Salomon Flohr was born in 1908 in Gorodenka, present day Ukraine.1 His parents were jewish, had eight children and were very poor. He was orphaned during World War I after their parents were killed in a massacre, and they fled to the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia, where he learned chess.6
He won several Czechoslovakian tournaments in the early 1930s, earning him something of a celebrity status in his country. Starting with the 1931/32 edition, he won or shared 1st at four consecutive Hastings Christmas Congresses.2 In 1932, he beat Mir Sultan Khan (+2 -1 =3 ) and drew Dr. Max Euwe (+3 -3 =10 ) in matches. One year later, he drew the Botvinnik - Flohr (1933) (+2 -2 =8). In 1939, he won the Leningrad/Moscow training (1939) tournament with 12/17, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky.
Following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Flohr - of Ukrainian Jewish origins - fled to the USSR and became a Soviet citizen. Flohr finished 4th in his debut in the 13th USSR Championship (1944). In 1950 he won the Tartu Semifinal of the 18th USSR Championship.3 Flohr resumed his chess career after the war, qualifying from the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal (1948) to play in the Budapest Candidates (1950), where he shared last place. FIDE awarded him the grandmaster title in 1950 and the international arbiter title in 1963.1 Eventually he retired from serious tournaments, but remained active as a chess journalist until his death in 1983.
In an interview with N. Borisov which was published in the famous Soviet chess magazine 64 (21/1970) Flohr harshly criticized his own approach to chess after the war.
"The war severely affected my health and my nervous system. My way to think about chess needed a change. I have never had a particularly good knowledge of theory because in my youth other factors were more important. After the war young Soviet masters sprang up like mushrooms. They pushed not only me aside but also the other Western grandmasters. But the main reason for my failures after the war has to be sought elsewhere. Fighting for the chess throne requires a boundless will to work. Which I no longer had. No sweet without sweat! I was spoilt by my great successes before the war. My character was not strong enough. I stopped fighting, I basically did not care. A pity! As Steinitz used to say: chess is not for the faint-hearted but demands your all." 4
Reuben Fine believed that Flohr's insecurity and vulnerability had seriously affected his prospects:
"In the years from 1929 to 1933, when Alekhine was at his peak Flohr was universally recognised as his most serious challenger. Although he did poorly in individual games with Alekhine, his results were outstanding against the others … In 1929, when he was only 20, he won second prize behind Rubinstein at Rogasska Slatina. The he began a long string of tournament successes which placed him second only to Alekhine.
This period lasted until about 1935, when his style underwent a considerable change and his play fell off somewhat. He became increasingly cautious, avoiding complications and steering for the endgame as soon as possible…he became more and more a drawing master…the roots of his frantic emphasis on “safety first” are not hard to discover. In 1936, Czechoslovakia, his second homeland, was faced with a growing threat from Nazi Germany… (and) with his support endangered, Flohr found it impossible to concentrate on his own growth as a chess master." 5
1. Jeremy Gaige, "Chess Personalia- a Biobibliography" (McFarland 1987), p.122
2. Wikipedia article: Hastings International Chess Congress
4. Quoted by Vlastimil Hort, in his article on Flohr - http://en.chessbase.com/post/vlasti...
5. Reuben Fine, “The World’s Greatest Chess Games” p. 166-167.
6. Wikipedia article: Salo Flohr