The days when cigarette advertisements constantly appeared in the cinema — and smoking was allowed — are long gone. Where is the Marlboro man, who lit his cigarette with a glowing branding iron? Where are the globe-trotters, who understood that Peter Stuyvesant is the international passport to smoking pleasure? Banished to Siberia?
That happened to Viktor Korchnoi in 1974 in Odessa, when he won a candidates match against Tigran Petrosian? He did not leave Odessa in a plane. In those days the steward lit your cigarette for you. No, not at all, Viktor the Terrible had to make do with the train, like ordinary mortals
With a suitcase full of cigarettes he arrives in a poor town, somewhere in Siberia. In the hotel no sign of booz or women. So he spent all his time in a pub, in front of the town hall, where perchance a chess tournament was taking place. Reeking of booz he crushes everyone. Victor was in trouble without his beloved cigarettes, which occurred in a match against GM Johann Hjartarson from Iceland. There was a general smoking ban in the tounament hall on that occasion, although Korchnoi managed to find a place to smoke anyway. But not for long, thanks to the interference of FIDE president Fridrik Olafsson, also from Iceland, who extinguished his fire.
Mikhail Tal, the magician from Riga often blew opponents away with his breathtaking combinations. Often quite literally so, given the clouds of smoke he spewed all over the board, typically reducing the opposition to ash in the process (cremation?). Three packets a day, no problem. Not to mention an extra packet, when he had to play (“For a few fags more…” his “smoking gun” had the same effect as Clint Eastwood in those Spaghetti westerns…). That is why Mikhail Botvinnik, nicknamed the Patriarch, ordered his training partner Vlatsjeslev Ragozin to chain smoke and blow it in his face at the board, to prepare for his match against Tal. But the smoking cuts both ways. Because of his weak constitution Tal spent half his time in intensive care, but carried on smoking nevertheless (literally). When Tal again was on the intensive care during the Candidates in Curacau 1962, who was the only komrad to pay him a visit? Right, Bobby Fischer.
There is only one picture, where we see Tal, apparently in rude health, thanks to the tough regime in the Anatoly Karpov camp, where Tal was helping out with preparation for one of the famous matches against Korchnoi. But we Dutch can perhaps claim credit for the greatest puffer of all time, J.H.Donner, who easily consumed 3 packets of Camel per game, doctors orders (see photo). Lubomir Kavalek can tell you all about it. In Wijk aan Zee where the steel plant blast furnaces belched out clouds of smoke, the chess board was almost invisible behind the smoke too (but not caused by the open windows).
What we see in a photo of the game Donner-Planinc next to the board is a crystal clear ashtray. However it took a full retinue of arbiters running in relay just to keep it that way. Something like that is not going to happen these days. No king-sized ashtray beside the board (just the extra queen-sized queen). Smoking in the tournament is long since banned. Letting a fag hang out the mouth in an indifferent way, like I do, is allowed, but don’t dare light it up!
At least not until far beyond the no smoking zone. And why? Because smokings kills, and we need those corpses like a hole in the head!
Jacques Jambon will produce an image column on a daily basis during the Chess Festival, where text and pictures will give you a surprising vision of the chess world, in his own words and through the eyes of a person who has seen it all (and may make you feel the same). He does not sit on the fence, run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He manages to combine a romantic style with an eye for the painful truth about that twilight world, where grandmasters and patzers meet. Jambon is not only a chessplayer but also erstwhile reporter for the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (a northern newspaper), anarchistic enemy of the state, goal- and, barkeeper, poet,-fashion icon, (the list goes on).
Important to know: the reflections of Ham are not automatically shared by the tournament organization. The organizers tried their very best to contact the photographers and ask permission for using their pictures. If necessary, please contact us.