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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Miervaldis Jursevskis

     Miervaldis (Walter) Jursevskis (November 6, 1921 in Riga, Latvia - March 15, 2014 in Burnaby, British Columbia) was a Latvian-Canadian master.
     Jursevskis learned chess from his father at the age of six but it wasn't until he entered the University of Latvia, where he studied art, that he became one of the best players in Riga. He won numerous tournaments and was also an outstanding blitz player, winning most of the tournaments he entered. In 1946 he even wrote a 14-page booklet in Latvian titled Technique and Tactics of Five Minute Chess.
     His father was an officer in the Russian and Latvian armies and Jursevskis remembered imperial banquets at which the Tsar rewarded his guests by allowing them to leave with the expensive place settings. The family lived in the resort district of Riga, Jurmala, a popular resort. Jursevskis studied architecture at the University of Riga for four years, but eventually decided to concentrate on art.
      Latvia's independence was interrupted in June–July 1940, when the country was occupied and incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1941 it was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, then reconquered by the Soviets in 1944–45.
     After World War II, the Soviet Union's mass deportations were concluded in the Baltic countries and the Soviet's encouraged citizens to immigrate to Latvia. On January 12, 1949 the Soviets issued a decree on the expulsion and deportation from Latvia of all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists and others. It's estimated that more than 200,000 people were deported from the Baltic in 1940–1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag. 10 percent of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to labor camps. Many soldiers evaded capture and joined the Latvian national partisans' resistance that waged unsuccessful guerrilla warfare for several years.
         In May 1945, Jursevskis managed to escape Riga by sea just ahead of the advancing Soviet forces. He landed at Kiel, Germany and spent the next two years in various Displaced Person camps across Germany. While in the DP camps he played many of the strong players from the Baltic countries who were also in D.P. camps, along with German and Austrian masters, including Bogoljubow, Saemisch, Rellstab, Zemgalis, Endzelins, and Arlauskas. He played in a number of small international events, including Blomberg and Lubeck (both 1945), Meerbeck (1946), and Hanau (1947).
     In 1948 Jursevskis emigrated to Canada the following year settled in Vancouver where he worked as a commercial artist for the Eaton's company. Eaton's was a Canadian retailer that was once Canada's largest department store chain. It went bankrupt in 1999 and its assets were acquired by Sears which was unsuccessful in reviving the stores.
     After retirement he started his own art and antique restoration business, did freelance work and repaired porcelain and crystal. As a professional artist he contributed drawings to a number of chess magazines and illustrated several chess books. He excelled in all mediums: oil, pastel, water color paintings, cartoons and caricatures.
     After moving to British Columbia Jursevskis largely outclassed local players until 1957 when Elod Macskasy arrived on the chess scene. Soon after his arrival in British Columbia he played a match against Leo Duval the four-time B.C. Champion who had finished fifth in the 1945 Canadian Championship. Jursevskis easily won the match with a 6-2 score. Jursevskis entered the 1949 B.C. Championship and won it with a perfect score, repeating the same feat the following year. He went on to win the championship a further four years in succession, 1954-1957. He won the British Columbia Championships six times (1949, 1950, 1954-57). He played in three Canadian Championships (1951, 1955, 1957), his best result occurring at Vancouver 1957 when he tied for third.
      Besides chess and art, he also loved dancing, curling, golf, yoga, world travel, a good seafood dinner and time with family and friends. Jursevskis passed March 15, 2014 at Burnaby Hospital, with his wife Ruth of 62 years at his side.

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