When Bobby Fischer was making a splash in the late 1950s the Soviets got worried and hoped to find a Fischer of their own, so they recruited thousands of children for their chess schools. The Union of Sports Societies and Organizations ordered the recruitment of 2,300 kids, both boys and girls, to various chess training programs. In addition, physical education teachers were to under go chess instruction training and special trainers in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Minsk were recruited. Besides Fischer, the Soviets were worried because their student and junior players had lost world titles in recent years. Just as a “throw in” in case anyone is interested, there is a site cataloging Bobby Fischer's newspaper articles starting in 1955 that makes interesting browsing. Visit site.
One of those recruits was a 5-year-old named Ernest Kim from Tashkent, who supposedly was beating everybody in town. Six months after learning the game his rating under the Soviet category system was third category which is equivalent to an Elo rating of about 1400.
Not everybody agreed with the idea of the mass recruitment of kids to be trained in chess. Vasily Panov was opposed to the attempt to manufacture chess champions. He felt that too many young people were being put through the Soviet chess mill which meant sacrificing future doctors or engineers. In an interview with The New York Times, in speaking about Kim, Panov didn't like the idea that Kim was being dragged off to chess training sessions instead of being allowed to play with other children. He quoted Lenin who said chess was only a recreation and not an occupation. When the Russian newspaper Tass sought an assessment from Botvinnik, he concurred noting that the boy had talent, but advised that he first get an education “to develop his mind and body” and added that the boy should totally abstain from chess for 3-5 years.
When Fischer visited Moscow on invitation of the USSR chess authorities in 1958 he wanted to play Kim, but Kim was nowhere to be seen even though the Soviets had been publishing a glut of articles and documentaries on him. There was a report that a group of American journalists who had visited the Soviet Union were introduced to Kim and the editor of the Michigan Telegraph (Kalamazoo, Michigan) played him and lost in 15 moves causing him to state, “So it’s not propaganda ...” The Chess Drum makes mention of FIscher's Moscow visit in THIS article.
|Fischer playing in 1958 US Championship|
After that Kim seems to have pretty much vanished. When British player C.H.O'D. Alexander wrote about Kim in 1973 he thought that Kim must be about 20 years old. There is a game in which Kim played GM Alexander Kotov that was supposedly played in Tashkent in 1953, but that can't be right because 1953 is the approximate year that Kim was born.
The FIDE website has a profile for an Ernest Kim from Russia whose year of birth is given as 1945; is it the same person? If so, in 1953 Kim would have been 8 years old and 13 years old when Fischer visited in 1958. It's also been reported that he played in the 1968-69 USSR Schools Championship and received a special prize for being undefeated. Alexander Beliavsky was first with 7.5-1.5 and Kim from Uzbekistan finished joint fourth with a score of 6.0-3.0. Aside from the game supposedly played against Kotov the only other game by Kim that appears in databases was played against a Tashkent second category (Elo 1600) player Suvorov, who was supposed to have said he would quit chess if he lost.