Filip playing Tahl at Curaçao, 1962
From the Times May 7, 2009
Miroslav Filip: Czech chess grandmaster
Miroslav Filip, the Czech chess grandmaster, devoted his professional career to a wide variety of 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 his formative years coinciding 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 co-national grandmaster-to-be Ludek Pachman, he benefited from the occasional presence of the world champion Alexander Alekhine in Prague competitions during the early 1940s. However, it was not until the age of 25 that Filip began to make a serious mark on the postwar wider 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 6ft 9in in height an imposing presence at the chess board — truly became a world force. During this period he twice achieved the arduous feat of qualifying for the Candidates Tournaments for the World Championship, at Amsterdam in 1956 and again at Curaçao, in the Netherlands Antilles, 1962. Thus Filip was automatically propelled into the upper echelons of the world elite. It was at this 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 the former world champion Mikhail Tal in 1962.
Filip also won the international tournament in Prague in 1956, again at Marienbad, now in the western Czech Republic, in 1960 and in Buenos Aires in 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 Curaçao 1962, despite scoring a fine counter-attacking victory against Tal, he was generally outclassed, both by the established Soviet grandmasters and by the new star, 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 in the Philippines 1978. Here Filip, who had spent his life avoiding contentious issues and who had quietly conformed to the Communist regime in Prague — where many of his fellow grandmasters had either defected or protested — found himself in charge at a difficult time. For the final games of the championship, the match erupted into accusations and counter-accusations concerning the intervention of parapsychology and the presence of a banned group of mystic gurus.
He conducted the chess column in the Prague daily sports paper Denik Sport with 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 12 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.