Kingpin Chess Magazine » Spassky’s Toughest Simul

The chess boom triggered by the 1972 Fischer–Spassky match enthused many talented youngsters, especially in Britain. Boris Spassky became an early casualty of the fallout from the ‘English chess explosion’ when he took on a schoolboy squad over 30 boards in 1979. The event was the brainchild of Leonard Barden who wrote a daily chess column for the sponsor, London’s Evening Standard.

Spassky, 41, then ranked third in the world, lost five and drew 12. He described the seven-hour ordeal as ‘hard bread’:

‘This was my toughest ever simultaneous. Until today I’ve never lost more than four games in an exhibition in my life. Many of these youngsters would be candidate masters in Russia. I wouldn’t take them on again for double the money.’

CHESS (February 1979)

Spassky takes the first of three 10-minute breaks. His opponents (left to right): Nigel Short, Julian Hodgson, Glenn Flear, David Cummings and William Watson. The match was sponsored by the Evening Standard with support from the National Bank of Dubai and the Slater Foundation.

It is a measure of the strength of the juniors that ten of them went on to make a living from chess as either player, writer, coach or businessman (some combining all four). Eight became grandmasters and five international masters. Others preferred to forge a career in law, accountancy or IT. Around half are still active players, 41 years after their remarkable  feat.

Many thanks to Gary Lane for the programme which gives the full line-up with mini biographies.

The Team to play Boris Spassky:-

  1. NIGEL SHORT (13). Bolton School and Atherton.

Rating 213. World No.1, 13 year old. First Evening Standard under-10s, 1975. First under-14s, 1976. First under-21s, 1978.

British Men’s Lightning (10 seconds per move) champion 1978 – the youngest National Men’s Champion in chess history. Bronze medallist world under-17 championship 1979.

In simuls Nigel has beaten Korchnoi and Petrosian. World Nos. 2 and 4. Now he plays Spassky, World No.3.

  1. JULIAN HODGSON (15). St Paul’s and Shepherds Bush.

Rating 210. Standard London Amateur Champion at age 12, 1975.

Standard London under-18r champion, 1976. British under-21 co-champion, 1977. Youngest ever to beat two grandmasters in successive games, 1978.

  1. GLENN FLEAR (19). Surrey University and Leicester.

Rating 208. Twice British men’s championship finalist. Captain England juniors, 1977. Former Leicestershire men’s champion.

  1. DAVID CUMMINGS (18). Varndean and Brighton.

Rating 207. British men’s championship finalist, 1977. First Danish junior international championship, 1978.

  1. WILLIAM WATSON (16). St Paul’s and Barnes.

Rating 204. British under-21 co-champion, 1977. 16th British men’s championship, 1978.

  1. NICHOLAS BENJAMIN (18). St John’s College, Oxford and Kew.

Rating 202. Winner Standard London under-12, 14, 16 and 18 titles. British men’s championship finalist, 1977.

  1. DANIEL KING (15). Langley Park School, Shortlands and Bromley.

Rating 201. British under-14 co-champion, 1977. 2nd Lloyds Bank junior international, 1979.

  1. MALCOLM PEIN (19). London University and Liverpool.

Rating 199. British under-18 co-champion, 1977. Currently No.1 player for London University.

  1. GARY CLARK (18). Catford.

Rating 199. 3rd South of England men’s championship, 1977.

  1. RICHARD HOLMES (16). St Paul’s and Richmond.

Rating 199.

  1. TONY WILLIAMS (17). Godalming College and Farnham.

Rating 195. British under-14 champion, 1976.

  1. CLIVE FROSTICK (16). Dulwich College and Orpington.

Rating 195. British under-14 champion, 1976.

  1. JOHN PITCHER (15). Alsager Comprehensive and Stoke.

Rating 194.

  1. JOHN HAWKSWORTH (15). Bradford Grammar and Bradford.

Rating 194. Yorkshire under-18 champion.

  1. STEVEN QUIGLEY (17). William Ellis and Islington.

Rating 193. British under-18 champion.

  1. RICHARD WEBB (16). Forest of Needwood High and Burton on Trent.

Rating 192. Second youngest British men’s championship finalist, 1977.

  1. ERIK TEICHMANN (17). Perse School and Cambridge city.

Rating 190. Cambridgeshire men’s champion. 2nd British under-18 championship, 1978.

  1. TONY PETERSON (19). Finsbury Park.

Rating 189. Standard London under-18 champion, 1978. 2nd Standard London under-21 championship, 1979.

  1. BYRON JACOBS (15). Slough Grammar and Slough.

Rating 189. Standard London under-16 champion, 1979.

  1. ANDREW LEWIS (18). Boswell Comprehensive and Chelmsford.

Rating 188. 1st prize Standard London under-18s, 1979.

  1. KEITH ARKELL (18). Rednal, Birmingham.

Rating 188. 2nd Lloyds Bank junior international, 1979.

  1. SIMON BROWN (18). St Olave’s and Orpington.

Rating 187. Finalist Kent men’s championship, 1978.

  1. PETER SULLIVAN (18). KCS Wimbledon and Cheam.

Rating 186. Standard London under-18 champion, 1979.

  1. NEIL DICKENSON (14). Sevenoaks School and Sevenoaks.

Rating 176. 1st prize Standard under-14s, 1979.

  1. IAN ROBSON (14). St. Martin’s School and Brentwood.

Rating 175. BCF junior squad U-14 co-champion, 1978.

  1. PETER WELLS (13). St John’s College and Portsmouth.

Rating 174. British under-14 co-champion, 1978.

  1. GARY LANE (14). Churston Grammar and Paignton.

Rating 173. BCF Junior squad U-14 co-champion, 1978.

  1. MICHAEL BENNETT (15). Hendon School and Hendon.

Rating 170. British under-14 co-champion, 1978.

  1. STUART CONQUEST (11). Hastings.

Rating 178. World’s best 11 year old. 100% on board 1 for England, Eumig European children’s cup, 1978.

  1. NEIL CARR (10). Manor Junior and Barking.

Rating 152. World’s best 10 year old. Standard under-10 champion, 1977 and 1978. British under-11 champion, 1978. Defeated Russian grandmaster Kotov in clock match, 1978.


  1. ALAN BEARDSWORTH (16). Bolton School and Culcheth, Cheshire.

Rating 188.

  1. ANDREW KING (17). Langley Park School and Bromley.

Rating 188. Standard London under-16 champion, 1978.

Vasyukov won 20, drew 10, and lost none (6½ hours).

Kochiev won 19, drew 8, and lost 3.

Both faced less experienced opponents.

CHESS (February 1979)

It is a shame that only five of the games appear to have been published. Do let us know if you are aware of scores or positions from any of the others.

All of these games appeared in CHESS except Spassky–Flear which is reproduced with permission from Olimpiu G. Urcan’s excellent digital chess column.


With thanks to Keith Arkell and Malcom Pein for the following scores:

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