By Sergio E. Negri & Juan S. Morgado
We are in the extremely conflictive year 1939. Germany, which the previous year had annexed Austria, already invades Czechoslovakia in March. Taking as a favorable signal the Treaty that Ribbentrop and Molotov signed in Moscow in August (on behalf of Hitler and Stalin), which ensured that there would be no reciprocal aggression, German forces will invade Warsaw very shortly afterwards, exactly on September 1, beginning the ominous World War II.
Europe will become the main, though not the only, field of a conflict that will acquire unprecedented proportions, from which a climate of terror and horror will arise, from which the Holocaust will be one of its main expressions, dramatically altering the conditions of life of millions of people and implying, a geopolitical transformation of vast dimensions that will end up redesigning the world map.
Chess will have to retreat, like any cultural activity, in the framework of such an unfavorable context. It should not be surprising then, that FIDE, a world organization that had been founded in 1924, felt threatened in its operation, and then moved its headquarters from the Netherlands to the more neutral Switzerland in search of a peace that no location in the Old World (“old” but not wise) could assure.
In this framework, it can be considered almost providential that, in Stockholm in 1937, it had been decided that the distant Buenos Aires would be the host of the next Tournament of Nations: for the first time in history the Games would take place outside Europe. That merit went to a country that had been having a very good performance in the test; in fact, it ranked fourth in the Swedish capital and some of its members also obtained Olympic medals for their individual performance (i. e. Luis Palau in 1924 in Paris).
Furthermore, Argentina had been the only extracontinental country to participate in its first official edition, that of London in 1927, crossing an Ocean that, at that time, not even the United States had been willing to sail. The southern country, in turn, could be proud of having been a founding member of FIDE, an entity that had emerged in 1924 in the French capital. And its own national mother entity, the FADA, had a previous existence, and in any case a vigorous local chess climate could be evidenced that constituted the southern nation, without doubt, a regional leader and a potential world reference.
By moving the sporting flame to those ends of the planet, it will be possible in 1939 to ensure the normal running of a competition. But the final phase of the Tournament began precisely on September 1st., the day that is considered the beginning of the war. The horror was beginning, and it was to deepen. In fact, the Buenos Aires test will become a safe conduct for many chess players who decided temporarily or permanently, to stay on South American soil. It has been said, not without poetry, that the boats that set sail towards that point from Europe with the representatives of the countries on board were virtually Noah’s Arches. Only in this way could the odd talent of so many notable exponents of the game be preserved.
Along with the Tournament of Nations, the XVI FIDE Congress was held, in which the delegates of the countries met, where something unexpectedly a transcendent and unprecedented decision was adopted. Indeed, at its fourth session, held on September 18, 1939, it was agreed to temporarily transfer the FIDE headquarters from The Hague to Buenos Aires. Likewise, it was resolved to appoint the “effective President” of the entity to the head of the Argentine Chess Federation, Augusto De Muro, with a mandate until the next International Congress. In recognition, and perhaps to gain his acquiescence, outgoing Alexander Rueb is appointed Honorary President. The aforementioned proposals were formulated by Dr. Luis Oscar Boettner, representative of Paraguay, doing so on behalf of the Federation of his country and expressing the will of Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Guatemala; those did not receive any rejection and were decided: “… by virtue of the existing state of war in Europe, the impossibility of foreseeing its duration and, taking into account that the FIDE headquarters is currently in the Netherlands, the focus of the conflict European…”. In the American countries there was a certain clairvoyance about what would happen.
The headquarters of FIDE was in the capital of the country where its President was a native, somehow merging and confusing personal needs and possibilities with institutional issues. In those turbulent times, this was, however, understandable. In this context, it was argued that the Netherlands was in a “focus of conflict”, but the Dutch did not consider it that way, somewhat blinded in the hope that they would not be affected by the war as a neutral country. Along the same lines, the journalist Adolf Seitz was issued, who said:
“A chess player from Holland writes to me: –Here, except for the mobilization, nothing happens. Life is the same as before. They play interclub matches and since Christmas the Netherlands is once again the center of international chess. The 14 games of the match between Keres and Euwe have started. (…) In a match, Club Kralingen beat Bussum 7-2– Finally, Keres beat Euwe 7½: 6½”.
