Chess tournaments Chess strategy Computer chess Chess players FIDE Chess variants Chess rules and history

Lubomir Kavalek

Lubomir Kavalek in 1968
Country United States
Born August 9, 1943
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Title Grandmaster (1965)
Peak rating 2625 in 1974

Lubomir (Lubosh) Kavalek (Czech: Lubomír Kaválek, born August 9, 1943) is a Czech-American world-class chess player. He was awarded both the International Master and International Grandmaster titles by FIDE in 1965. He won two Czechoslovak and three U.S. championships, and was rated among the world’s top 10 players. He was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001. Kavalek is also a chess coach, organizer, teacher, commentator, author and award-winning columnist.

Brief biography

Kavalek in 1981

Kavalek was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). He studied communication and journalism at Charles University. He won the championship of Czechoslovakia in 1962 and 1968. When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in August 1968, Kavalek was playing in the Akiba Rubinstein Memorial in Poland, in which he finished second. Kavalek, who had always hated Communism, decided to defect to the West rather than return to Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. He bought several crates of vodka with his winnings, used them to bribe the border guards, and drove to West Germany. "It was the biggest loss ever suffered by Czechoslovakian chess," wrote Andrew Soltis in "The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked."

In 1970, on the way to the United States, Kavalek won a strong tournament in Caracas (scoring +10−1=6). He played the first half under the Czechoslovakian flag, the second half under the American flag. He represented the United States before officially setting foot in his new adopted country. Kavalek moved to Washington, D.C., studied Slavic literature at George Washington University and worked at Voice of America (1971-72). In 1973 he became a full-time chess professional. He later became a United States citizen and now lives in Reston, Virginia.

Chess career highlights

National championships

Czechoslovak Championships

Kavalek played in four Czechoslovak championships. Three results were significant:

US Championships

Kavalek finished first in three U.S. championships.

International victories

Significant successes

“During the 1970s Kavalek was one of the most active and successful tournament competitors from the USA.”

The best year - 1973

Besides sharing first place at the U.S. championship, Kavalek won four tournaments:

He also finished third in Amsterdam (Petrosian and Planinc 10, Kavalek 9.5, Spassky 9) and in Manila (Larsen 12.5/15, Ljubojevic 11.5, Kavalek 11).

Because of these results, Kavalek moved in 1974 to number 10 in the world on the official FIDE rating list with 2625 points. Also in 1974 he shared first place in Solingen (Kavalek, Polugaevsky 10/14, Spassky,Kurajica 8.5).

Zonals and Interzonals

Kavalek finished third at the 1966 The Hague European Zonal (Gligorić 12.5/16, Bilek 12, Kavalek 11.5) and qualified for the 1967 Interzonal in Sousse, where he was one of the three players to draw with Bobby Fischer. In the Manila Interzonal in 1976, Kavalek finished seventh.

He also qualified for the 1979 and 1987 Interzonals.

Other notable results

Other first places

Second places

Bizarre Montreal 1979

In 1979, Kavalek played in the double-round Man and his World Chess Challenge in Montreal, which he also organized. It was the most bizarre result of his career. He finished last in first half with 1.5/9, but won the second half with 6.5/9. He ended tying for seventh place overall.

Other showings

Kavalek in 1980

Olympiads and team competitions

Kavalek played in nine Chess Olympiads, representing Czechoslovakia in 1964 and 1966 and the US from 1972 through 1986 except 1980. In his seven appearances on the US team he played top board three times and second board twice, and the team collected one gold and five bronze medals.

From 1969 until 1991 Kavalek was a leading player for the German team in Solingen. During his tenure the team won 10 national championships in 1969, 1971,1972,1973,1974, 1975, 1980, 1981, 1987 and 1988 and the 1976 and 1990 European Club Championships. In the 1977-79 European Club championship, Kavalek scored 5.5/6 on the top board, including two wins over V. Smyslov.

In the Nordic team vs. United States in Reykjavik in 1986, Kavalek on second board defeated Bent Larsen 1.5-0.5.

In the match Moscow vs. Prague in April 1968, Kavalek beat Evgeny Vasyukov 1.5-0.5.

In 1976, Kavalek was the top player on the Washington Plumbers team which won the National Chess League.


Kavalek won two international matches:

Kavalek lost two matches against two of the world’s best players in Solingen, Germany. In 1970 he lost to Bent Larsen with a score 2-6 and in 1977 he was defeated by Boris Spassky 2-4.


