Cuba

Cuba

batgirl
batgirl
Apr 6, 2016, 12:00 AM |
32 | Other

Avenida de las Palmeras, Habana, ca. 1904


     A large island in the Caribbean, this former Spanish colony lies just 93 miles from the state of Florida.  Its proximity to the United States, the inherent beauty of the land and the vibrant culture found there had made Cuba a desirable neighbor and even a potential acquisition for the United States ever since its own establishment.  Sadly, after the revolution in the late 1950s, the Castro regime and the United States government soon parted ways. This alienation was followed by a foolish series of events that resulted in the severing all benign relations.  Hopefully, after a half century, some of these wounds will soon start healing.  

     Chess is quite popular in Cuba today.  Much of it's success can be attributed to José Capablanca who sprang from what was then somewhat of a chess hinterland to become the finest player of his day surrounded by a perceived aura of invicibility. His legacy lives on. 

     When Capablanca was born, the chess culture of Cuba was still in it's neonatal form and the time before Capablanca is rather obscure and poorly documented.  In these days of possible re-connections with Cuba, looking back on the seeds of chess in that country seems appropriate. Capablanca emerged after the turn of the century. This was also the time when Cuba won her independence from Spain, so the seeds of Cuban chess took the entire 19th century to take hold.

     One of the first important mentions of chess in Cuba involved the renowned chess-playing automaton, the Turk.

      After taking his extravaganza on the road across the southern and the mid-west United States, Johann Maelzel, returning by a steamer rather than enduring the cross-country trek, stopped at Cuba when rounding Florida on his way to Philadelphia.   This was in February of 1837.  His show contained all the usual elements: the Chess Player, the Trumpeter, the Dancers, the Melodium and the Pyrrhic Fires. But it didn't include the most famous element - the Conflagration of Moscow.  His brief stay in Havana was a great success and he promised to return with his missing "El Incendio de Moscow" in tow. Actually Maelzel had sold off that theatrical element for a quick $3000 with the idea of creating a newer, more spectacular version. This expensive endeavor was backed financially by Maelzel's sometime business partner, John F. Ohl (May 5, 1791-Dec. 17, 1854), a German-born shipping and commission merchant from Philadelphia.  Ohl also owned the ship, Lancet, which Maezel took on his fateful return trip to Havana on Nov. 9, 1837.  Maelzel opened this show at 110 Cuba St.   Even with the Turk giving only intermittent exhibitions, everything went smoothly during the popular amusement season between Christmas and Ash Wednesday, after which time attendance reached a precipice.  Maelzel had been hoping to use Cuba as a springboard into the fresh and lucrative markets of South America, but it was all dependent upon his success in Cuba.  He was forced to remain in Havana until after Easter, hoping to recoup his losses during the long, dry period of Lent.  This wait also turned into his downfall.  His operator, William Schlumberger contracted yellow fever while his entire crew abandoned the island, possibly to avoid the same fate but just as probably from lack of payments.  Maelzel himself, now broke and despondent, left on July 14, 1838 aboard a ship, Otis, owned by Ohl's attorney in Cuba, Franscisco Alverez. The captain of the ship was Joseph Nobre. He and Maelzel played chess together, but shortly into the trip Maelzel wouldn't leave his quarters. Nobre found Maelzel dead in his cabin on July 21, most likely also from yellow fever, and buried him at sea.




Blas Du-Bouchet


    With only memories of the Turk, chess was played mostly in private homes.  One of those who opened his luxurious villa for chess players was Blas Du Bouchet (or Dubouchet or Du-Bouchet), a thick-set man with kind eyes and a thick beard that smelled of cigar smoke.  Du Bouchet was a rich rancher.  He was skilled musician, playing both the guitar and piano in fact he owned an Erard as well as chess.  His chess tables were fabricated from various woods found on his own property these he made himself,  as his father, also a wealthy man, felt every man should learn a trade and Blas was trained in woodworking.  Blas' chess affairs include setting up matches and tournaments for which he'd supply the prizes and his guests were treated to the finest foods and professional entertainment.  However, illness, depletion of his fortune and abandonment by his friends would be his ultimate fate and Blas Du Boucher died on January 5, 1870.   [Most of this came from "Primer Protector del Ajedrez en Cuba" written by  Andrés Clemente Vázquez and published in his periodical "El Pablo Morphy" in  Dec. 1891, pp.49-51]

     But before that tragic time, he would play another part in this story.

    After the visit by the Turk, the second inspirational event was Paul Morphy's stop-over in Havana a quarter of a century later.  Before Morphy's historic stay, there had been some advances made and several players had come onto the scene.  The best of these at that time was Félix Sicre. In his 1890 book, “El Tablero Latino, ” Andrés Clemente Vázquez states that Sicre won the title champion of Cuba, or rather the best of his peers, in 1860.
     In 1862 Sicre was beat convincingly by Celso Golmayo y Zúpide though the exact date, the venue and the score haven't been preserved.


