Person of day   -  29 MARCH 2021

WOLFGANG UHLMANN

WOLFGANG UHLMANN

The childhood of the legend of the German chess was during Germany’s most difficult period: at the end of World War II, his hometown of Dresden was destroyed completely. In 1946, Uhlmann’s family returned home and his father introduced Uhlmann to the basics of chess. Only five years later, the rising star won his country’s junior national championship and later became the leading East German chess player who won the right to play at the 1956 Olympiad in Moscow. From that time onwards, Uhlmann regularly participated in the East German championships, winning 11 of them.

The GDR’s success at Olympiads was modest when compared to their Western compatriots, but the emergence of GDR’s new leader changed this fundamentally. Two years later, a team of four players that was led by Uhlmann thrashed FRG 3.5:0.5 and overtook them at the tournament. The pre-eminent East German player defeated Wolfgang Unzicker. The two Wolfgangs were friends and their matches at tournaments inevitably ended in short draws, but Uhlmann led 3:0 in team competitions. 

Wolfgang Uhlmann played in super-tournaments regularly, where he faced the world’s strongest players. He achieved victory or draw against all world champions, starting with Max Euwe and ending with Anatoly Karpov, as well as winning tens of first-class tournaments. In 1970, Uhlmann qualified for the Candidates Tournament after passing the Interzonal, but he lost to Bent Larsen in the quarter-final. In the first Match of the Century, he played for Team World at the 7th board, where he lost 1.5:2.5 against Mark Taimanov.

He was considered the foremost expert on the French Defence, which was his signatory move for many years. Wolfgang Uhlmann helped published chess literature in the GDR and he promoted chess with his lectures and sessions. Right before his 80th birthday, he met Viktor Korchnoi at a super tournament of rapid chess in Zurich: the match was uncompromising and contentious, and it finished with a score of 2:2, but with no draws!

The grandmaster died on August 24, 2020, at the age of 85.