Becoming an International Master (IM) in 1957 and a Grandmaster in 1961, Robatsch dedicated much of his life to serving Austrian chess, representing the nation at eleven Chess Olympiads and one European Team Chess Championship. Up until his last Olympiad in 1994, he played first board on every occasion and returned some impressive results. At the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad, he astounded the chess world by scoring 84.4 per cent and taking the board 1 gold medal, while still only an IM. This was also the year that he became Austrian champion.
While Robatsch played competitively over five decades, the high points of his international tournament career mostly occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He continued to play to a high standard into the late 1990s.
Robatsch displayed a highly combinative playing style in his younger days but like so many others, he adopted a more positional approach later in life. In his opening play he often played experimental moves and this led to some lively and historically important games. The system of opening moves commencing with 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 became a defense that Robatsch often played with the black pieces.
His development as a player was hindered by an interest outside chess: botany. He became a highly esteemed orchidologist and was awarded the title of 'Professor' for his outstanding research work in the classification of different species and sub-species of orchid. He specialized in the study of a taxonomically complex genus of orchids called Epictatis and made significant contributions to the study of this group of orchids even in the final years of his life.
Below is a photo of Robatsch with his registered Cypripedium hybrids (acaule x reninae) It is characterized by lush growth and a very attractive flower.
Robatsch died in 2000, following a long fight with throat and stomach cancer.
In the following exciting game Tahl had to sacrifice his Q to blunt Robatsch’s attack. Robatsch still had the advantage, but couldn’t quite squeeze out the win.