Tuesday, 11 July 2017

War stops play

There have probably been a number of reasons why chess tournaments get suspended or cancelled, but the Mannheim event of 1914 probably has the most well known reason. Organised by the German Chess Federation, the tournament attracted a number of the worlds leading players, including Alekhine, Reti, Tarrasch and Marshall. But after 11 rounds, World War I broke out, with Germany declaring war on Russia. The organisers stopped the tournament at this point, and a number of players decided to head for the border. The unlucky players were those of Russian nationality, who were arrested and interned. The delay in France and England entering the war (by a couple of days), probably allowed a few extra players to get away, including Gunnar Gundersen, who had travelled from Australia to take part in the 'B' tournament. Gundersen, whose father had been a Norwegian diplomat, was able to reach Oslo, before returning to Melbourne and winning the Victorian Championship in 1915 (and 7 times after that).
Alekhine was declared the 'winner' of the event, and awarded some prize money. Despite being a Russian national, his stay in Germany was short lived, and he was able to travel to Switzerland after around 6 weeks in captivity. Here is his final game, where he won a game that I still see quoted from time to time when analysing the Alekhine-Chatard Gambit.

Alekhine,Alexander - Fahrni,Hans [C14]
DSB-19.Kongress Mannheim (11), 1914

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