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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Immortal Willi Schlage

    Willi Schlage (December 24, 1888 – May 5, 1940 in Berlin) was a German chess trainer who has been described as a minor master although the term seems a bit unfair. According to Chessmetrics, on the August 1923 rating list his rating of 2517 placed him at number 31 in the world. At that time he ranked ahead of guys like Frank Marshall, Georg Marco, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky and David Przepiorka. Of course, that was nowhere near as highly rated as Capablanca (2801), Alekhine (2785), Lasker (2750), Rubinstein (2712) and Bogoljubow (2693), but it was still pretty good.
     In the early 1900s he played in friendly matches that pitted Berlin against Prague and Holland, The Netherlands and Sweden.  Schlage won the Berlin City Championship in 1921 and 1926. Between 1921 and 1937 he participated in numerous tournaments held in Germany, usually finishing near the middle.
     In 1935, he became the Chief Trainer of the German Chess Federation and along with Alekhine and Bogoljubow trained the German national team for 3rd unofficial Olympiad at Munich 1936. In August 1939, he trained the best young German players. Among others there were: 15-year old Klaus Junge, 14 year old Wolfgang Unzicker and 17 year old Edith Keller.
     When Stanley Kubrick died in March of 1999 there were many articles mentioning his interest in chess and he was supposed to have been a pretty decent player in his younger days, reportedly playing for stakes in Washington Square Park in New YorkCity. He was also known to have played on his movie sets.
     But the main interest concerned his famous movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Early in the movie, a character named Dr. Smyslov who appeared briefly and later and astronaut named Frank Poole played a spacecraft's computer named HAL.
     You don't here much about Schlage any more and you are only likely to come across his name in old German books on tactics where more often than not he was on the receiving end, but for a moment he was famous because of the movie.
     Kubrick came out with his move in 1968 and 11 years later, and 38 years after Schlage's death, the African Republic of Mali issued a set of four chess stamps with the title “Grandmasters of Chess.” The four were: Janowsky (100 francs), Alekhine (140 francs), Schlage (200 francs) and Bogoljubow (300 francs). Obviously, Schlage was not a famous GM, so it's curious that he was included with the other three players. I found the stamps in an old catalog and they were selling for around $20 apiece.
     In this game from the Burger-Schutzen-Gesellschaft played in Berlin, 1928 black's 5...Ng4 is only satisfactory IF, and it's a big if, he knows theory so he can navigate his way to equality. Judging from the games in my database, a lot of players have jumped at the chance to play the move and most of them ended up losing very quickly

Final standings:
1) Nimzovich (10.0)
2) Bogoljubow 9.5
3) Tartakower 8.0
4) Johner 7.5
5) Helling 7.0
6-8) Reti, Brinckmann and Lajos Steiner 6.5
9-10) Ahues and Saemisch 6.0
11-13) Stoltz, Leonhardt and Schlage 4.5
14) Koch 4.0

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