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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Klaus Junge

Stoltz vs. Junge, 1942
Klaus Junge (1 January 1924, Concepcion, Chile – 17 April 1945, Welle, Germany) was a promising player who was considered one of the strongest players in Germany. Although he was born in Chile his parents were Germans and in either 1928 or 1930, they moved to Hamburg because they believed their sons would be better educated in Germany. His father, Otto, was a strong player who won the championship of Chile in 1922.

Junge competed successfully in several tournaments during the early years of the Second World War. At the age of 17, he shared first place with Paul Schmidt in the German championship of 1941, but lost the play-off (+0 –3 =1). In 1942, in Prague, he tied for first with the world champion, Alexander Alekhine.

Junge was mobilized in the German army and was the last of the three brothers to die in the war. As a lieutenant, refusing to surrender, he died in combat against Allied troops on April 17, 1945 in the battle of Welle just three weeks before the war in Europe ended.

Apparently Junge was a member of the 12th SS battalion most likely is SS-Panzergrenadier Ausbildungs- und Ersatzbataillon 12 which was stationed in Nienburg on the river Weser in winter 1944/1945. The major part of the battalion was captured near Soltau on April 18th, 1945. According to German Wikipedia he had collected about a dozen stragglers from various units on the day of the battle and Junge and two other soldiers died when they tried to stop the attacking tanks with Panzerfausts.

In the February, 1976 issue of Chess Life and Review George Koltanowsky wrote: “During the Second World War Dr Alexander Alekhine, then Champion of the World, participated in a number of tournaments. In 1942 he played in Prague, under the sponsorship of Germany’s Nazi Youth Association. There he met 18-year-old Klaus Junge of Leipzig, who was acclaimed as a future world champion by the German press, and who was stabbed to death in a chess club fight in 1942!”

In the April 1976 issue of Chess Life and Review Paul Schmidt wrote to straighten out Koltanowski’s statement. Schmidt wrote: “Klaus Junge, one of my best friends, was not “stabbed to death in a political brawl in a chess club in 1942” as stated by George Koltanowski in the February issue. He died in combat, as a German officer, on the last day but one [sic] of World War II, i.e. in 1945. Nor did Alekhine meet him for the first time at the tournament in Prague, 1942, where they tied for first and second place. They met for the first time at the 1941 tournament in Warsaw-Cracow, their individual game ending in a draw, … and then again in 1942 at the six-master double-round tournament in Salzburg, each winning one game… [as well as two other tournaments before Prague, 1942].”

“Klaus Junge also did not come from Leipzig. He was born in Chile as the son of German parents who, unfortunately, returned to Germany to get a better education for their children than was possible at that time in Chile – only to lose all their three sons to Hitler’s war. His parents lived in Hamburg.”

In his letter, Schmidt stated, “…had he not died in 1945 he would indeed have become a formidable contender for the world championship. He was equally fond of combinatorial and positional play, and his style was completely mature even at age 18. My book Schachmeister Denken! (Walter Rau Verlag, 1949) is dedicated to the memory of Klaus Junge.”

Junge’s father had been a member of the Nazi Party and one author wrote that Junge was a fanatical young man brainwashed by Nazi propaganda and was fully enraptured with the Nazi world-view. Whatever his political opinions, by all accounts Junge was a brilliant player who met an untimely end and we will never know just how good he would have become.

In the following game Junge conducts a typical attack. A collection of 106 of his games can be found at Chessgamesdotcom

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