Bent Larsen lived in the wrong time.
Had he been born in 1925, rather than 1935, he would have been the best non-Soviet player after World War II and dominated Western chess for decades.
Or had Larsen been born 20 years after he was, he would have profited handsomely from the bigger prizes of the 1970s.
Instead, Larsen and Boris Spassky played for a mere $300 in a 1968 world championship candidates match. Larsen earned one-third of his income from prizes, one-third from exhibitions and one third from writing — and moved to South America to avoid the high taxes of his native Denmark.
Stylistically, Larsen — who died this month — belonged in the 19th century, where he would have been remembered as one of the great Romantic players. It was Larsen who brought ancient openings like 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 back into fashion.
Yet Larsen claimed he was closest in style to the super-cautious Tigran Petrosian and said they were “blood brothers” who grew up reading Aron Nimzovich’s “My System.” But it was Larsen who revived Nimzovich’s 1 b3. The opening I dubbed the “Nimzo-Larsen” is still going strong, as this week’s game shows.
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– GM Susan Polgar