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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wolfgang Heidenfeld

    Wolfgang Heidenfeld (29 May 1911 – 3 August 1981) was born in Berlin. Heidenfeld studied law and played chess in Berlin but, being a Jew, he was forced to emigrate in the mid-1930's when he moved to South Africa. He stayed there for over twenty years, winning the South African championships many times and representing them in their debut Olympiad in 1958. During World War II he helped decode German messages for the Allies. He made his living by designing crossword puzzles, writing short stories, journalism and door-to-door sales.
     In 1955 he finished first in the first international tournament in South Africa:

W Heidenfeld (South Africa) 5.5
W Meuhring (The Hague) 5.5
Dr M Euwe ( Amsterdam) 5
V Barata da Cruz (Maputo) 3
L Wilken (South Africa) 2.5
J Wolpert (South Africa) 2.5
M Pines (Zimbabwe) 2
B Rabinowitz (South Africa) 2

    As a German Jew he was always against apartheid because he was aware of what it was like to be persecuted and after visiting Ireland for a chess tournament in 1956 he moved to Dublin the following year. Later he spent a few years in Frankfurt, Germany, but returned Dublin in 1963 with his new German wife who was 23 years younger than him. From 1966 onwards he represented Ireland at Olympiads. 
     After arriving in Dublin, Heidenfeld was enthusiastically involved in local chess activities, winning many local and national events and never refusing invitations to give a simultaneous exhibitions or talks on chess. 
     He won the South African championship eight times and the Irish championship six times and in 1959 he was the Irish and South African champion at the same time even though he was living in Germany. Although he was residing in Germany, Heidenfeld had intentions to settle in Ireland permanently as evidenced by his making arrangements to arrive in Dublin just in time for the start of the new chess “season.” For that reason he was allowed to participate in the Irish Championship. 
     Heidenfeld was awarded the International Master title, but according to his wife, for some reason he refused to accept the title. Apprarently it was in protest against some FIDE policy. His son, Mark (born in 1968), became and International Master. Mark, who surprisingly learned to play chess from his mother, also played for Ireland. 
     In 1979 the family moved back to Ulm, Germany, where Heidenfeld died two years later. He was the author of several chess books including Chess Springbok, My Book of Fun and Games, Grosse Remispartien (in German) and Lacking the Master Touch
     Most people who knew him remembered him for his arrogance as he had little hesitation in letting lesser players know what he thought of their play. According to his son Mark, he was often involved in nasty disputes. For example, in 1972 when he was left off of the Irish Olympiad team even though he was the Irish Champion and another time when the first Elo list for British players complied and he wasn't rated number one. 
    At the same time words like “cultured” and “principled” were used to describe him. His son speculated that much of his personality was because of his mixed cultural makeup, being a precise German and an opinionated Jew. 
     Here is a fine win against the Polish master Pytlakowski.

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