Karl Gilg

Locked up in East Lothian

It might be said that it would be appropriate to place this feature in the 'Masters Who Have Visited Scotland' section. However, considering that Gilg's visit was involuntary, it seems reasonable to show this as a separate article.

Several years ago, while glancing through an old volume of the English chess magazine CHESS from 1946, I noticed a brief entry that stated: 'Gilg, the well-known master who played 2nd board for Czechoslovakia in the International Team Tournament in London, 1927, is a "German" prisoner of War in East Lothian.'

At that time, I was aware that our very own International Master Craig Pritchett, who had recently retired from his professional career and was living in East Lothian, had played Gilg in a Bavarian league match in the 1970s, when Craig was living in Germany.

I contacted Craig, who then attempted to obtain further details about Gilg and the prison camp(s) in which he was held. This included an appeal for information through his local East Lothian newspaper, as well as contacting individuals who had special knowledge of the East Lothian camps. Unfortunately, these efforts brought little reward, though one man did recall someone playing against a large number of opponents at one time, suggesting a simultaneous exhibition, which would have been appropriate for a Master of Gilg's strength.

Later, further enquiries were made with a major German archive in Berlin, the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt), which holds a variety of military records, and information was soon forthcoming.

It was confirmed that Gilg was a prisoner in the Amisfield Park Camp 243, Haddington, East Lothian, from 29 October 1945 to 5 July 1946. He was then transferred to Gosford Camp 16 at Aberlady, also in East Lothian, where he 'resided' from 6 July 1946 to 30 September 1947.


Contact with Chess Scotland was made by Dr Nick Jacobs, who had some very interesting information to pass on with regards to conversations with his father, Stanley Denham Jacobs, who had a connection to Gilg.

Stanley Jacobs was responsible for organising educational activities for Prisoners of War in several camps immediately after the end of the second World War. When he saw Gilg's name, Mr Jacobs became particularly interested as he was a chess player himself, having won the Birmingham University Championship around 1937. Mr Jacobs, who spoke fluent German, made a point of arranging to have Gilg visit Edinburgh Chess Club, despite the fact that, technically, it was against the rules of the time.

A search of the Edinburgh CC Visitors' Book showed the following entry:

The date suggests that if this is when Gilg visited the club, he was still a prisoner, despite the information shown above.

Dr Nick Jacobs provided the following image, taken from a 1948 document. He states that his father always signed his name as S. Denham Jacobs.

There is no record of Gilg's signature in the Visitors' Book, which is understandable. However, from the information provided, it appears that Karl Gilg was another notable visitor to the club.

Gilg's Earlier Days

Gilg was born in 1901, and by profession was a teacher. His first major international tournament was Semmering 1926, where he caused a sensation by defeating Alekhine in round three.

