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Monday, February 27, 2012

Andrija Fuderer

Andrija Fuderer (13 May 1931, Subotica, Yugoslavia – 2 October 2011, Palamos, Catalonia was a Croatian–Belgian chess master.

At the beginning of his career, he won the Yugoslav Junior Chess Championship in 1947. He was the 1951 Croatian champion and was a regular participant in the Yugoslav Championship tying for 2nd in 1951 behind B. Rabar won), took 2nd, behind Dr. Peter Trifunovic in 1952, and won (jointly) in 1953.

In other tournaments, he took 4th at Bled 1950, shared 2nd behind Albéric O'Kelly de Galway, at Dortmund 1951 and finished  fifth at Beverwijk 1952.  Fuderer finished first at Saarbrücken 1953, second at Opatija 1953, fourth at the zonal tournament in Munich 1954, tied for 3-5 place at Hastings 1954/55 and tied for 14-15 at Gotheburg 1955 (interzonal). After that last failure, he left chess for a University career in chemistry and earned his PhD degree from the University of Zagreb, and became a famous inventor.

Fuderer played for Yugoslavia in the Chess Olympiads three times:
In 1952 in Helsinki (+2 –0 =3), won team bronze medal;
In 1954 in Amsterdam (+6 –1 =5), team bronze and individual silver medals;
In 1958 in Munich (+8 –2 =1), team silver and individual bronze medals.

He also played in the 1st European Team Chess Championship at Vienna 1957, and won team silver medal.

Fuderer was awarded the International Master title in 1952 and an honorary GM title in 1990.

Fuderer, who died at age 80, was also an eminent chemical engineer and inventor with more than 50 patents to his name.  When he died in October of last year few in the chess world noticed his passing, yet long ago in his twenties he had been one of the game's most gifted attacker outside the Soviet Union.

Fuderer was considered one of the most talented Yugoslav players of his generation with a style similar to that of Mikhail Tal but his results never quite lived up to this promise.  He made an impressive international debut at Bled 1950, where as a 19-year-old he finished fourth in a strong field and was praised for the style and elegance of his wins. A year later, he played for Yugoslavia against Britain in London and was paired with Jonathan Penrose, later ten times British champion and already the hope of English chess. He defeated Penrose in a sharp attacking game.

Noted for his friendliness, Fuderer faced a career dilemma early on. He was studying chemistry at Zagreb, played the piano and had the possibility of making it to the top in the chess world.  For several years he postponed the decision, as his chess career seemd to be going places. In 1954 he qualified for the world title interzonal, scored a fine victory over Ewfim Geller at the Amsterdam Olympiad where Yugoslavia took the silver medals behind Russian gold, and finished third to Vassily Smyslov and Paul Keres at Hastings.

Then came the 1955 Gothenburg interzonal. At halfway after ten rounds he was on 7-3, battling for the lead with David Bronstein and Keres. But the pairings were such that the six Soviets played each other at the start while in the second half Fuderer had to meet all six in successive rounds. Keres beat him in 18 moves and those last ten rounds were a disaster, four draws and six defeats. And so ended his chess career.

Fuderer took his doctorate at Zagreb, married in 1957, and after helping Yugoslavia to silver at the Moscow 1956 Olympiad gradually withdrew from chess. His last event was the 1959 Soviet Union vs. Yugoslavia match at Kiev where, at age 28, he showed what might have been by beating Bronstein.   In the late 1960s he left Yugoslavia, living in Italy and Spain and working as a chemical engineer in Antwerp.

Even in his best chess years there were games where he settled for quick draws against much weaker opponents. An obituary by his son Miha explained why. Fuderer felt his greatest passion was for chemistry, and he used his tournaments outside Yugoslavia to acquire consumer goods which when he got home he could resell at a profit to finance his university studies.

Royal Chess Circle Deurne published a letter from Fuderer's son detailing his life.

Andrija was born in Subotica, which was then part of Yugoslavia. Although ethnically German, he grew up in a town that was mostly Hungarian-speaking. That´s why I was never really sure of his mother tongue - it depended whom you asked. Separated from his parents in 1945, his family dispersed throughout the world.

Many close relatives now still live in the US. Andrija managed to escape the ethnic cleansing without having to flee Yugoslavia. Surely, he must have remembered a lot of friends of that time, but it is difficult to trace down any of them today.

Soon after the war, while still in secondary school, he attracted attention as a very good chess player. By 1949, he was known all over Europe; soon, several chess clubs were named after him and Fuderer fanclubs emerged all over Europe. These do not exist anymore, but I am sure that the members of that time will remember Andrija. Fans kept visiting Andrija up to the 1990s. By the 1990s, he was awarded the title of honorary grandmaster due to his remarkably unconventional style of chess in his past.

Also in 1949, he moved to Zagreb for his university study in chemistry engineering.
Towards the end of his studies, he met Pavica; they married in 1957. It is a great sorrow to announce Andrija´s death to his family-in-law - my aunts, uncle and cousins.
Two sons followed soon - but due to the tragic death of Ivo in 1995, he will not share our sorrow today.