But the reality was stronger, and on May 10, 1940, German troops invaded Holland, forcing the surrender shortly after: Hitler did not comply with the peace treaty. The decision taken in 1939 will not be recognized, undoubtedly under the influence of a Eurocentric view of events. Even to this day, Rueb appears on the FIDE6 website as President for the period 1924-1949, without references to what was done and decided in the Argentine capital. These “historical surgeries” with which it is vain and trivial, to extirpate real events by erasing them from history, are not admissible. That is why we believe that the decision to temporarily transfer FIDE to Buenos Aires should be the object of public recognition and vindication.
Ecuador’s delegate Dr. Carlos Ayala noted that, according to the letter and spirit of the statutes, Congress was the supreme authority of FIDE and, therefore, could adopt any resolution, even those that the Dutch ended up questioning. The representatives of Uruguay, Dr. Rafael Mieres, and of Denmark, Mr. Jens Enevoldsen, supported the initiative. Finally, the proposal was approved in all its terms. The Argentine delegate, Dr. Luciano Long Vidal, at the time of deciding the question, will have to express that, although he considered the transfer of the FIDE headquarters necessary, he would abstain from voting “for obvious reasons.” He then thanked the local federation for the honor that was approved and praised the performance of Dr. Rueb, “who had held the Presidency for more than ten years.” However, the Dutchman, far from feeling ingratiated with this initiative, made some considerations about the statutory provisions, and promptly withdrew from the place where the deliberations were taking place, for which the Congress appointed the aforementioned Dr. Mieres as President ad-hoc. Dr. Ayala then proposed that FADA be given a vote of applause for organizing the contest, an initiative approved by acclamation. A Commission was appointed to communicate these resolutions to the President of the local entity, Mr. De Muro, who would be invited to preside over the session that was expected to be held the following day. Finally, and at the suggestion of the representative of Guatemala, it was decided to communicate the resolution to the delegates who, at the time of the vote, were absent.
The Closing Assembly took place on Tuesday 19 at 11:30 am, chaired by the delegate of Uruguay and with Rueb’s notorious absence. In it, what has been done in Congress will have to be ratified, so De Muro will be formally appointed as President with the unanimous support of Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Lithuania, Poland, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary, Estonia, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala and Ecuador, plus the presence of Miss Mary Karff from the USA; and with the sole abstention of Argentina.
De Muro will be accompanied in the management, being also consequently appointed in Buenos Aires, Mr. Maurice Kuhns from the USA as Vice President, Prof. Marc Nicolet from Switzerland as Treasurer, and Dr. Joaquín Gómez Masía, also from Argentina, as Secretary of the Bureau.
When the new President of FIDE expresses himself publicly on September 18, in the context of the awards ceremony, with remarkable discursive beauty, insight and depth, he will emphasize the contrast between two continents, saying:
“I hope you those of countries close to the great bonfire, you may soon benefit from the blessing of peace. You will carry in your soul the memory of the placidity of the peoples of America, who always believed in the laws that affirm human brotherhood. ” Leaving no room for doubt, a little later De Muro will say: “Buenos Aires will host the International Chess Federation. This has been resolved by the Congress that closed its sessions today … ”.
And in the Bulletin in which the proceedings in the Congress are recorded, it will begin by saying:
“The delegates who attended the Tournament of Nations, in one of the sessions of the International Congress decided that Buenos Aires would be the headquarters of FIDE and they honored me by appointing me president of the entity ”.
And in an implicit message to his predecessor, who had been exercising the ownership of the entity for more than fifteen years, he will add:
“This regime of frequent change allows ideas to be renewed, efforts to multiply and increase interest. It is not admissible, in my opinion, that the International Federation, like any other federation in the world, has men in its direction for life, because new people must always join these organizations, who renew and invigorate them … ” .
Later, he said, with respect to the world championship, that he undertakes “that his dispute cannot and should not be done without the direct intervention of FIDE.” He in turn will formulate a request, which was totally ignored: that for the next congress Dr. Rueb deliver all the files.
Regarding these episodes, the Peruvians confirm that what was decided in Buenos Aires was not a mere local whim:
“In addition to the Tournament of Nations, the FIDE Congress was held, whose president Dr. Rueb, a Dutchman, had held the position for many years. , exercising a virtual dictatorship. A consensus was formed among delegates from America and some from Europe that a new CEO should be elected. Our The delegate was Dr. José Jacinto Rada, consul general of Peru in Argentina, who had been appointed delegate thanks to his diplomatic skills, rather than his chess merits. Precisely these qualities allowed him to accurately calibrate the situation to propose the candidacy for the FIDE presidency of Mr. Augusto De Muro, president of FADA, considering that by virtue of the state of war existing in Europe, it was necessary to temporarily transfer the headquarters of FIDE to Buenos Aires. It was a success for Peruvian diplomacy in the field of world chess”.
