You might be wondering… why in the world host a professional chess tournament in Curaçao?
Our chess community was small — around 150 active club chess players in 1962.
Granted this small group of mostly men really, really wanted to organize a major tournament.
They got to work to haul the 1959 Candidates Tournament, but they were unsuccessful due to timing/financial issues.
They kept at it.
In February 1959, the Netherlands Antilles Chess Federation, part of the Royal Netherlands Chess Federation, wrote a letter to their Dutch colleagues requesting that they inform the World Chess Federation (FIDE) that the Netherlands Antilles Chess Federation wanted to host the 1962 Candidates’ Tournament. That bid was accepted, and so the first Candidates’ Tournament outside of Europe was held in Curaçao! Awesome or what?!
At the height of the Cold War, American Bobby Fischer, possibly the greatest chess player of all time, came in a disappointing 4th at the 1962 Curaçao Candidates tournament.
After Sports Illustrated published an article written by Fischer, headlined “How the Russians Fixed World Chess”, “the four Russians (Keres, Geller, Petrosian, Kortchnoi) had agreed on some draws in Curaçao, making them impossible to beat. They went swimming in the afternoon, got dressed, appeared at the start in the playing hall in the InterContinental Hotel, sat at their boards for half an hour, made a few quick moves, swapped as many pieces as possible and then offered a draw. “Nicha?” one asked. “Nicha” his opponent replied.
“I’ll never play in one of those rigged tournaments again,” Fischer fumed after losing to the Soviet Armenian champion Tigran Petrosian in Curaçao. “[The Soviets] clobber us easy in team play. But man to man, I’d take Petrosian on any time.” Larry Evans agrees, but believes that Fischer was also looking for a convenient excuse for losing. “The fact of the matter is,” Evans says, “that in ’62 at Curaçao, Bobby just wasn’t good enough yet.” (Fischer dropped out of international competition for several years after Curaçao!)
Ps: While in Curaçao, Bobby visited a brothel. When asked later how he enjoyed it, he said, “Chess is better.” – Curacao, 1962
The Atlantic: Bobby Fischer’s Pathetic Endgame by Rene Chun
Curaçao 1962: The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World by Jan Timman