Kavalek ranked among the top 100 players in the world continuously from the end of 1962 until September 1988, peaking at number 10 in 1974, when he achieved his peak Elo rating of 2625 on the FIDE Rating list. He was again rated in the top 10 active players in 1980. By Chessmetrics ratings, he achieved his peak ranking of number 18 in early 1974 with a Chessmetrics rating of 2695.


Kavalek had a notable coaching career, working with Mark Diesen, Robert Byrne, Yasser Seirawan, Eugene Torre and Robert Hübner. Kavalek was also one of Bobby Fischer's seconds in the World Chess Championship 1972 and served as British grandmaster Nigel Short's trainer in the 1990 Interzonal in Manila, and in Short's successful Candidates matches against British grandmaster Jonathan Speelman, Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand, former world champion Anatoly Karpov and Dutch grandmaster Jan Timman, leading up to Short's 1993 world championship match against Garry Kasparov. Short and Kavalek parted company shortly after the beginning of the latter match, which Kasparov won decisively. Short and Kavalek later wrote articles for chess magazines criticizing each other. Kavalek was acting captain and team analyst of the Rest of the World team against the Soviet Union in London in 1984.



World Champion Viswanathan Anand analyzes a game with Kavalek in Prague in 2011

Magazine and newspaper articles

Kavalek was selected to Gallery of Distinguished Chess Journalists in 2006 and won Chess Journalists of America awards for the best newspaper column. Between 1960-2012 Kavalek’s chess magazine articles have appeared in different print and online publications such as Chess Life & Review (1970-1979) and British Chess Magazine (1994-2010). He was editor-in-chief of chess publishing for RHM Press in New York from 1973 to 1986. He was the chess columnist for the Washington Post from 1986 to 2010, his last column running on January 4, 2010. In May 2010 he became the chess columnist for The Huffington Post. He was a member of the jury to select the best and most important games in Chess Informant (1989-1993).


Brilliancy and best game prizes

Kavalek’s three most important prizes:

Notable games

Here is a victory by the young Kavalek against Soviet grandmaster Eduard Gufeld. According to Larry Evans, Gufeld's soccer team had beaten Kavalek's the day before, and Kavalek vowed to get revenge:

Gufeld-Kavalek, Student Olympiad, Mariánské Lázně 1962
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. c3 f5 5. d4 fxe4 6. Ng5 Bb6 7. d5 e3 8. Ne4 Qh4 9. Qf3 Nf6 10. Nxf6+ gxf6 11. dxc6 exf2+ 12. Kd1 dxc6 13. Be2 Be6 14. Qh5+ Qxh5 15. Bxh5+ Ke7 16. b3 Bd5 17. Ba3+ Ke6 18. Bg4+ f5 19. Bh3 Rhg8 20. Nd2 Bxg2 21. Bxg2 Rxg2 22. Rf1 Rd8 23. Ke2 Rxd2+ 24. Kxd2 e4 25. Bf8 f4 26. b4 Rg5 27. Bc5 Rxc5! 28. bxc5 Bxc5 Now White has two rooks for a bishop, but cannot stop the march of Black's pawns. 29. Rab1 f3 30. Rb4 Kf5 31. Rd4 Bxd4 32. cxd4 Kf4 0-1 An extraordinary final position. Black, a rook down, still has all eight of his pawns, and White is helpless against them.

Here is one of Kavalek's most remarkable games, in which he sacrificed a queen for a bishop against the strong Hungarian grandmaster Lajos Portisch:

Portisch-Kavalek, Wijk aan Zee, 1975
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 c6 6. Be3 a6 7. Bd3 b5 8. e5 Nfd7 9. f4 O-O 10. Nf3 Nb6 11. b3 N8d7 12. a4 bxc4 13. bxc4 c5 14. a5 cxd4 15. Nxd4 dxe5 16. Nc6 Qe8 17. axb6 exf4 18. Nd5 fxe3 19. Nc7 Bc3+ 20. Kf1 Bb7 21. Nxe8 Bxc6 22. Nc7 Rad8 23. Rc1 Bd2 24. Nd5 Bxd5 25. cxd5 Nxb6 26. Rc5 Nxd5 27. g3 Rd6 28. Kg2 Rfd8 29. Rxd5 Rxd5 30. Bc4 Rf5 31. Qb3 Rf2+ 32. Kh3 Rd6 33. Qb8+ Kg7 34. Qa7 g5 35. Qxe7 g4+ 36. Kxg4 Rg6+ 37. Kh3 Rh6+ 38. Kg4 Rg6+ ½-½