The Ecuadorian Federation also highlighted the role played by the delegate from that country.Rueb’s position was quickly picked up in the Dutch magazine De Schaakwereld in which, to refer to these events, which he considers a “dispossession”, he titled: “Serious conflict in FIDE. South American manners”, saying:
“The FIDE Congress has made some decisions in which the mandate of the presidency of Mr. A. Rueb is questioned. In one of the decisions of the general assembly of that organism, it was decided to move the FIDE office, which is established in The Hague, to Buenos Aires, for a short term. Mr. De Muro, President of FADA, was elected as President of FIDE, taking over from his predecessor and Mr. Rueb being appointed as Honorary President of FIDE. On his side, Mr. Rueb does not accept the appointment and considers the measures adopted as illegal, so they will not be executed. If the members of South America do not change their position, the possibility of a schism in FIDE is not ruled out. Meanwhile, we must await the development of future events“.
Previously, Seitz had written a letter to Dr. Rueb on November 25, 1939, in which he assures:
“Augusto De Muro (…) that in 1939 he was presented with the presidency of FIDE after an assembly in which he had the complacency of those who take advantage of chess, and the very regrettable inertia of others, with which an unspeakable act of dispossession was committed towards the person of Dr. A. Rueb “.
In Buenos Aires, except for what Seitz said, obviously the vision of events will be diametrically opposite. Considering that what was done in the FIDE Congress had due legitimacy, the attitude of not knowing what was resolved was sharply questioned and was considered schismatic. One of Rueb’s most emphatic questioners was the founding member of FIDE and Argentine champion Roberto Grau, who said that the Dutchman did not resign himself to Buenos Aires being the headquarters of world chess, accusing him of autocratic behavior:
“… By unanimous vote, Buenos Aires was elected as the new FIDE headquarters and Mr. Augusto De Muro its president. But as soon as he returned to Europe, Dr. Rueb denied the legality of the resolution in question, and despite all the federations in the world, he proclaimed himself the only true president. At the beginning of the dispute of the Tournament of Nations, Dr. Rueb addressed the Argentine fans, the only task that has been reserved every two years. Man tends to identify with his efforts. He is fond of his activities, and if he is a sports director, he often forgets that he exercises a mandate and that he is only representative of the will of those who appointed him.
This has happened ad nauseam, and it is the reason why notable directors of federations, who in the first hour were indispensable for the triumph, regrettably fail later, and must be violently evicted from the positions that they consider as their own good. FIDE was for many years a prime example of this. Rueb ran the FIDE administration from his home and there was never an order in it, nor a file that kept the true history of FIDE. FIDE was himself and his memory, and the fundamental problems of world chess, including the championship, were never dealt with the necessary energy and authority.
The FIDE Congresses were always held during the dispute of the Tournaments of Nations, but the agenda and the appointment of authorities were carried out in small meetings of the Executive Committee that were held in some European city, together with some delegates who received powers to act on them. In this way the possibility of removing the board of directors, and of facing matters of real importance, such as judging attitudes and efficiencies, was kept away from the large congresses. Dr. Rueb became, little by little, the dictator of FIDE, and a traveler who every year made himself pay his wife’s expenses to act at congresses, who had to deal with silly agendas and solemnly inaugurate the events. large team tournaments, the only effective activity of FIDE: it was necessary to put an end to such an abnormal state of affairs.
Rueb had turned the FIDE presidency into his own good, in the debates he enforced the order of the day when it suited him, and incorporated matters when they were promoted by him or by the Swiss Federation, which faithfully followed him. In fact, the treasurer of FIDE in perpetuity, Mr. Nicolet, was one of its members. This is how the delegates understood it in Buenos Aires, who, surprised by the way the debates were conducted, the absence of a program and the lack of concrete data on the FIDE administration, added to the problem of the moment posed by the war, –that it would aggravate this inertia – they decided to designate the provisional headquarters of FIDE in Buenos Aires, due to its great distance from the conflict; and to the president of FADA, Don Augusto De Muro, president of FIDE, thus rewarding his most extraordinary effort that records the history of world chess in all its development. The resolution was adopted by absolute unanimity of votes.
