Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The LG personalities

by Franz Destrebecq ( with Alejandro’s Melchor notes added )

Andersen, Borge 1934-
Champion of Denmark 1950/ 67/68/73, International Master since 1964. He is the co-author, with H Nielsen, of the excellent booklet “Lettisk Gambit”, 1973.

Apsenieks, Fricis (also known as Apscheneek)  1894-1941.
Champion of Latvia 1927/34. He participated with Latvia in seven Chess Olympiads being second best result in the Olympiad of Paris 1924. He played some LG, but with not very good results.

Atars, Pablo (Pavils), 1904-1976.
Venezuelan player of Latvian origin. An international Greco-Roman wrestler in his young days. Organizer of the famous “Betins Memorial” Latvian Gambit correspondence tournaments from 1967. He tried many new ideas in the Latvian Gambit.

Betins, Karlis (also known as Behting), 1867-1943.
“Father of Latvian Chess”, he devoted almost his whole life in studying 2..f5, and found innumerable ideas about this opening. It is largely thanks to his efforts that the opening starting with 1e4 e5 2Nf3 f5 was renamed from “Greco Counter Gambit” to the “Latvian Gambit” by FIDE in 1937.
  He started publishing his analysis in 1909 in a St-Petersburg newspaper and published many articles subsequently. He was the leader of the Latvian players during the well known postal match between the clubs of Riga and Stockholm (1934-36). He also composed some studies. He died March 28. 1943.

Bilguer, Paul Rudolf (also Von Bilguer, Bilger), 1813-1840.
An influential German player at the beginning of the 19th Century. Member of the “Berlin School” (with Von der Lasa, Mayet, Hanstein, Bledow, etc), who systematically tested the LG 2..f5 during the summer of 1839.
  Bilguer and Von der Lasa are authors of the famous “Handbuch des Schachspiels”, the first encyclopedia of chess openings. Bilguer started to write it, and after his untimely death his work was completed by Von der Lasa. The first edition was published in 1843, then followed 7 other issues: the sixth was (1880) supervised by Schwede, the 7th (1891) by Schallop, and the eighth in 1916 by Schlechter. Finally two more revisions were published: by Mieses in 1921, and by Kmoch in 1929.

Blackburne, Joseph Henry 1841-1924
Champion of Great Britain 1868, one of the strongest British players between 1870 and 1914. He won many tournaments and defeated Zukertort in a match in 1887. He introduced many new ideas in the openings and was a specialist of the Scottish game. In the LG he introduced the gambit (3Bc4 fxe4  4Nxe5) Nf6?!, later advocared by the Argentinian player V Ortiz.

Budovskis, Inesis 1948-
IM CC Latvian player – although he don’t play from eight years ago -, he introduced the important line (3Nxe5 Qf6 4Nc4 fxe4 5Nc3 Qf7 6Ne3 c6) 7d3! in 1970. He has played in many LG correspondence tournaments over the years and his results indicate that he is one of the very strongest LG practitioners; f.i. he won the Final of the first “Betins Mem.”

Cozio, Carlo Francesco 1715-1780
Italian Count, player of the 18th century. He wrote a two volume book about chess: “Il Giuoco degli Scacchi”; which was printed in 1766, but there was already a manuscript in 1740, thus before Philidor and others. In his book Cozio quoted the line 3Nxe5 Qf6 4Nc4 fxe4 5Nc3 Qe6. Cozio’s book was one of the most important sources for the “Handbuch” by Bilguer.

Crusi More, Ramón 1926-2013
Spanish IM CC player. He published several chess booklets, including one about the LG: “El Gambito Leton” 1978. An obituary of his chess career and life can be read in ( in Spanish )

Dadian of Mingrelia (Prince of Mingrelia), Andre 1850-1910
(Mingrelia is a province of Georgia, “Dadian” means “Prince”). He often played the 3...f5 gambit. He published many short, brilliant ...and spurious games against well-known (and impecunious !) players of his time. He was the organizer of the 1903 tournament in Monte Carlo, - where drawn games were penalized!

Damiano, Pedro 1485?-1565?
Portuguese apothecary, in 1512 he published in Rome the first book about chess in the Italian language. He analyzed the line 1e4 e5 2Nf3 f6? 3Nxe5", and introduced the classical defense with 2 ... Nc6. He was also the first to quote the gambit 2...f5.

