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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Elmārs Zemgalis

       Elmārs Zemgalis (born 9 September 1923, Riga, Latvia) was awarded an Honorary Grandmaster title in 2003.  After the Soviet Union invaded his native Latvia for the second time, Zemgalis fled to Germany. As a Displaced Person after WW2.  He played in twelve international tournaments. In 1946, he took second place, behind Wolfgang Unzicker, in Augsburg, with 13/16. In 1946, he took second place, behind Fedor Bohaturchuk in Regensburg with 6.5/9.  In 1947, he took second place, behind Lucins Endzelins in Hanau. In 1948, he won in Esslingen (Wurttemberg Championship) with 7/9.  In 1949, he won in Rujtā (Württemberg Championship). In 1949, he tied for first place with Bogoljubow in Oldenburg and in 1949, he tied for first place with Leonids Dreibergs in Esslingen.
       In 1951, he emigrated to the United States, where he became a mathematics professor. By 1952, Zemgalis had settled in Seattle, Washington.  He was the top player in the Pacific Northwest for the next fifteen years.  In 1952, he won (3:1) a match against Olaf Ulvestad in Seattle. In 1953 and 1959, he won the Washington State championships. In 1962, he won (4.5: 3.5) a match against Viktors Pupols. 
       Zemgalis was a teenager when the war began and by 1940 had also won “the championship of Riga’sprestigious First High School four years running.” Zemgalis had
opportunities to play quick chess with Vladimir Petrov, another exceptionally talented Latvian player, who shared first place with Flohr and Reshevsky at the very strong Kemeri 1937 tournament.
       Later, in 1944, the Soviets returned to Latvia where Mikhai Tal, at age eight,would eventually be absorbed in the Soviet system, nurtured in his growth as a player, and allowed the opportunity to develop his talent under the auspices of a state supported system.  Zemgalis, older, along with other Latvian chess players, saw the return of the Soviets as reason enough to flee West.  In 1946 “the West,” for Zemgalis and many others like him, displaced persons, was Germany.  There during the second half of the 1940s he met the likes of Bogoljubow, Ortvin Sarapu, and Fritz Saemisch.
      Oldenburg 1949 was his greatest achievement.  In a seventeen round event, he finished tied for first with Bogoljubow at 12-5 ahead of such stars as Rossolimo, Sarapu, Unzicker, and O’Kelly.      In this game he demolishes a another player who also ended up in the US.

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