Shadow Pictures of the Vienna Players

Shadow Pictures of the Vienna Players

| 16 | Chess Players


     The Vienna Chess Tournament of 1898, one of many tournaments sponsored by Albert von Rothschild, ran from May 31 to July 25 and was played at the Vienna Chess Club.  It attracted many strong and now-famous masters. Tarrasch and Pillsbury ended with a tied score of 27½ - 8½.  In the play-off Tarrasch defeated Pillsbury 2½ - 1½.  The final game was a draw, after which the two men shook hands while Tarrasch commented, "Mr. Pillsbury, you are still young. You will win yet many a first prize."

     In August 1898, "The American Chess Magazine," which covered this contest in exquisite detail, re-published a piece called "Shadow Pictures of the Vienna Players," from "Pester Lloyd," of June that same year, which offered some fascinating first-hand observations of the famous participants.  

     The piece is re-re-published below.


Shadow Pictures of the Vienna Players.
By Armin Friedmann, in "Pester Lloyd," June 20.
Translated for the "American Chess Magazine" by W. N. L.
Kleine Schattenbilder vom Schachturnier]

     Be the chance ever so tempting, let me right here decline to avail myself of the ancient, hoary chestnut about the grateful but thoughtless king, and the inconceivably immense quantity of grains ot wheat. The shrewd speculation in wheat, clad in a modern style and overwhelming in its grandeur, remained, by reason of the impossibility of its realization, a surpassingly genial conception. This ought to suffice as a prelude, especially if we add to it, so as to give it a historical coloring, that the ancients called the noble game of chess "chaturanga," and that in the medieval ages it was called the game of "zabel." Much more than this, even the savants do not know. The beginnings of this truly intellectual game are shrouded by mystic darkness, into which, to our sorrow, we were not able to penetrate, although the most diligent and earnest "talking it over" with "old Mr. Schlemm" and "old Mr. Schwartz" was tried, yet these two "oldest residents," famous as hoary chess and gambit veterans, were absolutely unable to give us any information about the original chess of the bronze period.

     Having thus disposed of the historic part, we can start at once at the very latest period, namely, the "International Imperial Jubilee Chess Contest at Vienna." One must know that this is the long-drawn, somewhat unnecessarily characteristic official name of the contest now being fought In the spacious halls of the Vienna Chess Club. The mightiest of the masters of to-day, from all corners of the world, are participating therein, and only two famous names are missing—Emanuel Lasker. of Berlin, the giant-killer, and Rudolph Charousek. of Budapest, the genial victor at Berlin, of last year.

     The "Master" is carefully nursing his young fame and wraps it in wadding so that it may not suffer damage, and evidently does not dare to subject it to the sharp draft of an international tournier. The young matador of Budapest is evidently more courageous and more cautious of triumphs, but a malignant and serious sickness prevents his playing. His compulsory absence is generally regretted. This Hungarian, though a native of Prague—and he is a genuine Magyar—has been characterized, and justifiably so, at that, as the most brilliant chess genius since the glorious days of Paul Morphy.

     At Kaschau he copied the gigantic compendium of Bilguer, because of his pecuniary Inability to secure the work, and the story of his irresistible advance in Berlin, how he stormed and conquered, and gained the first goal, is still green in the memory of the friends of chess, and unique in the history of the game. This effervescent, fiery brain, this personified chessman, who lives for chess and for whom all of the rest of the world is barred by chess, had to remain away. Such exclusive, fanatic devotion to chess as his, may appear to many to be extreme, or even ridiculous, yet it characterizes the subject and the man, and the game may, after all, be a little more than a mere game. Arithmetical combination, with a strong aesthetic coloring —phantasy and mathematics in one combination. If a somewhat complicated mathematical problem is solved, and into the mass of figures, complicated and entangling, one brings slowly and by degrees light and understanding, there must, by necessity, come to the patient toiler in figures a certain sense of aesthetic joy, because the seemingly uncontrollable has submitted at last to law. Just so is it with the game of chess, and that may be one of the reasons why this game brings such pure delight, and will always cause such renewed pleasure, a delight which does not disturb the non-participants.

