My chess background

My grandfather taught me to play chess when I was six years old. Some of the rules were perhaps not strictly the official ones. You had a choice between moving a pawn two squares from the initial position or to move two pawns one square each. Pawn promotion depended on its file, so that a pawn on the rook file was promoted into a rook etc. - Did one get an extra king when a king's pawn was promoted? I don't remember.

A few years later I played a bit of chess in school. One of the teachers was interested in chess and steered me to the local chess club (Hökarängens schackklubb, later renamed Farsta schackklubb) around the age of 13. There I was introduced to regular tournament chess, with chess clocks and scoresheets. As tournament games started at 7:30 p.m. and nominally were adjourned at 11:30 p.m. if not finished before then, while my parents imposed a curfew at 10 p.m., I only had 30 minutes at my disposal if my opponent used up his full two hours.

In those days, chess players were heavy smokers, and the club was housed in a basement with poor ventilation. My mother used to sniff my clothes with great suspicion when I got home in the evening.

I developed some skill in 5-minute blitz. I was especially successful in the second half of the pre-Christmas tournament, when many of the players fortified themselves with strong drinks during the intermission.

Some memorable events were taking part in simultaneous exhibitions of famous masters, such as Olaf Barda and Gösta Stoltz. In 1955, six Soviet GMs visited Sweden and gave simultaneous exhibitions at the Strand hotel in Stockholm. I played against Evfim Geller. The next morning, when I opened the morning newspaper I got mixed feelings to see my own losing game reproduced under the heading "Fatal surprise for participant in simultaneous exhibition"!

In 1957 I played in the juniors' class in the Swedish championship, where my schoolmate Jan Sellberg gained second place. I was undefeated but did not qualify for the final. My consolation prize was a book: "Schachgenie Aljechin". I studied the book closely during the summer vacation. In the autumn I became Swedish school champion (photo), and later that year participated in the first international team match at junior level, winning one game and drawing the second one against the Norwegian team. (I am glad Magnus Carlsen was not born until 33 years later.) My winning game was printed and analysed in a Swedish chess magazine by a master player, Allan Werle.

Over the next six or seven years I played in club tournaments with some success, but was outclassed in the Stockholm championship. I moved to Linköping in 1965 and enjoyed modest success in blitz tournaments, winning the city championship as an unknown outsider. "Just as we had all expected, the winner turned out to be...", as the announcer put it.

In the late sixties and early seventies I participated in a yearly tournament with 1000 players in Stockholm city hall, well known for hosting the Nobel prize dinner. The setup was 100 round-robin groups of ten players each. The 100 winners met in four Swiss-system groups of 25 players on the second day, and the four winners played it out in a round-robin final. My best result was in 1970, when I was leading one of the 25-player groups going into the final round. There I faced the well-known master Kristian Sköld and was soundly trounced in a French defense. It turned out that my opponent had written a book on "my" variation. Still, it was quite an experience to be surrounded by hundreds of spectators.

It became progressively more difficult to combine chess and work, so I took a thirty-year "breather" from chess. Only a few years ago, I discovered that it was feasible and very enjoyable to play chess on the Internet from my home computer. Today I would probably feel uncomfortable in front of a regular chess set and with my opponent sitting across the table.

2008-05-20 Since March 2007 I am again playing over the board, at Täby Chess Club, with mixed results.

  Last edited or checked November 2, 2012. Broken link fixed March 16, 2018.

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