SI Vault
Franz Lidz
March 28, 1988
While pouring a fourth packet of sugar into his coffee, nine-year-old chess prodigy Jeff Sarwer spied Gary Kasparov across the convention center floor, in Saint John, New Brunswick. Kasparov, the Soviet world champion, stepped briskly through the hall, dispensing greetings with the dash one would expect of so considerable a personage. "You can't refuse to talk to me," Sarwer shouted. He was as cocky as a bantam rooster, and at 4'5" not much bigger. "I'm a world champ, too."
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March 28, 1988

Your Move And Make It Snappy

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Tal, on the other hand, remained unflustered as he romped through the first two rounds. "Blitz is easy," he said with a shrug. "It's nothing." Still, few took him seriously until he routed the dangerous Artur Yusopov, a Soviet grand master, 3-0 in the quarters. Even then, another Soviet grand master was quick to explain Yusopov's loss: "He is not a morning player."

And Tal?

"Misha doesn't even know that it's morning."

After tossing back a double scotch, Tal defeated Chernin in the semis to set up a best-of-six final with Rafael Vaganian of the U.S.S.R. During Vaganian's semifinal match against Georgiev, officials had resorted to instant replay to determine whether Vaganian had punched his clock after making an illegal move that would have cost him Game 2. He hadn't and thus had been permitted to correct his mistake. He eventually beat Georgiev in the fourth game of sudden death.

Tal unsettled the weary Vaganian with outr´┐Ż moves and daredevil sacrifices that led to unfathomable complications. Ahead 3-0, Tal bailed out of a lost position with an ingenious swindle. Lacking enough time to put Tal away, Vaganian offered the draw that clinched Tal's victory. "Without art, this would have been difficult," said Tal. "Without luck, impossible."

Sarwer, who failed to qualify for a wild card, took it all in stride. "I'll be playing Kasparov for the real world title when I'm 18 in 1997," he said matter-of-factly. "That is, assuming Kasparov is still champion."

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