No chess player needs to ring the bell and call out: "Look out there!
you—you—don't you see I am about to announce 'check?'"

Never did an exasperated neighbor slam a window, angrily exclaiming:
"This eternal chess playing upstairs, from morn till night, is unbearable!"


     It is so quiet an enjoyment in which neither the upper nor the lower extremities are endangered, all that is risked is a little brain, but, after all, with most people, this portion of their anatomy deserves no mentioning. As to the majority of chess players. It is not worth while to consider brain: they regard chess playing—the moving of figures on the checkered board—as a kind of easy gymnastic exercise. Everybody knows that this shuffling and moving about is a great delight of amateurs, and the writer hereof confesses to record this fact as a matter of an experience of his own. People of this calibre take the most intense interest in the Vienna tournier, and cannot wait for the next move of the masters at a certain stage of the game. They follow all of the games, while in truth and in fact that one move of the master is above and beyond their intellectual horizon, and already to-day they are discussing the uncertain result.

     Any one who has had his queen cornered, and then, full of embarrassment, has stammered: "Ah! pardon—J'adoube." or any one who has had to suffer checkmate by the "pastoral check" or the intensely humiliating "fool's mate," or who, after the e2, e4, e7, e5, has forgotten the good continuations and the "book moves," dares to criticize, full of self-consciousness, these moves of the masters. "I would have made another move," and then—we may even believe them: they would have made another move.

     In short, all who play chess, be it good, bad or indifferent, take an interest in the proceedings at the Vienna Chess Club, and the genuine owners of the "great Bilguer"—this holy chess-bible, explain, with a great display of erudition and learning to the poorer owners of the "Little Dufresne" the moves made, praising here and condeming there, and do it with that well-meaning condescension which is so admirably practiced by the plutocratic industrial baron when he comes across the small tradesman.

     Throughout the world these games are played over, and it is worth w*ile for these people to look at the thing at close range, as they must know how they looked and how they behaved—the masters while they played.

     There he Is, the old, the great William Steinitz, for fully thirty years the sole, supreme ruler in the realm of chess, who held the world's record with an iron hand until there came along young Lasker, who compelled him to abdicate.  Blooming youth conquered decaying age. The health of Steinitz is no longer of the best, and to this is added the grueful cares of daily life, which cause him anxiety. He began in Vienna in the brilliant form of his palmiest days. At the very outset he conquered his old antagonist, Tschigorin: then followed victory upon victory, until at last the powerful swing of his wings grew weaker and his mighty flight was checked. Since then he does not make the same progress, but is among the possibilities. The hoary veteran may still pull himself together, and, recovering his strength, may forge ahead. Let me give fair warning: Steinitz will deprive many a contestant of an important game in this pending contest, because even one-half of Steinitz would make a formidable enemy, and when the old lion is aroused he is dangerous. "Although I am old, no one must put his finger in my mouth, or I'll bite," he said in 1892, and it is still true of him to-day.

     Steinitz is a small man, his great head resting upon a strong body, which, however, his weak limbs can hardly bear. One of his limbs is shorter than the other, and he has to use a stout cane to assist him when walking. The full face, enframed by a thin, reddish beard, is almost beautiful, especially when the left profile is observed, and he gazes thoughtfully upon the chess-board. The mighty, domelike forehead predominates over all. In his intercourse he Is amiable, modest, pleasant. One wishes he may gain the victory; he is so accustomed to victories that without them he cannot live. His is, indeed, a deeply tragic fate. Almost for half a century, to countless people, he has given pleasure and joy. and for his ceaseless toil and almost superhuman intellectual efforts, he received almost nothing in return. "It is only a game," say the smart people. "Why did he not devote himself to something better, something serious in life?" 
     What? Something still more serious? Were he again young he would begin anew, and all his life do nothing but think of how he could check other people's kings. Formerly he could permit himself to attempt the solution of all kinds of theoretical ideas, and in the first rounds of a tournier or match, if he were behind, as soon as it became serious, he could pull himself together and all the more surely come out a victor. But now! Ah! "Your majesty, ex-emperor of chess, you have had glory enough, and can well afford to forego the new ones," would be appropriate to say to him, did he not have the ready answer, given with a pathetic smile: "Yes, the glory, but I cannot afford to lose the reward."

