The Chess Treasures of CABA

Dear chess friends,
On the old KWA website you may find some of my reports of former expeditions, often in combination with one of my business trips.
However, the last report (no. 22) was dated Warsaw November 2011 ... Easy to explain: With the relaunch of our website, Ralf Binnewirtz and I decided to put such "expeditions" no longer on my own member site. So, if I count correctly, the following report is my expedition no. 28, maybe one of the most impressive ...

The Chess Treasures of CABA - an expedition to a most interesting chess historical place

CABA = Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, which chess addict would not be thrilled by the opportunity to visit this most important place of great chess events? The years 1927, 1939, 1953 (Reshevsky – Najdorf), 1960, 1971 (Fischer – Petrosian), 1978, 1980 (Korchnoi – Polugaevsky) are all connected with "Good Airs", and also names like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Larsen, Karpov, Kasparov etc.

So I was most happy, when it became obvious, that a business trip to Argentina could be combined with a visit to the famous CLUB ARGENTINO DE AJEDREZ. By chance, nearly ten years ago I met Juan Sebástian Morgado for the first time personally in Brunswick during the foundation assembly of the Ken Whyld Association. So it was also a good opportunity to meet that long-term chess friend again.

Juan was friendly enough to arrange a contact with Dr. Claudio Javier Gonçalves, the "presidente" of the chess club, but also a prominent organizer and official in Correspondence Chess.
Arriving early on Saturday morning from Madrid, I met Juan in my hotel in Ricoleta quarter in the late afternoon.

Juan Morgado with Michael Negele
Juan Morgado with Michael Negele

We talked intensely about his recent chess projects, especially about his most interesting work "Sangre y Ajedrez en el Parque" (Blood and Chess in the Park, front cover / cover verso; Juan Morgado’s note – all PDFs) ...

... but also about his research work on Sonja (Susanna) Graf, and his recent findings about the 1942 tournament in Cordoba.
Here my essay Schicksal eines 'Fräuleinwunders' – der Lebensweg der Sonja Graf-Stevenson (PDF; last version from II 2007) as well as the English translation Life story of female prodigy Sonja Graf-Stevenson (PDF, 14.2 MB; taken from QCH 16/2007, p. 410-448) and the page Childhood of Sonja Graf.

Juan who was occupied that evening gave me the favour to drop me in Paraguay 1858.


Immediately after leaving the taxi, I was attracted by the huge building, easily identified by the advertisement.

After entering I was warmly welcomed by Claudio Gonçalves, but also three other members who were mostly interested in chess history granted me hospitality for more than 3 hours. So my small donation at the end which left me with a nice souvenir (voucher) was only a modest sign of appreciation.
(Link: Historia del Ajedrez en Argentina)

Marcelo Catz (the friendly translator), Daniel Alpern, Claudio Gonçalves, Rubén Almeida
Marcelo Catz (the friendly translator), Daniel Alpern, Claudio Gonçalves, Rubén Almeida

Daniel Marcelo Alpern, a FIDE Master, but also an ardent collector of chess books and memorabilia, is our newest KWA-member.

Daniel Marcelo Alpern
Daniel Marcelo Alpern

Here is his win against Mikhail Tal, played 1991 in a simul (original score sheet).

Click image for an enlarged detail of the board on the wall.
Click image for an enlarged detail of the board on the wall.

Daniel generously offered me the opportunity to look on some of his most exciting items, so a multi-signed copy of Najdorf’s two volume "Zuricho 1953", Lachaga’s master copy of Buenos Aires 1939, and some Lasker books, autographed.
The absolute highlight was a very scarce photo of José Raúl Capablanca, taken in autumn 1927, signed by the World Champion on the backside. Understandably, Daniel refused to take a picture of that rarity, which seems to be an equivalent to the photo of Alexander Alekhine, displayed on the wall:

There were some other photos taken during the 1927 match to see at the wall, and also the contract, signed by both players and the committee. But no photos taken during the match in the Club Argentino de Ajedrez.

Contract of the match Capablanca - Alekhine, 1927.
Contract of the match Capablanca - Alekhine, 1927.

The match was played in the Club Argentino de Ajedrez, in their luxurious three storey building at Carlos Pellegrini 449. The building was demolished when the Avenida 9 de Julio (of width 32 m) was set up.
(Map of Buenos Aires:
Now there is a restaurant, 70 metres from the Hotel Panamericano, an almost 5 stars hotel, in front of the obelisk:

Avenida 9 de Julio, with the Hotel Panamericano, the high building on the left.
Avenida 9 de Julio, with the Hotel Panamericano, the high building on the left.