Paul Morphy in 1863

     In October of 1862 Paul Morphy, accompanied by Charles de Maurian, stopped in Cuba on his way to Paris, via Cadiz, Spain.  They traveled on the Spanish ship, Blasco de Garay which left New Orleans on October 10, reputedly carrying 80 Confederate sympathizers.  Staying at the first-class Hotel America, Morphy kept to himself for several days - the reasons tendered for this vary and are nothing more than speculations.   His presence was eventually made known and on Oct. 16 a welcoming committee comprised of Félix Sicre, Blas Du Bouchet, Vicente Medina, Aureliano Medina and possibly Francisco Fésser came to Morphy's rooms. Arrangements were made to meet at the home of Francisco Fésser the next evening.
     Morphy didn't play that evening at Fésser's villa.  Chess was certainly discussed and de Maurian engaged one of the "strongest" (though unspecified) Habaneros in a game.  [Mr. Maurian es secretario del círculo de ajedrez de Nueva Orleans. Hoy ha tenido lugar una sesión en que este Sr. jugó con uno de nuestros más fuertes jugadores y á la cual asistió también Morphy en casa del Sr. Fésser. -"El Siglo," Oct. 16, 1862]
    


     According to "La Odisea de Pablo Morphy en la Habana, 1862-1864,"  the "El Moro Muza," Oct. 26, 1862 gave this sketch with the accompanying caption:

A. Medina, Paul Morphy, F. Fésser, F. Sicre, B. Dubouchet, G. Toscano
 a soirée of chess players at the home of Don Francisco Fésser, Oct. 17, 1862
    

    As can be seen in the engraving, Morphy was at that time trying to grow a mustache.

     On Oct. 18th Morphy went to the home of Félix Sicre, a wealthy banker and the champion of Cuba, who opened his home to all chess players who wished to see Morphy.  This turned into not just an interesting affair but one of some significance.  At Sicre's house he played Félix Sicre two games - most significantly with no odds (Morphy had long since refused to play anyone even with only a couple exceptions). He then gave knight-odds to Gabriel Toscano.  Morphy also played Medina, Fésser, Toscano and Sicre in a blindfold simul. Aureliano Medina wanted to play Morphy, but Morphy declined at that time. Celso Golmayo, who would beat Sicre in 1862, hadn't yet moved to Cuba from Spain. 

     At the home of Blas Du Bouchet, Morphy played, blindfolded, the slave of Félix Sicre, José Maria Sicre who was the son of an African.   Morphy came from a slave state.  His grandfather sold slaves on the auction block and his parents owned slaves.  Louisiana would soon find slavery abolished.  Cuba at that time was dependent upon slaves who had originally been introduced to work the labor-intense sugar plantations and the country wouldn't emancipate all slaves for another 24 years.  Under the prevailing attitude, that Morphy conceded to play a slave seems quite remarkable.  It may have been the first time a recognized chess master played a slave even semi-publicly.  Possibly because the game took place in a private residence, there was less stigma attached, but still the details would remain somewhat secret (the account wasn't published in Cuba at all, though it was published in the US almost immediately) until Numa Preti published the  the game in "La Stratégie" in May 15, 1893.  According to "La Odisea de Pablo Morphy en la Habana" by A. C. Vázquez :


     Morphy played some other blindfold games at the home of Carlos Sedano.  On Oct. 27, Eduardo  Fésser (not to be confused with Francisco Fésser), a wealthy railroad man,  provided Morphy a sumptuous reception at the French inn, L'Hermitage,l where it is reported the cover charge was "an ounce of gold."  Then on Oct. 31 Morphy and de Maurian boarded a mail steamer for Cadiz.

     Returning from Paris in February 1864, Morphy once again stopped in Havana. Arriving in Santigo de Cuba and then making his way the 540 miles northwest to Havana on the steamship, Aguila, on February 16, Morphy only spent two days on the island despite his warm welcome.  He stayed at a less elite Hotel, possibly due to financial embarrassment caused by the Union occupation of New Orleans.  Francisco Fésser threw a gala at his home, inviting the local chess aficionados such as Juan Martinez, Celso Golomayo, Juan Martinez Villergas, Plácido Dominguez, Pedro Palmer, Félix Sicre, Canuto Valdez, La Calle, Diaz Ablertini and the soon to be quite famous, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.

