Tim's Tournament Book Blog IV: Karlsbad 1907

Apr 11, 2016, 3:58 PM |

Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament
By Georg Marco and Carl Schlechter
Translated from the German by Robert Sherwood
Edited by Dale Brandreth
Analysis checked by Robert Sherwood and Rybka
Caissa Editions, 2007
451 pages

Karlsbad, 1907 is long remembered as the event where new chess star Akiba Rubinstein established his world class presence.  Rubinstein would go on to even greater success and, after his victory over Emanuel Lasker at St. Petersburg 1909, put his name into world championship contention but it all started here with a superb performance winning fourteen games, drawing six, while losing only to Spielmann.  The tournament is rich in fighting games as there was a rule that forbid draws before move forty five!!!!  Thus as Dale Brandreth notes in the section titled Some Statistics on the Karlsbad 1907 Games, “Of the 210 games played…29% (were) drawn.”  So even the drawn games were hotly contested!  The tournament is also notable in that it was the final tournament in which the legendary Mikhail Chigorin competed.

For this tournament I looked over a number of games starting with the prize winners then working my way through some Rubinstein games (I have always admired his endgame skill so many of these games I have played through before) then skimming over the introductions to each round looking for exciting games before finishing off by going over the six game win streak that Leonhardt executed to finish in clear third place.

Games of note:
Vidmar-Leonhardt Round 16: A nice display of attacking by Leonhard who also does not let his attack blind him to the necessity of shutting down queenside counterplay.

Leonhardt-Tartakover Round 19: Good example of initiative vs. material advantage.

Leonhardt-Maroczy Round 9: Interesting game featuring the skillful converting of one advantage into another capped off by a powerful passed pawn!

The following two games were my favorites from the book.  As always any notes are my own.


First, we have a great attack sans queens by the eternal romantic player Frank Marshall.



The other game comes from the winner Akiba Rubinstein.  His battle against Dr. Olland is a tour de force of chess: there are positional elements, tactics, and careful preventive play in other words, something for everyone! 

Story of the Tournament
This part of the book is superb!  Marco and Schlechter go to great lengths to outline the organizing of the tournament including how the players were invited and how the city leaders of Karlsbad worked diligently to make the tournament happen.  Along with the organizing notes are several newspaper accounts of the tournament with some brief sketches of the players.  The real treat, though, lies in the introductions to each round.  Far from being just a brief overview, the introductions are typically a page in length and describe the flow of each individual game noting if it was a positional struggle, an endgame clash or a bold attacking game.  This is a valuable resource to the student especially if one is looking for particular types of games to study to learn more about a particular part of the royal game.

Simply put, these are some of the best (and deepest) annotations I have ever seen.
Marco and Schlechter weave a tapestry of variations and words that enlighten and entertain every step of the way.  Very, very few games are lightly annotated.  On top of the fantastic effort of these two great players is the additions contributed by the translator Mr. Robert Sherwood.  His notes augment the original script and are clearly noted.  The manner in which Mr. Sherwood’s notes are included do not intrude on the original script as sometimes happens in other books;they are added seamlessly and the final product makes for educational reading.

Biographical Information
There are minimal biographical notes and there is no individual section covering the background of the players.  The biographical notes come mainly from the newspaper articles quoted in the beginning of the book.  While not very detailed, they do give the reader a sense of the players personality.  For example, the  Neuen Augsburger Zeitung points out the decline of Janowski as he began to prefer gambling over chess!
There are also a few pictures in the book mainly of the top finishers.

Coverage of Games
All 210 games from the tournament are included in the book.

Production Value
This new version of the Marco and Schlechter classic is simply beautiful.
The book is a handsome, red, hardback volume.  The paper quality is top notch.  The book includes the original tournament cross table and round by round progression chart.  The diagrams are a little fuzzy but this is the result of the publisher remaining faithful to the original text so no harm, no foul there.

Added for this Caissa edition is an index of game between the players as well as an index of game openings done by name only, no ECO.   Both the translator and publisher have added some interesting notes in a few brief sections as well.

Final Evaluation

Although Karlsbad 1907 may not be the first tournament that one thinks of when the topic of legendary tournaments is discussed, this edition is essential for any student of the game.  First, the games are very richly and deeply annotated so there are lessons galore.  Second, the tournament had such interesting competitors with a range of styles so there are lessons to be learned in all facets of the game.  By following say Rubinstein, one can learn positional play and endgame technique.  However, if one is inclined to look for attacking games then Marshall is the man; and with the extensive annotations you can learn not only how to attack but when to shift gears so you do not press an attack when opportunity has passed.  Finally, thanks to the notes at the beginning of each round the reader can literally go round by round and find games that match the lessons he is seeking.  This last advantage is not be taken lightly as most times one is left to follow a particular player through the tournament (usually the winner, top finishers or ones favorite player) and while this is an excellent approach to study, it is nice to have the ability to skim each round and find the type of game you are looking for so you don’t miss out on the great attacking effort of a player who maybe finished in the bottom five.

Bottom line: If you serious about the study of the game, you need this book.  The annotations alone are worth the cost.  Add in the first rate tournament notes and top notch production and you have a volume worthy of being on a shelf of any library.