Alekhine - Gilg [A52]
Semmering 1926
Budapest Defence

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. e4 Nxe5 5. f4 Nec6 6. a3 a5 7. Nc3 Bc5 8. Nd5 0-0 [Not 8. ... Bxg1 9. Rxg1 Qh4+ 10. g3 Qxh2 11. Rg2] 9. Bd3 d6 10. Qh5 Nd7 11. Nf3 h6 [Not 11. ... Nf6 12. Nxf6+ Qxf6 13. e5 and White has the advantage.] 12. g4 [After the game Alekhine suggested here 12. b4 axb4 13. Bb2 bxa3 14. Bc3] 12. ... Nf6 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. f5 Nd4 15. g5 Offering a pawn for the attack. 15. ... Nxf3+ 16. Qxf3 hxg5 17. h4 [17. Qg4 Qd4] 17. ... Re8! The first counter-stroke. f5 is threatened. 18. Kd1 [18. hxg5 Qxf5! 19. Qh5 Rxe4+!] 18. ... gxh4 19. Kc2 To allow the Bc1 to move. 19. ... Bd7 20. Bd2 Ra6! 21. Qh5 Alekhine continues with his own plan of 22. Rxh4 Kf8 23. Bg5, but essential was 21. b3. 21. ... Ba4+! 22. Kc1 [22. b3 Bxb3+ 23. Kxb3 Rb6+] 22. ... Rb6 23. Ra2 [23. Bc3?? Qxc3+ 24. bxc3 Be3#] 23. ... Bd4 24. b4 Alekhine had envisaged this position, seeing that if 24...axb4, he would have time for 25. Rxh4, threatening mate. But... 24. ... Be3!! 25. Bxe3 Qc3+ 26. Bc2 Qxe3+ 27. Kb1 Bxc2+ 28. Rxc2 axb4 'Too bad', said Gilg, stating that 28...Qxa3 would have won quickly. 29. Qxh4 bxa3+ 30. Ka2 [30. Ka1 Qd4+ 31. Ka2 Rb2+ 32. Kxa3 Ra8#] 30. ... Qh6! [Gilg, who gave this move the !, and others stated that after 30. ... Qb3+ 31. Ka1 Kf8 32. f6! White is winning, which is correct. However, it was also said that after 31...f6 32. Qh7+ White was winning, but the computer says otherwise.] 31. Qxh6 gxh6 32. Rxh6 Kg7 [Gilg states he preferred the text to 32. ... Rxe4 33. Rg2+ Kf8 34. f6 Ke8 35. Rg7 with counter-chances.] 33. Rh4 Rb2+ 34. Rxb2 axb2 35. Kxb2 Rh8 36. f6+ Kg8 37. Rf4 Kf8 38. Kc3 Rh3+ 39. Kd2 [And not 39. Kd4 c5+ 40. Kd5 Rd3#] 39. ... Ke8 40. e5 dxe5 41. Rf5 Rh6! [Rather than 41. ... Kd7 42. Rxe5 and Re7.] 42. Rxe5+ Kd8 43. Rd5+ Kc8 44. Rf5 Kd7 45. Rd5+ Ke6 46. Rc5 c6 47. Ra5 Rh8 48. Ra7 Rb8 49. Kc3 Kxf6 50. Kb4 Ke5 51. Kc5 f5 52. Ra1! [52. Kb6 f4 53. Kc7 Rf8 54. Ra5+ Kd4 55. Kxb7 f3 56. Ra1 f2 57. Rf1 Kxc4 etc.] 52. ... f4 53. Re1+ Kf5 54. Re7 b5 55. Kxc6 bxc4 56. Kd5 Rd8+ The second pawn on c4 is not important. The White king will be too far away to prevent loss. 57. Kxc4 f3 58. Kc3 Kf4 59. Rf7+ Kg3 60. Rg7+ Kf2 61. Rg6 Kf1 62. Rf6 f2 63. Rg6 Rd5 Preparing the 'bridge'. 64. Kc2 Ke2 65. Re6+ Kf3 66. Rf6+ Ke3 67. Rf8 [67. Re6+ Kf4 68. Rf6+ Rf5] 67. ... Rd4 Preparing for ...Rf4. White resigns.

Interestingly, Gilg had defeated Alekhine once before, when the latter was giving exhibitions in Czechoslovakia in 1925. In what must have been a gruelling exhibition of simultaneous display at Moravská Ostrava (Mährisch-Ostrau), on March 17, Alekhine played on 45 boards, with 43 normal games and 2 games played blindfold by both players. Gilg was one of the 'blindfold' opponents.

Alekhine - Gilg [C77]
Alekhine's simultaneous Tour of Czechoslovakia, 1925.
Both players playing without sight of the board.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. 0-0 0-0 7. d4 exd4 8. Nd5 b5 9. Bb3 Nxd5 10. Bxd5 Rb8 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Bxe7 Nxe7 13. Qxd4 Bb7 14. Bxb7 Rxb7 15. Rad1 d6 16. e5 Rb6 17. Rfe1 Qc8 18. Qc3 d5 19. Qc5 Qd7 20. Nd4 Re8 21. f4 Rg6 22. Rd2 c6 23. Rde2 Qg4 24. e6 fxe6 25. Nxe6 Nf5 26. h3 Qg3 27. Ng5 Qxe1+ 28. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 29. Kf2 Re8 30. g4 Ne3 31. Qa7 Rf6 32. f5 Nxf5 33. Nxh7 Rf7 34. Nf6+ Rxf6 35. gxf5 Rxf5+ 36. Kg3 Re6 37. Qxa6 Rg6+ 38. Kh2 Rf2+ 39. Kh1 Rxc2 40. Qc8+ Kh7 41. Qf5 Rcg2 42. h4 R2g4 43. Qh5+ Kg8 44. Kh2 Rxh4+ 45. Qxh4 Rh6 46. Kg3 Rxh4 47. Kxh4 Kf7 48. Kg5 Ke6 49. b3 d4 50. Kf4 Kd5 51. a4 bxa4 52. bxa4 c5 White resigns.

Gilg drew both his games with Alekhine at Kecskemét 1927, maintaining a plus score against the soon-to-be World Champion.