  The Havana El Tiempo, February 18, 1864 wrote:

     The rich banker, Mr. Francisco Fesser, gave a sumptuous banquet on Tuesday in honor of the celebrated chess player Mr. Morphy who should be leaving today for New Orleans.  Naturally the greater part of the invited guests were enthusiasts of the noble game in which Mr. Morphy recognizes no rival, but this was no reason why we could not count many and very beautiful ladies of our high society. Before dinner he played a game with Mr. Sicre, giving him a knight. Later he played alternately several games with Messrs. Dominguez, Golmayo, and Sicre, by memory [blindfold], while carrying on at the same time an animated conversation with the estimable  family of Mr. Fesser. On all the games he came out the winner, being applauded each time his fatigued opponents gave up their games and asked for grace... Among the invited guests we could count Messrs. Villergas, Golmayo, Sicre, Dominguez and Palmer, very well known for their affection for the difficult game, and the Messrs. Valdes, Cespedes, La Calle, Diaz, Albertini and others.

  "El Moro Muza" reported that:

      Mr. Morphy having played several games with Señor Golmayo, to whom he gave a Knight, has come to confess frankly that Señor Golmayo is too strong to receive a Knight from him and that the most he could give him would be a Pawn and two moves, a declaration that places Señor Golmayo at the very highest level amongst chess players.

     Morphy had played Golmayo a series of 5 games at knight-odds, winning only two.  During his two day stop-over, Morphy also played at the homes of Abel Hamel and Aureliano Medina.  Once again, Morphy left the chess scene of Havana with inspiration and motivation.  But political events in Cuba would soon wreak unanticipated havoc to the Havana chess world.


     Here is a game between Félix Sicre and Aureliano Medina, two of the better players until Celso Golmayo and Dionisio Martinez grew to prominence.

 



     Celso Golmayo Zúpide was born in Spain in 1820.  He arrived in Cuba, taking a position as an judge in the municipal court system, sometime between Morphy's two visits  - according to Vázquez, he had beaten Félix Sicre  in 1862, presumably after Morphy's first visit since Golmayo didn't meet with Morphy in 1862, but he did play Morphy in 1864. Almost immediately, Golmayo rose to the top of the Havana chess ladder and stayed there for most of his remaining life. His only serious competition was Dionisio Martinez who left in 1872. The Ten Year War saw the scattering of potential competition but even upon the return of many who had gone elsewhere, Golmayo retained his stature in Cuban chess.  Golmayo won or drew games against nearly all the visiting masters. He had also played in the 1867 Paris tournament, Kolisch's high point, and finished 8th out of 13.  He founded the Havana Chess Club in 1885 and was its first president.  By the 1890s Golmayo was resting on his laurels.
Promoting chess, and keeping it alive in Cuba was Golmayo's real legacy.
     A. C. Vázquez referred to Golmayo as " D. Celso Golmayo, Presidente del Club de ajedrez de la Habana, Campeón ajedrecista de España y Fiscal del Tribunal de lo contencioso, en la Isla de Cuba."


Sr. D. Celso Golmayo
1891


Two games played between Celso Golmayo and Andrés Clemente Vázquez:

 




   Carvajal, 1912




     Vicente Martínez Carvajal (1840-1915) was, like Golmayo, a Spanish loyalist. Not much is written about Carvajal, but it's known he didn't live in Havana but rather in Matanzas, a decent-sized port city 65 miles from Havana where he worked as the Administrator of the Customs House. Carvajal earned the distinction of winning a game off of Steinitz during their 5 game match.  Steinitz won the other four.  He also has five recorded matches against Andrés Clemente Vázquez:


"Brooklyn Chess Chronicle," Jan. 1887


"Brooklyn Chess Chronicle," Feb. 1887


Here is a game played between Carvajal and Vázquez in 1886:



and here is Carvajal's win over Steinitz:





 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
     Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, one of the chess aficionados mentioned above, had moved to Cuba from Spain in 1844.  He was a vocal critic of Spain and known to have subversive inclinations.  On Oct. 10,1868, forced by situations to act prematurely,  Céspedes, who owned a sugar plantation, freed all his slaves and started a revolution for independence. The revolution dragged on for 10 years in fact it is called the Ten Year War and failed to reach its primary and immediate goal, independence although it resulted in emancipation and paved the way for eventual independence.  Céspedes was killed by the Spanish troops in February 1874.  The war had been fought between Spanish loyalists and those seeking independence, mostly Cuban Creoles.  Chess players fell on both political sides.  Celso Golmayo, the best player in Cuba, was a colonialist as was Vicente Martínez Carvajal.  But others, such as Fésser, A.C. Vázquez and the poet Rafael María de Mendive (the mentor of José Martí who was also a chess player), Arturo del Monte, the chess problemist, went into either forced or voluntary exile.  The old school players, Blas Du Bouchet and Félix Sicre died in 1870 and 1871 respectively.  Until the Pact of Zanjón, ending the war, was signed, chess in Cuba was on hold and any impact Morphy may have had seemed to dissipate.
     A curious anecdote says that Céspedes had played a game of chess with a pharmacist and fellow revolutionary named Pedro Maceo Osorio just a few hours before he was killed.