The Club Argentino had many houses; the present one, Paraguay 1858, was bought in 1947 with a credit of the Peron Government.

Two games of the match – the 4th and the 16th – were played in the Jockey Club who had considerably contributed to the financing of the match. Juan Morgado: "At that time (1927) Jockey Club was in Florida 559. The Jockey collaborated with a lot of money, and in change the organizers gave it 2 games of the match, played in the Salón Bougoureau: 4th and 16th games. It was a very noisy place, so Alekhine protested, and the rest of the games were played in the Club Ajedrez."

Alekhine stayed at Hotel Majestic during the match, and Capablanca obviously "privately" with his friend Carlos Querencio.
The only original photo (with the match director) I knew is staged, it was taken before the match:

Unfortunately the formerly existing original chessmen and the clock are meanwhile "lost".

I add an article from "Bonus Socius Jubileumuitgave voor Meindert Niemeijer, Koniklijke Bibliotheek, ´s-Gravenhage 1977" by Dumitru Taraoiu: Chess giants in an unseen war – 15.9. – 29.11.1927 (PDF, 4 MB), as well as a cartoon I found recently in the KB, The Hague:

Juan Morgado: "The Romanian Dumitru Taraoiu was a very particular man; he wrote many articles in Ajedrez (Sopena) in the Normando Ivaldi period. When Gregorio Lastra died, Dumitru promised to continue with the magazine Mundo del Ajedrez, but he only issued no 114, and the magazine stopped."

Juan Morgado told me that during the match itself it was not permitted to take any photos. (Maybe for the same reason any photo of the Havanna 1921 match is missing.)
All the documents, plates and photos demonstrate the long and rich history of chess in Argentina. Celebrities like Miguel Najdorf, Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen are honoured by naming "salas" (rooms) after them, other personalities like Héctor Rossetto (1922-2009), Arnoldo Ellerman (1893-1969), Franz (Francisco) Benkö (1910-2010) or Aarón Schwartzman (1908-2013) with their photographs and/or posters.

Additional 36 photographs of the club rooms and the memorabilia presented there are included in this gallery.
(Further photos of the veterans Benkö and Schwartzman in the ChessBase report Casi 200 años....)

Especially a cartoon of New York 1924 with Emanuel Lasker in the centre attracted me most, the cartoonist was Diógenes Taborda (1890-1926) who also published under the pseudonym "El Mono" (The Monkey):

As to Diógenes Taborda we still give the following link:

Enlarged details of the above cartoon as well as further images in this second gallery with 28 photos.

But also great chess was demonstrated that evening, like a blitz tournament in the Sala Najdorf which was won by IM Marcelo Tempone, former world champion cadet (U17) 1979 in Belfort, France.

(Here a self introduction of J.J. Lois
and the awards of the "J.J. Lois - 60 Jubilee Tourney")

And finally I myself got the favor to play some blitz games with Daniel Alpern at the famous place ...

Even on Sunday, during a walk from the famous San Telmo antique markets, chess was present, as well as a tango performance on the street and nice Argentinean ladies ...

On Wednesday Daniel and his friend Simon Baudel visited me at the hotel again, on Thursday I was happy enough to meet Juan Morgado in his chess shop.

By chance I met there also the chess historian and author José Antonio Copié (*1941), so all his three copies of Historia del Ajedrez Argentino (2007, 2011, 2012) were bought and immediately signed. -
PDFs: Book marks / Volume I (signed)

GM-ICCF José A. Copié
GM-ICCF José A. Copié

Overall I found a huge selection of modern chess historical books from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Spain. Quite a huge "prey" this time for such an expedition. (See also the preview.)

Some book covers (all PDFs):

  • Zoilo R. Caputto, El Arte del Estudio de Ajedrez, vol. 2 (1991) and vol. 5 (2008) - I received both volumes as a present from the Club, with a kind dedication by Claudio Gonçalves and Rubén Almeida.

Juan and I tried to verify the house with the balcony where Sonja Graf was posting in September 1940 (see photo below), with the Cabildo to be seen in the background. His first guess in Avenida del Mayo seems not to fit, it may be the building on the corner of Peru.
A proof can only given with a photo of that building in the 40s, as it seems to be significantly modernized.

Additional reading (in Spanish):
Horacio T. Amil Meilán, Mi vida con Caissa y otros recuerdos (PDF)

A third gallery with 15 photos gives some impressions of the city and the Ricoleta Cemetery (with the grave of Eva Duarte Peron).

Michael Negele, in April 2013

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