|Ernst Franz Grünfeld (November 21, 1893 – April 3, 1962), chess player specializing in opening theory and author, was for a brief period after the First World War one of the strongest chess players in the world.|
Born in Vienna, he lost a leg in an early childhood which was beset by poverty. However, he discovered chess, studied intensely, and quickly earned a reputatation as a skilled player at the local club, the Wiener Schach-Klub.
The First World War (1914-1918) seriously affected Grünfeld´s chances of playing the best in the world as few tournaments were played during this troubled period. He was reduced to playing correspondence matches and spent much of his spare time studying opening variations. He started a library of chess material which he kept in his small Viennese flat until his death at the age of 68 in 1962.
He developed a reputation as an expert on openings during the 1920s and success over the board soon followed. He was 1st= in Vienna (1920) with Saviely Tartakower; 1st in Margate (1923); 1st in Merano (1924); 1st= in Budapest (1926) with Mario Monticelli; 1st in Vienna (1927) and he shared first spot in the Vienna tournaments of 1928 and 1933 — the former with Sándor Takács and the latter with Hans Müller; and finally he was 1st in the tournament at Mährisch-Ostrau of 1933. He also became the Champion of Germany in 1923.
During the Bad Pistyan tournament of April 1922 Grünfeld introduced his most important contribution to opening theory - the Grünfeld Defence. He played the defence against Friedrich Sämisch in round 7, drawing in 22 moves, and later that year he used it successfully against Alexander Alekhine in the Vienna tournament.
During the late 1920s and 1930s Grünfeld played top board for Austria in four Olympiads and his best year was in 1927 when he scored 9½/12. He became a GM in 1950.
Ernst Grünfeld contributed many articles on openings to chess magazines around Europe. Indeed, before he had turned 20, he was already contributing articles on the Ruy Lopez to his local chess magazine, the Wiener Schachzeitung, and over the next 40 years or so he wrote many articles on opening theory for chess publications in Germany, Belgium and the USSR. His favourite market was in Bulgaria though because they used to pay for his work in food rather than in money!
He published several books which were generally well received and he contributed to a seminal account of the Teplitz-Schönau tournament of 1922. Other publications include The Queen´s Pawn Game and the Queen´s Gambit Declined (1924) and Taschenbuch der Eroffnungen im Schach (1953).
By the late 50s Grünfeld was playing very little chess and he mainly worked on his prodigious library which by now had completely filled the living room in his flat which he shared with his wife and daughter. He died in Vienna of obesity on April 3rd 1962.
Grünfeld´s chess career started well in the 1920s and according to the chessmetrics website he would have been rated around 2593 at his peak. However his style of avoiding complex variations together with an essentially drawish nature was simply not good enough to trouble the world´s best.
He reputedly modelled his style of play on Akiba Rubinstein´s and only played 1. d4, claiming that he did not make mistakes in the opening. However he will be best remembered for his eponymous defence and for his general expertise in the opening.