Old photos, 1933 Folkestone Chess Ol and what not…
Dr. Tartakower looks worried…
This photo from the 1933 Folkestone Olympiad was making the rounds on social media this past week. Why? For no special reason. Does social media really need a reason? But I like the photo! Dr. Tartakower is seen here pondering his move against his opponent, the American Isaac Kashdan (who obviously is not at the board at that precise moment). The position is with White to play his 18th move.
Dr.Tartakower,S – Kashdan,I
Folkestone ol 15.6.1933
An unnecessary loss for Dr. Tartakower, but we should not make too much of it: the good doctor had a great tournament otherwise, defeating the World Champion (A. Alekhine) with the Black pieces and ultimately winning the bronze medal on board #1.
The 5th Chess Olympiad, as Folkestone has become known, was organized by the British Chess Federation. Quite an achievement given that it was the height of the Great Depression and money — especially for chess — was scarce. This all took place between the 12th and 26th of July, at the world renown Leas Cliff Hall, with its magnificent view of the English Channel.
Held under FIDE’s auspices, there was also simultaneously organized an open tournament and an (unofficial) women’s tournament, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess.
Worth mentioning as well, the 4th Women’s World Chess Championship also took place during the Olympiad. It seems to have become a tradition since 1927 to hold a Women’s World Championship during the Olympiads. Vera Menchik, representing at the time Czechoslovakia, had no difficulty winning all of her games.
Although there might be some uncertainty – depending on what your source is — this photo is most likely from the 1933 Folkestone Women’s World Championship. Vera Menchik can be clearly seen standing behind the two ladies sitting at the board. Difficult to give names to the others, standing to the left of Menchik is Mary Gilchrist (1882-1947)
Back to the Olympiad itself…
The Olympiad attracted 15 teams all together, comprising of 71 players. An excellent — almost round by round summary — can be found on the excellent site OlimpBase. The time control was 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 16 moves per hour there after.
The US team won the gold medal, which was predictable as they were a powerhouse: not just the defending champions from the Prague 1931 Olympiad, but a young and dynamic team. The core of their team was the same as in 1931 (Marshall, Kashdan and Dake) but included some new faces.
Left to Right: Dake, Mrs.Kashdan, Kashdan, Simonson, Marshall and Fine. The average age of Dake, Simonson and Fine was less than 20 years!
As stated, finding funding in those days of the Great Depression was not easy. The US Chess Federation did not have money to send a team, even though they were the reigning champs! So a serious fund raising campaign was organized and the necessary funds were eventually found. In the magazine Chess Review — which only started publishing January 1933 (with Kashdan as editor) — every cent spent was accounted for:
Even a poem was dedicated to the team!
The official tournament book was published by Whitehead & Miller, with an introduction by RHS Stevenson and includes all of the games analyzed by Kashdan.
This book is still in print. I have a copy (pdf) and from what I can tell is that it is a serious undertaking. Perhaps too much concerning the games themselves, but a worthy addition to any library.
About Leas Cliff Hall
In those days the entire world knew of Leas Cliff Hall, a magnificent cultural centre and concert hall which was opened in 1927 by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who was the third son of King George V and Queen Mary. When the British Chess Federation decided to organize the Olympiad, there few sites more prestigious in all of England.
There is a curious chess-tradition in Leas Cliff Hall that dates right back to the architect himself: John Love Seaton Dahl (1884-1965). Mr. Dahl was a strong chess player in his own right, having already won the Folkestone Championship, while his father acted as one of the American umpires of the yearly cable matches between Britain and the USA held between 1896 and 1911.
Even today (2021) the Leas Cliff Hall is connected to chess. On the roof there is conveniently located a large chess set where visitors can move giant chess pieces around, or they can sit nearby and play on chess tables. (LINK: The Folkestone Chess Club)