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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Amazing Zoltan Sarosy

     This Canadian chess Hall of Famer, inducted into the HOF in 2006 at age 99, was born in Budapest on August 23, 1906. 
     There was nowhere to play chess in his hometown and it wasn't until he attended the University of Vienna and joined the Vienna Chess Federation that he began studying and playing in tournaments. He quickly became one of the best players in Vienna and on one occasion even won the city championship. 
     When he moved back to Budapest in 1933 chess tournaments were frequent and he won a number of tournaments, beating the city's best players, including the Hungarian Champion, Geza Fuster. From then on, he went on to win several championships in the 1930s and was awarded the Hungarian master title in 1943. 
     Fluent in Hungarian and German, in 1944 he volunteered as a translator when other Hungarian men his age were drafted and sent to the Eastern Front. At the end of the war, worried that Russians might have him imprisoned for being a military translator, he fled Hungary. He left his wife and daughter behind and later sent for them when he was in Canada, but his wife refused to leave Hungary so they divorced. (He eventually remarried in Canada.) 
     Once he reached Austria, he managed to find a place to stay in Salzburg before moving to a refugee camp. Wondering across Europe, he ended up in Alsace, the German-speaking province taken back by France after the war. 
     In November 1950, he saw a newspaper article about how Canada had changed its immigration laws and realized he was eligible for a visa and two days after Christmas he was in Toronto. There he played in city tournaments and joined the local German chess club and YMCA where he once again met Geza Fuster whom he again defeated. 
     Soon afterward he took a break from chess in 1957 to open a business. He had been working at a job laying tiles but didn’t like working for other people so started selling cosmetics then began importing them himself. After several years, he bought a convenience store which he ran until the late 1970s. 
     After resuming OTB pay in 1963 he won the Toronto Championship. In the late 1960s, he decided to focus solely on correspondence chess, playing in international competitions and winning the Canadian Correspondence Champion in 1967. In 1988, he was named International Correspondence Master by the ICCF. 
     In 2000, at the age of 90, Sarosy was concerned that he would not be able to finish any new correspondence games via mail. However, he chanced to see a newspaper with a story about computer courses for seniors so he learned how to use a computer and bought computer books, familiarized himself with the new way of playing chess and at the age of 94 began entering email tournaments. He even managed to tie for 2nd place at a correspondence tournament at the age of 102
     In 2006, Sarosy was inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame. He has been called the oldest chess player in the world.
     Sarosy speaks five languages, one of which, Spanish, he taught himself in the 1980s. Sarosy celebrated his 110th birthday back on August 23rd. Today he lives in a seniors’ home and though he now uses a wheelchair to get around he has a sharp mind and not only remembers his life as a child but what he had for breakfast. 
     The following correspondence game is rather long, but don't let that discourage you from playing through it because it's a messy, fascinating slug fest filled with what Botvinnik called head-whirling complications. In fact, I don't guarantee the accuracy of my notes because I ran into a couple of positions where, thanks to horizon effect, Stockfish 8 had some difficulty reaching a clear conclusion. The position after 16.Bb2 was particularly difficult. Both players deserve credit for playing an interesting game and let's hope we can all play as good as Sarosy did in this game when we are 82 years old!

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