Pablo Michel

Sep 1, 2010, 1:06 PM |


On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland, effectively starting WWII in the European theater.  7,500 miles away from this conflict, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the finals of the 8th Chess Olympiad had just begun. Despite the unfortunate fact that the United States wasn't represented due to financial difficulties with the newly-formed USCF, a record number of countries participated. The tournament started with 27 countries, but Great Britain withdrew upon the invasion of Poland. [Three of the British team members - Stuart Milner-Barry, Harry Golombek and C. H. O'D. Alexander - were immediately recruited as code-breakers in the famous Bletchley Park complex.] Ironically, though reasonably, the Polish team remained and proved to be Germany's most serious competition.

The team from Germany, the country whose government instigated all the consternation and confusion, eventually won this tightly contested event. However, by another stroke of bittersweet irony, every member of that team - Heinrich Reinhardt,  Albert Becker, Ludwig Engels, Erich Eliskases and Paul Michel - abandoned their country and remained in Argentina.

Paul Michel, who later adopted the name Pablo, was born in 1905.  He played in mostly minor tournaments with decent, if unimpressive, results in last half of the 1930s. However in the 8th Olympiad he was on the second board, winning 3 games (two as Black) and drawing 11 (teammate Engels also played without losing a single game).

During and after the war, Michel continued playing with his steady, yet unimpressive results, eventually earning an IM title in 1956.


Here is a game, played in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1944, in which Michel beats the great Najdorf with some clever maneuvering at the end. (Herman Pilnik won the tournament, Miguel Najdorf placed second, while Michel tied for third)


And a long, methodical win over Herman Pilnik in 1948 in Buenos Aires (the tournament was won by Najdorf)