    


Dion Martinez, Gustavus Reichhelm and William Steinitz in 1882


     Dion (Dionisio) Martinez was born in Matanzas in 1837.  One of the strongest players in Havana, Dion emigrated to Texas with his family around 1872 (there is conflicting evidence concerning dates) and made his way to Philadelphia.  Martinez was a wealthy man.  In 1874-5 he played Capt. Mackenzie in a match in New York City and after 5 games was leading by the odd game when he was forced to quit due to family illness.  He lost two and won one match against James Mason around the same time. But more importantly he played 3 training matches of 7 games each with Steinitz in 1882-3.  Although he lost all three matches, it seems apparent that he brought about a connection between Steinitz and Havana. Steinitz received an invitation to go there in 1883. Martinez was elected president of the Franklin Chess Club when it was formed in 1885. 



             Aristises Martinez
     Somewhat later, another Martinez, Aristides,  also came to the United States from Cuba.  Although he served as president of the Manhattan Chess Club for two decades starting in 1898, not a lot is written about him other than he was a strong supporter of the Havana Club de Ajedrez which he made a point to visit once a year. In his acceptance speech for his first term as president, Aristides said, "New York ought to be able to support a chess club with several hundred members, and i hope to be able to aid the growth to that extent. In Havana we had a few men who were willing to do anything to increase interest and there was no difficulty in raising two thousand dollars every year for the entertainment of the masters of the world. i hope to have this club known everywhere and i will do anything to produce that result." 

    This willingness to spend money in support of chess was a noticeable characteristic of Cuban chess and partly why Steinitz revered to Havana as the "Eldorado of Chess."  It's also worthwhile to note that while the influx of masters from around the world to Cuba for different reasons helped raise the level of chess on the Island, at the same time Cuban emigrants helped promote chess in the metropolitan areas of the United States.  So the Cuban door swung both ways.



     On the last day of February in 1883 Steinitz arrived in Havana, all his travel, accommodations and expenses fully covered along with a 500 peso appearance fee,  and that evening played a blindfold game against Emilio Hildago at the Union Club (the Havana Chess Club had yet been formed).  Steinitz stayed through March during which he played Sr. Golmayo a match, winning +8-1=1.  Surprisingly perhaps, Golmayo, who played both Morphy and Steinitz had this to say:

"In my many games with Morphy at odds of a Knight, I became hopelessly bewildered by the brilliancy and the intricacy of his combinations, but when I sit down with Steinitz on even terms I feel as though I have a very respectable chance to win...."



     1885 saw the establishment of the Havana Chess Club (Club de Ajedrez de la Habana), located at 11 Mercadered St.  On April 20, 30 members formally organized the club with Celso Golomaya, the Cuban champion of that time, as  president; Vicente Carvajal, Vice -President; and Manuel Monteverde, Secretary/Treasurer. Until that time chess was played in venues that required membership or, at the least, a degree of wealth, such as the exclusive Union Club which sponsored Steinitz' 1883 visit, the Military Circle and the Spanish Casino (according to  Sánchez' biography of Capablanca).  The establishment of the Havana Club helped open chess to the masses.  According to A.C. Vázquez in his periodical  "El Pablo Morphy", when Capablanca was young (the last decade of the 19th century), it was located at 93 Prado St. This site collapsed in 1982.  The Havana Chess Club itself was renamed the Capablanca Chess Club of Havana in June 1947, but it shut down in the early 1960s.  Any  current Capablanca Chess Club seems to be unassociated historically.

Here is a prize list from the 1886-7 Handicap Tournament of the Havana Club de Ajedrez:





      Andrés Clemente Vázquez, who had self-exiled himself to Mexico, rising high in both the political and chess arenas there, returned to Cuba as the Mexican Consul in 1886.
  Probably more that anyone else, Vázquez was the spirit of Cuban chess, breathing life into the game through his tireless promotion and writings. He is also one of the main and most reliable sources for what we know about 19th century Cuban chess.  

