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Friday, June 2, 2017

Chess Masters Imprisoned

      Even though World War Two was underway 1940 in chess had a lot going on, but not all of it was good. 
     With many of the best European players stranded in Buenos Aires after the Olympiad, the annual Hastings tournament ended up being a national event, but even then it was missing most of the strongest British players.  Frank Parr won ahead of W. Ritson-Morray and Harry Golombek. Parr (December 17, 1918 – December 28, 2003), who had been called up for military service in 1939 was playing in uniform and scored 6-1, allowing only two draws. Oddly, this was his only Hastings Premier appearance although he played in many Challengers' sections up to 2002/3. He played in 25 British championships. 
     In Havana, Isaac Kashdan finished ahead of George Koltanowski and Euwe won at Beverwijk. Euwe repeated his performance in Budapest where he finished ahead of Milan Vidmar and Gedeon Barcza. Amsterdam was won by Hans Kmoch followed by Adriaan de Groot, Salo Landau and Lodewijk Prins. In Berlin Efim Bogoljubow finished ahead of Kurt Richter. 
     The US Championship was won by Samuel Reshevsky and in the US Open Reuben Fine finished ahead of Herman Steiner. The Soviet Championship ended in a tie between Igor Bondarevsky and Andor Lilienthal followed by Vasily Smyslov, Paul Keres, Isaac Boleslavsky and Mikhail Botvinnik. There were also a number of matches, the most significant was probably Paul Keres' narrow victory over Max Euwe, 7.5 – 6.5. 
     On the down side, the famous French chess magazine La Strategie ceased publication after 73 years and in England the National Chess Center in London was destroyed by fire during the Blitz. But those events pale in comparison to some of the other things the chess world experienced. 
     In January of 1940 Jewish players David Przepiorka, Stanisław Kohn, Moishe Lowtzky, Achilles Frydman, Wiktor Abkin, Młynek, Zahorski and many others were arrested at the Kwiecinski Chess Cafe in Warsaw and imprisoned at Daniłowiczowska Street in Warsaw.
     Warsaw had surrendered to the Wehrmacht armies on September 28, 1939. Three days later SS-Brigadefuhrer Lothar Beutel and his troops entered the city. They immediately conducted a search in public and private buildings and made mass arrests. About a month later over 350 Polish teachers and catholic priests were detained because it was assumed that they are “full of Polish chauvinism” and “created an enormous danger” for public order. It wasn't long before Warsaw's prisons and detention centers Pawiak, Mokotow Prison, the Central Detention Center at Daniłowiczowska Street and the cellars of the Gestapo headquarter were full. Many of the prisoners were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Many others were murdered. 
     While the above Jewish players were imprisoned they played a tournament won by Lowtzky. Later, between February and March of 1940 some of them were killed in a mass execution in the Palmiry massacre while other perished in concentration camps. 
     David Przepiorka was born December 22, 1880 in Warsaw which was then part of the Russian Empire to a family of wealthy landowners and entrepreneurs of Jewish extraction. Przepiorka was more interested in mathematics and chess than doing business ans was declared a prodigy by the age of nine. Shortly before World War I, he left his family company and started traveling abroad, devoting himself to chess. 
     During the Nazi invasion of Poland, his apartment was destroyed and he moved to share an apartment with another player, Marian Wrobel. A Gestapo raid on the apartment in January 1940, during an informal meeting of Warsaw chess players, led to the arrest of all present. The non-Jewish participants were released a week later, Przepiorka and the other Jewish players were subsequently executed by the Germans in Palmiry. 
     Stanisław Kohn (1895–1940) was a Polish master who played for Poland in 1st unofficial Chess Olympiad at Paris 1924. In 1925, he won the Warsaw Championship. In 1926, he tied for 3rd-7th in the 1st Polish Chess Championship. In 1927, he tied for 5-7th then the 2nd Polish Championship. 
     Moishe Lowtzky (1881-1940) was born into a Jewish family in Ukraine and was a frequent competitor in international tournaments prior to World War One. During World War One he moved to Warsaw where he continued playing in international and Polish events with considerable success. After his arrest in Warsaw, and died in a Nazi concentration camp. 
     Achilles Frydman (March 19, 1904, Łodz – 1940) was a Polish player who enjoyed moderate success in international events in the 1930s. In 1937 he had to withdraw from the Polish Championship due to illness. During the latter stages of his life, he had a history of mental illness, which manifested itself in boisterous behavior. He was even reported to have turned up in public, wearing little or no clothing. After a spell in an asylum, doctors warned him against playing any more chess. After his arrest he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp where he perished. 
     The following game by Przepiorka is something of a mystery. It contains one sacrifice after another, but the ending is in question. The the game is given in the January 13, 1927 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, under the headline “Clever Feat by Pole.” It reads: It was no trivial feat that D. Prsepiorks of Poland performed when he divided third and fourth prizes with Canal of Peru and Rudolf Spielmann of Austria, of who the latter will soon come to New York to participate in the grand-masters' tournament opening at the Manhattan Square Hotel on February 19. Przepiorka was successful in winning his game from Spielmann and that withal in finished style.” The game score of his win over Speilmann and the one over von Patay were then given. In his win over von Patay the newspaper gave the game with black playing 24...Kf7 and resigning after 25.Qh7+ because of mate next move.  The January 1927 edition of Weinzer Schachzeitung gives the ending as played here. 
     The game is also given by Horowitz and Reinfeld in How to Think Ahead in Chess as an instructive example of how superior mobility leads to a decisive breakthrough. Whatever the actual finish was, Przepiorka's finale is spectacular. 
 

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