Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rudolf Spielmann

Rudolf Spielmann's first top achievement came in S:t Petersburg 1909, where he had only Lasker and Rubinstein ahead of him. Among several good results the following decade can be mentioned second places in San Sebastian and Bad Pistyan, both times behind Rubinstein, in the latter's great year 1912. Spielmann won against the Polish Grandmaster with black in both events.

In the 1920's Spielmann was to have his greatest successes. He won Semmering 1926 ahead of Alekhine and Nimzowitsch. Another top result came in Karlsbad 1929, where 12 of the world's 13 top players participated (Chessmetrics). The 46-year-old Spielmann started with 9/10 before tiring in the second half, even if he won against Capablanca (his career score against the Cuban was an impressive +2 -2 =8). During the last round it still looked as if Spielmann might win the tournament, but eventually he ended up 0.5 behind Nimzowitsch.

Spielmann was still playing in the 1930s, when the title challengers faced him in matches before playing World Champion Alekhine. In these matches Spielmann defeated both Bogoljubow (1932) and Euwe (1935). In Moscow 1935 he finished 5th of 20 players, one point behind fourth placed Capablanca. His last good result was Margate 1938 (second behind Alekhine).

Spielmann emigrated to Sweden in 1939 and died in Stockholm three years later. He is buried at Norra Begravningsplatsen, where I took these photos of his grave today. The inscription on the stone says: "Here rests chess grandmaster Rudolf Spielmann, born in Vienna 1883, dead in Stockholm 1942. Restless refugee struck hard by fate he found a sanctuary among his Swedish friends. Sweden’s chess players commemorate with this stone the memory of a brilliant master and a noble man."

A good biographical article in German is Rudolf Spielmann: Lebensgeschichte als Zeitgeschichte.