Half a century ago, Bobby Fischer captured Boris Spassky’s world title in Reykjavik and sparked a global chess boom. A galaxy of English talent, led by Nigel Short and Michael Adams, surged to No 2 behind the former Soviet Union.
England’s Fischer generation are now in their fifties and sixties, while Adams, 50, leads a national team in their thirties. In many other countries, the top players are younger still. India, the fastest-rising chess nation, has a quartet of teenage grandmasters led by Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 16, who this week scored his best win yet in the Reykjavik Open.
For the Indians, the icon is their former world champion Vishy Anand. For others, the models are the No 1 Magnus Carlsen and the omnipresent Stockfish engine, to which players turn at the conclusion of their games for an instant diagnosis of their accuracy and errors. Computers became significant aides only in the 1990s, when the Fischer generation were past their playing peaks.
A central problem now for young and ambitious English players is the dearth of tournament opportunities, made worse by the pandemic, which caused the London Classic, Hastings and the British championship to downscale or cancel their events.
James Adair, 29, is one of the unluckiest English talents. The York player improved from promising junior to strong international master over a decade and by 2016 had all three required norms for the grandmaster title. But he also needed a Fide rating of 2500, and his peak stopped at 2492 before he switched to a career in insurance.
Now it looks as though Adair may never achieve the GM title. He still has all the skills, as in this fine attacking win over a former world semi-finalist in a recent 4NCL match.
Einar Gregerson vs Eric Rosen, Reykjavik Open 2022. How can Black (to play) checkmate in five moves?
*The caption to this column has been amended to clarify that the picture is from 1970, two years before the 1972 match in Reykjavik