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Friday, April 26, 2019

Jiri Vesely, Chessmaster and Informer

    If you follow tennis you might be familiar with the Jiri Vesely, the Czech professional tennis player, but if you follow chess, you probably aren’t familiar with Jiri Vesely, the Czech chess player.
     Jiri Vesely (May 30, 1932 – February 27, 2009), the chess player, was a well known chess writer and reporter who wrote several chess books which are still quite popular in Czech Republic. In 1950s and early 1960s he was also one of leading Czech players. As late as 2006 Vesely was still active in team play for his club, but his rating had slipped from a high in the 2400s back in the 1960s to about 2100. 
     But Jiri Vesely had a dark side...he was a long time StB informer under nickname Sachista which means Chessplayer. The StB was the Czechoslovak communist secret police. It was a plainclothes communist secret police force in the former Czechoslovakia from 1945 to its dissolution in 1990. The StB served as an intelligence and counter-intelligence agency that dealt with any activity that could possibly be considered anti-state or western influence. 
     From its establishment on June 30, 1945, the StB was bound to and controlled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The Party used the StB as an instrument of power and repression that spied on and intimidated political opponents of the Party and forged false criminal evidence against them. The StB facilitated the Communists' rise to power in 1948. 
     Even before Czechoslovakia became Communist, the StB forced confessions by means of torture, including the use of drugs, blackmail and kidnapping. Other common practices included telephone tapping, permanent monitoring of apartments, intercepting private mail, house searches, surveillance, arrests and indictment for so-called subversion of the republic. The StB's part in the fall of the regime in 1989 remains uncertain. The reported murder of a student by police during a peaceful demonstration in November 1989 was the catalyst for wider public support and further demonstrations, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. 
    State Security was dissolved on February 1, 1990. The current intelligence agency of the Czech Republic is the Security Information Service, but it is not a successor to StB. The former employees and associates (informers) of the StB were banned from taking certain jobs, such as legislators or police officers. 
     In the early 1990s former dissident and "StB hunter" Petr Cibulka published the names of over 200,000 alleged StB officers and collaborators who spied and reported on family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. In 2003, the Czech Interior Ministry released an official list of 75,000 StB agents and collaborators, including 3,000 names of collaborators from abroad. One of the more famous StB agents was Karl Koecher, who infiltrated the CIA as a mole in the 1970s; he was chose because of his English language skills. You can read his story HERE
     Another guy who has been accused of cooperating with the StB before 1989 is Vojtech Jasny, a Czech-American film director who came to prominence in the sixties. He won a Cannes Special Jury Prize for The Cassandra Cat in 1963. 
     As a son of a Czech patriot killed in Auschwitz, he was an active member of the Czech Resistance and also acted as a spy for the allies throughout the Second World War. An active filmmaker in Czechoslovakia throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he was among many artists and intellectuals who left the country after the USSR-led invasion following the Prague Spring of 1968. Jasny worked in other European countries for several years including Austria, West Germany and Yugoslavia until relocating to Brooklyn, New York in the early 1980s. 
     It’s interesting that in 2006, Radio Prague reported the Interior Ministry had for the first time admitted that some 800 agents of the former StB were still working in the country's police force. The then new interior minister Ivan Langer said that he wanted all former StB officers to leave the police as soon as possible. He planned to use a new civil service law to carry out personnel changes. 
     And, according to Reuters, last year a Slovak court rejected a demand by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis to be cleared of cooperation with the communist-era secret police (StB). 
     The following game by Vesely was played in Chocen, a very small town in the Czech Republic. Vesely tied for first with J. Lastovicka and A. Pechan with 7.5-3.5. This game shows the difficulty of winning even when you have the superior position. The advantage seesawed back and forth until white made the final blunder at move 35. One suspects time pressure may have had something to do with it. 

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