09 February 2012

American in Havana

Pictured below is one of a small series of photos, currently being offered on Ebay, all showing GM Larry Evans in Havana 1964. The item's description said,

An authentic vintage photo that shows Cuban guerrilla leader Ernesto Che Guevara playing chess against the United States Grandmaster Larry Evans during the 1964 Capablanca Memorial Tournament. The photo was taken in the Havana Hilton Hotel.

The photo shows Evans with about two minutes on the clock, while Che Guevara appears to have about five minutes (his arm partially obscures the clock). I suppose it was a blitz game at time odds.

When I first saw the photo I wondered why Evans was able to play in Havana 1964, while Fischer was prevented from travelling to Cuba for the next edition of the event in 1965. Wikipedia to the rescue:-

U.S. Champion Bobby Fischer had been invited to play and was offered a $3000 appearance fee, but the United States Department of State would not allow him to travel to Cuba due to tension in Cuba-United States relations. American Grandmaster Larry Evans had been permitted to play in the tournament the year before, as he was also acting as a journalist. The U.S. Department of State often allowed newsmen and journalists to travel to off-limits countries, but it would not budge on Fischer even though he had made arrangements to write about the event for the Saturday Review. Fischer instead played his games by telex from the Marshall Chess Club in New York City. • Capablanca Memorial

The January 1965 Chess Review presented one of Evans' games as its Game of the Month, annotated by Max Euwe, although Evans lost. The introduction to the game stated,

Apparently, the present government of Cuba desires to keep alive the memory of Jose Raul Capablanca. A third memorial tournament was held in Havana during 1964 and, this time, too, with a large roster of players -- no less than 22 participated among whom were several top-level grandmasters. That the players were enthusiastic about the prize fund was hardly surprising: the tenth prize was even more than was the first prize at the FIDE Interzonal tournament. For the winner, $2500 was available.

Similar arrangements for FIDE tournaments would probably encounter resistance. Nevertheless, it is high time for FIDE to revise its present financial dispositions. The well-known Swiss organizer, Alois Nagler, has even stated that he does not wish to be embarrassed by adhering to 'FIDE prizes'.

'Encounter resistance' from whom? The Soviets?

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