Diemer, Emil Joseph 1908-1990
German master and famous tactician. He improved and popularized the Blackmar gambit 1d4 d5 2e4 (known as the “Blackmar-Diemer gambit now, but with the move order of 2Nc3 Nf6 3e4!? dxe4 4f3!), playing innumerable games over the board and by correspondence. He was also a chess writer and chronicler. His book “Vom ersten Zug an auf Matt!” (published in 1957) was a great success. He was interested in the Latvian Gambit and introduced several new ideas, especially the important line 9.. c6! (around 1953) in the Keres variation (3Bc4 fxe4 4Nxe5 Qg5 5d4! etc.).

Diepstraten, Leo C M 1925-
President of the Dutch Correspondence Chess Association and Director of the “Max Euwe Chess Center” in Amsterdam. He did an enormous amount of Latvian Gambit orientated historical research, and collected all the games that he could find about the Latvian Gambit (he found many old games in the Royal Library of Den Haag). He published the result of this work in 3 volumes (and 4883 games) under the title  ”Lettisch Gambiet”; the first volume (3Nxe5) in 1993, the second with 3Bc4 in 1996, and third one in 1997 (various White third moves, and History).

Downey, Michael.1958-
USA medical podiatrist, he won the first LG World Ch. He first played in a Latvian Gambit thematic in 1978 after he had read in an article that a young player could learn tactics better by playing a gambit opening.

Dreibergs, Leonids 1908-1969
Champion of Riga 1939, champion of Michigan 1954 and 1955 and member of the USA Olympic Correspondence Chess Team. He was considered by many to be the successor of Betins’ Latvian Gambit analysis team of Riga, playing the Latvian Gambit frequently and he was the inventor of the interesting line 10 .. e3!? in the Keres variation.

Elburg, John 1952-
Dutch player, dedicated to the Latvian Gambit. He organized many LG postal tournaments since 1989, culminating this with the “Latvian Gambit World Championship” tournaments, the first of which started in 1994, the second in 1997. From 1990 he published a little bulletin “The Latvian Newsletter” for the “fans” of the Gambit. He is the co-author (with K Grivainis) of 2 booklets “The Latvian Gambit Made Easy” (1991) and “New Developments in the LG” in 1998. 

Fraser, George Brunton 1831-1905
Scottish player and chronicler from Dundee. Co-inventor (with Henrik Muller and S A Sorensen) of the variation (3Nxe5) Nc6 in 1873; he was also the first (1875) to quote the very important line (3Bc4 fxe4 4Nxe5 d5 5Qh5+ g6 6Nxg6) hxg6! although this idea became popular only a century later. 

Greco, Gioachino 1600-1634
Called “the Calabrese”. He traveled a lot, playing chess for money; so he was one of the first true “professional” players in chess history. He collected many games, played both by himself or his predecessors, and published them around 1630, and later this was also published in French. In this book several pages were consecrated to the gambit  (the line 3Nxe5 Qe7!?  was  analyzed in depth), and from this for the next three centuries our gambit  was called the “Greco Counter Gambit”. Greco was probably the strongest player of his time; he died during a visit to the West Indies.

Grivainis, Konstantins (Kon) V 1926-
American of Latvian origin, he lived in several countries (Sweden, South Africa, England. Canada,USA, Saudi Arabia, Spain), WCCF Grandmaster, he won the first WCCF World Championship Tournament started in 1992. He also played for the South African team in the Olympiad of Munich in 1958 (scoring 9 points of 15), where his Latvian Gambit produced a winning position against the American GM Evans in 14 moves, although  later on he lost the game. He has published a book about the LG (USA 1985), two booklets (1991 and 1998) and some articles.

Gunderam, Gerhardt 1904-2002
Imaginative player and analyst from East-Germany. He produced many analysis about the LG, in both his booklet “Neue Eroffnungswege” (first edition in 1961, second, revised in 1972) and as a prolific analyst, writer and co-editor of the American magazine “Latvian Gambit-Chess World” (in both English and Latvian). He introduced the new defense (3Nxe5 Qf6 4Nc4 fxe4 5Nc3) Qf7!. He also analyzed deeply the Blackmar-Diemer gambit, the four pawns attack in the Kings-Indian, and some other eccentric openings

Hector, Jonny 1964-
Swedish Grandmaster, well known for his imaginative play. He was probably the only professional player to play the LG regular and successfully over the board.

