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Monday, September 25, 2017

Olomouc 1944

Florian at Brno in 1947
   In 1944 preparations were being made to bring and end to World War Two. The German Army high command had long been expecting an Allied invasion of northern France but had no means of knowing where precisely the invasion would come. Rundstedt, commander in chief in the west, thought that the landings would be made between Calais and Dieppe (at the narrowest width of the Channel between England and France), Hitler thought the central and more westerly stretches of the coast of Normandy would be the site and Rommel, who was in charge of the forces on France’s Channel coast, finally came around to Hitler’s opinion and so fortifications of those stretches were consequently improved.  It turned out Hitler was right, but the Allies eventually prevailed anyway.

     There was a lot happening in the chess world, too. Most famously, on June 27, 1944 Vera Manchik-Stevenson, who was widowed the previous year and still held the women's world championship title, her younger sister and their mother were killed in a V-1 rocket bombing raid which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
     The US Championship was held at the Park Central Hotel in New York City from April 17 to May 7. Reshevsky was preparing for his CPA exams which, by the way, he said were harder than any chess game he ever played and so turned down his invitation. Kashdan decided not to play at the last minute on the advice of his doctor. That left Fine as the favorite, but fate declared otherwise. Arnold Denker played the tournament of his life, defeated Fine and became the US Champion for the only time.
     In Moscow, the 13th USSR Chess Championship was won by Botvinnik followed by Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Flohr. The Moscow City Championship was by Smyslov ahead of a gaggle of strong GMs.
     Herman Pilnik and Miguel Najdorf shared first in Mar del Plata. Buenos Aires was won by Moshe Czerniak and Rio de Janeiro by Erich Eliskases.  Other notable events were: Krakow (Rudolf Teschner), Posen (Hans Mueller), Brunn (Karel Opocensky), the Baltic Chess Championship in Riga (Paul Keres) and Gijon (Alekhine).
     Unnoticed was a tournament held in Olomouc, the historical capital of Moravia in the east of the Czech Republic. During the Second World War most of the city's ethnic Germans sided with the Nazis and the German dominated city council renamed the main square after Hitler.
     Olomouc was the home town of the founder of the Studeten German Party Konrad Henlein who secretly negotiated with Hitler and became his puppet. The city became the center of Pan-German movements and later of the Nazis. The War brought a rise in anti-semitism and attacks on the Jewish population. During 1942-1943 the ethnic Germans sent all the remaing Jews to concentration camps in occupied Poland. After Olomouc was liberated, Czech residents restored the original name to the town square and when the retreating Germans passed through town they shot at its 15th century astronomical clock, leaving but a few pieces.
     The winner of the tournament was Jaromir Florian (August 13, 1911 – September 9, 1984). Florian, from Brno, was one of the most famous and most charismatic players in Czechoslovakia even though he never possessed an international title. Originally from Bilovec, Czechoslovakia, in 1919 his family moved from the German border to Brno where in 1935 he graduated from his law studies. His first success in chess was winning the championship of the Central Unity of Czech Chess in Brno in 1944. After the war, Florian was a member of the Czechoslovak team that played matches against England, the Netherlands and France. In 1948 he played in the final of the Czechoslovak Championship for the first time and then played five more times, the last being in 1965.
     Beginning in 1948 Florian was a judge of the state court in Brno and in March 1949, he investigated atrocities committed during the war. His enemies devised a case in which he was alleged to have taken bribes. As a result, he went on trial and was found guilty and was sentenced to a four-year imprisonment (1950-1954) where he worked in a quarry. After serving his sentence he owned a chess shop in Brno.
     The runner up at the 1944 Olomouc tournament was Frantisek Zita (November 29, 1909 – October 1, 1977) who was born in Prague, then Austria-Hungary. He was Czech (Bohemia and Moravia) champion in 1943 and awarded the IM title in 1950. Zita passed away in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, in 1977.

Final standings:
1) Jaromir Florian 7.5
2) Frantisek Zita 7.0
3) Augustin Tikovsky 6.5
4) Karel Hromadka 5.0
5) Jiri Hlavacek 4.5
-8) Oldrich Malcanek, Vlastimi Stulik and V. Mohapl 3.5
9-10) V. Hanak and Rudolf Mikulka 2.0

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