|Salo Flohr (November 21, 1908 – July 18, 1983) was a leading Czech-Jewish chess master of the early 20th century. He became a national hero in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s and his name was used to sell many of the luxury products of the time, including Salo Flohr cigarettes, Salo Flohr slippers and Salo Flohr eau-de-cologne. He dominated many of the chess tournaments of the pre-war years and at one point looked to be a genuine contender for the World Chess Championship.|
Flohr had a troubled childhood beset by personal crises. He was born in Horodenka in what was then Poland, but is now in Ukraine. He and his brother were orphaned during World War 1 after his parents were killed in a massacre and they both had to flee to the newly-formed nation of Czechoslovakia.
Flohr settled in Prague and gradually acquired a reputation as a skilled chessplayer by playing for stakes in the city´s many cafés. During 1924 he participated in simultaneous exhibitions by Richard Réti and Rudolf Spielmann and he was still enjoying simuls well into his seventies.
Flohr won the Kautsky Memorial tournaments of 1928 and 1929 which were held in Prague and made his international debut at the Rogaąka Slatina tournament in Slovenia. Here he performed very creditably, finishing second to Akiba Rubinstein. Flohr had also taken a job as a chess journalist and one of his first assignments had been to cover the 1928 Berlin tournament where he continued to win money on the side by playing chess.
The thirties saw Salo Flohr reach his peak, and, according to the chessmetrics website, he would have been rated around 2680 (ELO) in 1935. He became Champion of Czechoslovakia in 1933 and 1936 and played in many tournaments throughout Europe, generally finishing amongst the top three. Notable victories were at Bad Sliač in 1932 where he shared first place with Milan Vidmar; Moscow in 1935 where he came 1st= with Mikhail Botvinnik, a future World Champion; Poděbrady in 1936 with the outstanding score of +10 =6 and -1 and Kemeri in 1937 where he shared the top spot with Vladimir Petrov and Samuel Reshevsky.
Flohr was also a frequent visitor to England and he had a terrific run in the Hastings tournaments of the early 1930s - he was 1st in 1931/32, 1932/33 and 1933/34 and finished 1st= with Max Euwe and Sir George Thomas in 1934/35. In addition he won the Margate tournament of 1936 ahead of Josè Raul Capablanca.
His form for his adopted country in the Olympiads was equally impressive and on his debut in Hamburg (1930) Flohr scored 14½/17 on Board 1. He went on to win 2 individual gold medals, 1 silver and 1 bronze from five Olympiads and his country won bronze in 1931 and the silver in 1933.
In addition Flohr enjoyed a fair amount of success in match play and he arranged two matches against his main rivals for the title of Challenger to the World Champion - Alexander Alekhine. He drew a 16 game match against Euwe in 1932 (+3 =10 -3) and also drew against Botvinnik a year later (+2 =8 -2). However, Flohr did manage to beat Gosta Stoltz by 5½-2½ in 1931 and, a year later, he narrowly beat Mir Sultan Khan, the British Champion of 1932 & 1933, by 3½-2½.
By 1937 he had been nominated by FIDE to be the official candidate to play Alekhine for the World Championship. However the Second World War intervened and it proved impossible for Flohr to raise the stake money in Czechoslovakia and the plans were dropped. By the time of the Nazi invasion of his country in 1938 Flohr, as a Polish Jew, was in serious personal danger and he and his family had to flee, first to Sweden, and then to Moscow with the help of his friend Botvinnik. Not surpringly, these problems affected Flohr"s game and when he played in the great AVRO tournament of November 1938 his game had deteriorated to such an extent that he finished last.
Flohr became a naturalized Soviet citizen in 1942 and developed his writing career in his new country, contributing articles to a number of Soviet newspapers and magazines including Ogonek. After the War he was still in contention for a possible World Championship match and finished 6th at the 1948 Interzonal in Saltsjobaden, thereby qualifying to play in the 1950 Candidates tournament in Budapest. However Flohr finished joint last with 7/18 and he never entered the World Championship cycle again, preferring to concentrate on journalism and a role as a chess organiser - he was awarded the title of International Arbiter in 1963.
Salo Flohr died in Moscow on July 18th 1983.
Salomon Flohr was one of Czechoslovakia´s greatest ever chessplayers and he proved virtually invincible at the Olympiads of the 1930s. His tournament record was impressive with his sheer tactical skill and excellent endgame technique securing him many famous victories. He was awarded the GM title by FIDE in 1950 and he made a number of contributions to opening theory - a "Flohr variation" can be found in no fewer than six major openings including the Caro Kann and the Grünfeld Defence.
Unfortunately the Second World War killed off any chance he had of winning the World title and the stress of becoming a refugee for the second time in his life affected his style of play. He became a much more cautious player in his post-war games and earned a drawish reputation.