Hempel, Jutta 1960-
Famous German infant prodigy. Born in Flensburg Sept. 27, 1960 she learned chess at the age of 3 years, then she played succesfully simultaneous games at the age of 6 and appeared several times on television during the years 1966/8. She liked the LG very much and played in the Betins Memorial tournaments.

Kalnins, Arvids 1894-1981
Latvian player; professor and academist. He worked with Betins and introduced the move 5Be2 in the line 3d4.

Keres, Paul  1916-1975
Famous Estonian Grandmaster. Born in Narva the 7th of January 1916. He won innumerable tournaments. He was the first ex-aequo  (with R Fine) in the famous AVRO tournament in 1938, but could not meet with the World Champion (Alekhine) because of the second World War. Then he was 3 times Champion of the USSR (1947/50/51), and 6 times Candidate to the World Title. He was interested by the Latvian Gambit in his youth and produced deep analysis of the line 3Bc4 fxe4 4Nxe5 Qg5 5d4! In his book “Malekool”, 1936. He was also the inventor of an important line in the Sicilian. He published several opening books and composed problems. He died 5th  June 1975.   

Kosten, Tony 1958-
Well known British Grandmaster. He published several excellent opening books, including one about the Philidor defence (one chapter is consecrated to the Philidor Countergambit 1e4 e5 2Nf3 d5 3Bc4 f5), and another two editions about the LG (Batsford Ltd.). T. Kosten was the first Grandmaster who analysed seriously the Latvian Gambit since P.Keres; his book is the best published until now. T. Kosten lives in Chamalieres, France.

Kozlov, Vassily F 1936-1997
He was one of the most active LG players. He was USSR Candidate Master and really his chess level was very strong and excellent analyst too. He tested many new ideas. In his professional life he was chemical engineer, living in Saint Petersburg and beside chess he was an excellent violoncellist in an amateur orchestra. He participated in many initial Betins Memorials and he dead while he was playing in II LG World Ch.       

Krantz, Kjell 1942-
Contemporary Swedish player, ICCF master. He introduced or developed many new lines in the LG, especially the wild line (3d4 fxe4 4Nxe5 Nf6 5Bg5 d6) 6Nd2!?

Lasa, Tassilo von Heydebrand und der 1818-1899
Prussian Baron and diplomat. He was one of the strongest players of the world in the middle of the 19th Century.He won matches against Loventhal 1846, Jaenisch and even Staunton in 1853.He was also a pionier of the openings theory, and was the main author of the famous Handbuch des Schachspiels”, 1843. Besides, he was an excellent historian of chess and wrote “Zur Geschichte und Literatur des Schachspiels” in 1897.

Lein, Anatoly 1931-
American player of Russian origin, Grandmaster since 1968. Champion of Moscow 1971; won several great tournaments. He was  co-author (with S. Pickard) of a book about the LG (USA 1995).

Leonardo da Cutrie, Giovanni 1542-1587
Called “il Puttino” because of his little height. He was a student in Roma and was passionated about chess. In 1574 he was defeated by the famous Ruy Lopez (1530-1580) who visited Roma. The he worked chess during almoust 2 years and fighted against Paolo Boi (1528-1598). Then he went to Madrid and beat Lopez in a famous tournament in 1575. After that he was regarded as the strongest player of his time. According to Polerio, he often played the move 2 ... f5, and introduced the line (3Nxe5) Qe7. He was poisoned by a rival in Italy.

Leonhardt, Paul Saladin 1877-1934
German master, first in Hilversum 1903, Hamburg 1905, Copenhagen 1907, and 3rd in Karlsbad 1907. Won a match against Nimcovic in 1911. Excellent theorist. In 1927 he wrote an article where he recommended the tactical line 3Nxe5 Qf6 4Nc4 (however this line was already quoted by Cozio in 1766 and by Em. Lasker in 1904).

Liepnieks, Aleksandrs 1908-1973
American player of Latvian origin. He started the magazine “Latvian Gambit-Chess World”. An excellent chess organizer, he was also a Vice-President of the US Chess Federation.

Lobato, J. Manuel
Mexican player, author of the booklet “El contragambito de Greco” (Puebla 1914).

Mackenzie, Gearges Henry 1837-1891
Brilliant American player. He drew with Burn in 1886, 1st in Frankfurt 1887, 2nd in Bradford 1888. Champion of the USA from 1881 to 1885.

