Saturday, June 22, 2019

Grau "Saves the Day"

Source: Shaul Hon's Shachmat, April 1946, p. 14
As is well known, in the 1939 the second world war broke out in the middle of the Olympiad. Matches between enemy countries were declared drawn (2:2) without play. But so was the match between Argentina and Palestine. Why? 

Yosef Porat gives his reminisces of how this came about in Shaul Hon's chess magazine (which, we believe, lasted only one issue). The magazine was generously given to us by Ami Barav, Israel Barav's son. 

Says Porat (my translation): 

Our team was not invited to the negotiations [in which the matches between warring countries were decided as drawn] for reasons we didn't understand. It was clear to us in advance we shall not play against the Germans. A few days before the round when we were supposed to meet we notified the organizers and received a reply that we would be treated similarly. 

The next day we were surprised by a second letter: the organizers notified us that the German team objected with the claim that Palestine, as a Mandate, is not in a state of war with Germany, so they see no reason to cancel the match! An absurd situation arose -- the representatives of the Nazis' land demanded to play with the those of Jewish Palestine! 

We all agreed we will not play with them no matter what, and informed the management that we will not come to play against them. It was a crucial situation; if we were scheduled to play with the Germans, they will get 4 points without a fight, which would give them first place! 

The Argentine team complained about the harm we do to [their chances for first place]. We offered to them to not appear in our match with them, but other teams then objected that would hurt their chances. The press had a field day... 

...[E]ventually [Roberto] Grau, the head of the Argentine team, found a solution by chance: he noted that since, by sheer chance, we had a 2:2 result against all other teams with chances for a prize that we have already met. So if we agree to a 2:2 draw with both Germany and Argentina, no country with a chance for a prize would either gain or lose by our hand.... even the Germans found no way to object to this. 

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