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Wolfgang Uhlmann

Wolfgang Uhlmann, 1967
Full name Wolfgang Uhlmann
Country Germany
Born 29 March 1935
Title International Grandmaster
Peak rating 2575 (January 1978)

Wolfgang Uhlmann (born 29 March 1935) is a prominent German International Grandmaster of chess. Despite being a dedicated professional chess player, and undoubtedly the GDR's most successful ever, he has also had a career in accountancy.

Chess career

Uhlmann's father taught him the game at the age of eleven at their home in Dresden and he progressed to the title of German Youth Champion in 1951. By 1956 he was an International Master and by 1959, a Grandmaster.

He quickly established himself as the dominant force in East German chess, winning the GDR (German Democratic Republic, or East German) national championship on eleven occasions from 1954 to 1986. The number eleven repeated again, when as the GDR's most outstanding player at the Chess Olympiads of 1956-90, he made eleven appearances, mostly on top board. At the 1964 event in Tel Aviv, he scored 83.3 percent, earning him the individual board one gold medal. An individual bronze medal followed in 1966 at Havana.

Wolfgang Uhlmann, 2005

His most promising attempt at World Championship qualification occurred at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal of 1970, where he tied for fifth and sixth place and reached the Candidates Matches held the following year. But his quarter-final match with Bent Larsen in Las Palmas ended in disappointment, a 5½-3½ victory for Larsen, and Uhlmann was not able to come so close again.

It was during the 1960s that Uhlmann made a lasting impression on the international tournament scene. He shared victory (with Polugaevsky) at Sarajevo 1964, tied for first (with Smyslov) at Havana 1964, tied for first (with Ivkov, and ahead of World Champion Petrosian) at Zagreb 1965, tied for first (with Spassky) at Hastings 1965/66, tied for first (with Bronstein) at Szombathely 1966, tied for first (with Liberzon) at Zinnowitz 1967 and tied for first (with Bronstein) at the Berlin 'Lasker Memorial' in 1968. At Raach in 1969, a zonal tournament, he finished two points clear of the field (which included Lajos Portisch).

Into the 1970s and 1980s, there was further success. He tied for first (with Bronstein and Hort) at Hastings 1975/76, placed second (behind Karpov) at Skopje 1976, finished first at Vrbas 1977, tied for first (with Farago and Knaak) at Halle 1978 and was an outright winner at Halle 1981.

In 2012, and at the age of 77, Uhlmann was a member of the "old Hands" team (a group of aging previous top players) facing the "Snowdrops" (extremely talented young females) in a display match. Uhlmann demonstrated a very vivid style of chess, reminiscent of his glory days. Especially the game Kashlinskaya-Uhlmann was considered the most beautiful of the event - the multiple East German Champion, it was said, played it like the young Mihail Tal.


Uhlmann is acknowledged as one of the world's leading experts on the French Defence, having refined and improved many of its variations and authored books on the opening. He is one of very few Grandmasters to have deployed the French almost exclusively in reply to 1.e4.

Sample game

a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 23.Ne4

Bronstein-Uhlmann, Tallinn 1977, French Defence (C19)
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 13.h4 0-0-0 14.h5 Nf5 15.h6 Rg6 16.h7 Rh8 17.Rh3 d4 18.Rb1 Be8 19.Qf3 Qd8 20.g4 Nh4 21.Qh1 Rxg4 22.Ng3 Rxh7 23.Ne4 (see diagram)

Black now sacrifices a piece to establish a fatal pin on the long light-square diagonal.

23...Nxe5 24.fxe5 Bc6 25.Bd3 Kc7 26.Kf2 Rh5 27.Rf3 Qg8 28.Bf4 Nxf3 29.Qxh5 Rxf4 30.Qh6 Ng5+ 0-1