Arturo Pomar 1931-2016

Arturo Pomar 1931-2016

| 27 | Chess Players

He held draws with Black against both Alexander Alekhine and Bobby Fischer. Arturo Pomar, one of the most famous sports figures in post-war Spain, died 26 May 2016 in a hospital Barcelona.

Long before Lubosh Kavalek used the term for Magnus Carlsen, there was another “Mozart of chess.” His name is Arturo Pomar Salamanca, a chess prodigy from Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Pomar was born there 1 September 1931. He learned to play chess when he was only three years old, and at the age of 11 he won the championship of the Balearic Islands. Like José Capablanca and Samuel Reshevsky before him, he was a natural talent.

In 1944 Pomar started living in Madrid. He became instantly famous when, in a game played in Gijón that lasted eight hours, he managed to hold a draw against the reigning world champion, Alexander Alekhine. In the endgame he was even winning.

Alekhine, who was hired to train the Spanish prodigy for a while, said: “Pomar has exceptional skills of intuition to become a great chess player.”

Pomar did become very strong. A year later, in 1945, he tied for fourth/fifth in Madrid (a tournament won by Alekhine), took fourth in Gijón (where Antonio Rico won) and shared third place in Almeria (where F. López Núñez and Alekhine won).

In 1946, at 14, he won his first Spanish Championship — six more national titles would follow (1950, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962 and 1966). He was received by General Franco and appeared in newspapers, on the radio and in newsreel projected in theaters before movies.

Pomar with General Franco in 1946. | Photo EFE.

During the rough times of the second world war and the years after, he helped his family economically with playing simuls. In 1950, at 18 (very young in those days) he became a Master. Praised, but not supported by the government, he was forced to play simuls abroad to make a living.

In 1962 he became a grandmaster, and in the same year he held Bobby Fischer to a draw as Black at the Stockholm Interzonal. This game lasted nine hours.

Despite enjoying the fame like Rafael Nadal in our times, Pomar was forced to take a regular job. He started working for the Spanish Post office in Ciempozuelos. Each time he played a tournament abroad he had to ask for leave of absence without pay, so he couldn't play as much as he wanted.

But his talent was obvious. Tournament victories include Santa Fe 1949, Paris 1949 (tied), New Orleans 1954 (tied), Gijon 1955, Santander 1958, Madrid 1959 (tied), Madrid zonal 1960 (tied with Svetozar Gligoric, Lajos Portisch and Jan Hein Donner), Torremolinos 1961, Malaga 1964, Palma de Mallorca 1965 (tied with Alberic O'Kelly de Galway and Klaus Darga), Malaga 1971 and Alicante 1975. He came second behind Mikhail Botvinnik at Amsterdam 1966 (IBM tournament) and also second behind Mikhail Tal at Palma de Mallorca 1966.

Alexander Kotov famously said: “If Pomar had been born in the Soviet Union he would have been a World Championship contender.”

Pomar's best classification dates from 1967, when he appeared in the FIDE rating list ranked 40th in the world with 2530 Elo points. He played 12 Olympiads between 1958 and 1980 and in most cases led the Spanish team. His best individual result was achieved in Leipzig 1960, where he won the individual bronze medal for scoring 8.5/12 on board two.

In 1977 Pomar retired from active play. He wrote five books about chess. In April 2000 he donated his trophies to the Museum of Sports in Mallorca. At the Calvia Olympiad in 2004 he received a gold medal from the organizing committee.

Pomar died in Barcelona on 26 May 2016, at the age of 84. In 2009 a biography was published about him: Arturo Pomar: una vida dedicada al ajedrez, written by Antonio Lopez Manzano and Joan Segura Vila. His wife Carmen Perez, with whom he had seven children, died in 2001.

Paco Vallejo, who like Pomar is from one of the Balearic Islands: “Rest in peace Arturo Pomar, the largest, the one who inspired us all.”

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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