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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Great Tournament of Mar del Plata 1941

   The tournaments in Mar del Plata started in 1928, but only in the period from 1941 to 1970 was it a truly international tournament with a considerable reputation. After 1970, only seven international tournaments have been played: 1951, 1954, 1969 and 2001, all zonal tournaments. There was also a zonal tournament for women in Mar del Plata, in 1969. In 1967 the first edition of the open tournament was organized and in 1969 it became an annual event.
     Take a gander at some of the winners between the years 1941 and 1970: Stahlberg, Najdorf (first or equal first 11 times!), Eliskases, Rossetto, Julio Bolbocan, Gligorich, Panno, Ivkov, Keres, Larsen, Pachman, Spassky, Fischer, Polugayevsky and Smyslov. Impressive.
     The 1941 tournament was played in March of that year and is regarded as the fourth because the first three Mar del Plata international tournaments (1928, 1934, 1936) were regarded as the third, fourth, and sixth South American Championship.
     After the 8th Chess Olympiad at Buenos Aires 1939, many participants had decided to stay in Argentina due to outbreak of World War II and so the 1941 tournament therefore included eleven refugees from Europe and two players affected by issues arising out of the British Mandate of Palestine.

1) Gideon Ståhlberg, Sweden, 13.0
2) Miguel Najdorf, Poland, 12.5
3) Erich Eliskases, Austria, 11.5
4-5) Ludwig Engels, Germany and Paulino Frydman, Poland 11.0
6-8) Moshe Czerniak, Palestine, Movsas Feigins, Latvia and Carlos Guimard Argentina 9.5
9) Julio Bolbochan, Argentina 9.0
10-12) Paul Michel, Germany, Argentina, Franciszek Sulik, Poland and Juan Vinuesa, Argentina 8.0
13) Jacobo Bolbochan, Argentina 7.5
14) Ilmar Raud, Estonia 6.5
15) Juan Traian Iliesco, Romania 6.0
16) Markas Luckis, Lithuania 5.5
17) Victor Winz, Germany 4.5
18) Sonja Graf, Germany 2.5

     After the war several players ended up citizens of other countries: Najdorf, Eliskases, Frydman, Feigens, Michel, Sulik, Raud, Iliesco, Luos and Winz all remained in Argentina. Engels in Brazil. Czerniak in Israel, Sulik in Australia and Graf in the United States. 
    In 1941, on the eve of America's entry to World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to curb the influence of Nazis and fascists in South America, so he enlisted someone who embodied the American capitalist spirit. He sent Walt Disney on a public relations mission to South America along with a group of artists, writers and musicians.
     Some of the fascist newspapers, particularly in Argentina, were laying in wait for the Disney party to show up because they wanted to show that Disney was an insensitive, capitalist boss because his workers back in California were on strike. But it didn't work because the popularity of the Disney films of that time in Latin America was phenomenal. One thing Disney had done that helped the popularity of his productions was find a comparative voice that fit the character of whoever it was in the film.
    One of the 1941 issues of Life magazine had a story on Carmen Pueyrredon, the number one debutante of Argentina who was spending the summer at exclusive Mar del Plata. Senorita Pueyrredon had made her debut at a magnificent costume ball in Buenos and her father was a painter of some ability whose income came from cattle and wheat ranches and real estate. Her uncle was the popular mayor of Buenos Aires who was nicknamed “Fiorello” because of his admiration of New York city's mayor. Carmen spent her time going to the beach between 10:30 and noon, lunching at the golf club and attending tea dances. Sometimes in the early evening she played roulette at the casino. Never alone with a man, she and her friends always went in groups of at least six and, of course, were accompanied by a chaperon. At the age of 17 she expected to marry soon, retire and within the next 8-10 years have children.
Life on the beach at Mar del Plata 1941
    Apparently life wasn't too bad in Argentina during the war even though German influence was strong, mainly due to the presence of a large number of German immigrants and Argentina's traditional rivalry with Great Britain. Because of the close ties with Germany, Argentina remained neutral for most of World War II, despite internal disputes and pressure from the United States to join the Allies. However, Argentina eventually gave in to the Allies' pressure, broke relations with the Axis powers on January 26, 1944 and declared war on March 27, 1945. In 1945-46, under Juan Peron's leadership the government quietly allowed entry of a number of Nazi leaders fleeing Europe after Germany's collapse. In May 1960, Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina by the Israeli Mossad and brought to trial and hanged in Israel. If you're interested in an intriguing book on the capture of Eichmann, The House on Garibaldi Street is worth reading if you can find it.

     Moshe Czerniak (February 3, 1910 – August 31, 1984) was a Polish-Israeli International Master. In 1934 he emigrated from Poland to Palestine (then the British Mandate). In September 1939, when World War II broke out, Czerniak, along with many other participants in the 8th Chess Olympiad, decided to stay in Argentina. In 1950 Czerniak settled in Israel. He wrote many chess books in three languages and 1956 he founded the first Israeli chess magazine 64 Squares.
     Juan Iliesco was born Ion Iliescu April 18, 1898 in Romania; he died February 2, 1968 in La Plata, Argentina. Beginning in 1931 he played in several Argentine and finished first in 1939 but he could not be awarded the title because he was a Romanian citizen. He finished first again in 1943 and because the rules had changed he was awarded the title even though he was still a Romanian citizen. By 1944 he had become a citizen of Argentina.
     The following game between these two was most fascinating. Czerniak chose an unusual opening variation (8.Be3) that blocked his e-Pawn and by move 20 a very delicately balance position was reached. However, Czerniak made a tiny positional mistake when he retreated his B to the wrong square and suddenly Iliesco's pieces came to life. Czerniak wasn't done though; he set a wily trap on move 33, but his opponent avoided it and proceeded to mop up in an efficient manner.

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