Miguel Najdorf – El Viejo – Life, Games & Stories
Writing about Miguel Najdorf is one of my greatest pleasures as a chess journalist and writer.
Havingknown him is a privilege of which I quickly became aware, along with Sergio Giardelli, who
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 implied.
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.
Miguel Najdorf – El Viejo –
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.”
Life, Games & Stories
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
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.