There was some abstention, which in the final meeting of the closing of the congress, disappeared, since the minutes were signed by all the delegates. It means that there was a perfect agreement and that the desire to remove Dr. Rueb from the position was evident. But Dr. Rueb did not resign himself, and once in Europe, he dedicated himself to writing letters denying the legality of the Buenos Aires resolution, and proclaiming himself the only and true president of FIDE, badly despite all the federations of the world. It is a childish and somewhat ridiculous posture, but one that could harm the chess of the world. It is an unfortunate matter, which can lead to shaking the FIDE bases, and which for the first time sees the public light before the somewhat murky campaign of the good doctor Rueb, President of FIDE, who is not resigned to reality”.
Grau was very clear: the profile that he drew on the outgoing President was forceful, so his subsequent behavior was somewhat expected. Unfortunately, Grau will not be able to continue with his fiery preaching since he will die prematurely a few years later, in 1944. The thesis that the decision to transfer FIDE to Buenos Aires was ultimately not operative does not take into account that the world was dismembered and there were no conditions to organize international meetings. De Muro did what he could, and his action was reduced to a few events.
There was an exchange of letters between the new FIDE President and the world champion Alekhine, in which the problem of a possible match for the crown was addressed, which, as we already know, would not prosper. In some of the letters, the French recognized the Argentine’s status, saying that: “as for FIDE, my reproaches and criticisms refer only to the past, that is, to the activity of the previous bureau headed by Dr. Rueb” . And in an obituary dated October 28, 1939 addressed to De Muro as FIDE President, Alekhine states that: “for the future my activity for the F.I.D.E. It will be what it has always been. That is to say, by the sincere desire of an effective collaboration with ways to reach a permanent regulation for the matches for the title”.
The historian Edward Winter said that FIDE entered an interregnum between 1939 and 1946, that is, from the beginning of World War II, and until a short time after its completion, which is understandable from a strictly European perspective. To make matters worse, there are no FADA records that can be consulted, due to Argentina’s low interest for preserving historical archives, and a fire. However, one might think that, when Miguel Najdorf made an extraordinary exhibition of blind simulcasts in 1943 in the city of Rosario, when he was appointed Veedor, the President of FADA De Muro assumed that he did so also FIDE President. However, years later it will be argued that this event did not have world federation scrutiny, so that the record of that day will not be approved.
As for De Muro’s role as head of FIDE, he acted as FIDE President when the edition of the Mar del Plata Tournament 1941. There De Muro, according to the journalistic chronicles of the time, inaugurated the tournament in his double capacity as President of FADA and FIDE.
The continental representation of America increased its sporting and political value in the context of the Tournament of Nations. The Argentine capital was attended, producing their Olympic debut, Cuba (with former world champion Capablanca at the helm), Brazil (who had previously only been in the unofficial Games of Münich’36), Chile, Canada (an isolated presence of a player of that nationality in the unofficial Tournament of Paris’24 should not make us alter their inclusion in this classification), Uruguay, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. However, representation in Congress is not necessarily correlated with Olympic presence. There was one country that participated in the test but did not present a delegate (Cuba) and three cases in which, without playing, they appointed persons in such capacity anyway (Costa Rica, USA and Puerto Rico).
Ultimately, in Buenos Aires, of the twenty-seven (27) representatives before the FIDE decision-making body, thirteen (13) were from the host continent. A Copernican turn then occurred in 1939 on the world chess map. Europe, which had been starring almost exclusively and without interruptions, the entire previous Olympic scene was now being challenged by other actors who sought to make themselves heard. The presence of numerous new regional references will provoke a new balance in the entity’s power game that, obviously, was the backdrop for the decisions adopted in 1939.
But if De Muro as President of FIDE will not be recognized outside the borders of his country, it will be quite painful that, at the same time, the legitimacy of his performance is going to be ignored in Argentina itself. The local habitat was never characterized, neither in its beginnings nor later nor perhaps ever, by its institutional harmony. In general, there have been serious interpellations of some actors with respect to others (Argentine Club vs. Chess Circle, at the beginning; Argentine Club against the nascent FADA, shortly after; clubs from the interior of the country vs. those of the Argentine capital and its areas of direct influence, and leaders against players, almost always), in a dilemmatic context that could be extended to other spheres of an Argentinean that finds it difficult to reach lasting consensus.