Matisons (also Mattison), Hermanis 1894-1932
Latvian player. 1st board of the Latvian team in Paris Olympiad 1924 and best individual result on first board. Champion of Latvia 1924. Tied for 1st in Bartfeld 1926, 3rd in Den Haag 1928. He is best remembered for his endgame studies.

Matsukevich, Anatoly 1938-
Russian Master. He published several opening books about the Evans, Marshall and Budapest Gambits. Also “Seltene Gambits” in 1989, this book including some good analysis about the LG.

Mestel, Jonathan 1957-
Grandmaster since 1982, Champion of Great Britain 1976, 1983 and 1988. He won several brilliant  games with the Philidor Countergambit 2.. d6 3Bc4 f5. and caused a revival of this forgotten gambit.

Mlotkowski, Stanislas 1881-1943
American master of Polish origin. He made an important  work about the gambit 2.. f5 and published long analysis about it in the “British Chess Magazine” in 1915-1916. Especially he demonstrated the strength of the move 3Nc3 (for example, he discovered the point 3.. fxe4 4Nxe5! Nf6?! 5Ng4 winning a pawn). He also introduced the dubious line (3exf5 e4 4Ne5) Qg5! (Again analyzed in 1968 by the British player B. Simm), and played many games with 2.. f5. 

Moller, Henrik 1814-1880
Danish player and clergyman. He popularized the romantic line (3Nxe5) Nc6!  (Not to be confused with J. Moller, inventor in 1898 of a famous line in the Italian game).

Morgado, Juan Sebastian 1947-
Argentinian, ICCF Grandmaster. He took second place in the ICCF World Championship tournament in 1984 and was editor of several chess magazines of South-America. He played the LG many times, and (re)introduced the line 3Bc4 Nf6!? 4Nxe5 Qe7 (already quoted by Polerio) into  the practice. Together with Grobe and Budoksis, he was certainly one of the first major players who understood the various variations well enough to hardly ever lose a game as the black player.

Petrovs (also Petrov), Vladimirs 1908-1943
Born in Riga in a Russian family the 27th September 1908. Four times Champion of Latvia, 1931/5/7/9. Grandmaster of the Latvian Federation, 1st in Helsinki and tied 1st in Kemeri 1937, 1st in Rosario, Argentina in 1939. Represented Latvia in 7 Olympiads. 73% on first board in Buenos-Aires Olympiad. 10th (of 20) in the Soviet Championship in 1940. Denounced   for having criticized the situation in annexed Latvia, he was condemned to 10 years of work-camp ...and died on the way on 24th August 1943.

Philidor, (also Francois-Andre Danican) 1726-1795
Born in Dreux. A chess genius and the strongest player of his century. He revolutionized chess concepts by showing the importance of pawns, and published his famous book “L’analyse du jeu des echecs” in 1849, a second completed  issue appeared in 1777. The name of Philidor is linked to the solid defence 1e4 e5 2Nf3 d6 (one line in this is the Philidor Countergambit 3Bc4 f5). At the beginning of the French  Revolution he emigrated to London, where he died. He was also a famous musician who wrote many operas.  

Polerio, Guilio Cesare 1548-1612
Pupil of Leonardo. Theorist, he analysed some lines, like the King’s Gambit and the Fegatello attack (two Knights defence). He also analyzed some endgames. In the Latvian Gambit (not yet called that!) he analyzed several important lines, like 3exf5 d6; 3Nxe5 Qe7; 3Nxe5 Qf6 4d4 d6 5Nc4 fxe4 6Nc3; 3Bc4 Nf6 4Nxe5 Qe7; and even 3Bc4 fxe4 4Nxe5 d5 5Qh5+ g6 6Nxg6 Nf6. 

Pupols, Viktors 1934-
American National Master (OTB) of Latvian/Estonian origin, very strong player. Famous for his Latvian Gambit victory against R. Fischer in 1955. He introduced several new ideas in the LG, including 11Qg5! in the Keres-variation; and the sharp piece sacrifice (3d4 fxe4 4Nxe5 Nf6 5Bg5 d6) 6Nc3!? A booklet was consecrated to him: “Victors Pupols, American master”, by Larry Parr (USA 1983)

Purins, Ojars Leonhards 1925-2009
American, of Latvian origin. He has participated in many LG tournaments, and after the death of Pablo Atars he continued the running of the “Betins Memorial” tournaments, and organised the “Atars Memorial” tournaments. Several of his LG games were published in the “Informator”.He has ICCF GM title.  