 

Below is an incomplete list of books, pamphlets, periodicals, columns, articles written or published by Vázquez:

"Análisis del Juego de Ajedrez"  1874
"Algunos problemas de ajedrez" 1874
"Revistas Mexicanas de Ajedrez"  1875-76
"La Estrategia Mexicana"  1876 - first chess publication in Mexico
"Noventa Problemas de Ajedrez" 1876
"La Crónica de Ajedrez de Mexico" (periodical) 1878
"Algunas Partidas de Ajedrez Jugadas en Méxic"  1879-80
"El Ajedrez Memoria"  1883
"Columna de Ajedrez en El Habana"  1888-1889
"La Revista de Ajedréz de la Habana" 1889
"El Ajedrez Crítico"  1889
"Enigmas,Problemas y Posiciones Curiosas de Ajedrez"  1889
"La Revista de Ajedrez del la Habana"  1889
"El Ajedrez crítico"  1889
"El Tablero Latino" 1890
M"r. Blackburne en la Habana y el Cable-match Steinitz-Tchigorin"  1891
"Bocetos Sobre Ajedrez" 1892
"El Ajedrez Ciclónico" 1893
"El Ajedrez Literario" 1893
"El tablero latino"  1890
"El cable-match Steinitz-Tchigorin" y " Enigmas, problemas y posiciones curiosas de Ajedrez"  1890
"El Ajedrez en Cuba" "ElPablo Morphy" 1891
"El Pablo Morphy" 1891-92
"El Champions Solvedores de Problemas en  la Isla de Cuba"  1893
"El Gran Match Tchigorin-Tarrasch"  1893
"La odisea de Pablo Morphy en la Habana" 1893
"Los resolvedores de problemas de ajedrez en Cuba"  1893 (a compilation of his articles from "Diario de la Marina de la Habana")
"El Match Sterling-Vázquez"  1894
"Ajedrez Contempráneo" 1895
"El Congreso de Hastings" 1895
"Reminiscencias Americanas y Europea"  1898
"El ajedrez magistral"  1900
Tradujo "El Ajedrez compendiado".  1900
Undated:
"Mis Luchas de Ajedrez en la Habana"
"Finales de Partida"
"El Ajedrez literario"
"Ajedrez contemporáneo"
"El Ajedrez Excelso de siglo XIX"
"Estudio Sobre le Defensa Francesa"

Vasquez also wrote Cuba's first chess column in "El Sport"  as well as  articles/columns for "El Figaro,"  "Diario de la Marina" and "La Unión Constitucional." 

     But this grocery list hints only at his output.   The passion behind his writing is contagious.  Vázquez had no problem with self-promotion and it's been claimed he had a short temper as many passionate people do and was sometimes irrational, as in his dismissal of Lasker as a fluke whose scientific approach was merely lucky against the more Romantic school that Vázquez  himself embraced.  Against people like Lasker, Steinitz, Mackenzie, he fared poorly.  However, he did beat Isodor Gunsberg 2-0 in a short match, but against less world-class players, he held his own.  Vázquez played his match with Gunsberg who was waiting on the arrival of Tschigorin and when the Russian master arrived, the intervening match with Vázquez ended after only 2 games.  The Tschigorin-Gunsberg match itself ended in a draw.

      Vázquez's match results up to 1891:
"November, 1886.-Match with Ettlinger [Alfred Ettlinger from Cincinnati], result: Vazquez 5, Ettlinger 1.

March, 1887. Mackenzie-Match result: Mackenzie 5, Vazquez 1.
December, 1887. Second-Mackenzie Match result: Mackenzie 5, Vazquez 1 draws 3.
February, 1888.-Match with Steinitz, result: Steinitz 5, Vazquez 0.
March, 1889.-game series with Tchigorin, result: Tchigorin 5, Vazquez 2.
December 1889. indefinite series with Gunsberg, betting one pound per game, whose series was interrupted by the arrival of Tchigorin with whom Gunsberg played a match,  result:  Vazquez 2 or Gunsberg." "El Ajedrez en Cuba,"  A.C. Vázquez 1891
                                                         Later, he lost to Em. Lasker 3-0.

     Vázquez had better success against lesser masters.

Here is one of   Vázquez's wins over Isidor Gunsberg in 1889:



 
Vázquez's son, Gustavo Alberto Vázquez, became a chess problemist.
Below is one of his clever compositions:
White to move and mate in 3.
[The full solution is given at the end of the article]



     Celso Golmayo also struggled against the world-class masters such as Neumann, Steinitz, Mackenzie, Blackburne and Em. Lasker. But Golmayo totally proved himself  superior to Vázquez winning 3/4 of their matches.


"Brooklyn Chess Chronicle," Jan. 1887



     Vázquez played some interesting matches against two opponents. Two were played against  against Juan Corzo and two against Manuel Márquez Sterling. Vázquez dominated Sterling, but had less impressive results against Corzo.

     In the about photo Vázquez in about 50 while Sterling is about 22. 

