I saw Grandmaster Psakhis several times at tournaments, such as in Antwerp and the Isle of Man, in the mid-1990s. By then, his glory days had already passed, invitations to top events had dried up, and he was forced to trawl the open circuit. He had become less ambitious, often making draws against strong opponents. But watching his post-mortems, there was no mistaking his sheer class and depth of understanding of chess. He shared first place in back-to-back USSR Championships in 1980 and 1981 (tying with Belyavsky and Kasparov respectively), something that nobody ever did by chance. At the Isle of Man tournament in 1999, I watched while he played a wonderful 30-odd moves as Black in a Winawer French against Nigel Short, giving a virtual masterclass to his powerful opponent, only to go astray and lose. I still remember vividly the generosity of Short's reaction after the game - when Psakhis extended his hand in resignation, Short immediately said "I'm so sorry, that was scandalous. You totally outplayed me!".
l to r: Mark Dvoretsky, Artur Yusupov and Lev Psakhis (photo: chessbase.com)
As well as a tremendous player, Psakhis was also incredibly friendly and approachable, always willing to analyse, even with the weakest amateur opponents, and patiently explaining where they had gone wrong. I was deeply sorry to hear of his terrible health problems, and am delighted now that he appears to have overcome the worst. It seems unlikely that his health will ever be robust enough for a return to serious chess,but I am sure he still has plenty to give to the game, as a trainer. I hope I get the chance to meet him again one day, but for now, I would join in with the folks at chess-news.ru, in saying "Welcome back, Lev Borisovich!".
Below is a game of Psakhis', which has always impressed me, simply because of the nice prophylactic queen
manoeuvre Qd1-f1, at moves 17-18. From f1, the queen holds up both of Black's thematic pawn breaks b5 and d5, and later, the queen emerges on h3, and takes part in the decisive attack. The notes to the game are taken from Megabase, and are by my friend and former trainer, Russian IM, Igor Belov.