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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Another Tragic Loss to the Chess World

Georg Rotlevi (1889 – 1920) was a Polish master who defeated many famous players such as Schlechter, Nimzovich, Spielmann, Marshall, Bogoljubov, and Rubinstein. Rotlewi's chess career was brief because of a nervous disorder that forced him to give up serious chess. 
     In 1906 Rotlevi tied for 5-6th in Lodz and the following year he finished 3rd behind Rubinstein and Dawid Daniuszewski in a Lodz quadrangular. Also in 1907 he finished second behind Heilmann in Ostend and finished 6th in Lodz (the 5th Russian Championship). In 1908 he finished 4th in the Prague Hauptturnier preliminary and tied for 1st with Daniuszewski at Lodz 1909. At the All-Russian Amateur tournament at Saint Petersburg in 1909 he finished second behind Alekhine. 
     Rotlewi played two matches against Salwe, losing in 1909 (+5 –8 =5) and winning in 1910 (+3 –1 =6). In 1910, he tied for 1st with Rubinstein in Warsaw, and won in the Hamburg 1910 chess tournament which earned him the Master title. This also won him a spot in the Carlsbad 1911 tournament where he finished 4th. He then tied for 2nd-4th in Cologne and took 2nd in Munich. 
     He died in 1920 at the age of 31. Edward Lasker, in his delightful book, Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters wrote, “One of the big surprises of the Carlsbad tournament was the showing made by the new master, Rotlevi. Because he had won the Hamburg Major Tournament the previous year, he was admitted to play in Carlsbad, but no one thought he would be anywhere near the prizewinners. To the amazement of the crowd, however, he defeated Marshall, Nimzovich, Schlechter, Spielmann and Tartakower, and he drew with Rubinstein. After sixteen rounds he was at the head of the field, together with Schlechter and Teichmann. When the twenty-third round was played, he was a point ahead of Rubinstein and Schlechter. In this round he faced Teichmann, and having the White pieces he had a fair chance to duplicate Capablanca's feat, winning the first great tournament in which he participated. The eyes of the whole chess world were riveted on this event...It appears that Rotlevi's loss to Teichmann, when he had the prize within his grasp, liberated a depression in his mind which probably would have come to the surface sooner or later. He was taken to a mental Sanitarium not very long after the tournament, and he has never been heard of since.” 
     While looking over some of his games I discovered the following gem played against Peter Romanovsky (29 July 1892, St Petersburg – 1 March 1964, Moscow), an IM, International Arbiter and author. 
    During the Siege of Leningrad in winter of 1941–42 a rescue party reached his home and found Romanovsky half-conscious from starvation and cold. The rest of his family had frozen to death. All the furniture in the house had been used for firewood. In 1954 the Soviets withdrew their application for Romanovsky to receive the GM title which had been based on his first place in the 1927 USSR championship. The anti-Stalinist Fedor Bohatirchuk had shared the title in 1927 but he was no longer recognized in the USSR as the result of his having defected to Canada. The USSR Chess Federation did not want to give the GM title to Bohatirchuk so they withdrew the application for Romanovsky as well. 
    Before his death, Romanovsky published two books on the middlegame which were translated into English: Chess Middlegames: Combinations and Chess Middlegames: Strategy
 

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