Wednesday, August 3, 2011
My first meeting with the man was in 1978. Karpov had just defeated Korchnoi in Manila. As students at RI we were told that a FIDE delegation would be visiting the school and I was given the task of organising a simul for the FIDE President Fridrik Olaffsen. Strangely, a man came in the afternoon into the lecture hall where we staged our reception and started to give a talk on pawn endings. He was ready to give away collar pins to anyone who could solve the puzzles. Several of the boys did, which made him very happy. Then he proceeded to give the simul. He had not yet introduced himself.
The simul started and shortly after 20 minutes, another group of people entered into the simultaneous match. One elderly gentleman borrowed a set from me, set the pieces up and sat down opposite the master. The master looked at the position, then at the gentleman and they both burst out laughing and started to hug each other. Prof Lim then introduced them - Nikola was giving the simul as the President did not show, while the gentleman was none other than GM Yuri Averbakh! We were all stunned. I know GM Averbakh after reading about the famous Queen sacrifice in his game vs Kotov in Zurich 1953. Finally I get to meet him! I had to find a book for him to sign and all I had at the time was ? Fischer's 60 Memorable Games. Nonetheless I sheepishly approached him for the autograph. He grunted for a while when he saw the title, but smiled nonetheless and signed on the book along with GM Josif Dorfman. It was a sunny day for the chess boys at RI.
Nikola was also invited to lecture the 1st FIDE Trainers' Seminar prganised in Singapore in December 2003 in place of Adrian Mihailschin.He was honest to remark that he could not deliver Adrian's syllabus but gave us wonderful endgame puzzles to train our calculating ability. The puzzles were taken from his published book "De Ta Pitam"
Sadly I learnt that he passed on in 2008 but he will always remain as a friend to Singapore Chess and the wonderful man who gave everyone a pawn endgame puzzle to solve.