Gilg represented Czechoslovakia at the Olympiads at London 1927, The Hague 1928 and Prague 1931, as well as at the 'Extra' Olympiad (it was not sanctioned by the FIDE) at Munich 1936.

Later, after the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, Gilg represented Germany, and played in several German Championship events. At Bad Oeynhausen 1939 he came 3rd, after Eliskases and Lokvenc, with a score of 8½/15. In 1940, also at Bad Oeynhausen, he shared 3rd and 4th places with KR after Kieninger and Paul Schmidt, scoring 9½/15.

After the War

After his release from captivity, Gilg returned to Germany and settled in Rosenheim. Much of his chess was played at club and regional level, winning the Rosenheim championship 25 times, and the Bavarian championship on four occasions. However, he did play in several more German Championships, in 1949, 1951 and 1953. In the latter two events he was 4th.

In 1953 Gilg was awarded the title of International Master by FIDE.

Further details about Gilg can be found at Wikipedia, or on the web site of the club with which he was long associated, Rosenheim.

Here is another example of Gilg's play, a game that won the 1st Brilliancy Prize.

Eliskases - Gilg [D64]
Bad Liebwerda (8), 1934
Notes based on those of Albert Becker and Gilg.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 0-0 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Rc1 c6 8. Qc2 Ne4 9. Bf4 [Or 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Bd3 Sämisch suggested a way to win a tempo with 9. h4 f6 (what else?) 10. Bf4 f5 11. Be2. However, perhaps Black could play immediately 9...f5.] 9. ... f5 10. h4 [White believed that the threat of ...g5 could not be parried any other way, but preferable was 10. Ne5 and if 10. ... g5 11. Nxd7 followed by Be5.] 10. ... Ndf6 11. Be2 [11. Ne5] 11. ... Ng4 The threat against f2 should not now be defended by 12. Nd1 because of ...Qa5+. 12. Nxe4 fxe4 13. Nd2 e5! Beginning a very fine combination that leads to a decisive advantage for Black (A. Becker.) 14. dxe5? [The lesser evil was 14. Bxg4 exf4 15. Bxc8] 14. ... Rxf4!! 15. exf4 e3 16. Bxg4 [16. fxe3 Bxh4+ and White's queen will be lost.;
16. Nf1 Bb4+ 17. Kd1 Nxf2#;
16. Nf3 exf2+ 17. Kd2 Bb4+ 18. Kd3 Bf5+ winning the queen.;
16. Nb1 exf2+ 17. Kd2 Bb4+ 18. Nc3 d4;
(Becker). But what about 16. 0-0? ] 16. ... exd2+ 17. Qxd2 Bxg4 18. cxd5 cxd5 19. f3 [More promising would have been 19. 0-0 Bxh4 20. g3 Be7 21. f3 Be6 22. Rfd1 Qb6+ 23. Qd4! though Black should still win (Gilg).] 19. ... Be6! Becker states that this was better than opening the h-file for White by ...Bxh4+. 20. g4 Qb6 21. f5 More resistance would have been possible after 21. Kf1. Black could have replied 21...Bc5, with thr threat of ...Be3 (Gilg). 21. ... Bb4 22. Rc3 d4! [Significantly better than 22. ... Bxc3 23. bxc3 Qb1+ 24. Qd1 (Gilg).] 23. fxe6 dxc3 24. bxc3 Rd8! [Gilg thought the outcome would be doubtful after 24. ... Bxc3 25. Qxc3 Qb1+ 26. Ke2 Qxh1 27. Qc7] 25. Qc1 Rc8 26. e7 Qc5! 0-1

And finally, to bring things full circle, here is Craig Pritchett's win against Gilg who was still a strong player, despite his 73 years of age. It was played at the Rosenheim Chess Club in 1974, shortly before Craig gained an IM norm at the Nice Olympiad. Gilg had used the Sicilian Dragon Variation throughout his playing career, but his vast experience in the opening did not do him any good here.

Craig included some comments about Gilg in his local newspaper: Issue 82, Winter 2012 of East Lothian Life.

, July 1946, Vol. 12, Nr. 30, page 244.
Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) Eichborndamm 179 13403 Berlin (Frau thurow).
Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games, 1902-1946, by Leonard M. Skinner and Robert G.P. Verhoeven (McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998)
Wiener Schachzeitung 1934
Scottish Chess Nr. 35, July 1974, p 9.
Karl Gilg, by H. Schmitzer and H. Wimmer, Schachklub Rosenheim 1910, 1987.
David Archibald and Raj Bhopal.


Alan McGowan