Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky. Memories, part 3


Part 2 here

After I got back to Moscow from Karlsbad, one Moscow chess player came to me and told me that he saw a future chess world champion in one teenager. I've always been wary of promising "wonderkids", thinking that it was impossible to truly predict the development of chess talent. Nevertheless, I agreed to visit this kid. I met a pretty-looking blonde boy. We were introduced to each other. His playing didn't impress me much. But I did agree to teach him chess systematically, from openings to middlegame and ending theory. We studied two times a week.

My ego as a teacher was quite satisfied when literally in 3-4 months of 1908, this 15 years old boy made big advances in his playing and became a very dangerous adversary for all Moscow players.

This was the future world champion - the genius, Alekhine.

After the Karlsbad 1907, I played in other international tournaments - Prague 1908, Hamburg 1909, Karlsbad 1911. Additionally, I played in a big international tournament in St. Petersburg - 1909 Chigorin Memorial.

I also played in domestic tournaments - Russian masters' tournament in Vilno (1909) and St. Petersburg 1910 championship, where I shared first place with Znosko-Borovsky. In 1908, I also drew a match with the U.S. Champion Frank Marshall: +2-2=2.

I travelled a lot during those years, visiting Berlin, San Sebastian and many Czech cities, giving simultaneous displays and playing against consultants and some strong national masters.

After several years of intensive creative and sportive work, I was engulfed by a feeling of severe disappointment, caused by chess masters' abnormal status in pre-revolutionary Russia.

I decided to quit chess forever. I gave it all the strength of my youth, all my interests were confined by chess board squares. Still, despite all the efforts and sporting achievements, I couldn't affort a living of any decency. Chess players, and sportsmen in general, didn't get much attention, let alone support (either moral or material), from the Tsarist government.

Successfully defending the honour of Fatherland at the international arena was considered the sportsman's private responsibility! And when he aged and lost his strength, he would be forgotten and live his later years in abject poverty.

All those thoughts bothered me. It was a true crisis of faith.

I quit chess, and only eleven years later I again became friends with it. After the October Revolution, chess became common property of the new Soviet people, a big factor in harmonious personal development that strengthens the will to win, memory, fantasy, alertness.


The Prague tournament was organized by the Industrial Exhibition Committee to advertise the exhibition - of course, not in the best interests of chess art. Simultaneously with the tournament, there were many attractions and entertainments: illuminations, fireworks, buffooneries, Indian horsemen races, tobogganing.

Such an atmosphere was characteristic for many international chess tournaments of the time.

Chess tournament was held in a far corner of the exhibition, in a barn-like building without any distinctive emblems or decorations.

Nevertheless, the Prague chess organization managed to attract the greatest chess masters. Except for Lasker and Tarrasch, all the World Championship candidates came to Prague: Carl Schlechter, Geza Maroczy, the American champion Marshall, Akiba Rubinstein from Russia, the German grandmaster Richard Teichmann who had a nickname "Iron Knight" for his tenacious playing, Dawid Janowski, Prague's pride and joy Oldrich Duras, Rudolf Spielmann, the talented combination master, the methodical Milan Vidmar, the bright tactician Jacques Mieses and others.

I was among all those experienced players. The struggle was going to be quite interesting.

I came to the tournament, as it often happened with me, unprepared and almost out of money.

The Exhibition Committee wasn't paying for the participants' food and housing. Everyone paid for themselves.

At the border, for some reason I was apprehended by Austrian police for three days and came to Prague late: the second round was already in progress. I was to play Duras in the first round, and so I lost that game without playing.

I had to play very fast in the second round against Schlechter (my clock was started before I got to Prague at all); I could draw the game, but made a mistake in time trouble and lost. In the third round, I've outplayed Vidmar, but in a winning position mistook my 29th move for the 30th control move, and so lost on time.

The start was disappointing, and bad luck continued to plague me afterwards. In the last round, when I played against the Czech master Prokes, I had overwhelming position but overlooked a mate in two.

Still, I had some triumphs as well: I defeated Janowski and also won against Teichmann (his only loss in that tournament). After the tournament's end, I was invited by various organizations from Prague and Pilsen to give simultaneous displays for Czech players; the reception was very friendly everywhere.

Here are my best games of this tournament.




I took an interest in Sicilian defence as early as in 1901. It was unpopular and largely unstudied at the time.

I was fascinated with the strategical idea of playing d7-d6, g7-g6 and developing the Bishop to g7, which gave Black good counterplay perspectives at the queenside.

I studied this system and would use it often.

The story behind the name "Dragon", which said system now bears, is also interesting.

I was the one who coined the name, back in 1901 in Kiev.

I was an amateur astronomer and studied the night sky, and so I noticed the similarities between the Draco constellation and Sicilian pawn configuration d6-e7-f7-g6-h7. I used this association and came up with the name "Dragon variant".

From Prague, I came to Vilno. Here, in 1909, the local chess club held a small triple round-robin tournament with six participants: me, Rubinstein, Salwe, A. Rabinovich, Freiman and Globus, the strongest local player.

In the beginning, I took the lead; Rubinstein trailed by two points. I had real chances of winning the tournament until its last third. But I was too tired, played the last games too badly and finished only fourth.

Rubinstein won; my personal result against him was +1-1=1. Here's the game I won against him.