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Friday, May 3, 2019

Euwe Knocks Flohr’s Socks Off

     When I was working, my young supervisor and his brother, who also worked in the engineering department, were members of a heavy metal band and every year they took their vacations to tour Europe as a front for other bands. 
     Their favorite city was Amsterdam. Why, I don’t know. But, one day I asked if they had ever visited the chess museum in Amsterdam; they had not. 
     Chess is very popular in the Netherlands and in Amsterdam there is a chess center close to the square in the city. Along with a chess hall, library and an office, a small museum tells the history of chess and the life of the Max Euwe. Read visitor reviews.
     A former prison with a sinister history dating from World War II when the Nazis tortured members of the Dutch resistance there, it has been transformed into an office building. Visitors can still recognize the characteristic prison windows and its thick walls. 
     The prison’s yard is today the Max Euwe Plein which has a small monument of Euwe. The history of chess as well as Euwe’s life are documented through photographs and copies of documents. A collection of chess sets is also on display. Next to the museum there is a library with large collection of chess books. 
     In 1939 there was a small tournament in Amsterdam. Max Euwe, Laszlo Szabo and Salo Flohr tied for first with 3.5 points. They were followed by George Fontein, Nicolas Cortlever and Salo Landau, all of whom scored 1.5 points. 
     When one thinks of tactical chess the name Max Euwe doesn’t come to mind. His greatest characteristic has been described as “economy.”  He was logic personified, accurate and aggressive. One would hardly call him an attacking player, yet his games sometimes contained extraordinary complex positions. His greatest weakness was a tendency to blunder. 
     Salo Flohr was a leading Czech and later Soviet GM of the mid 20th century. He became a national hero in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. His name was used to sell many luxury products of the time: Salo Flohr cigarettes, slippers and cologne. 
     Flohr dominated many tournaments of the pre-World War II years and at one point was considered a contender for the world championship. At some point his style changed and he became famous for possessing a patient, positional style that lead to a lot of short, unambitious draws. 
     Flohr had a tough childhood that was beset by personal crises. He was born into a Jewish family in what was then Austria-Hungary, but now part of the Ukraine. He and his brother were orphaned during World War I after their parents were killed in a massacre and the boys fled to newly-formed Czechoslovakia. 
     Flohr settled in Prague and first gained international notice in 1929 at Rogaska Slatina where he finished second to Akiba Rubinstein. Flohr peaked in the mid-1930s when he became one of the world's strongest players and a leading contender for the world championship. He was champion of Czechoslovakia in 1933 and 1936 and played in many tournaments throughout Europe. 
     In 1937, FIDE nominated him as the official candidate to play Alekhine, but with World War II on the horizon, it proved impossible for him to raise the money in Czechoslovakia, so the plans were dropped. He probably had poor chances against Alekhine anyway; they met 12 times and Flohr lost five and drew the rest. 
     The next year, Flohr was one of the eight players invited to the great AVRO tournament of November 1938. He finished last which put an end to his chances of a match with Alekhine. It’s possible that his last place finish was due to his personal circumstances at that time. The German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 had left Flohr in grave personal danger because he was Jewish. 
     Flohr remained in the Netherlands in early 1939, playing in several small events. He became a naturalized Soviet citizen in 1942, and developed his career as a chess writer. 
     Sometime back I did a post that told about how, according to Arnold Denker, he got hornswoggled by Flohr in a financial scam.
     After the War, he was still a contender for a possible World Championship match and finished 6th at the 1948 Interzonal in Saltsjobaden, earning a spot in the 1950 Candidates Tournament in Budapest. There he tied for last (17th-18th). After that, with few exceptions, his tournament career was over. 
     The subject of today’s post is another tactical win by Euwe. In this game Euwe gave Flohr a lesson on weak squares and his final attack was nothing short of brilliant. Take a gander at the position after 31...a4. 



    At first glance it may appear that the outcome is in doubt because it looks like the a-Pawn is going to queen. But, before that happens Euwe polishes off his opponent with a tactical onslaught that is unstoppable. 

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