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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mrs. Heinrich Wolf

     Monday was a bad day. There was the disappointment of the partial solar eclipse (80 percent). Honestly, had I not known it was happening, I would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary because it's gotten darker on even a slightly cloudy day. Before the eclipse, there was a trip to the dentist. One tooth that was almost all filling had been causing problems; any kind of pressure caused it to throb for days. The dentist told me it was because the filling was so close to the nerve and it needed to be pulled; the same thing another dentist told me a year ago. 

     So, Monday morning found me in a dentist chair with an assistant putting me in a head lock while the oral surgeon was tugging and twisting. After a minute or so I heard the loudest crack I've ever heard when the tooth split. After it was finally out they told me it would bleed for a couple of hours which turned out to be wrong...at 2:00am Tuesday morning I was still spitting blood. Not to mention my mouth was quite sore, plus soft food like Jell-O is not my idea of a meal. After things got a little better, I spent some time browsing the Internet and visited the World Chess Hall of Fame.
     For some unknown reason, Paula Kalmar-Wolf (along with Korchnoi and Alla Kushnir) was recently inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame, but how many ever heard of her?
     Paula Wolf-Kalmar (April 11, 1880 - September 29, 1931) was an Austrian female master, born in what is now Zagreb. 
     She took 5th at Meran 1924 , the unofficial European women’s championship. The final standings were: 

1-2) Helene Cotton and Edith Holloway (England) 5.5 
3) Stevenson (England) 5.0 
4) Michell (England) 3.5 
5) Kalmar (Austria) 3.0 
6-7) Gulich (Czechoslovakia) and Pohlner (Austria) 2.5 
8) König (Germany) 0.5

     Of Helene Cotton almost nothing is known except that the March 1929 issue of the British Chess Magazine reported that she had died at the age of 92 and she had been an occasional competitor in the British Ladies Championship. Mrs. Stevenson was killed when she walked into an airplane propeller.
     Kalmar-Wolf was a three-time Women's World Championship Challenger. She finished 3rd behind Vera Menchik and Katarina Beskow at London 1927, finished 2nd behind Menchik at both Hamburg 1930 and Prague 1931. At Hamburg she was leading for much of the tournament before diabetes, of which she died the following year, resulted in a poor finish.
     For almost ten years she won almost all women's tournaments in Austria. Many top players in Vienna gave the female players little credit, but after a few of them were defeated by the ladies they were forced to admit they were worthy adversaries. Unfortunately, few of her games have survived and little is known of any the Viennese women's tournaments. 
     Almost nothing is known about her first 30 years except that she was born Paula Klein in Zagreb, then known as Agram (today Zagreb). No one in her family played chess. At some point after she moved to Vienna she became Paula Kalmar, but nothing is known of her husband. They did have one child. In 1923 an article in Neue Wiener Schach-Zeitung stated that she had a hard life growing up and was on her own in her early youth. She told the magazine that in spite of marriage, business and caring for her mother, she was able to earn her own living making and selling women's hats. 
     She didn't learn to play chess until her early thirties, but soon became one of the strongest female players in the 1920s and early 1930s, first in Vienna, then Austria, and finally internationally. Richard Reti was one of her early coaches and later, her second husband, Heinrich Wolf.
     Her first teacher was a judge named Johann Schopfleuthner, but she mostly taught herself from a book by Jean Dufresne and soon joined the Viennese chess club, one of the largest and most popular chess clubs in Vienna. In 1913 it had over 100 members. The club offered free lessons, club tournaments and correspondence play. Many prominent members were leading players of the day, officials and intellectuals, such as Savielly Tartakower and his brother Arthur, Richard Reti, Heinrich Wolf, Hermann Weiss and David Przepiorka and even Aaron Nimzovich. You can find some scant information on Arthur Tartakower at Edward Winter's site, Post 8198.
     Kalmar made rapid progress and visited the club only once a week, but told Neue Wiener Schach-Zeitung that “was not enough for my appetite." Starting in 1915 she began to play daily and took lessons with Reti and after the First World War, Heinrich Wolf, who also became her second husband in 1925. Kalmar said, “... he was the one who opened up to me the true spirit of the game, which is an inexhaustible source of joy and pleasure." Her marriage to Wolf lasted only a few years. It was Rudolf Spielmann who encouraged her to play internationally, but she was always overshadowed by Vera Menchik. 
     Paula Kalmar-Wolf died of diabetes in Vienna on September 29, 1931 at the age of 51. 
     The following game was played against Miss Daunke of Breslau, Germany (today Wrocław, Poland) in one of the Austrian Women's tournaments. According to one poster in Chessgamesdotcom this tournament was held during the week between Christmas and New Year in the Vienna Chess Club and six Austrian and two German players participated. Kalmar-Wolf finished an undefeated first yielding only two draws. 
     This game is very impressive; especially clever was the was Kalmar-Wolf kept up the pressure after her opponent's slight slip at move 24 and then polished her off by trapping her Q and finally underpromoting. 

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