    Manuel Marquez Sterling was born in Lima, Peru in 1872.  His father was a Cuban who went to Peru during the War of Separation.   Manuel, plagued by several medical conditions, was sent to Mexico to help his asthma but eventually moved to Cuba to attend the University of Havana.  He returned to Mexico, however, where he met  José Martí, a Cuban national hero and literary figure who was also known to Vázquez.  Sterling traveled and lived in New York, Paris, Madrid Rio de Janero and Peru.  Although he worked in the  public and diplomatic service in Mexico,  he was equally well known and remembered today as a journalist, founding the periodicals, "Heraldo de Cuba" and "La Nacion." His activities in Mexico and Cuba were highly regarded during those turbulent times, and in his support of women's rights, possibly even avant garde.
     Vázquez had been the Mexican Consul to Cuba, the Spanish province; Sterling became the first Mexican Consul to independent Cuba.  An odd claim-to-fame is that he became the provisional president of Cuba for 6 hours in 1934  (he died in December of that same year while ambassador to Washington D.C.).

     Sterling, not expecting to win his match against Vázquez,  was really more interested in testing himself against the Champion of Mexico and in 1894 he challenged Vázquez to a pair of correspondence games.  Vázquez, who disliked that form of play, declined the challenge but invited Sterling to Cuba for a face-to-face match.  Six weeks later Sterling happened to be going to Cuba for relief from his acute rheumatism. Cuba weather helped him with that health issue but exacerbated his asthma which affected him during their match.  They played 5 games resulting in 4 wins for Vázquez and one draw.  They played a second match in 1900 in which Vázquez won 2 games and 2 were drawn. That same year Sterling played in the Exposition Universelle Chess Tournament in Paris, 1900.  He came in 16th out of 17 participants, his only win was one against 67 years old James Mortimer.

Here is a game between Vázquez and Sterling from their first match:





     Juan Corzo and his brothers Enrique and Isidore were born in Madrid. Juan, who was born in 1873, was only 14 when his family moved to Havana. He attended the Steinitz-Tschigorin match in 1889 and this sparked his interest in chess.  All three Corzos became strong players, but Juan was probably the best.  He moved from Havana to Camagüey in 1890 and there he met the well known jurist and later Supreme Court Justice José Antonio Pichardo.  Pichardo, born in 1840, had played Morphy  during one of his visits. Pichardo also beat Jean Taubenhaus with a King's Gambit giving him a 1-1 result against that master. So Corzo's time in Camagüey gave him plenty of chess opportunities.  

     Celso Golmayo's 18 year old son, Celso or Celsito Golmayo y de la Torriente, won the 1896 Cuban Championship after beating Vázquez in the playoff. 


["El Ajedrez Magistral,"  vol. 2, 1900 - A.C. Vázquez ]


     Celisto's younger brother, Manuel, would become a seven-time chess champion of Spain.  The next year, 1897, Juan Corzo won the title in tournament play, ahead of  Enrique Ostolaza (who defeated Capt. Mackenzie in a simul at age 15 in 1889), A.C. Vázquez, Celisto Golmayo and Manuel Golmayo.  Juan Corzo would go on to win the title 3 more times. 
    As Cuban Champion, it was significant when in 1901, 12 year old Capablanca beat Corzo in an informal, non-title match 4 to 3 with 6 draws. Corzo had previously beaten Capablanca in two games and was favored in this match. Capablanca had been beating everyone else, but this victory catapulted his fame and ushered in a new era of chess.  The following year there was a Cuban championship tournament.  Juan Corzo won ahead of his brother Enrique, followed by G. Fernandez, José Capablanca, Manuel Márquez Sterling and Manuel, Antonio Fiol in fact, Corzo won both his games against Capablanca.


     Vázquez claims that he went into their first match, best of seven excluding draws, against Juan Corzo with a cavalier attitude and was surprised and shaken by Corzo's strength. Corzo beat Vázquez 4-0.  Vázquez requested an immediate rematch and was able to save face by winning 7, losing 5 and drawing 6, in what he described as "una victoria obtenida con perseverancia, fortuna y enérgica voluntad."

    It's worth mentioning that the second match was set at 18 games, but after the first 5 games, Pillsbury arrived as part of his grand exhibition tour through the U.S.,Canada and Cuba, and the match was suspended during his short visit.

"Cuando llegó Mr. Pillsbury á la Habana y tuvimos necesidad de suspender la publicación de las partidas del referido match, únicamente habían visto la luz pública cinco de ellas. El combate ha sido de diez y ocho juegos, y como hemos contraído el compromiso de dedicar preferente atención á las gallardas muestras de talento que hace poco dió aquí el ilustre Campeón de los Estados Unidos, vamos á ocuparnos ahora de la última contienda Corzo- Vázquez, en la cual nos correspondió la suerte de quedar vencedores, ganando el premio estipulado para quien llegase á completar siete victorias, antes que su competidor."  "El Ajedrez Magistral." 1900; A.C. Vázquez



Here is a wild King's Gambit from their first match-



This game from the second match employed the "Apertura Zukertort."





