One of the most brilliant Mornington Crescent players ever, particularly at individual grandmaster level, Hungarian Tibor Vladimir Hugo dominated the Mornington Crescent world for much of the first half of the century, winning the world title twelve times in thirteen years, including an unprecedented (and unbeaten) ten in succession (1925-34, 1936-7 - missing 1935 only due to poor health.)
Hugo was born in the rural north of Hungary, to a poor family who knew little of the game. It was Tibor's uncle, Pataki, who first realised the youngster's talents in 1916 when he saw him play in a school tournament. Pataki, a local government official, immediately started to contact coaches of Hungarian League sides, insisting that they see the boy play. However, most refused outright, few were interested.
It was a small local town side who finally realised the potential of the boy, signing him for a meager wage to play in their team. However, Tibor's individual skills soon drew the attention of the Ministry of Sport, who took him out of league MC and began to coach him behind closed doors.
In 1925, at the age of just fifteen, Hugo exploded onto the international scene at the Paris Open. Having coasted through his first match 4-0, he was unlucky to draw the then world champion, and world number one, England's Sydney Hall, the man who is even today widely regarded as the best English player of all time. In a shock result, the young Hugo tore Hall to pieces, winning 6-1 and sending the Englishman crashing out of a major tournament at his earliest ever stage. Hugo reached the final without losing another game in any match, before being finally beaten by the German, Joachim Jaeger, by a margin of just one game. Any disappointment was short lived, however, as Hugo went on to become the youngest ever world champion, in Stockholm, four months later.
In 1937 Hugo, just 27 years old, announced his retirement from the international arena, citing a worldwide fall in sporting standards as his main reason. He went out in style, walking away from a 10,000 Brussels crowd having just won his twelfth title. A grand era in the sport was over.
Hugo will probably be best remembered for his impact on Mornington Crescent style. His wonderful, flowing technique has been described by some commentators as the finest ever, and has been emulated by many players ever since. His record of 322 wins from 351 international matches will almost certainly never be matched.
Hugo died peacefully in 1960, aged 51.