Wednesday, May 6, 2009


( ChessBase News )

03.05.2009 – At six foot nine inches Miroslav Filip was an imposing presence at the chess board. But he became a world force in the 50s and 60s, represented his country in 12 consecutive Chess Olympiads and inflicted defeat on no fewer than three world champions (Euwe, Smyslov and Tal). Filip was born in Prague on October 27, 1928, and died there on April 27, 2009. Obituary by Raymond Keene.

GM Miroslav Filip, 1928–2009

Miroslav Filip, the Czech chess grandmaster, devoted his professional career to many aspects of the game, as player, author, journalist and arbiter. In every sphere he achieved world class results, though by modern standards he was something of a late starter, his prospects being hampered by the fact that his formative years coincided with the Nazi occupation of his home country and the various deprivations caused by the second world war.

Filip was born in Prague in 1928, and like his fellow grandmaster to be Ludek Pachman, Filip benefited from the occasional presence of the world champion Alexander Alekhine in the Prague competition during the early 1940's. It was, however, not until the age of twenty five that Filip began to make a serious mark on the post war international chess scene, earning the title of international master from FIDE, the world chess federation, in 1953. His growing prowess had already become clear from his victories in the Czech national championships of 1950 and 1953.

It was during the seven years from 1955 to 1962 that Filip, at six foot nine inches in height an imposing presence at the chess board, truly became a world force. During this period he twice achieved the notoriously arduous feat of qualifying for the Candidates Tournaments for the World Championship, at Amsterdam 1956 and again at Curacao, 1962. Thus Filip was automatically propelled into the upper echelons of the world elite. It was in this happy time that Filip inflicted defeat on no fewer than three world champions, Dr Max Euwe in 1955, Vassily Smyslov (the reigning champion) in 1957 and former world champion Mikhail Tal in 1962.

( GM Miroslav Filip playing GM Mikhail Tal

Filip also won the international tournaments at his home city of Prague in 1956, again at Marienbad 1960 and Buenos Aires 1961. In spite of his glittering achievements and wins against the world's best in individual encounters, Filip failed in his ultimate ambition to challenge for the world title. Indeed, in his second appearance in the candidates tournament at Curacao 1962, despite scoring a fine counter-attacking victory against Mikhail Tal, he was generally outclassed, both by the established Soviet grandmasters and the new force represented by Bobby Fischer, the mercurial young American. Therafter, Filip grew less enthusiastic about tournament play, becoming more concerned with avoiding defeat, at which he was an adept, than in scoring wins. As a result he turned his professional hand ever more to authorship, journalism and arbiting.

He was selected by the World Chess Federation to be arbiter for six subsequent world championship contests, including the controversial Karpov v Korchnoi match at Baguio 1978. He conducted the chess column in the Prague daily sports paper "Denik Sport" with great distinction, and wrote books on the candidates tournament of 1956, the world championship of 1978 and the Lucerne Chess Olympiad of 1982.

His prowess as a player was further confirmed by his results for Czechoslovakia in the Chess Olympiads , where he represented his country on a remarkable twelve occasions, three of those on top board, scoring 114 points from 194 games for a 58.76 percentage. In 1970 he won the individual gold medal for his performance in the Kapfenberg European Team Championship.

Miroslav Filip was a worthy successor to the tradition of the Prague School, which numbered amongst its alumni Wilhelm Steinitz, the first "official" world champion, Richard Reti, the pioneeer of hypermodernism and Oldrich Duras , the great tournament competitor. Filip was born in Prague on October 27, 1928, and died there on April 27, 2009.

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