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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Did You Know There Were Two Ernst Grunfelds?


    There was Ernst Franz Grunfeld (November 21, 1893 – April 3, 1962) who was the leading Austrian GM and chess writer, mainly on opening theory, who has a defense named after him. That Ernst Grunfeld was born in Josefstadt, Vienna. He lost a leg in his early poverty stricken childhood, but discovered chess, studied intensely and quickly earned a reputation as a skilled player.
     The Ernst Grunfeld of this post was born June 18, 1907 in Sopron, a Hungarian town at the Austrian border, and died on May 16, 1988. He was a Hungarian–Swiss master whose half-century career extended from the mid-1920s to the late 1970s. 
     Up until 1935 he used the German form of his name, Ernst Grunfeld, but then changed it to Erno Gereben. 
     In 1926 at the age of 19 he came to the fore with a victory in a long forgotten tournament at Kormend. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and was sort of the dean of Hungarian chess, playing in numerous tournaments played in Hungary and abroad. Gereben belonged to a generation of Hungarian players that Esteban Canal called “the supreme legion of the Magyars.” 
Gereben autograph

     Due to the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Gereben and his wife emigrated to Switzerland and he began playing extensively in the west. According to chessmetrics Gereben was playing at the 2600 in the early 1950s placing him in the world's top fifty players.
     He briefly emigrated to Israel and played on one Israeli championship, in 1959, where he finished second behind Josef Porat. The following year he was refused a place on the Israeli Olympic team because when he requested play on the team it had already been selected. As a result, after to 1959 championship tournament he returned to Switzerland. The suspicion is that he never actually intended to settle in Israel, but only wanted to play in tournaments. Gereben died in Switzerland at the age of 81. 
     There has been a slew of “Alekhine Memorial” tournaments and two that I am aware of were played in 1956. The most famous one was held in Moscow from October 9-November 2, 1956 and was won by Botvinnik and Smyslov who tied for first. 

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