     Old Mr. Blackburne, of London, is also present—a chieftain with the most immovable quietude of soul, whom nothing on earth could throw out of his equanimity. He, too, was at one time a mighty victor, and in many an important contest did he carry off first honors. He bears his misfortunes less tragically; he smokes his short-stemmed pipe, and quietly addresses his victorious antagonist in German, using the only two German words he has learned here—one of which is not German at that—"Grosser Ganef." The hoary fellow, with his healthy, rosy cheek, and brightly twinkling eyes, has a splendid dry humor. When he "draws" with an antagonist, he excuses himself by saying, "Vienna air." When at an outing, in a carriage, he saw a large number of barns on the roadway, he cracked the pun: "Vienna air: full of remise! (Remise —coach-house or barn; remise—"draw" in chess.)

     And now we come to Schlechter, the Vienneese "draw" champion, to win a game from whom is a difficult job even for the best player; but to an honorable, amicable arrangement, the young Vienna master will always consent, and quite often with skill and art, he forces his opponent to accept a draw even when a most desperate condition is staring him in the face. Until now the fortune of war has not been very favorable to him, but it may come his way yet, and the best results with the prize winners are, after all, very respectable results. It Is true, though, that the winners of first prizes are not made of the material of which the professional "drawing masters" are made.

      One of the strongest Vienna players is the officious, busy secretary of the club, Georg Marco, and his system of annihilating and crushing his opponents is feared by all. Unfortunately, his head is filled with administration details, in addition to which he edits match reports, publishes books and periodicals devoted to chess, sends telegrams and cables broadcast, so that, as a penny-a-liner expressed it—it requires his massive brain to produce his results. Marco is the most goodnatured giant, the most amiable ogre that can be imagined. Three Schlechters, thin and lean, could easily be carved out of him, and there would be enough left to make a complete Walbrodt. This fellow Marco is an original one; he loves the big, polysyllabous words, the most grotesque exaggerations, and his comparisons are comflned to exotics, and the strangest specimens of botany. The whole tropical world opens when he bombastically preaches. He is the Freilegrath of chess, a veritable "big, high, thick, wide" master of chess, as he is called. To hear him analyze causes Homeric laughter. He does not think like ordinary human beings, he sharpens and whittles
his brain; he does not attack his antagonist, but boldly grapples with him in Greco-Roman style. His forcible evolutions he accompanies with humorous exclamations of "God bless you!" "God bless you!" and when the enemy has retired into his den, whining and howling, to lick his wounds, he is promptly checkmated amidst the loudest "God bless yous." May this sad fate be spared to dear Maestro Marco, in his more earnest struggles in life. No checkmate "God bless you!"

     Walbrodt has been named already. This classic player, from Berlin, is just a bit of a light-weight, but "he goes." The first game he gave away at the very commencement, to the second he came an hour late, played, therefore. Gambit f2, f4—calling "Move! move!" and won! Walbrodt is a giant when he is sitting, but when he rises from his seat he is a dwarf—blond, shallow, sleepy. He is one of the graduates of the Berlin school of geniuses of Ludwig Devrient and E. T. A. Hofman. If one compliments him upon his good play, he answers with a broad brogue: "People always checkmate themselves; everybody ruins himself."

     Halprin is also a Viennese—a quiet, dignified young man; a fine thinker, a subtle strategist, who makes his debut on this occasion, and who has a good record. His manner of playing is elegant and very carefully conceived. Sometimes he seeks the fine instead of the powerful points, and then he dies of wounded vanity.

