Monday, June 9, 2008

Former Canadian World Chess Champion Re-appears

While I am at a business conference this week I had some spare time last evening and was browsing the internet and came across some info about former under 10 Canadian world Chess champion Jeff Sarwer. Most people don't know Canada had world chess champions. Jeff had a meteoric rise in chess as a 7, 8, and 9 year old in the late 1980's and then disappeared of the face of the earth for 20 years. At the time there were many who questioned his father’s home schooling methods and his chess vagabond lifestyle. The family went into hiding after Jeff and his sister (who won the world under 10 girls) were seized by Ontario’s child protective services. They stopped playing chess and hid out in Europe.

I hadn't known that he was the real life model for the character Jonathan Poe, Josh Waitzkin's nemesis, in "Searching for Bobby Fischer". Unlike the movie version, in real life Jeff was two years younger and their final game was a draw and they tied for the championship. In the movie version Josh sees he has a win but offers a draw to his opponent who refuses.
Here is the real game:
[Event "US Primary Championship"]
[Date "1986.??.??"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[White "Jeff Sarwer"]
[Black "Joshua Waitzkin"]
[ECO "E76"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. e5 Ne8 8. Bd3 c5 9. dxc5 Nxc5 10. Bc2 a5 11. O-O b6 12. Be3 Bb7 13. Qd4 dxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxd4 15. Bxd4 Rd8 16. Bxc5 bxc5 17. Na4 Bxe5 18. fxe5 Rd2 19. Rf2 Rxf2 20. Kxf2 f6 21. e6 Nd6 22. Nxc5 Rc8 23. Nxb7 Nxb7 24. b3 Nc5 25. Re1 Rc6 26. Be4 Ra6

27. Bc2? (27. Kf3) Rxe6 28. Rxe6 Nxe6 29. Ke3 Kf8 30. Ke4 Ke8 31. g3 Kd7 32. Kd5 f5 33. a3 h6 34. b4 axb4 35. axb4 Nc7+ 36. Kc5 e5 37. Ba4+ Kc8 38. Bc6 e4 39. b5 e3 40. Bf3 Ne6+ 41. Kd5 Ng5 42. Be2 Kc7 43. Ke5 Ne4 44. Kd4 Kd6 45. Kxe3 Kc5 46. g4 Nd6 47. Kf4 g5+ 48. Ke5 fxg4 49. Kf6 g3 50. hxg3 Ne4+ 51. Kg6 Nxg3 52. Bd3 Nh1 53. Kxh6 g4 54. Kg5 g3 55. Be4 Nf2 56. Bd5 Nd1 57. Kf4 Nc3 58. Bc6 Ne2+ 59. Kf3 Nd4+ 60. Kxg3 Nxc6 61. bxc6 Kxc6 62. Kf3 Kc5 63. Ke3 Kxc4 1/2-1/2

Last October Jeff, now nearly thirty, played in a tournament for the first time in twenty years. It was an open rapid event in Poland with 4 GM's and two IM's and Jeff tied for second with only one loss to one of the GM's. Here’s one of the games that shows his attacking style.
[Event "Malbork Castle, Poland semi-rapid"]
[Site "Poland"]
[Date "2007.10.02"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[White "Jeff Sarwer"]
[Black "Radoslaw Jedynak"]
[ECO "E22"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "2559"]
1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qb3 c5 5. e3 O-O 6. Nf3 b6 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. Qxc3 Bb7 9. Be2 d6 10. O-O Nbd7 11. b3 Rc8 12. Nd2 Qe7 13. f3 d5 14. Bb2 Rfd8 15. Rac1 Ba6 16. Rfe1 cxd4 17. exd4 Rc7 18. Qe3 Rdc8 19. Bd3 Nf8 20. f4 Qd7 21. h3 Ng6 22. g3 Ne7 23. Nf3 Qd8 24. Ne5 Nd7?
25. Bxh7+ Kxh7 26. Nxf7 Qg8 27. Qxe6 Nf6 28. Ng5+ Kh8 29. Nf7+ Kh7 30. Ng5+ Kg6 31. Qe3 dxc4 32. bxc4 Bxc4 33. g4 Qd5 34. f5+ Nxf5 35. gxf5+ Qxf5 36. Nf3 Kh7 37. Ne5 Bd5 38. Rxc7 Rxc7 39. Rf1 Qe4 40. Qxe4+ Nxe4 41. Rc1 Rxc1+ 42. Bxc1 b5 43. Nd7 Kg6 44. Nc5 Ng5 45. Nd3 Nxh3+ 46. Kh2 Be6 47. Nc5 Bf5 48. d5 Kf6 49. d6 Nf2 50. d7 Ng4+ 51. Kg3 Ke7 52. Kf4 Bxd7 53. Nxd7 Kxd7 54. Kxg4 Kc6 55. Bb2 g6 56. Kg5 Kd5 57. Kxg6 Kc4 58. Bg7 Kb3 59. Bf8 a5 60. Kf5 1/2-1/2

I remember back when I was a chess playing university student reading about him in the Canadian chess magazine (whatever it was called at the time) and also seeing him being interviewed by Barbra Frum on CBC News. The interview left a bad taste in my mouth at the time - mainly because of the condescending tone from the interviewer - and from the 9 year old. Jeff has set up a website and has posted many old news clips and interviews. It is a very interesting site. He has also posted some of his games at with comments which is where I found these two games.

It's good to know that you can come back to chess after a long hiatus and enjoy it and have some success. I hope he plays some more.

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