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Miguel Najdorf – El Viejo – Life, Games & Stories


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– Miguel Najdorf – El Viejo – Life, Games & Stories

How could anyone not remember Najdorf’s sayings, repeated again and again, as entertaining as the first time he said them: “I had a ve-e-ery wise aunt, who used to say, better a pawn up than a pawn down”, laughing. “There are two ways of winning at chess, when you play well and your opponent plays badly, or when you play badly and your opponent plays worse”. “First the idea, then the move!”, etc., etc.

Zenon Franco Ocampos

– ISBN 9789464201130

– 720 pages.

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Writing about Miguel Najdorf is one of my greatest pleasures as a chess journalist and writer. Having

known him is a privilege of which I quickly became aware, along with Sergio Giardelli, who had more

dealings with him than I did. A few years ago we agreed that both of us could say “I knew Mozart”, not

the real Mozart, of course, but referring to someone who reached the highest point of the discipline he

embraced. Najdorf did so with the utmost passion.

I never felt able to call him “el Viejo” (literally “The old man”), as everyone, himself included, called him;

I think it sounded disrespectful to me because of my Guarani roots, although obviously no disrespect was


The first time I heard of him was through the magazine “Ajedrez”, and later through the occasional

annotations of my mentor Bernardo Wexler, who had a high regard for Don Miguel’s chess strength.

I remember that in the 1970 Siegen Olympiad, where Najdorf played on the top board, and once again

had to face the best players in the world, Wexler said, “If Najdorf wants it so, nobody can beat him, but

he will want to win, and then he might lose; but if he plays for a draw, nobody can beat him”.

At that time I was unaware of the strength of the masters. The first time I went to the Club Argentino de

Ajedrez (Argentine Chess Club) I watched several masters playing blitz games (or “ping-pong” games, as

they used to say over there) and for me they were all very good, of similar strength. When I asked him

who was the best, Wexler did not hesitate: “Najdorf, Najdorf.”

On another occasion Wexler mentioned one of Najdorf’s characteristic traits: his extreme

competitiveness. He recalled that when he was eighteen he had once shared first place with Najdorf

himself. Wexler was then only a second-category player and he was on cloud nine. Najdorf wanted to

play a tie-break, which Wexler declined to do, explaining that he was very excited, quite unable to play,

but Najdorf insisted over and over again, said he would give him the entire first prize if he played, etc.




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