     Social old Adolph Schwartz, a native of Hungary, resigned soon after the opening of the tournament, and has taken his seat among the "lookers-on in Venice." They wouldn't let him win a single game and he got angry.'

     Among the players from Germany, Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, of Nuremberg, occupies the foremost rank; he is the centre of interest, and up to to-day has secured the most decisive victories. Dr. Tarraseh is one of the strongest of living chess players. He educated himself on the lines of Adolph Anderssen and Louis Paulsen, but developed his own energetic style to a high degree of independence. Out of the smallest advantages of position; out of particles of—one may say—he builds up the chance to win. This then grows and grows and steadily increases, and every avalanche was once but a tiny snowflake. He knows naught that is immaterial; naught that is insignificant; he considers and uses everything if it can be turned to good account for his hidden objects. Admirable is his appreciation of safe positions. The safest is to him the best; daring experiments he does not attempt. He loves to bring about complications; he orchestrates somewhat strongly because he presumes that his opponent does not feel at home as much as he does. Personally, he is a gentleman of the world, with the most elegant of manners; genial, sarcastic, witty and sharp-tongued. "Ah!" he exclaimed once, when the dear Vienneese again brought about a "draw," "I am here in Vienna among the 'Remismonde.'" "It is not sufficient to be a good chess player, one must play good chess," is one of his favorite sayings.

     Referee Lippe, of Halle on the Saale, is an awfully tall gentleman, who looks somewhat like Frederick Nietsche. He plays well and a great deal is expected of him. He is probably now the leading blindfold player, as he controls ten chess boards without looking at them, and has achieved many a noble victory over average players.

     Geza Maroczy of Budapest, engineer of the water department of that city, is the only Hungarian player here, and he wins a great deal of honor for his fatherland. The vehemence of his attacks is universally feared, and the very best take him seriously. He won in the first round from his formidable opponent; the American champion, Pillsbury. At the Hastings minor tournament he won the first prize and gained the master degree. It is very likely that he will show a substantial final result in Vienna, and thus wipe out the notch received at the Budepest millennium tournament, where he was not placed.

    Two other Hungarians are busily engaged at the tournier. One is one of the managers, Hugo Fahndrich, himself a master of no mean ability, and problem student; the other is the well-known chess journalist, L. Hoffer, of London, who supplies the English Journals with the chess news.

     For the time being, the youthful American, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, has. excepting Tarrasch, the best chances to carry off the first prize of 6,000 crowns. There are, however, thirty-eight games in two rounds to be fought out, and at this time not even the first half of the contest is finished. Pillsbury is a beardless young man, whose Anglo-American origin is easily read in his face. His profile is cameo-like, nobly cut. Every movement is dignified and gentle elegance. For such a youth to acquire so much selfconstraint, deliberation and coolness is wonderful, and could only have been obtained by occupation at the chess-board. When Pillsbury sits at the board, he has an absolute stony calmness in his face; not a muscle moves: only now and then will he wink a bit faster, when he feels himself slowly and satisfactorily nearing the goal, so finely calculated, and elaborated. He is a disciple of Grand Master Steinitz. The idlosyncracies and stubbornness of the veteran he has acquired, but he plays in grand style always, the simplest moves which conform to his purpose. The victor of Hastings plays the openings like a master; the middle game he treats
powerfully, and with grandeur; the most complicated positions of the end he treats with astounding finesse, and with the most positive assurance he grasps the knottiest threads and the most complicated entanglements.

     His friend and compatriot, Showalter, whom he but lately conquered in a match, is a tall, handsome, blond man, blue-eyed, with martial mustache. This prominent player started very successfully, but weakened soon. Whether he wins or loses, he is always a gentleman. Anyhow, he is much stronger than D. G. Baird, of New York, who, it seems, cannot make himself at home here. Nor can the well-qualified amateur, Trenchard, from London, win anything worth mentioning. Poor Trenchard excitedly chews away his full beard while he plays, but it is of no avail. Caro, of London, had but little more luck than the two last-mentioned gentlemen, although he is a master of fame, and even father of an opening of the game.

