Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Past imperfect

It looks like Brigitta Sinka did it: topped, last weekend, Capablanca's total number of games played in simultaneous exhibitions. Congratulations to her.

Meanwhile, in less important news, we were asking last week about the Women's Olympiad of 1960, for which Ms Sinka remembered having been selected, but in vain due to Hungary joining a boycott. This was confusing because no record could be found, on the internet, of a Women's Olympiad in that year, or indeed of any Eastern Bloc boycott around that time

However, a commentor provided us with information suggesting that Ms Sinka's memory was not as fallible as it first seemed, there had been an Olympiad planned, albeit for 1961 rather than 1960, but it hadn't taken place. The precise reasons for that appeared to involve the East German team being denied visas, rather than being disqualified as such, but that's a fine distinction. Other details remain to be established.

Here's what we got so far, much of it supplied by Matt Fletcher on Twitter. (There's also a Forum thread here from which I reproduce some material.)

We have the Neues Deutschland newspaper - which, as its masthead says, was issued by the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party - for 16 September 1961. Google Translate offers the following.

We also have the British Chess Magazine from 1972, repeating (as it were) the citation from Sunnucks'  Encyclopaedia that our commentor produced last week

and we have a contemporary reference, from Chess Life, to the event having been planned for September 17 to October 8 1961. (No image, alas.) Given the date of the German newspaper, this suggests that the event must have been cancelled pretty much at the last minute, perhaps when teams had already travelled and arrived in Emmen. (It refers to the tournament being scheduled to start the following Tuesday, which was in fact the 19th.)

We don't know that yet, though: but we do know that there was at least one other event affected by a refusal to issue visas to GDR players. This was the 1962 World Student Team Championship, which ultimately took place in Mariánské Lázně, the site in the present day of an annual open (I played in 2006). But it was originally supposed to take place in Great Britain, which arrangement, according to the account quoted by Olimpbase, fell apart when the BCF were unable to guarantee that all the competing teams would receive visas.
The Congress of the FIDE held in Sofia in 1961 entrusted the British Chess Federation with its organization. Unfortunately it was unable to secure entry visas for the members of all teams that had applied for participation. Since this fact was in contradiction with the principles of the FIDE not to tolerate any discrimination against any of its members, the British Chess Federation had to give up the organization of this traditional student chess competition.
Why was this? Their account of the 1968 event gives slightly more detail as to what had happened in 1961-2.
At the FIDE Congress held in Sofia in 1961, it was decided to entrust the organising of this contest to the Chess Federation of Great Britain. FIDE, faithful to its principles of not allowing any discrimination against any of its member unions, charged the Chess Federation of Great Britain with this task, on condition that all registered participants would receive entry visas. However, as the organisers were unable to guarantee a visa for all FIDE members — mainly for the GDR — owing to the pressure of discriminatory NATO measures, they had to cancel the organising of the championship in England early in 1962, and the task which owing to the short time left caused great difficulties, was taken over by the students and chess-players of the CSSR.
All this strongly suggests that this was (as Roger proposed) linked to the construction of the Berlin Wall, and affected other sporting events as well. (See for instance the football item in Neues Deutschland, immediately above the chess story.) But while it's much more information than I had at the end of last week, we're still lacking a good contemporary account of the cancellation of the Women's Olympiad, with all the whys and wherefores.

For that, we'd need to see chess magazines and/or newspaper reports of the period. I don't have access to either - can any readers provide us with further help?

[Thanks to Mr Burger, Matt Fletcher and Roger de Coverly]


MrBurger said...

I've checked my collection and found nothing in Chess Review or Chess Life, and only one sentence with no new information in Deutsche Schachzeitung. However, the swedish Tidskrift för Schack (november 1961, pp. 265-266) casts some light on the decision process.

It's from a two page article about the FIDE congress in Sofia 19-22 september 1961. My translation:
"During the preparatory comittee work before the General Assembly news broke that there was visa difficulties for the East German participants at the women's Chess Olympiad, which was about to start in Emmen, the Netherlands, 17 september. Telegraphic appeals from the organisers as well as the in Sofia assembled members of FIDE's Central Comittee gave no results, and the tournament was cancelled."

This was not the only incident. Uhlmann, who was supposed to play in the zonal tournament in the Netherlands (Berg en Dal) november 1960 was denied visa, and the rest of the East European players withdrew in protest. The zonal was played with 10 players instead of 18, and FIDE later organised a second zonal in Marianske Lazne in august 1961. Uhlmann qualified for the interzonal and Olafsson won both tournaments!

Also the 1962 interzonal was moved from the Netherlands to Stockholm because the Dutch organisers couldn't guarantee visa to all participants.

ejh said...

Thanks ever si much for your help. Can I take it you don't have CHESS or the BCM?

ejh said...

In re: the zonals, there is a fair amount of information in the relevant section of Mark Weeks' site.

ejh said...

And a little more about the 1961 Zonal and 1962 World Students' Team Championship here.

Anonymous said...

The Mark Weeks site says the Dutch refusal to admit Uhlmann was because he needed to have papers from the Allied Control Commission in West Berlin. I suppose that was a bureaucratic sanction against the building of the Wall, since it would not have been possible to obtain these papers if crossing from East Berlin to West Berlin was forbidden.