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Chapter 10: The Latvian Legacy

THE LATVIAN LEGACY

“Come, my friends,

“Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Ulysses



After the Second World War Australia received many migrants from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and so chess in Melbourne enjoyed an infusion of Baltic talent. The Latvian contribution was very strong and resulted in the formation of a chess club named Venta, which counted among its members several powerful players who would become prominent in the history of Melbourne Chess Club. These included Kon Raipalis, a mainstay of our Club for many years, Olgerts Bergmanis, who served it as honorary auditor, Edwin Malitis, its Treasurer and long-term mainstay, and Karlis Ozols, joint Australian Champion in 1957 and nine-time Victorian Champion in 18 years, who defeated G.M. Kotov in the Invitation Tournament played at the club-rooms in 1963. Another strong Latvian player was Arnolds Rudzitis, who would win the Club Championship three times. He died in 1988, leaving his house and most of his other property to the Club. But where was the missing title to the house?


The Latvians at their peak

 

THE TALE OF THE DOORSTOP

“Wherefore are these things hid?”

Shakespeare: Twelfth Night


Committee members made a thorough search of the house, but no title could be found. They then turned their attention to removing items of no value, for which purpose a skip stood outside. Rudzitis, a stonemason, had used a big stone cube as a doorstop, and the President was dropping this into the skip when the top of the doorstop seemed to move. He fielded the doorstop neatly and found that the top formed a stopper to a hollowed-out stone box. Removing the top, he discovered the missing title together with about $6,000 in notes. He wishes now he had kept the cube as a Club souvenir.


In all, the Club netted more than $140,000 from the Rudzitis estate. Armed with this, it was able to sell its North Melbourne building and move to Fitzroy. The memory of the Club’s greatest benefactor has been preserved ever since by the annual Rutzitis Memorial Tournament. A plaque erected in 1992 names him as one of the four pillars of the Club.

Arnolds Rudzitis
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