Biography — The Early Years

Born on Moscow, 1966, Maxim Dlugy was the only child of Nina Ritov, a young doctor, and Alexander Dlugy, a Textile Engineer.

As a Textile Engineer, Alexander proved to be quite dynamic and, having successfully developed numerous patents, was rewarded with a trip to Italy. The experience of traveling to Italy was eye opening for him and he decided then that he wanted his family to emigrate to the west.

In 1974 the family applied to emigrate. Back then, applying to emigrate was tantamount to rejecting the state and as a result, both Nina and Alexander lost their professional jobs and had to work doing manual labor to make ends meet. Fortunately for the duo, manual labor paid better than professional work in the Soviet Union at the time. In the winter of 1976, the family finally received permission to emigrate and by March, of 1977, New York was their new home.

It was in Moscow at six years of age that Maxim first developed his interest in chess from his remarkable grandfather, Max Ritov. Max Ritov, an International Master strength player, who played on one team with David Bronstein, was eager to encourage his grandson. Unfortunately, Ritov passed away. His tutoring had been brief, but the effects were long lasting: Maxim was completely taken by chess and pursued all opportunities to improve. For the next few years Maxim spent a lot of time playing adults including his father and paternal grandfather, and his game rapidly improved.

Eager for opposition at all levels, at nine years of age Maxim organized a chess club at his school for kids his age and older. One student, a year older, was roughly Maxim’s strength and took him to an official chess club where Maxim received his first formal training. But training at the new club was short lived as the family moved on to New York.

While awaiting their visa to America the family spent a few months in Rome, Italy. Maxim achieved his first tournament success in this time frame by tying for first in an all blitz competition with a Russian Candidate Master. Not wishing to finish second to a child, the Candidate Master persuaded the directors to utilize a tie-break method which resulted in Maxim finishing second and missing out on the first prize of a radio. It was becoming evident to all the Maxim had a special talent.

Upon arriving in New York, the family settled in Queens. By then Maxim was devouring chess books and taking on all the Russian immigrants in a nearby park. Maxim yearned for tougher opposition and in the summer of 1977 Alexander took Maxim to the famous Manhattan Chess Club, the North American Mecca of chess.

Maxim took little time to dazzle club members. In his first event he scored three out of four against the clubs top juniors, losing only to Andy Lerner, the reigning US Elementary School Champion.

A prominent figure in New York those days was Jack Collins, who gained near legendary status by being an early teacher of Bobby Fischer. So impressed were members of the Manhattan Club with Maxim that they encouraged him to approach Collins about taking him on as a student.

In order to be taken on by Collins you first went for interview. According to Maxim, “I was extremely nervous, hoping not to disappoint his expectations. I didn’t and was delighted by the reception I received from him and his sister Ethel—who was with him throughout his life helping him cope with his handicap and cooking for all the top U.S players for dozens of years.”

Jack Collins was Maxim’s first formal trainer. After Collins, Maxim worked with USCF Senior Master Jeffrey Kastner for a brief period. Maxim quickly became a master and spotting his talent at 14 years of age the American Chess Foundation arranged free lessons for Maxim with International Master, Vitaly Zaltsman.

Under Zaltsman’s training Maxim rapidly became known as among the world’s most talented young players and the rest is, as they say, history.

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