The Eldorado of
Chess

"Havana is the Eldorado of Chess. There you find true amateurs, who really play for the love of the game and the promotion of our noble pastime, for the benefit of the whole Chess community and without regard for self-interest. They invite the strongest Chess masters, whom they remunerate liberally and treat with the most considerate and generaous hospitality, without any other object than to develop the skill of the guest for the entertainent of Chess at large. W.Steinitz "International Chess Magazine," April 1888

 
     Steinitz waxed poetic on the topic of Cuba.  Cuba at that time was a land of wealth and when it came to chess, benefactors, such as Enrique Conill, Aristidez Martinez and Emilio J. Hidalgo, were not in short supply.  Although the Ten Year War set back the development of chess, after the dust settled, chess became almost a focus for many.   For whatever reasons, famous masters from all over were invited to come to Havana, generally with all expenses paid, the full red-carpet treatment and generous remunerations.  Steinitz came in 1883 and again in 1888.  He returned in 1889 and 1892 for his World Championship matches with Mikhail Tschigorin.  Capt. George Mackenzie became a favorite in Havana, going there frequently for chess and for his health.  Mackenzie first went to Cuba on March 3, 1887.  He returned in December of that same year, again in 1889 and 1891. Mackenzie, who had been in poor health due to a lung condition, went to Cuba in March of 1891 for some relief but in April, shortly after his return home to his hotel room in New York, he died.

"Capt. Mackenzie had a grand reception on his arrival at Havana. Two members of the Chess Club, Senores Moliner and Carricarte, went out to meet him in a steam launch specially lent by the naval authorities, and the next day he was entertained by the club at a magnificent banquet of 40 covers, in the spacious saloons of the Spanish-American Hotel. At this were present the most noted Chess players of Havana, the Consuls of the United States, Mexico, Austria, France, Italy, and Russia, Colonels Ruiz and Cervantes, and several bankers, lawyers, and journalists. The menu was of a very rechercM character, and the dishes, sauces, &c., were all named after well-known players. In replying to the toast of his own health, Capt. Mackenzie modestly disclaimed the title of Champion, which some over-zealous admirers had given him, and said he had been assured at Frankfort that he could not have won the first prize in a world's tourney till he had played at Havana with Senores Golmayo and Vasquez. On the Saturday after his arrival, the Captain encountered simultaneously 14 members of the Union Club, of whom he defeated 10, lost to 2, and drew with the rest. The same day he played the game with Senor Vasquez which we give in our present number, and on the Monday following began his match of five games up with Senor Golmayo. This was continued each Monday and Wednesday, while the match with Senor Vasquez occupied the Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays were devoted to games at odds, and Saturdays to peripatetic play. The present score in the two matches is, Mackenzie 5, Golmayo 0, drawn 1; Mackenzie 4, Vasquez 0, drawn 3. The Captain afterwards played a short match with Senor Carvajal, of Cienfuegos, and left for New Orleans on the 11th January." "BCM," Jan. 1888


     Tschigorin went to Havana in 1889 for his first match with Steinitz.  He returned the following year and played a match with Isidor Gunsburg that ended +9-9=5.  Then in 1892, he played his second World Championship match against Steinitz.
     Gunsburg, as note above, was in Havana in 1889, but so was Baron Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa.  Lasa's visit had an interesting twist:

Three years ago Herr Von der Lasa, the German chess player, and an important person in the Chancillery at Berlin, stopped at Havana two days to visit the well-known Havana Chess Club. When he returned the first night to his hotel he missed his splendid watch, worth, it was said, $500, and a personal present made to him by the German Emperor. Immediately he sent word to the civil Governor. A chota was called by the Chief of Police, and next morning Herr Von der Lasa had his watch. These chotas belong generally to the class of pickpockets called in Havana carteristas. "Dickerman's United States Treasury Counterfeit Detector," May 1896.

