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Larry Evans: The Most Interesting Man in the World
by Andrew Barbano
Nov 20, 2010 | 999 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Larry Evans was my friend. The chess grandmaster and former Tribune columnist died at age 78 in Reno last Monday.

I first became acquainted with his step-daughter Karin Seiver (later Zimmerman), who preceded him in death.

In 1971, cute Karin worked at a small law firm on the 13th floor of what is now Reno City Hall. I was the brash kid from Gomorrah South with the big corner office across the hall.

A short time later, I met Karin’s mother, Ingrid Evans, and her famous husband. I was and remain an Italian kid from exciting Fresno. Larry and Ingrid were — there was no other way to describe them — cool.

The lovely blonde artist with the sexy German accent married to the mysterious international man of mystery. If you’ve seen the current Dos Equis Beer commercials featuring “the most interesting man in the world,” that guy, minus the accent, could be Larry’s brother.

Manhattan-born Larry walked with giants. He defeated or tied chess world champions (they require no first names) Euwe, Karpov, Petrosian (his first name was Tigran — now that’s macho), Spassky, Smyslov and Fischer.

The latter, of course, was the troubled genius Bobby Fischer, for whom Larry acted as second on his way to winning the world championship from Russian Boris Spassky in 1972.

The family got to know the reclusive Fischer very well.

“He’s asexual,” Karin once remarked to me. No wonder that a DNA test on his exhumed remains in Iceland last June confirmed that he was not the father of a young girl.

Larry wrote many books, was named chess journalist of the year and inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. His complete obituary will appear with the expanded web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com, where you may send remembrances which will be posted in perpetuity.

Larry and Ingrid got involved in local politics, most notably for the late, great Sen. Mary Gojack, D-Reno. In 1974, Larry conducted an all comers chess tournament fundraiser for Mary. He simultaneously played more than 20 opponents, including an aggressive and nervous University of Nevada, Reno student. I told the kid he had Larry in a bad spot but that he could work out of if. The grandmaster couldn’t lose, could he?

Larry saw the kid’s move, scratched his beard, knocked over his king and shook the kid’s hand.

It was Larry who recommended that the Tribune submit my 1996 series on the UNR scandals for Pulitzer Prize consideration. High praise indeed from the most interesting man in the world.

Rest in peace, great grandmaster and dear friend.

Answer to the professor


It’s a rare week when I don’t have a lively e-mail exchange with my longtime Tribune colleague in columny Jake Highton. Worried about his true love, the journalism professor posed a concerned query a few days back:  “Are newspapers really dying, as I have written in my column years ago? The Reno Gazette-Journal is fat from Thursday to Sunday. Even the tiny Trib is heavy with stuffers on Sundays.”

My answer to his question brought this response: “Far be it from me to tell you what to put in your column, but I suggest your e-mail to me on newspapers could be printed in toto. I liked especially the Mitchell comment that print newspapers are easier to read and more efficient. But I still ask: What about when oldtimers like Mitchell and Jake Highton die?”

Answering the last question first, I advised Jake that old newspapermen never die. They are the composers of the first draft of history. Words and ideas are immortal.

If Highton thinks my answer worthy of publication, that is both high praise and an order. Here it is:

Newspapers will not die.

Back as far as Gutenberg’s innovation and probably long before, few if any envisioned the depth of human passion to make copies of our stuff.

I have been told that back when printing was young, itinerant printers alone among the great unwashed were allowed to carry swords. That’s how much they were valued by  society — at least, I suppose, until they started publishing ideas the crown didn’t like.

The Eisenhower White House ordered two — two! — Xerox machines in 1960, figuring there would not be much use for them, what with all the efficiency of the steno typing pool and its copious quantities of carbon paper. Nobody forecast how many copies of our stuff we would make if we had the chance.

In the 1990’s, the computerized “paperless office” was said to be upon us. One union guy’s dingbat wife opened a major new union office in Las Vegas and ordered almost no filing cabinets because she believed the bullshit that paperless was here. That union organizing project failed.

As Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Thomas Mitchell said years ago, reading the paper in print is faster and more efficient.

Just because we have new electronic gadgets to facilitate the wider distribution of our stuff does not mean we will stop making copies by every means possible. We’ve been doing it for millennia and are showing no signs of letting up.

Ink-stained wretches of the world, unite!

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail barbano@frontpage.reno.nv.us. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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