Argentina's silver generation

by Sergio Ernesto Negri
2/14/2019 – At the end of last year, co-authors Sergio Ernesto Negri and Enrique Julio Arguiñariz presented a book that recounts the history of Argentina's national chess team at the Olympiads that took place between 1950 and 1976. "The Silver Generation" is the second instalment of a four-book series that kicked off with "The Pioneer Generation" (spanning from 1924 until 1939). The period studied in the book includes big names such as Oscar Panno, Raúl Sanguineti, Miguel Quinteros and, of course, Miguel Najdorf. | Pictured: Donner and Najdorf in Wijk aan Zee, 1973. | Photo: Bert Verhoeff / Anefo

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An emblematic club

Much like the Marshall Chess Club in New York City, Buenos Aires has an emblematic chess spot in the "Club Argentino de Ajedrez". Established in 1905, the club famously organised the Capablanca-Alekhine 1927 World Championship match. Nowadays, it includes a museum which displays historic items from this match and memorabilia from other strong events that took place in Buenos Aires, like the Fischer-Petrosian Candidates Final from 1971.  

The club was therefore chosen to host the presentation of the second instalment of a series dedicated to narrate the history of Argentina's participation in chess Olympiads. The series was created due to an initiative put forth by Senator Carlos Alberto Reutemann and approved by the National Senate.

From L to R: Oscar Panno (the second from the left), Enrique Arguiñariz, Sergio Negri, Enrique Valiente Noailles and Oscar Hansmann

Besides the authors — Sergio Negri and Enrique Arguiñariz — the President of the club Oscar Hansmann, philosopher Enrique Valiente Noailles and special guest Oscar Panno gave speeches during the presentation. Panno, estimated by chessmetrics.com to have been as high as the 18th strongest player in the world, was named Honorary President of the club, and declared:

This [second] tome I did not read yet, but in a way I wrote it, with some of my teammates. We did succeed during this so-called Silver Generation, but the success then started to fade away, maybe because chess — like other sports — responds to the socio-economic situation of the country.

Panno's brilliant career started to get momentum when he won the second World Junior Championship in Copenhagen, 1953, ahead of strong future grandmasters such as Fridrik Olafsson and Bent Larsen. Among other strong showings at international tournaments — especially in Mar del Plata and Palma de Mallorca — he was part of the Argentine teams that took silver at the 1954 Olympiad and bronze in 1958 and 1962 (he also got individual bronze in Munich 1958 and gold in Havana 1966).

Outstanding wins by Panno

 

Panno facing Timman in Amsterdam, 1977 | Photo: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo

Post-war haven

During the period covered in the book, much of the chess activity in Argentina was reinforced by the post-war European immigration, which had in Polish-born grandmaster Miguel Najdorf its most prominent figure. He arrived in Buenos Aires to represent Poland at the 1939 Olympiad — his team got silver medals while he took gold on second board, but he did not manage to take his prizes back home, as he took the wise decision of staying in Argentina given the conflict across the Atlantic.

In the Forties, Najdorf was the second highest rated player in the world during 33 months according to Chessmetrics.

Already representing the South American country, his best Olympic individual achievements on the 1950-1976 period were his two consecutive individual gold medals on board one in Dubrovnik '50 and Helsinki '52 — both times Argentina finished in second place, behind Yugoslavia in 1950 and the Soviet Union in 1952.

Najdorf was also part of the 'Rest of the World' team that faced the Soviets in 1970. He was allocated on board nine, which paired him against none other than Mikhail Tal. The four-game match ended drawn after the players drew two games and traded blows with the white pieces.

Tal vs. Najdorf match, 1970

 

Other figures that made a difference in Argentine chess during this time span were Julio Bolbochán, Héctor Rossetto, Raúl Sanguineti and Miguel Ángel Quinteros. Bolbochán obtained individual gold and silver medals on board two in 1950 and 1954; Rossetto was also part of the team during that period and collected bronze and gold individual medals; Sanguineti took individual gold in 1956 and 1962; while Quinteros finished on 10½/13 to win silver on board three at the 1976 Haifa Olympiad.

 

The authors will conclude the four-book series with an instalment dedicated to the period 1978-2008 and a final one that will deal exclusively with women’s chess in Argentina.

The first instalment of the series: "The Pioneer Generation"

Translation from Spanish and additional reporting: Carlos Colodro

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Sergio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is Master FIDE, who developed studies on the relationship of chess with culture and history.
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hansj hansj 2/16/2019 03:23
Larsen was the strongest master ever who lived in Argentina. And a very nice person too.
ivanfc64 ivanfc64 2/15/2019 04:59
Panno wasn´t still a GM when he finished ahead of Olafsson and Larsen, because it was the world junior championship! You should read more carefully before dismissed the play quality of Panno.
KevinC KevinC 2/15/2019 12:14
Friðrik Ólafsson also didn't become a IM until 1956, and GM until 1958.
hansj hansj 2/15/2019 09:22
"ahead of such strong grandmasters as Fridrik Olafsson and Bent Larsen"
Larsen was not even an international master in 1953!

By the way: Larsen lived in Buenos Aires for many years.
Logos Logos 2/15/2019 05:28
Nice games! I had no idea about the strength of Argentine chess. I was only aware of the status of Najdorf as a world class player.
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