So, it will not be surprising that De Muro, despite leading a federation that had proudly known how to organize the maximum global collective events (the Olympic and women’s events) and that he had the leadership of FIDE in his hands by decision of the last Congress, he will be displaced from the Presidency of the FADA in 1941 by Carlos Querencio, after the serious financial problem derived from the Tournament of Nations.
As a consequence, De Muro’s is no longer supported by the argentine federative institution. Knowing it or not, Querencio and allies became functional to Rueb and, in fact, withdraw the claim for recognition of the transfer of the FIDE Presidency to Argentina decided in the 1939 Congress. Worse still, when the entity reemerges in its strictly European version after the war in the Winterthur Congress in 1946, the FADA will assume a passive attitude and allow the decision to move the headquarters to Buenos Aires in 1939 to be erased from the historical records.
If Querencio did not take care of at least respecting the legacy of historical events, the same will have to happen with the future generations of FADA, always aligned with the FIDE leadership, which lasts until our days.
In the late 1940s, a De Muro who had long ceased to be President of FADA, nevertheless, at least in the local press, continued to be considered of being President of FIDE. For example, when in 1945 the IX International Circle Tournament (II Memorial Grau) that Najdorf won was held, the schism of the argentine chess had already occurred, creating the Metropolitan Federation (of the city of Buenos Aires) that opposed the FADA. It was said:
“On May 3, the opening ceremony of the II Roberto Grau in Memoriam Masterful tournament was held, organized by the Chess Circle in its rooms in Cerrito 1241, and in which the Molinos Río de la Plata Trophy will be at stake, President P. Barbé highlighted its importance, and praised the figure of Grau. He also highlighted the presence of the President of FIDE, Augusto De Muro, the President of the Metropolitan Association, C. de la Llave, that of the Club Jaque Mate, D. Palazzo, and that of the Círculo de Vélez Sarsfield, J. Castellanos ”.
Once the Second World War is over, the Old Continent will regain its lost control, with the aforementioned virtual re-founding of FIDE in 1946 in Winterthur. At that time Rueb will resume fully, beginning to normalize the institution paralyzed during the war. This evolution of events cannot silence the incontestable fact that highly consensual measures had been adopted in 1939: provisionally transferring the FIDE headquarters to the Argentine capital, and appointing Dr. Augusto De Muro as President of the entity.
For greater clarity, when FIDE, again headed by Rueb, restarts its activities in 1946, it does not adopt any decision that renders the actions of the previous Buenos Aires Congress of 1939 invalid. It simply ignores it. Therefore, what was resolved at that time had and is fully valid, and De Muro must be considered President of the world entity in the period 1939-1946 or at least 1939-1941. Even today these resolutions are denied in the official historiography, a fact that could be described as a flagrant “historical surgery”. This document has a double purpose: on the one hand, to make known to the world chess community some episodes that are habitually ignored; on the other, to urge FADA to promote historical reparation in the matter, or FIDE to do it itself, in respect of a historical truth that must be recognized by the world chess community.
Sources (in Spanish):
El día en que la FIDE se muda provisoriamente a Buenos Aires, en http://ajedrez12.com/2018/07/19/el-dia-en-que-la-fide-se-muda-provisoriamente-a-bs-as/, en https://ajedrezlatitudsur.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/el-dia-en-que-la-fide-se-muda-provisoriamente-a-buenos-aires/ y en https://es.chessbase.com/post/el-dia-en-que-la-FIDE-se-muda-previsoriamente-a-buenos-aires-articulo-por-sergio-negri-y-juan-morgado.
El día en que la FIDE se muda provisoriamente a Buenos Aires, addenda (postdata), en https://ajedrezlatitudsur.wordpress.com/2021/04/23/el-dia/ y en https://es.chessbase.com/post/postdata-articulo-el-dia-que-lafide-se-muda-provisoriamente-a-buenos-aires.
In a complementary way, we have presented another work with additional elements of judgment and giving an account of the advances in the matter based on what was recently decided in the field of FIDE.
The respective note is in the following link: https://ajedrezlatitudsur.wordpress.com/2021/07/09/the-day-fide-temporarily-moved-to-buenos-aires-and-mr-augusto-de-muro-was-elected-its-president/