Biography of a Chessmaster
by Art Breen —- Chess Journalist
special “Dr. Platz” edition -, Jan-Feb 1977
Dr. Joseph Platz, born April
11, 1905, in
learned the game of chess at the age of thirteen and was so
captivated by it's beauty, he devoted over a year to the intensive
study of the games of the great chess masters.
Of the hundreds of games studied, the games of Lasker, Anderson,
Morphy, Steinitz and Tarrash made the greatest impression
on Dr. Platz and were responsible for his adopting a style of
play that is "Definitely Classical.”
With a firm foundation in fundamentals Joe's progress at 16
years of age earned him the reputation of being one of the best
chess players in
Dr. Platz's first major tournament was an invitation tournament
sponsored by the thirty club Cologne Chess League where a
record of seven wins with no losses and no draws gave him first
place honors. To further prove that this win was not a fluke or
one-shot victory, the Doctor won the Cologne Chess Club Championship
seven times in a row.
In High School, Joe devoted the same intensity to his studies
that he devoted to his chess games and graduated before he
was eighteen with the intention of entering medical school.
The early death of his father and the insecure position of
the family's economical situation
change in plans and he worked as a bookkeeper for a banking firm
from 1923 to 1926. ·
An important milestone in Dr. Platz's life was the re-marriage
of his mother to a fine and understanding man whose gentle
urging convinced Joseph that twenty-one years was not too old to
start to study medicine.
With the final realization of a, once thought to be a dream
Joseph Platz entered
he passed his first examination in only one and one half years
instead of the usual two years.
Chess-wise, 1926 can be considered a successful year for the
Doctor. He won the City of
11˝-˝ and when the Viennese Master Rudolf Spielmann, one of the
greatest attacking player of all times, en route from winning the
International Tournament in
match was arranged and his opponent was to be Joseph Platz.
The results of the match proved to all witnesses that, from
this match on, Joe Platz was no ordinary chess player.
To put it in Joe's own words, "What chance did I, an amateur
chess player, have against the famous master? To everyone's
surprise, including my own, I won two games, drew two and only lost
one and won the match with a 3-2 score.”
In 1928, after a two year absence from serious chess due to
medical studies and examinations, Joe entered and won the
tournament for the Championship of the
was what is now
At the German Chess Congress at Duesburg in 1929, from a
48-player field of invitational players, Joe went undefeated in the
preliminaries and took fourth place in the finals.
In 1931, having passed the State Medical Board examinations
where he played a six-game match
with H. Matthai,
Champion, winning three, drawing two and losing one.
1932 was spent as resident in surgery at the hospital of
the black forest, city of
work left little time for chess and the Doctor had time for only
one chess tournament. The
loss won second prize.
When Hitler came to power in
1933, Dr. Platz left
and came to the
Medical Board exams and went into General Practice in the
In 1934, with all the uncertainty contingent with emigrating
to a new country, learning a new language, setting up a medical
practice, and having to adopt a new way of life behind him, Dr.
Platz answered the call of his first love, competitive chess and
joined the Manhattan Chess Club where he took part in many
tournaments finishing most with a plus score.
As a member of the Manhattan Chess Team in the Metropolitan
Chess League, Joe went undefeated for seven years and won Best
Game Prize four times thereby setting a record unequaled by any
other player, masters included. Among his opponents were some of
the best players in the
two United States Champions. - Denker and Bisguier.
In 194O Dr. Platz was married to Ester Semenoff of Providence
R.I. and in 1945 the marriage was blessed by the birth of
a son Jimmy.
During his stay in
Bronx Chess Club, winning six of their tourneys without a loss.
In 1948 Joe qualified for the finals in the U.S. Chess
Championship. When the United States Chess Federation
published the first rating list in 1950, based solely on results
in tournament play, Dr. Platz was ranked as Master.
The years 1939-40 proved to be the richest and most
rewarding period of Dr. Platz‘s life as well as his chess career; The
years he was under the tutelage of the former Champion of The
World Dr. Emanuel Lasker, who had held the title for 27 years;
Their beautiful relationship of friend and friend as well as,
teacher and scholar left cherished memories in Joe's mind that
will last a lifetime.
Joe's description of Lasker on the chessboard was, He was
a strict disciplinarian who tolerated no foolishness whatsoever
from his students in a chess game. A foolish move or a bad
judgment blunder would invariably bring a severe tongue lashing,
many times leaving some of his students in tears. This
discipline was to stand Joe in good stead later when he had to
use it in high-level tournament play.
After several hundred games the Doctor had improved
enough that on several occasions he played Lasker to a draw and in
one game he beat him.
In his chess career Dr. Platz has beaten World Champions
Lasker, Dr. Euwe and Bobby Fischer and had a draw against
In 1952 Dr. Platz, with a desire to live in a smaller and
quieter community, moved his family to
Building up a new practice turned out to be a full time job leaving very
little time for anything else much less chess. With the lack of
time and the heavy workload Dr. Platz decided to retire from
active chess and just watch form the sidelines. But like most
best made plans of mice and men the retirement only lasted two
short years and in 1954 he was back in the swing.
Dr. Platz's record for 1954 to 1972:
33 tournaments won - 3 matches won - 3 brilliancy prizes.