  Lasa played two games in Havana, one against Vázquez, one against Alberto Ponce, winning both.
     Joseph Blackburne came in 1891, and Jean Taubenhaus in 1894.
     Emanuel Lasker and Carl Walbrodt came in 1893. This dual invitation sparked an unintended and unexpected reaction from Lasker - one of the few disagreeable situations to come about through the invitational actions.  The "British Chess Magazine" explains it fully:

     Herr Lasker has published a statement, which we give below, with the object of exculpating himself for his refusals to play match games of any kind with Walbrodt  at Havana. Inasmuch as this statement casts a distinct slur upon the world-wide fame for generosity of the Havana chess players, and controverts the universal  understanding that he was invited to Havana specially to meet Walbrodt and to play a set match with him, we must evidently wait to hear what the other side has to  say in the matter. Before he went to Cuba, Herr Lasker must surely have read in the newspapers and magazines for what purpose he was chiefly to be asked to go  there, and if so, why did he not then publicly contradict their assertion, if it had no foundation; and why, on receiving the Havana invitation, did he not allude to this  rumour, and say that he had no intention to play, on any terms, a match with Walbrodt? However, here is his statement, which we take verbatim from the Neiv  Orleans Times-Democrat:—
     "I was invited to the Havana Chess Club by two letters: the first, addressed to Dr. F. Mintz, the vice-president of the Manhattan Chess Club, of New York, dated in  the beginning of December, and containing all the conditions of the engagement; and upon my answering to accept the same, by a second one, dated 28th of  December. Neither of these letters contain a word of an intended or already tendered invitation to any other master player. The conditions state clearly that my  performance would be to play with members of the club and to contest matches with local players, for which I was to receive a certain amount. Further, to give  simultaneous and blindfold performances, in which each contestant would pay $5 as an entrance fee. In addition, mention was made of the probability of short  matches with Senors Celso Golmayo, and Andre C. Vazquez, each for a stake of $500.
     I left New York on January nth, and arrived in Havana on the 16th of the same month, when I was first informed of the invitation extended to Walbrodt. After a few  days, I was further informed that the condition that I should receive $5 from each contestant in simultaneous games had crept into the letter by a mistake, and I was  offered $100 as a substitute; which compromise I could not help but accept. No match with Senor Golmayo or Senor Vazquez could be arranged. I played,  principally, one consultation game against Golmayo, Ostalaza, and Lopez, three games with Golmayo, three with Vazquez, two with Ponce, and some other  performances; when, after the arrival of Walbrodt, on February 2nd, in an official letter the following offer was made to me: To play a match with Walbrodt, for a stake  of $750, for which amount the club would back Walbrodt, during the month of February. Nothing of any purse or my expenses was mentioned. I regarded and still  regard this offer as unbusinesslike and as unfair to me in every respect. I might add, too, that inasmuch as they did not offer me anything, they had no right to  prescribe conditions as to time and the like. In declining, I stated that I did not wish to run such a risk of impairing my health as would necessarily result from the  strain of a match undertaken without any preparation.
     Afterward, in an official letter, they offered for a match of six games a purse of $150, to go to the winner. I again declined, stating that I was opposed to any match  consisting of a limited number of games, and, besides, expressed a hope to meet Walbrodt in a more important match, under more appropriate circumstances. After  this, Mr. Conill wrote me a third letter, asking me to play a consultation game against Walbrodt, for a stake of $10-60 Spanish gold, adding that my non-acceptance  would produce a very bad impression on the members of the club. I considered this letter as in very bad form, and verbally declined without stating my reasons,  which I thought should have been obvious enough."
     It is a pity that the Havana Club did not formally and officially communicate to Herr Lasker before he came to Cuba, their intention to invite him to play a match with his fellow countryman, and also indicate to him the terms on which it was proposed to be arranged. This would have saved a good deal of ill-feeling, though it  perhaps might have resulted in the engagement with him never being made.  "BCM," 1893.




     Besides the masters who accepted invitations, two particular ones stand out for not showing. In 1884  ‎Johannes Zukertort was tendered an invitation with the idea of also inviting Steinitz with the underlying hope of enticing them to play a match.  Through interviews published in the media, word reached Havana second-hand that Zukertort would demand a special fee to play Golmayo.  Golmayo perceived this as an insult and the invitation was withdrawn. Steinitz, himself, was unable to make the trip.  
     Siegbert Tarrasch, then the rising star, was contacted in 1890 with hope of arranging a Wold Championship match between him and Steinitz in 1891. Tarrasch didn't deign to reply to the Cuban delegates directly, but rather spoke through a German newspaper that he declined the offer. This sleight did little to endear him to the chess world. Steinitz found Tarrasch's actions improper and insulting.  The more gracious Joseph Blackburne was Tarrasch's last-minute substitute.
      Harry Nelson Pillsbury stopped in Havana in 1900 during his American tour. Pillsbury's exhibitions mostly concentrated on blindfold chess and checker feats.  Although Capablanca already was a strong player, he didn't partake in any of these simuls but he did attend and later credited Pillsbury as a main inspiration to persue chess:
"The effect of Pillsbury's displays was immediate.  They electrified me, and with the consent of my parents I began to visit the Havana Chess Club."

     The first few years of the 20th century started a new era in Cuba that coincided with the advent of Capablanca,  a new era in Cuban chess. 

As the 19th century ends, so does this story.

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