Luke McShane

Remembering Evgeny Sveshnikov

There be dragons! What we now call the Sveshnikov variation of the Sicilian defence was, in the 1970s, largely uncharted territory, and viewed with deep suspicion. Its modern name immortalises the Russian grandmaster whose pioneering analytical efforts, and practical success, put the variation on the map.

Evgeny Ellinovich Sveshnikov died on 18 August at the age of 71. After his graduation in 1972, Sveshnikov worked towards a PhD at the Department of Internal Combustion Engines in the USSR. But his career turned towards chess, and in 1976 he was part of the Soviet team which won gold medals at the World Student Team Championship. The following year he was awarded the grandmaster title, and he went on to participate in nine USSR championships. Besides numerous international tournament victories, including Hastings in 1984/85, he had an impressive record against, among others, Mikhail Tal (+3, -3, =7).

Sveshnikov survived a cancer diagnosis at the age of 33. In the latter part of his career, he worked with top players including Karpov, Polugaevsky, Shirov and Kosteniuk, as well as in Russian chess schools. In the 1990s he remarried and moved to Riga and went on to represent Latvia in four Olympiads.

His passion for competitive play was undimmed by advancing years. He remained an active player, and in 2017, won the World Senior Championship in the 65+ category. He was a colourful interviewee, and something of a gadfly in his dealings with chess officialdom, whom he perceived as ignoring the needs of veteran grandmasters. He had four children, including a son, Vladimir, who became Latvian champion in 2016.

I played against Sveshnikov at the Roskilde Open in 1998.

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