The 1936 Munich Chess Olympiad

Edward Winter

(2006, with additions)


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Munich (from page 60 of the mid-1930s book Deutsches Volk – Deutsche Heimat)



Seventy years ago a chess Olympiad was held in Munich, although Germany was not a member of FIDE at the time. Page 546 of the November 1936 BCM commented:

‘All accounts to hand bear witness to the very efficient management of the International Team Tournament at Munich. ... When then shall we hear of the re-entry of Germany into the International Chess Federation? It is difficult to understand why Germany withdrew; for it was, of course, a case of withdrawal, not of expulsion. The virus of politics is indeed potent if it prevents both Germany and Russia making FIDE truly what its name claims to be.’

FIDE’s position regarding the Munich Olympiad was set out on pages 10-11 of the minutes of its Congress in Warsaw in August 1935:

‘Le Grossdeutscher Schachbund a sollicité la collaboration de la FIDE en vue de l’organisation des épreuves internationales en Allemagne 1936 à l’occasion de la XIe Olympiade. Le GDSB a déclaré que le paragraphe arien sera supprimé pour toutes les équipes participantes.

Le Président donne un exposé de la situation. Le GDSB désire se rapprocher de la Fédération Internationale et si cette éventualité est impossible, il désire une collaboration afin de se servir de l’intermédiaire de la FIDE pour les invitations et l’organisation des tournois mentionnés.

La résolution suivante est adoptée à ce sujet par 10 oui, 5 abstentions, 2 non.

“L’Assemblée Générale prend en considération la requête du GDSB. Elle apprécie la bonne volonté du GDSB de vouloir se présenter éventuellement comme membre de la FIDE; elle regrette que provisoirement cette éventualité ne paraisse pas réalisable par suite de l’introduction dans ses statuts d’éléments qui n’ont pas trait au jeu d’échecs; ces éléments sont jugés opposés au caractère et aux Statuts de la FIDE.

L’Assemblée Générale regrette par conséquent que le GDSB se trouve dans l’impossibilité de s’occuper des intérêts de la FIDE, mais elle apprécie ses efforts pour le développement du jeu dans le domaine international.

Le GDSB s’est engagé formellement à ce que le paragraphe incriminé de ses statuts soit supprimé pour toutes les équipes (l’équipe allemande incluse) lors des tournois proposés pour 1936, ainsi que pour l’organisation de tout autre tournoi par équipes du GDSB et de ses divisions contre les équipes d’une fédération étrangère.

Dans l’expectative de l’exécution effective de cet engagement de la part du GDSB, l’Assemblée Générale de la FIDE laisse à ses fédérations affiliées toute liberté de s’inscrire au tournoi des nations du GDSB 1936.”’

In short, given that parts of the German Chess Federation’s statutes were anti-Semitic, FIDE could have no involvement in the Munich Olympiad. However, since Germany had agreed, for that event, to drop its ban on Jews, FIDE’s General Assembly voted to leave Federations free to decide whether or not to participate.

In all, 21 countries played in Munich, and since photographs of the Olympiad are seldom seen nowadays (and, indeed, were quite scarce at the time, outside of Germany), we have put together a pictorial overview of the event.

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Government reception for participants, at the Nymphenburg Palace, Munich


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L. Engels, watched by O. Zander


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P. Keres and V. Pirc


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O. Naegeli


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H. Müller and J. Nielsen


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Denmark v Norway


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Das Hans-Sachs Ballett’


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Hungary (first). Front (from left to right): E. Steiner, G. Maróczy, N.N., S. Abonyi, G. Barcza, I. Koródy
Behind: L. Steiner, A. Vajda, N.N., N.N., N.N., L. Szabó, A. Havasi, J. Balogh.


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Poland (second). Left to right: H. Pogorieły, F. Sulik, K. Makarczyk, P. Frydman, T. Regedziński, A. Wojciechowski, M. Najdorf, J. Jagielski, L. Kremer, H. Friedmann.


