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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Imre Konig

     Imre Konig (Sept 2, 1901, Gyula, Hungary – 1992, Santa Monica, California) was a Hungarian-Austrian-English-Yugoslav-American master who was born in Gyula, Hungary. The Social Security Death Index states that he was born 9 February, 1901 and died 9 September, 1992 in Santa Monica, California. 
     He studied in Vienna and improved his game in its cafes. His book, Chess from Morphy to Botvinnik: A Century of Chess Evolution, became a classic. Konig was a great analyst as well as an entertaining writer and in the book, published in 1950, he traced the development of such classic openings as the Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit. Oddly, one of the openings not covered in the book was the Sicilian which he planned to cover in a successor volume, but it was never completed.
     In 1921, he took 2nd in Celje and in the 1920s König played in several tournaments in Vienna: 3rd in 1921, 14th in 1922 (Akiba Rubinstein won), 3rd-4th in 1925, 4-5th in 1926 (Rudolf Spielmann won), and 3rd-5th in 1926. He finished 2th in Rogaška Slatina (Rohitsch-Sauerbrunn) in 1929 (won by Rubinstein).
     In 1929/30, he took 7th in Vienna (Hans Kmoch and Spielmann won). In 1931, he took 4th in Vienna (Albert Becker won). In 1936, he tied for 6-7th in Novi Sad (Vasja Pirc won). In 1937, he tied for 2nd-4th in Belgrade (Vasilije Tomović won).
     Konig twice represented Yugoslavia in Chess Olympiads where he played under the name Mirko Kenig. In the 4th Chess Olympiad at Prague 1931 (+5 –1 =2), the 6th Chess Olympiad at Warsaw 1935 (+5 –2 =8) and in 3rd unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich 1936 (+7 –4 =7).
     In 1938 König emigrated to England. While in England he tied for 4-5th in Bournemouth (Max Euwe won), and shared 1st with Philip Stuart Milner-Barry in Hampstead. In 1946, he took 4th in London. In 1948/49, he took 2nd, behind Nicolas Rossolimo, in the Hastings Congress.
     In 1949, he became a naturalized British citizen and in 1953 he moved to the United States. Konig, awarded the IM title in 1951.
     California players remembered Konig for his Old World courtliness and generosity of spirit in sharing his chess wisdom. He was rated 2440 in Arpad Elo's book, The Rating of Chess Players, Past and Present, while Chessmetrics gives his rating as 2239 in 1922 which ranked him as number 37 in the world at the time.
     After Konig passed away at the age of 92, The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club of San Francisco began holding the Imre Konig Memorial to commemorate the first top-rate player to reside in San Francisco. Konig had made his home in San Francisco from the early 1950s to around 1970 and was the first IM to live in the Bay Area.
     Konig was something of a mystery man.  Wikipedia says that he was born on 9 February, 1899 in Gyula, Hungary and that he was Hungarian. However, he was always thought of as Austrian and in his book it says he was a member of the Vienna School of Chess. It is true that his play was strongly influenced by Richard Reti and he studied in Vienna, so perhaps that explains the term “Vienna School of Chess.”
     Adding to the mystery was that it wasn't until in the mid-1990s that it was discovered that he had died and nobody knew when or where. Konig worked for many years in the Post Office in San Francisco and had retired from there, but he had rarely played or went to the chess club so people had lost track of him, some believing he had gone back to Austria.
     After immigrating to the U.S. he didn't play in any tournaments but gave a few simultaneous exhibitions. However, he did play regularly in the annual California North-South Match. Notable in those matches was that he played several games against Isaac Kashdan and had an even score.
     Characteristics of his play were daring, swashbuckling combinations and sacrifices. Enjoy this fantastically complicated game Konig played against the strong California master Tibor Weinberger.
     Weinberger, an FM and USCF Senior Master, was originally from Hungary and played in five Hungarian championships from 1952 through 1956.
     He came to the United States in 1957 and won the Minneapolis Open and the New Jersey Open. In 1958, he won the New Jersey State Championship and the Nebraska Open. In 1959, he won the California State Open, the Southern California Championship, and the 26th California Chess Championship.
     In 1961, he tied for 1st place in the California championship and won the Santa Monica Open. In 1963, he tied for 1st place in the California State Open. In 1964,1966 and 1967, he won the Pacific Southwest Open. In 1968, he won the Santa Monica Masters, the West Coast Open, the San Bernadino Open and the Long Beach Open. In 1968, he played in the U.S. Chess Championship in New York, taking 11th place. In 1968 and 1973, he won the California Open Championship.
     I remember him playing in the Cleveland (Ohio) international tournament in 1975 (won by Csom) after winning a qualifying tournament held in California. I attended most of the rounds of the Cleveland tournament and remember it had Gheorghiu, Quniteros, Csom, Kaplan, Mednis, Shamkovich, Torre, Tarjan, Soltis, Zuckerman, Christiansen, Grefe and Biyasis playing. That's only 15 players and I think there were 16, but I can't remember who the other participant was.
     It was in this tournament that IM Bernard Zuckerman threw a Bishop at a noisy spectator. Zuckerman kept asking the guy, who was a real butthead, to be quiet and when he wouldn't, Zuckerman threw a Bishop at him. When the TD tried to retrieve the B, the spectator wouldn't return it.


  1. Re Cleveland 1975, there was a crosstable in the August 1975 Chess Life. Your list mentions only 14 players, but there were indeed 16. You forgot Ostojic and Weinstein. - Mark

  2. Thanks...not only is my memory failing, but apparently my counting skills are deteriorating!