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Monday, November 13, 2017

Ludek Pachman, Political Activist (Part 1)

See previous post for Part 2…. 

     Ludek Pachman (May 11, 1924 - March 6, 2003) was somewhat uncoordinated as a result of a childhood bout with polio, but he never let that slow him down. Besides being a strong GM, he played tennis, played the piano, played bridge with a passion, was a great orator and a prolific writer. Pachman was an opening theoretician, was practical and had great belief in his abilities and so was always optimistic of his chances. 
     He won the Czechoslovak Championship seven times, the first being in 1946. He wrote thousands of pages on political and religious subjects. When it came to his biography, published in several languages, it's claimed that mistakes, distortions, whitewashed facts and overlooked events were frequent. From the end of the fifties to the mid-sixties Pachman was a very strong GM and a welcome player at international tournaments. He was also a chess coach, organizer and author, writing more than 80 books on more than strategy, tactics and openings. 
     After World War II, Pachman was a passionate Communist and served on a commission whose job it was to examine doctors, professors, engineers and scientists to determine their loyalty and knowledge of Marxism-Leninism was sufficient. Ludek Pachman was a harsh examiner and his verdict determined if a person could work in their profession or if they had to seek employment as a factory worker, security guard, waiter, or some other low paying job. Under him, many people were not allowed to practice their profession. In fact, Czech emigres who fled to Germany and Austria called him “Colonel Pachman” and said that he was one of the most sinister figures of the Gottwald regime. 
     Klement Gottwald (1896 – 1953) was a Czech Communist politician. When the Communists party had been banned in 1938 Gottwald had emigrated to the Soviet Union. In 1945 he returned to Prague and in the 1948 coup d'état in which the Communist Party seized power with the backing of the Soviet Union, Gottwald took over most presidential functions until he was formally elected as President. Then shortly after a meeting with Stalin, Gottwald imposed the Soviet model of government on the country. He nationalized industry and collectivized its farms. In response to opposition Gottwald instigated a series of purges, first removing non-communists and later to some communists as well. 
     During this time Pachman became head of a department for preparing union cadres and stayed in this post for several years. At party courses he gave lectures on dialectics and historical materialism. His favorite subject was Imperialism which he called the highest stage of capitalism and Stalin's writings were his Bible. 
     When he became a Communist, Pachman was taken with the ideas of equality and brotherhood and he tried to put those ideas into practice. But in 1952, due to political reasons, Pachman left the political world and became a professional chess player for the next 15 years. However, even as a professional chess player he maintained connections with high ranking political figures. Players from Eastern Europe knew to watch their speech around him because what they said could be twisted when they got home. The subject of conversations would change or people would quit talking when Pachman showed up. 
      As a player Pachman made frequent trips to Cuba to play in tournaments and coach its players.  Regarding his political leanings at that time, Viktor Korchnoi recalled that in 1963 during the Capablanca Memorial Tournament in Havana Pachman proudly told him and Robert Wade, “I learned how to drive a tank recently." and when Korchnoi and Wade gave him a quizzical look, he explained, “We have to defend our Cuba!” 
     Pachman met Fidel Castro a few times and once Castro asked him why he didn't smoke.  Pachman replied that he had never smoked in his life. Castro then handed him a big Cuban cigar and told him, "If you are a friend of Cuba, you will smoke this cigar to the end.” Pachman complied, but much later recalled that it was a torture and to get rid of the taste he downed a sizable quantity of Bacardi. From then on he had such a revulsion against smoking that he tried to convince every smoker he met to give it up.

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