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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Henrique Mecking

Mecking today
    Henrique Costa Mecking (born 23 January 1952) was the first Brazilian to be awarded the grandmaster title is largely forgotten these days but he ranked among the best in the world in the 1970s and is still one of the strongest players in Brazil.

     Mecking was considered a prodigy and was often compared to Fischer, but did npt receive his GM title ubtil he was 19 years old. He won the Interzonals of Petropolis 1973 and Manila 1976 and in 1977 he was ranked number 3 in the world with an Elo of 2635.
     Despite winning his first national championship at the age of 13, he played in very few tournaments. In Vršac in 1971 he finished third with Robert Byrne behind Karpov and Korchnoi. In 1975, he twice shared second place behind Ljubomir Ljubojević, firstly at Las Palmas with Ulf Andersson and Mikhail Tal and then at Manila with Lev Polugaevsky, Bent Larsen and Helmut Pfleger. Mecking played for Brazil in the Chess Olympiads of 1968, 1974, 2002 and 2004.
     After unsuccessful attempts to qualify from the Interzonals of Sousse 1967 and Palma de Mallorca 1970, he had his first major triumph in 1973, when he won at the Petrópolis Interzonal. He was subsequently eliminated from the Candidates Tournament in the quarterfinals, after losing his match against Korchnoi.
Mecking in 1973

     At his next attempt in 1976, he won the Manila Interzonal, reaching a second successive Candidates matches stage, but again lost in the quarterfinals, this time to Polugaevsky.
     Illness (myasthenia gravis) forced his withdrawal from the Interzonal in Rio de Janeiro 1979 after the first round. His illness was so severe that it was believed he would not survive. His disease was incurable and in a fight for his life, he recovered, assisted by his faith in Jesus Christ. This led him to convert to the Catholic religion. Over the next 12 years, he left chess aside, majored in theology and Catholic philosophy and practiced his faith seriously.
     In 1991, in a surprising move, he announced his return and played matches against GMs Predrag Nikolic and Yasser Seirawan, which he lost and also against the strongest players in Brazil nowadays, GM Giovanni Vescovi (+1 -2 =3) and GM Alexander Fier (+1 -1 =2). He also participated in several tournaments. ChessDom has an interesting article on this remarkable man.
     The following miniature is interesting because with is 10th move white failed to realize the danger lurking in the position. Play through the game then go back take note of white's undefended B on c4 and try to visualize the forks and pins.

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