By 1968, the family moved out of Yugoslavia. Since Andrija was renowned in Yugoslavia, he was always under close political scrutiny - and although all interrogations by the secret police were very polite, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Andrija left Yugoslavia, but he left amicably. This brought his family first to Italy, then 15 months later to Germany, and after 20 more months to Belgium.
I am grateful to my father that he managed his family well through all these changes.

It is also my father who learned me the relevance of learning languages even before all these moves. From him, I also inherited the passion for physics and mathematics (Not for chess, though; Andrija did not have a real passion for chess, he just played well. That served him well, since his studies were actually paid by smuggling goods in while travelling to international tournaments. I am sure that his teammates will share the experience).

The stay in Italy and Germany was too short to make numerous friends, but I am sure that at least one Italian friend - and later companion - will vividly remember Andrija. Numerous friends and (former) neighbours in Antwerp will be with Andrija in their thoughts.

By 1976 Andrija took up the idea of planning for an almost autarchic retirement in southern Europe; this became Italy, and the house (and valley) called Cornaldo became his passion for more than 25 years - till he realized that, with increasing age, that project got less and less realistic. He was very happy that he could sell the place to a person who intended to maintain it with the same passion as he did. Although the place was remote, managing it was a lot easier with the help from the people from the hamlet of Bassi. They will certainly remember Andrija well.

Rather, by 1982, Pavica and Andrija chose for a different type of southern-Europe settlement.
After considering a number of countries and visiting many locations, their choice became the Spanish resort of Calella de Palafrugell. Very different than the place in Italy, their new apartment went with a swimming pool, a tennis court and a lot of other luxury that would have been inconceivable in Cornaldo.  For almost 30 years, Andrija spent a significant part of the year in Calella. He enjoyed the friendship from many other inhabitants of the apartment compound, and, above all, his tennis-partners. The help of his neighbours and tennis-friends was very valuable (to Andrija and to Pavica) during the last few weeks, days and hours of his life.

In general, Andrija was always in good spirit and in good health, and he enjoyed swimming and tennis.

Yet, in 2005, he noticed a problem: although feeling generally well, he was short of breath.
This got serious enough to interrupt his stay in Calella and to seek medical advice in Antwerp, where a melon-sized tumor was detected within his left lung. The tumor that was surgically removed proved to be a very rare type of cancer, which, as far as statistics were available, had a very low rate of recurrence once properly removed. With Andrija, the odds went against statistics (as was often the case with him). After four years, a regular checkup showed a number of new lung tumors; surgery revealed even more small nodules, which the surgeon was not able to remove at that time. This left my father with the prospect of even more surgery later on.

By mid-2010, it was decided to entirely remove his left lung. This seemed to go well, and Andrija kept up all the activities that the reduced lung volume would allow. Yet, his general condition started to deteriorate by October 2010. Doctors hesitated about chemotherapy because of the age of their patient, but also because Andrija himself was indecisive whether he would choose for such a treatment. By January, he was in a really bad shape.

In early February, he was admitted to hospital for chemo. When I asked about his condition,
he said "todo el mundo me trata bien" - an allusion to a Spanish language course; for a part, it expressed gratitude towards all people around him in general. But it was also an indication that, while he appreciated all the medical help that was given to him, he regarded it as somewhat vain, since he would not live forever anyway.

Actually, we would not expect more than a few weeks. Nevertheless, with difficulty, he said
"When you come to visit me in Calella next time, we´ll have lamb chops at Mas Pou" - which sounded like an overly optimistic statement.  But he recovered and went to Spain again in June, and then again in late August. The return flight was already booked for Sunday, October 2nd, in order to allow for the next round of treatment in Antwerp.

I visited Andrija around the 15th of September. He was in rather good shape. We went to Mas Pau. They indeed have delicious lamb chops there, and Andrija enjoyed them too. But it seemed as if this fulfilled his last promise. After that day, he started deteriorating quickly. There was hesitation whether to take an earlier flight back. By Monday, September 26th, he was taken to the hospital in Palamos, and released the next day, with a prescriptions of diuretics, since he was rather swollen. He did not bother to take these pills and his condition was now clearly deteriorating from day to day. On Friday, Pavica called me that it would be good to drive straight to the Antwerp hospital as soon as they would land on Sunday. By Saturday morning, Andrija´s friends were arranging special assistance at the airports. By Saturday noon, we were questioning whether he was fit to fly at all. In the early evening, Andrija was sent to the hospital in Palamos again. He got intravenous diuretics, which seemed to quickly give some relief. Todo el mundo me trata bien, he said.

By 11 in the evening, he called his neighbor to tell that they would not release him for the flight the next morning. Probably his last words. The idea was to book another flight a few days later.

Andrija probably did not even consider the possibility that he would not survive till then. Alas.
He died in the morning of October 2nd. He died without any loved ones nearby, which would probably have been his choice anyway.

Andrija leaves behind his wife, Pavica, his son Miha, Margriet, and their children Andreas, Lucas and Johanna.  Andrija was cremated on October 4th. On a later date, with a brief ceremony, his ashes will be thrown into the sea, where they can disperse throughout the Mediterranean and later over the whole world.

 The following game against GM Arthur Bisguier is pretty boring until Bisguier played 28.Ra1.  I’m sure Bisguier did a double take when he saw Fuderer’s reply which left Black with such an overwhelming position that Bisguier just resigned.

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