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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hoogovens Buried Gem

     The Tata Steel tournament, formerly called the Corus tournament, takes place every year in a small town called Wijk aan Zee, part of the larger Beverwijk in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands. Until 1999 the tournament was known as Hoogovens. In 1999 the Dutch sponsor Koninklijke Hoogovens merged with British Steel to form the Corus Group, which became Tata Steel Europe in 2007. 
     In the very beginning the “Blast Furnace Chess Tournament” was better known simply as the “New Years Chess Tournament” (Nieuwjaarstournooi using the 1940’s Dutch spelling, or Nieuwjaarstoernooi using modern spelling). It started very simply, as a round robin between four players, with one round Saturday evening, then church Sunday morning, one round Sunday afternoon, a joint meal in the evening, and the final round Sunday night.  
     After Max Euwe became World Champion, the steelworkers at Hoogovens started a small chess club which held their first New Year's tournament in 1938. There was no tournament in 1945 because of the Dutch famine of 1944–45, known as the Hongerwinter which translates to Hunger winter. 
     The famine took place in the German-occupied part of the Netherlands, especially in the densely populated western provinces during the winter of 1944–45, near the end of World War II. A German blockade cut off food and fuel shipments from farm areas. Some 4.5 million were affected and survived because of soup kitchens. As many as 22,000 may have died because of the famine. Most of the victims were reported to be elderly men. 
     The famine was alleviated by the liberation of the area by the Allies in May 1945. Prior to that, bread baked from flour shipped in from Sweden, and the airlift of food by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the U.S. Army Air Forces – under an agreement with the Germans that if the Germans did not shoot at the mercy flights, the Allies would not bomb the German positions – helped to mitigate the famine. Actress Audrey Hepburn spent her childhood in the Netherlands during the famine and had lifelong medical repercussions; she suffered from anemia, respiratory illnesses, and edema. 
     After the hunger winter of 1945, activity was resumed and it was decided to invite masters from abroad, to compete with the home players. The first attempt was somewhat unsuccessful because Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry couldn't play because professional obligations at home, William Winter could not get a visa, and Henri Grob was unable to arrangements for travel. Of those who could make it, Gosta Stoltz of Sweden, arrived by plane only hours before play began. 

1) O'Kelly 7.0 
2) Stoltz 6.5 
3) Kramer 5.0 
4) Cortlever 4.5
5-9) Steenis, van Groot, van Scheltinga, Koomen and Vlagsma 3.5 
10) Tol 3.0 

   The tournament book of the 1946 Hoogovens contains a hidden gem that was played between two also-rans.

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