played with the rook: 2. Rh1!! Rxg3 3. Qc6! Qf2 4. Ra1 Rg1 5. Ra2!

Diagram 5

There was no escape from the mate Qb5+ and ab#. The grandmaster clapped himself on the forehead and exclaimed: "What a beauty I have overlooked!"

So, the problem required just another approach (2. Rh1!!). The position is on a level with the best known combinations, though it will remain unclaimed in the anthology of tactical chess masterpieces.

Vladimir Bagirov had bad luck in the tournament in Finland. The fourth round turned out to be the last in the biography of the outstanding man and master of chess.

Genrikh Chepukaitis.

"Chess is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it;and thence it is never played for money."

Benjamin Franklin, "Chess made easy", 1802

"It is one of the insights of modern players, and especially of the best ones, that one has toplay the position itself, not some abstract idea of the position."

John Watson, "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy", 1998

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