Person of day   -  27 MAY 2024



Igor Zaitsev was born in Ramenskoye, just outside Moscow, where he graduated from high school cum laude. He spent his student days in Moscow’s Institute of Transport Engineers. In 1963, he moved to Moscow and began to work with chess editions, such as Moscow ChessChess in USSR and, later on, with the weekly 64

He won over 30 all-Unionand Russian competitions. He also won several round-robin grandmasters’ tournaments: in Moscow in 1968, Quito in 1977, Dubna in 1979, Bucharest in 1992 and Orel in 1993. He won the Moscow championship in 1969 and took silver at the 1973 Russian championship. He played in six Soviet championships and became an international grandmaster in 1976. He played with an attractive, combinatory style that defeated some of the world’s strongest players, such as world champions Mikhail Tal and Boris Spassky. He is a remarkable chess analyst and author of multiple opening variations in the Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian, the King’s Indian and the Caro-Kann Defences and other openings. One of the most popular variations of the Ruy Lopez is named after him: the Zaitsev System.

From 1971 to 1977, he trained former world champion Tigran Petrosian and Lev Polugaevsky in their candidates’ tournaments. From 1978 to 1991, Igor Zaitsev was the ever-present second of 12thworld champion Anatoly Karpov. In 1978, after the world championship in Baggio, he became a recognised trainer of the USSR. For his successful work as the senior trainer of Soviet teams at Olympiads, European and world championships, Zaitsev was awarded the Order of the Friendship of Peoples in 1981. 

Anatoly Bykhovsky, recognised trainer of the USSR:

- He is a coach of the highest category. And that’s why he had worked with Tigran Petrosian and Anatoly Karpov for many years. But the coach always remains behind the scenes, especially at world championships. The kitchen and chess laboratory remains in secret before these matches. You could only find out by accident through the trust of preeminent figures just how many openings they demonstrated were conceived by Igor Zaitsev. But sometimes, we were correct in guessing the author of some crazy novelty. 

Mark Dvoretsky, recognised trainer of the USSR:

- His effective findings in the opening theory became a treasure of the entire chess world, but only through second hands. The right of “first sight” was for many years exclusive to Petrosian then Karpov. But for me, Zaitsev’s articles are even more valuable, for they revealed hidden secrets of middlgames and endgames, which he occasionally analysed. I have a separate folder for Zaitsev’s materials. If any of my students need to expand their imaginations and creativity alongside an objective, specific approach to a position, they will have access to this folder.  

Igor Zaitsev has been a FIDE senior trainer since 2006. He has worked abroad as a coach in several foreign counties. At the present time, he is a senior trainer of the school at Botvinnik’s Central Chess Club.

His wife, Tamara Zaitseva (Kasinova), is a master of sport and grandmaster of ICCF. His daughter, Olga, is a PhD candidate of history and a lawyer.