Chess ‘Match of the Century’ adviser Nikolai Krogius dies at 91

In September 1972, a small group of Russian chess grandmasters headed for Moscow on a plane, ominously anticipating the welcome they would receive there. The group included Boris Spassky, who had just lost the world championship title to Bobby Fischer, the mercurial American player, and Nikolai Krogius, who had been part of the team assisting Mr. Spassky during the match in Reykjavik, Iceland .

The competition, described as the “match of the century” by many, had taken on geopolitical connotations against the backdrop of the Cold War. The loss of Mr. Spassky was considered a disaster in the Soviet Union, and the band members feared punishment for their collective and individual failures.

Writing about the episode almost 30 years later, Mr Krogius said it was not as bad as they had feared. When they met with members of the Soviet and Russian sports committees, the discussion was “calm and professional” and immediately turned to what could be done to return the title to the Soviet Union.

It happened three years later when Mr Fischer chose to resign the title rather than play Anatoly Karpov. But the 1972 match remained a turning point in chess history, for which Mr. Krogius had a front row seat.

Mr. Krogius died Thursday in New York, where he had lived for many years. His death was confirmed by the International Chess Federation, which did not specify the cause. He was 91 years old.

While Mr. Krogius was an accomplished player — he was world No. 26 at the time of the 1972 match — he was part of Mr. Spassky’s entourage for another reason: he was a sports psychologist and was there to give a overview of Mr. Fischer. He had also worked with Mr. Spassky before the game to try to prepare for it, but as Mr. Krogius wrote years later, Mr. Spassky had been a difficult and reluctant student.

The problems got worse once the game started. Mr. Fischer began making demands, including that Game 3 be played in a back room and not on the main stage in front of an audience. Mr. Spassky acquiesced in them all, which, as Mr. Krogius noted, was his nature.

Mr. Krogius tried to convince him to resist, but to no avail. “Spassky couldn’t bring himself to do it,” Mr. Krogius wrote in a two-volume history of Boris Spassky and the match with Fischer, published in 1998 and 2000. “He gave in and so, gradually, but inevitably, lost the psychological struggle.”

Mr. Krogius was born on July 22, 1930 in Saratov, Russia, a port on the Volga. His development as a chess player was steady but slow, as the Soviet Union in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s had an unrivaled collection of talent and it was difficult for any player to break through. In addition, Mr. Krogius was preparing his doctorate in psychology.

He qualified for the Soviet Championship – the most elite tournament in the world at the time – for the first time in 1958, finishing tied for ninth. He went on to play in six more championships until 1971, although he never came close to winning.

He won the Grandmaster title after winning the Chigorin Memorial in Sochi, Russia, in 1964. Mr. Krogius was ranked No. 18 in the world in 1967, according to Chessmetrics, a site that ranks players 200 years ago. based on their performance. Around this time, he began working with Mr. Spassky and helping him prepare for his matches.

Mr. Krogius was a vital member of Mr. Spassky’s team when Mr. Spassky won the world championship in 1969 by beating Tigran Petrosian, the defending champion at the time. It was because of this experience that he stayed with Mr. Spassky for the 1972 game.

After this match, Mr. Krogius began to play less often, concentrating more on writing and becoming active in the Soviet chess hierarchy.

He served as the President of the Soviet Chess Federation and was the head of Mr. Karpov’s delegation in his final World Championship match against Garry Kasparov in 1990, a match which Mr. Kasparov won.

Among M. Krogius’s books, “Psychology in Chess” (RHM Press, 1976) is considered one of the best treatises on how players think during games and what they can do to reduce their mistakes. . Mr. Spassky wrote the introduction, emphasizing the importance of understanding psychology to becoming a good chess player.

In the 1990s, Mr. Krogius returned to competition and finished tied for first at the Senior World Championship in 1993.

Mr. Krogius continued to work as a trainer and trainer, relocating to Staten Island in New York with his wife, Irina, with whom he had two daughters, Olga and Maria.

Information about survivors was not immediately available.

His most famous student in the United States while coaching was Irina Krush, who became an eight-time United States Women’s Champion.

Just after the 1972 match, Mr. Krogius met Mr. Fischer at a reception in Reykjavik. They spoke in Russian, which Mr. Fischer had learned by reading Soviet chess publications. Mr. Fischer admitted that he had read some of the things Mr. Krogius had written about psychology, although he found it difficult because Mr. Krogius did not write exclusively about chess.

Suddenly, Mr. Fischer quoted a line that Mr. Krogius had written: “Mistakes are often made when a player persists in his delusions.

Surprised, Mr. Krogius replied: “Perhaps this thought guided you during the preparation for the match? We saw a brand new Fischer in Reykjavik, very different from the old one.

Mr. Fischer smiled and walked away.

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