Chess

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The Independent Culture
BUT FOR my first wife, Viktor Korchnoi and the rabid dogs, I would probably never have won an Olympic gold medal. It happened at the 1970 Chess Olympiad in Siegen, Germany.

My daily walk, half a mile downhill, across the railway bridge, then half a mile uphill to the playing room, began with a sign saying 'Beware of Rabid Dogs'. I tried my best to look wary, but it probably would not have convinced a rabid dog.

Our pocket-money did not cover two meals a day, so the routine was forced: rise late, linger over breakfast, avoid rabies, play, return, sleep.

In the qualifying rounds, I scored three points from six games and, with the rest of the team also off-form, England were relegated to the 'C' final - the third division. Coincidentally, my wife then departed Siegen to spend more time with her family.

Conditions were now perfect: a dull town, third-rate opposition, no lunch to affect my digestion, no wife present. Indeed nothing, save the enervating fear of rabid dogs, to distract from the chess.

I scored nine wins and one draw over the next 10 boring days, ending with the best overall score on third board. Viktor Korchnoi, having faced considerably tougher opposition in the 'A' final, was half a point behind after losing one game by default through oversleeping.

I was awarded a commemorative gold medal about the size of a shilling, which could be bought for around pounds 10 from the souvenir shop.

I cannot remember where I left my Olympic gold medal, which I last saw several years ago at the back of a drawer. It is probably still there, gathering dust in celebration of the transience of Olympic glory.

Yesterday's answer: 1. gxf7+ Kg7 2. f8=B+] (2. f8=Q+? loses to Kg6) or 1 . . . Kh7 2. f8=N+] The double-check in either case, forces Black to deliver stalemate.

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