     Amos Burn, of Liverpool, is a serious chessascetic. As for him, all the governments of the world could go into shreds to-morrow, if his white and black kings retain their reign over the board. Burn is a silent Britisher in blue flannel. With broad-soled shoes, he tramps through the world in which, however, he does not seem to take any interest. He does not deem it worthy of a look through his eye-glasses. His hair, parted in the middle, falls over his forehead, in which there is thought only for chess, and when his bony hand grasps his brown full beard at the chin it fs done only to think more seriously over the problem, which variation of Ruy Lopez would Just then be the most advantageous.

     Janowsky, from Paris, a young coal-black eye-glassed Pole, who plays as elegantly as he does forcibly, is an outspoken enemy of all "draws." With him there is no such a thing as a weary "sitting out" game, and nothing does he hate more cordially than stubbornness. His play is. according to a remark of his own, like Mary Stuart, "beautiful, but unfortunate."

     It still remains to mention the Russian triumvirate, Tschigorin. Schiffers and Alapin. Tschigorin, whose genuine Slavic type and genial appearance arouse immediate attention, must be. whatever may be his achievements in Vienna, recognized as one of the foremost stars. He is somewhat stubborn and that costs him many a potent point in his score. He plays the "old school," with brilliant attacking combinations, and boldly rushes to penetrate the very chess-board, and the figures of the enemy he looks at with hatred, malice and contempt, a veritable passionate, fighting Pole.

      Alapin is of a more peaceful nature, a la Schlechter; he contents himself even with a "draw," although he understands how to gain victories. The stout Russian during his play sprinkles over his skull, which is covered with stubby, short, silver-gray hair, some favorite perfume water of his, or uses a smelling-bottle. Both methods seem to be efficacious, as at the present writing (twelfth round) he has not been vanquished. He is the man with the grass-green necktie, with the violet-blue, embroidered vest, a cordial companion, and not too much conceited. He has begun magnificently, and he is daily awaiting his first defeat.

     Schiffers, formerly the chess teacher of Tschigorin. is tall and powerful. What a splendid, interesting artist head! Gray beard, gray head, golden-rimmed eye-glasses, humorous and sarcastic, he frequently cracks jokes upon himself, and he can carry a fair load of the spiritual—in fluid form. His play has force and subtility, the finale he especially treats with uncommon shrewdness.

     Well, we have allowed the grand masters to pass in review before us and have handed each of them his passport. Each day sees another pair out of the group at their work, and their game is the joint intellectual product of two often most antagonistic individualities. The clocks tick ceaselessly, fifteen moves must be made in an hour: nine pairs do some intense thinking. Sometimes one or the other player walks thoughtfully up and down. The positions are engraved on his brain, or he watches how the games stand in which he has a special interest. Red cords cut the space off where the players sit, so that the anxious crowd of lookers-on may not press too boldly forward, ana thus interfere with the meditating champions.

     A fellow sat next to Showalter and Schlechter, patiently following the game for two hours. When it was over he was asked which of the moves was the decisive one. He humbly replied that he knew nothing about chess, but it interested him to watch how Mr. Showalter's American lace-shoes would ceaselessly swing from right to left, while Mr. Schlechter's Vienese patent leather pumps would ceaselessly swing forwards and backwards. There are many and all kinds of friends of the chess at the International Imperial Jubilanum Chess Tournier, in Vienna.

["Pester Lloyd" is a German-language newspaper published in Budapest. Armin Friedmann (1863-1939) was a Viennese writer and worked at different times for the "Pester Lloyd," the "Wiener Mode," the "Über Land und Meer," the "Waage"  and the "Frankfurter Zeitung." He was a playwright as well as
art and dramatic critic of "Wiener Zeitung"  and music critic for the "Neuen Musikzeitung" in Stuttgart."]

Below are two wins by Tarrasch over "young" 26 year old Pillsbury in the 1898 Vienna tournament:

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