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Monday, August 19, 2019

Johannesburg 1955

     If you lived in South Africa (in those days the Union of South Africa) in 1955 the big political news was The Congress of the People that was held in June. And, if you were a railroad fan the South African Railways placed the first of sixty Class 5E, Series 1 electric locomotives in service. They would eventually become the most prolific locomotive type to ever run on South African rails. 
     If you were a sports fan the South Africa national football team toured Australia and played and won five games against the Australia national association football teams. 
     If you were a chess player the big news was that the first world champion to ever play an event in Africa was Max Euwe who played in the Johannesburg 1955 event. And, the really big news was Euwe came in a surprising third a half point behind Muhring and Hreidenfeld. 
     The final standings were in doubt until the last round when Euwe went all out against Muhring after losing to Heidenfeld in the previous round. But, Euwe only managed a draw while Heifenfeld defeated Wilken and so moved into a tie for first. 

     Willem Muhring (1913 - 1999) was a Dutch IM and a pioneer in the computer industry. See A tribute to Willem Jan Muhring for an interesting bio.
     Wolfgang Heidenfeld (1991 - 1981) was born in Berlin and was forced to move from Germany to South Africa because he was a Jew. In 1957, he moved to Dublin and in 1979 the family moved back to Germany. You can read my post about him HERE.
     Barta da Cruz was from Mozambique while the other players were local South Africans about whom nothing is known. 

     The September 1955 edition of a typewritten South African magazine titled New Youth, Independent Youth Monthly mentions Dr. Euwe in the section On The Youth Front. 
     A group of seven young "non-European chess enthusiasts" who were members of the Transveal Indian Youth Congress at the South African Colored Peoples’ Organization interviewed Dr. Euwe and handed him an open letter.
     Their interview with Dr. Euwe took place in the foyer of the venue, the Johannesburg Library, as the youths were barred from entering the library itself. Euwe actually came into the foyer in between moves during his game to listen to and speak with the youths. 
     The letter they gave to Euwe expressed “deep disappointment in not being able to watch you play owing to the color of out skins.” 
     The letter went on to say that the game originated in the 5th century in India and it had always been played by people of all nationalities, colors and creeds. It stated, “We are sure that in your wide experience you have played and enjoyed games with persons of all colors. You must agree with us that the color of a person’s skin does not matter as long as they appreciate the art of chess.” 
     After the interview with Dr. Euwe the youths stated that they had been received by him with understanding and he had expressed regret at not being able to participate in playing games against non-whites because his contract for the trip and tournament forbade him from doing so.

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