Schlechter, Karl 1874-1918
Austrian player, candidate for the World title in 1910. He won innumerable tournaments. Excellent theorist, he introduced many new ideas in the openings. He was inventor of a variation of the Slav defence (4...g6), and discovered (1908) the new method (6g3! Against the Tarrash defence. He was redactor of the 8th (and last) edition of the “Handbuch”; this edition was published in 11 parts between 1912 and 1916 and later published as one book in 1921 with 1040 pages. About the Latvian Gambit, he wrote an article in the “Deutsche Schachzeitung” in 1921, giving 3exf5 as the strongest continuation for White.

Sorensen,Soren Anton 1840-1896
Danish player, co-inventor of the line 3Nxe5 Nc6!?. He published some articles about this line.

Strautins, Vilnis 1939-
Latvian, ICCF IM. A musician of the highest caliber, first violin in the Riga philharmonic Orchestra, Professor of the Riga Musical academy. Inventor of the wild line (3Bc4) b5?!  He has played in many LG correspondence tournaments winning even the second LG World Ch.

Svedenborg, Paul 1947-
Champion of Norway 1966 and 1967. He (re)introduced the critical line (3Bc4 fxe4 4Nxe5 d5 5Qh5+ g6 6Nxg6) hxg6 and won a famous game Blomberg-Svedenborg in 1970. After 7Qxh8 he  discoverd the new move 7...Kd7! (instead of Fraser’s 7...Ke7), and published some analysis about this variation in the magazine “Postsjakk” in 1971.

Tiemann, Hagen 1934-
German player, ICCF IM. He played several times for the East-German team in the ICCF Olympics. and also many times LG and publishing a quite detailed booklet (with H. Vetter as co-author): “Lettisches Gambit” in 1989 and second edition few years later.

Vitomskis, Janis 1936-2009
Latvian player and journalist. Commercial director “Sahs Baltija” and Editor of “Latvian Correspondence Chess and Latvian Gambit”. He edited articles about the LG and has played it frequently.

West, James R 1951-
US master and chess journalist of New Jersey. He published an excellent booklet: “The Philidor Countergambit” in 1994, including his own (and succesfull!) experiments with this gambit. Later he published a complete book: “The Dynamic Philidor Countergambit” (Chess Digest, 1996), with more analysis and games. He has a curious web woith many notes of the PCG at

Zemgalis Elmars 1923-2014
A US master. He was a top youth player in Latvia and in 1949 he tied for first with Bogolubov in an International Tournament in Oldenburg, Germany. He never pursued chess seriously since, but he was the co-editor with Gunderam of Liepnieks’ “Sacha Pasaule-Chess World” Latvian Gambit section. In 2003 he was awarded as Honorary GM title by FIDE. John Donaldson wrote a book in 2001 on his chess career: “Elmars Zemgalis: Grandmaster without the title”. A long article of his life can be reached at (in Spanish) and his obituary at (in German) and in a USA journal of Seattle.

Zemitis, Voldemars (Val) 1925-2012
US master of Latvian origin, few individuals had had a longer involvement with USA Californian chess than Val. Zemitis achieved his best result at the 1954 California Open in Santa Barbara where he drew with both Kashdan and Steiner while tying for second. He spoke four languages fluently and collaborated as Latvian chess historian writing a two volume Encyclopedia of Latvian chess players. During the last decade of his life Val was the publisher and contributor to the journal “Latvian correspondence and Latvian gambit magazine”. He introduced the curious line 3d4 fxe4 4Nfd2!? in our LG.

    For this index we have selected the names of the players who had some influence on the development of the LG, by writing a book or booklet, or as inventors of a variation, or as organizers of tournaments, etc. Especially we selected many players of the past. But of course many other contemporary players worked on the LG, or played it systematically (especially in corr. games); we can mention Harijs Gabrans, Eriks Krustkalns, Jurijs Arhipkins, Viljams Strelis (all latvians), Nikolaj Kampars, (USA), Ernst Grobe (Germany),  Wolfgang Stamer, Kurt Stummer (+), Fritz Borrmann (all germans), Alejandro Melchor (Spain), Thomas Svendsen (+,Switzerland), Graham Clarke (England), Sture Nyman (Sweden) etc.

 This list is not exhaustive and certainly we forgot many names!   

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