East Germany’s top chess player Wolfgang Uhlmann dies at 85

At the age of 16, Wolfgang contracted tuberculosis and was confined to a sanatorium for months. There he studied chess relentlessly and when he emerged, with Germany now divided between the Communist East and the Democratic West, he began to climb the ranks of East Germany, winning the championship. young people from his country. Three years later, he won his first East German Championship.

He never finished school; instead, he trained as a book printer. But after starting to win championships, he was able to become a professional chess, financially supported by the East German government. Such an arrangement was common in the Soviet Union, but unusual in East Germany. Many years later he will say, “I have been privileged.

After the reunification of Germany, Mr. Uhlmann continued to make a living as a professional chess professional, in part by writing books and making instructional videos.

Mr. Uhlmann was largely self-taught as a player, so his repertoire, especially when he was dark, was narrow, almost always limited to French defense and the king’s Indian defense, two popular overtures but risky as they generally depend on successful counterattacks. He wrote a book on French defense, “Gagner avec les Français”, first published in German in 1991 and later translated into English, which is still considered one of the best references on how to play the game. ‘opening.

During his career he faced seven players who were or would become world champions, winning victories over Mr. Fischer, Vasily Smyslov (world champion from 1957 to 1958) and, in 1962, Mikhail M. Botvinnik, then holding of the title. .

Mr. Uhlmann’s victory over Mr. Fischer came in their first game in 1960, when Mr. Fischer was only 17 years old but was already considered one of the top five players in the world. In the remainder of their meetings, Mr. Fischer has won three times and four games have ended in draws.

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