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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wolfgang Unzicker

      Born on June 26, 1925, Unzicker learned the game at the age of ten and when he visited the Chess Olympiad the following year he was hooked. He was born in Pirmasens, a small town in the province of Rhineland-Palatinate. His father (who had no love for Hitler) taught him how to play chess at age 10. His brother, Gerhard, four years older, was also a chess player but was killed near the end of World War II.
     Unzicker was a judge  by profession but played in top events with such success that Karpov, who recommended Unzicker's games for study, called him the 'world champion of amateurs'. Unzicker said, “I never had the desire to become a professional chess player – this seemed to be a risky proposition in the Western World. Also, I did not want to dedicate my entire life to chess” For many years he was legal advisor for the German Chess Association.
     In 1948 Fritz Sämisch and Unzicker were the first German players to obtain an invitation to play abroad...at Lucerne where Unzicker finished in first place. After the war, until around 1970, Unzicker was the strongest German player; he won the German championship seven times. He played in thirteen Olympiads and represented his country on the national team 400 times. He was awarded his GM title in 1954. Even in his old age Unzicker regularly played tournament chess with his team from the chess club “Tarrasch Munich”, competing in the “Oberliga” on board number one.  His style was, like another great German player, Siegbert Tarrasch, classical.
     His opinion of other players of his day, namely Keres, Korchnoi and Geller (with some reservations) was interesting.  He reckoned them as players who had what it takes to become world champion, but never they never managed to succeed. He also considered Zukertort, Rubinstein, Tarrasch and Bronstein in the same way.
     Musician Gregor Piatigorsky, who organized two Piatigorsky Cups (1963 and 1966) said of Unzicker, “With his smart appearance, cleanly shaven and wearing a stylish suit, he was the perfect image of orderliness. The clicks of his heels revealed an unbending tradition and his eyes and laughter demonstrated the kindness of his heart. It was during these weeks that Unzicker gained the reputation of a person endowed with profound opinions and a powerful intellect. I enjoyed our conversations in German and wished that everybody could understand the feelings and thoughts of this friendly and cultivated man.”
     Unzicker had three sons who played chess: Alexander, Ferdinand who obtained a high of 2305 Elo and Stefan who played briefly, but then gave it up. The German version of Wikipedia says he was discharged from the Wehrmacht in 1944 after basic training because of a "weak heart." Because of his heart condition he avoided cigarettes, coffee, alcohol (only allowing himself an occasional drink) and exercised regularly. He passed away on April 20, 2006, at the age of 80, during a holiday trip to Portugal.

1 comment:

  1. The few times younger players encounter Unzicker, it's usually when he is on the losing side of some wonderful game by Fischer or Karpov. But it's worth remembering that it took a fine effort by these world champions to defeat Unzicker. He was a fine grandmaster for many years