Abe Yanofsky (March 25,1925-March 5, 2000)
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Text only - for games and pictures, see the original post
March 5 marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of Abe Yanofsky, 8 time champion of Canada and the Commonwealth's first Grandmaster (when grandmaster meant Grandmaster!). How quickly time runs by us all! As a sign of respect for Abe's chess legacy, a Yanofsky Memorial is taking place this weekend in Winnipeg. Here is the article that I had posted on my blog on March 25.
Abe Yanofsky's name was synonymous with Canadian Chess for a good part of the 20th century. Born in Poland in 1925, his parents moved to Canada before Abe was even 1 year old, settling in Winnipeg. When his father taught him to play chess at age 8 he demonstrated an immense natural talent for the game, and by the time he was 11 years old he was already recognized as a prodigy.
Yanofsky soon became Canada's good-will ambassador for chess
At the age of 11 Yanofsky was invited to play at the Canadian National Exhibition (1936), where he achieved great successes. On his return to Winnipeg he was hailed a hero by the media. Soon afterwards he started to collect chess championships, one after the other.
At the age of 14 , in recognition of his enormous promise, he was chosen to be part of the National Team to the 1939 Olympiad to be held in Buenos Aires. Abe exceeded expectations when he achieved the best score on board number 2! This sparkling talent soon attracted the attention of none other than the World Champion, Alexander Alekhine.
Alekhine saw a great chess future for Yanofsky
In particular, Alekhine was impressed with how the 14 year old lad neatly dispatched the Peruvian Champion Dulanto
Alekhine was so impressed, that he included this example in several of his lectures and in atleast one of his books. The final attack was brilliantly executed by the young Canadian!
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Abe's chess ambitions were put into the background. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1944 to 1946. Then for a short period he toured Europe, giving simuls, lectures and playing in tournaments. He achieved great success, quickly establishing himself as the strongest player in the CommonWealth. He even defeated the future World Champion (Botvinnik) in their individual encounter in the 1946 Groningen tournament. Yanofsky soon afterwards returned to his academic studies and became a noted lawyer.
Abe achieved more success than any other Canadian chessplayer had before him, and with the exception of this writer, more than any player since.
The 1946 Groningen International Chess Tournament was the first great chess tournament since before the Second World War. It was considered a type of world championship qualifier. Abe did quite well, considering his youth and inexperience! He finished in 14th position (out of 20) with 8.5 points.
Mikhail Botvinnik was Abe's most famous victim. It took him almost 20 years before he finally levelled the score (in 1964)!
Euwe was always a dangerous adversary. They played in the first round, and a very nervous Yanofsky should have drawn the ending, but a slip gave the Dutchman an opportunity to win. The opposite-colour Bishop ending has been included in virtually every respectable endgame book since!
Yanofsky's efforts to popularize chess were well received wherever he went.
Bobby Fischer found Abe an exceptionally difficult opponent to beat. His personal score was 1.5 points out of 2 games but it took Fischer 112 moves to win!
Although Abe Yanofsky was not interested enough in the game to motivate himself in putting in the dedication necessary to fight to win the World Chess Championship, he remained a top player in the world for a long time. He became a Grandmaster in 1964--the first in the CommonWealth! He won 8 Canadian Chess titles, amongst numerous other championships, and participated on the National Team at the Olympiad 11 times.
Yanofsky was also active in the promotion of chess in Winnipeg, organizing the 1967 Winnipeg International Tournament . He eventually earned the International Arbiter Title (IA). In recognition of Abe's life-long contributions to chess as well as for his civil leadership (Abe was Mayor of a suburb of Winnipeg and an alderman in Winnipeg), he was awarded the Order of Canada in 1972. He remained active in chess right up until his death in 2000, just 3 weeks shy of his 75th birthday.
Abe wrote several excellent books. Apart from the above book, I was impressed with his ''100 years of Canadian Chess'', a wonderful book that I read when I was still in highschool. The book was one of the more popular chess books in the school library.
Yanofsky's style of play in chess can be characterized as logical and pragmatic. Much like his personality, actually! He was always calm and measured. He did not give into speculative or risky play, instead preferring to build up his position on solid and sound principles. He possessed really excellent endgame technique. In this way , many of his best games remind me of Capablanca.
However, Abe was also an excellent tactician, capable of calculating many moves ahead and finding cute combinative ideas. Many of his opponents found this out to their disadvantage.
Dr. Nathan Divinsky, also from Winnipeg and born in the same year as Abe (1925) and a very strong player in his own right, found Yanofsky a very tough adversary. His life-time record in official tournament play is just two draws in 4 games.
I have always been impressed with Abe's knowledge of the French Defence. And especially his skill in handling the delicate positions that often arise and oblige the black player to find hidden counterattacking resources to hold back white's constant attempts to seize the initiative. In my opinion, Abe's finest qualities came to the fore in this opening.
Abe Yanofsky was a great chessplayer. For his many fans, and I include myself in this category, we can only regret that Abe did not try to fight for the World Title. Never the less , his best games are a wonderful collection for any student of the game to study and learn from. Abe's talent and insight into the game was profound. His games showed great skill in playing dynamic and complex positions. His pragamatic style of play and his ability to keep the game clear and logical are characteristic of the greatest champions.
Abe, for Canadians of my generation, bridged the golden age of chess to the present. He met with Capablanca and Alekhine. He conversed with the great Akiba Rubinstein at the latter's home. He played Botvinnik, Spassky and Fischer.
When I first met Abe at the Canadian Championship in Calgary 1975, I enjoyed discussing chess history with him. Abe was able to give first hand accounts of personalities that I previously could only read of in texts. His pleasant personality and natural friendliness will always be remembered fondly by this writer. He encouraged me. Over the following 25 years we dueled several times at national championships and maintained a warm and cordial relationship. He will be missed.
Abe played an offhand game with the great Rubinstein when he first travelled to Europe
Boris Spassky had the highest opinion of Abe
I consider the styles of Capablanca and Yanofsky very similar.
Abe Yanofsky was awarded the Order of Canada in 1972, for services both in and beyond the chess world. His wiki biography can be seen at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Yanofsky
As well, I suggest the reader visit http://www.chess.ca/Yanofsky/yanofsky/biography.html for wonderful tributes and anecdotes of the Canadian legend by people who knew and admired him.