Chess expert, author Walter Korn dies in Burlingame

Walter Korn, a well-known chess aficionado who fled Czechoslovakia during World War II, died last month in Burlingame at age 89.

A lifelong lover of chess, the San Mateo resident authored several books on the strategic game, including "The Brilliant Touch in Chess," "America's Chess Heritage" and "The Art of Chess Competition."

Korn, who died July 10, also wrote an 11-page essay on chess for Encyclopedia Britannica and for more than 50 years was a contributing editor to chess publications including Chess Life and the British Chess Magazine.

"He was a brilliant man, but totally loving and warm," says John Burman, a family friend who considers Korn his grandfather. "He was a wonderful, kind-hearted, good person…very rare in today's world."

Born in Prague in 1908, Korn fled his homeland for London in 1939 with his late wife, Herta Klemperer.

Several years later, in Germany, he directed the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, helping to relocate concentration camp survivors. In 1948, he served as national director of ORT in Geneva.

He immigrated to the United States in 1950 and lived in Detroit, where he worked as business manager of the Jewish Community Center. From 1960 to 1964, he lived in Israel, working for both the Joint Distribution Committee and the United Jewish Appeal.

After moving to California in the mid-1970s, he spent his retirement years pursuing his passion for chess.

But those who knew Korn call him a cultured man whose interests extended far beyond his favorite game.

Says his doctor George H. Cohen: "I looked forward to his visits and the back-and-forth bantering that always seemed to ensue. Walter never left the office in an instance where I hadn't learned something new from him."

Korn is survived by his longtime friend Muriel Feiler Roth of San Mateo and her family, as well as a sister-in-law, Hedi Furth of Dusseldorf, Germany, and niece Marcella Buldrova of Prague.

Contributions in Korn's name can be sent to the charity of your choice.

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.