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Friday, August 15, 2014

A Vicious Attack by Flohr

    Salomon Flohr (November 21, 1908 – July 18, 1983) was a Czech player who became a national hero in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. His name was used to sell many products of the time, including Salo Flohr cigarettes, slippers and eau-de-cologne. Major successes in international tournaments between 1931 and 1939 propelled him into the ranks of the best players of the period.
     Flohr had a troubled childhood beset by personal crises. He was born in a Jewish family in what was then Austria-Hungary (now in Ukraine). He and his brother were orphaned during World War I after their parents were killed in a massacre and they fled to the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia. Flohr settled in Prague and gradually acquired a reputation as a strong player by playing for stakes in the city's cafés. During 1924, he participated in simultaneous exhibitions by Richard Réti and Rudolf Spielmann.
     By the mid-1930’s Flohr was one of the world's strongest players and a leading contender for the World Championship. He became champion of Czechoslovakia in 1933 and 1936 and played in many tournaments throughout Europe, generally finishing in the top three. In 1937 FIDE had nominated him as the official candidate to play Alekhine for the World Championship. However, with World War II looming, it proved impossible for Flohr to raise the stake money in Czechoslovakia, so the plans were dropped.
     The next year Flohr was one of the eight players invited to the AVRO tournament of November 1938. He finished last and this put an end to his chances of a World Championship match with Alekhine. AVRO was a super strong tournament and Flohr's last-place finish was no disgrace but his result may also be explained in part by his difficult personal circumstances at the time.
     The German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 had left Flohr, as a Polish-Ukrainian Jew, in grave personal danger. Flohr remained in the Netherlands in early 1939, playing in several small events. Then, he and his family fled, first to Sweden, and then to Moscow with the help of his friend Botvinnik. He became a naturalized Soviet citizen in 1942, and developed his writing career by contributing articles to a number of Soviet newspapers and magazines.
     In typical propaganda of the day Flohr wrote, “I led the hard life of a professional chess players in capitalist Europe where chess depends on the whims of patrons, where creative chess does not command respect and is not part of the life of the people. When I first came to the Soviet Union in 1933 I saw chess occupying its place in cultural education. Society and the state supported the chess movement. This made a tremendous impression on me at the time. Now, when I have been a citizen of the great Soviet Union since 1942, I regard as the flowering of chess in the USSR as a natural and logical consequence of the general advancement of culture.”
     Flohr recovered his form somewhat after reaching safety in Moscow, scoring very well in several tournaments. After the War, he was still considered a contender for a possible World Championship match and finished 6th at the 1948 Interzonal in Saltsjöbaden thereby qualifying to play in the 1950 Candidates Tournament in Budapest. However, he finished joint last with 7 out of 18, and never entered the World Championship cycle again, preferring to concentrate on journalism. He also developed a role as a chess organizer. On occasion he did play at high levels both within the Soviet Union and abroad, with some success, until the late 1960s. He was awarded the title of International Arbiter in 1963.
     In his early days his play was known for its vigor and imagination in attack and tenacity in defense. In fact, he was known as a master of combinations and many of his games were exceedingly complex and filled with ingenious traps lurking in seemingly innocuous moves. However, gradually a change took place as be began participating in international tournaments where there was a mix of strong players and considerably weaker masters. He was able to score well simply using his technical superiority and so began evading complications in favor of quiet positional struggles devoid of any tactical possibilities.
     Most of his games came to be decided by sheer technique. This worked well against weaker players but when he faced world class opponents most of his games ended up as colorless draws. As he got older he began avoiding complications and frequently lost games to more aggressive players. Flohr died in Moscow on July 18, 1983.
     In this game his opponent was Victor Goglidze (1905-1964) who is mostly unknown today. Goglidze was one of the best players in the USSR during the 1930's but he played very little competitive chess during World War II or beyond. He won the championship of Tbilisi in 1925 and showed himself to be an excellent strategist and was known for his tenacious defensive abilities. After a number of tournament successes he played a match against Nikolay Grigoriev for the Soviet Master title but was unsuccessful, losing an exciting match +4 -5 =1. 
     After that he made a good showing in a tournament of Ukrainian, Uzbek and Transcaucasian masters and defeated Vladimir Nenarokov +6 -3 +2 and as a result was promoted to Soviet Master. After that he won first in an International Masters Tournament in 1934, won the championship of Georgia and played in the 1931, 1933 and 1937 USSR Championships. In the Second Moscow International Tournament in 1935 he scored 9.5 – 9.5. Shortly after WW2 he was awarded the Soviet title of Honored Master and in 1950 a collection of his games was published in the Soviet Union.

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