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Germany (third). Seated (left to right): L. Rellstab, C. Carls, C. Ahues, K. Richter
Standing: P. Michel, F. Sämisch, L. Rödl, L. Engels, H. Heinicke, W. Ernst.

The photographs are reproduced from the 1936 Deutsche Schachblätter, Kurt Richter’s two-volume work Schach-Olympia München 1936 (published in Berlin and Leipzig in 1936 and 1937) and Alt om Skak by B. Nielsen (Odense, 1943). Olympische Blitzsiege by E.J. Diemer (Kecskemét, undated) had 189 games from the Olympiad but no illustrations. A useful modern book is Munich ‘Olympiad’ 1936 edited by A.J. Gillam (Nottingham, 2000), which contains 612 games and game fragments. Some information on the political background to the event can be found in Schach unterm Hakenkreuz by Ralf Woelk (Pfullingen, 1996).

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Peter Anderberg (Harmstorf, Germany) writes:

‘Tony Gillam gave nearly 60 additional games and game fragments in the Quarterly for Chess History, 7/2001, pages 247-263. “Nearly” as there are some duplicates with the games in his book on Munich, 1936. I am preparing a collection of around 20 additional games taken from German newspapers of the time.’

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Addition on 5 September 2010: Seven photographs of the Bulgarian team at the 1936 Olympiad were given on pages 14-16 of a book mentioned in C.N. 6749: Bulgarskiyat shakhmat v snimki by S. Sergiev (Sofia, 2006).



Avital Pilpel (Haifa, Israel), who conducts the Jewish Chess History website, informs us that Moshe Roytam has found this chess column on page 55 of Davar, 27 September 1935:

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The column is available on-line via the Historical Jewish Press website. Mr Pilpel comments:

‘The editor of the chess column in Davar, Moshe Marmorosh, states that at the 1935 FIDE Congress, the US representative, Wahrburg, demanded that no FIDE member should be allowed to participate in the Munich Olympiad in 1936, owing to Germany’s anti-Semitism. This, reports Marmorosh, “led to a heated discussion”, with “Dr Alekhine and others” advocating “working together with Germany”. Eventually there was a “compromise solution” whereby (as noted in your article on the 1936 Munich Chess Olympiad) FIDE would not be officially involved but would allow individual teams freedom of choice.’

Our article on the Munich Olympiad quoted from pages 10-11 of the minutes of FIDE’s Congress, held in Warsaw in August 1935. The matter was also mentioned on page 446 of the October 1935 BCM:

‘The new German C.A. is not affiliated, but a representative was present seeking the support of the FIDE for a team tournament at Munich next year concurrently with the Berlin Olympiad (athletics). Some opposition was offered on account of Germany’s non-affiliation, but eventually on a vote it was left to each country to take its own line on the matter.’

A more detailed account appeared on pages 140-141 of the September 1935 Schweizerische Schachzeitung:

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Larger version

To summarize the Swiss magazine’s report: The FIDE discussions were rather heated and could occasionally even be heard in the playing hall. Germany had removed the Arierparagraph (the ban on non-Aryans) with regard to German and foreign participants. Nevertheless, ‘the Jewish side’ demanded that FIDE member nations be forbidden to participate in the Munich Olympiad. This was proposed by Wahrburg, who received particularly strong support from Oskam and Machtas. Rueb recommended to the Assembly that each nation should be left to decide whether it wished to participate. This compromise, which from the outset was strongly supported by France (whose representative was Alekhine), Romania, Yugoslavia, Sweden and Switzerland as the only correct solution, was eventually accepted by ten votes to three. Great Britain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia and Austria abstained. A surprising and amusing point, the Schweizerische Schachzeitung added, was that Wahrburg withdrew his motion after it had been so clearly rejected. The magazine considered that the FIDE delegates had averted serious danger by finding a sensible solution to a difficult issue.

The illustration below, which includes Richard M. Wahrburg, comes from page 175 of the August 1935 Chess Review:

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Latest update: 1 May 2012.


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