Person of day - 27 MARCH 2023
The story of David Navara - the leading Czech grandmaster- and his introduction to chess is reminiscent of a life of famous wunderkinds. The 6-year-old boy learned the rules when he read a chess textbook that he discovered accidentally. David began to train intensely, amazing his friends with his determination and love for the game. Respected masters Miroslav Vanka and Josef Přibyl began to work with Navara, while his later mentors were his remarkable countrymen, Ludek Pachman and Vlastimil Jansa. “I have seen similar levels of devotion and love for chess only in one man. His name is Robert Fischer!” claimed Pachman when telling journalists about the rising star from Prague.
At the age of 16, Navara made his debut for the Czech national team at the European Team championship and he won at his board with 7 points out of 9 after defeating five dangerous grandmasters, including Emil Sutovsky. A year later, David attained the title of grandmaster for himself. The young chess player won the Czech Championship several times and became the leader of the national team, while also qualifying for the 2005 World Cup. At the 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Navara became a hero of his national team, winning 8.5 points out of 12 at the first board and defeating the Russian player Peter Svidler.
Known for his uncompromising, combative style, the Czech chess player started to get invited to super tournaments, and in Wijk aan Zee in 2007, he defeated Magnus Carlsen and Ruslan Ponomariov at first attempt. Delighted by the success of their leader, Czech administrators began to organise matches between Navara and leading grandmasters on a regular basis. In these, Navara drew with Anatoly Karpov and Boris Gelfand and defeated Nigel Short and Sergei Movsesian.
In 2011, a new chapter in Navara’s career began. He split 1st place in the B tournament in Wijk aan Zee, thus qualifying for one of the most prestigious tournaments once again, and he made it to the quarter-final of the World Cup, where he lost to future finalist Alexander Grischuk. David’s match against Alexander Moiseenko in the third round became headline news. In a time trouble, the Czech chess player accidentally touched his knight, even though he wanted to move his king. The Ukrainian chess plater did not insist that his opponent make the damaging move, but at the final stages of the endgame, while in a position that promised victory, Navara unexpectedly offered his opponent a draw.
“I don’t know if I touched the king or not. I wanted to move the knight, but my opponent said that I touched the king first. If I moved the king, I would have lost the knight. I told my opponent that I wanted to move the knight, and he did not insist that I move the king. I don’t know whether I touched the king. It was a time trouble and I was feeling unwell; I wanted to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t, because too little time was left. And in the end I offered a draw because I did not want others to say that I won this point unfairly!” David explained afterwards, when he earned the sympathy of the chess world.
Navara graduated from the logic department of Prague University’s philosophy faculty, even if the self-critical player claims to have been a bad student. He remains among the world’s strongest chess players to this day.