MARK RUBERY CHESS
South Africa lost one its finest players with the recent passing of Piet Kroon (19452021). He was blessed with a natural talent that was the envy of many of his peers and would disappear from the chess scene sporadically only to emerge showing little signs of rust. His most dramatic reappearance was at the 2015 SA Open in Cape Town where after a twenty year hiatus he returned to the chessboard at the age of 70, sporting the international rating of 2330 he acquired four decades earlier. Playing mostly on the high boards Kroon delivered an impressive performance finishing 8th in an event that was won by GM Nigel Short.
Kroon won the SA Closed on three occasions (1965, 1969 and 1975) and competed in three Olympiads Havana 1966, Lugano 1968 and Nice 1974 (where he was an opponent of Boris Spassky across the tennis court!). The writer crossed swords with him a number of times in the 1980s, and much to the delight of my friends he always greeted me with the poker-faced delivery “So what do you do Rubery?...”
During the 1976 SA Open he comfortably drew with one of the legends of world chess…
Najdorf,Miguel - Kroon,Piet [D87]
South African Open, Cape Town, 1976
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 (Kroon was a long time devotee of the Grunfeld Defence) 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 0–0 8.Ne2 c5 9.0–0 Nc6 10.Be3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Na5 12.Rc1 (12 Bd3 became the more popular choice) 12... Nxc4 13.Rxc4 b6 14.Qa4 Qd7 15.Qa3 b5 (15...Qb5 16.Rfc1 e6 17.Nf4 Bb7? was played in Karpov - Adjoran 1974 where White missed a win with 18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.Rc7. Kroon’s choice is more dynamic) 16.Rc5 a5 17.Qc1 b4 18.Rd1 Qa4 19.Qd2 Ba6 20.Nc1 Bb7 21.f3 Rfc8 22.Nb3 Rxc5 23.Nxc5 Qb5 24.d5 Rc8 25.Nxb7 Qxb7 26.Bd4 Bxd4+ 27.Qxd4 …a4 (27...Rc2!? would have required the veteran GM to play some accurate moves to hold the draw- 28.e5 (28.Rd2? Rxd2 29.Qxd2 a4 and the black pawns are too fast) 28...Qb5 29.Rd2 Rxd2 30.Qxd2 Qc5+ 31.Kf1 (31.Kh1? Qc3–+) 31...Kf8) 28.e5 b3 29.axb3 axb3 30.d6 exd6 31.exd6 b2 32.d7 Rd8 33.Rb1 0,5-0,5
I won’t play with you anymore. You have insulted my friend. – Miguel Najdorf (to an opponent who had cursed himself for a blunder)