Memories of Chigorin


Chigorin excites me.  His games, his attitude, his bearded good looks - I just like everything about him.

Chigorin was at his peak in the latter part of the 19th century, even playing twice for the World Championship, once in 1889 and once in 1892, both times in Havana, Cuba.

But this article deals with a later time and with  Chigorin's involvement with Ukrainian chess and interaction with some Ukrainian players.



Below is an excerpt called Memories of Tschigorin from  Fedor Duz-Chotimirsky's autobiography (translated from the original Russian by by WilhelmThe2nd):

    "50 years have passed since I saw Tschigorin for the first time, the Tschigorin, who by his amazing skill inculcated in me a love for chess. In 1899, S. A. Shimansky and I organized a chess club in Kiev and gathered together a group of amateurs in this club. Soon after we invited the grandmaster D. Janowsky for appearances at the club. Janowsky related sympathetically to my enthusiasm for chess and he gave a quite good assessment of my play and even recommended me to the organizer of the second All-Russian tournament, P. P. Bobrov.
   And here on December 25th, 1900, I arrived in Moscow for the first time and the next day at 5 o'clock in the evening I appeared at The Doctor's Club on Greater Dmitrovka. The big hall, the parquet floor and the luxurious conditions confused me... A waiter, seeing the unprepossessing appearance of a poorly dressed young man, hurried over to accost me, questioning me about what I wanted there. I said that I had arrived for the All-Russian tournament and I asked to be led to the organizer of the tournament.  It turned out that I had arrived too early, and Bobrov was not yet at the club. The waiter suggested that I go in to the buffet and there he pointed out to me a man of stern appearance and enormous size. This man had a large grey beard and a magnificent head of hair. 
   He addressed me: - “Are you, young man, also a participant in the tournament? Sit yourself down. Allow me to introduce myself: Emanuel Stepanovich Schiffers". 
   Soon the tournament participants and guests began to gather. By 6 o'clock the hall was full. We awaited Tschigorin. 
   Suddenly the noise in the hall ceased. A whisper swept among the public: "Tschigorin! Tschigorin!... "
   With a sinking heart I turned to my neighbors: - "Where is Tschigorin?". 
   Finally, I saw Mikhail Ivanovich. He was of short stature. The face familiar from portraits seemed to me more affable than in the pictures of photographers. Dark with grayish hair, a broad thick beard; dark brown eyes that were large with a somewhat severe and sad expression.

1901 Moscow, 2nd All-Russian Championship
Standing: F.I. Duz-Chotimirsky, K.V. Rozenkrantz, D.M. Janowski, S.V. Lebedev, V.N. Kulomzin
Seated: E. S. Schiffers, S.V. Antushev, V.I. Tabunshchikov, M.I. Tschigorin

The tournament began. Recently, Tschigorin had played unsuccessfully in international tournaments and the majority predicted victory for Janowsky. But, contrary to general opinion, Tschigorin amassed victory after victory.
In the ninth round I won in good style from Sharov. Tschigorin and Janowsky interested themselves in the game. Apparently, this game created a favorable impression of me on Tschigorin and he began paying attention to me. On another day, Tschigorin approached me and affectionately offered good advice:
   - “Do not be confused by your losses. In the beginning I too lost often, and only then did I begin to win”.

                                           *     *     *     *     *     *     *
   In Kiev at that time there were many chess amateurs and admirers of M. I. Tschigorin's talent. In 1902, we invited Mikhail Ivanovich to Kiev. Tschigorin gave several séances and played two consultation games.
   I bring one of these games to attention of readers:



    During his stay in Kiev, Mikhail Ivanovich talked to us about the development of chess in Russia and asked us about all the details of chess life in our city.I was especially amazed at how seriously and closely Michael Ivanovich listened to even weak amateurs who addressed him. He answered their questions in detail and he analyzed individual positions together with them. He suggested to our active membership the idea of organizing the Third All-Russian tournament in Kiev, moreover he promised to help in this matter.

   In Kiev at that time resided the Prince Dadian of Mingrelia. Not long before Tschigorin’s arrival there, an incident occurred between the chess club and the "His Highness the Prince". In the chess column of a Kiev newspaper, which was edited by the club, there appeared a game lost by the Prince. For this "insult" the Dadian of Mingrelia challenged all the members of the club’s administration to a duel, which remained, of course, unaccomplished.
The next day, on Tschigorin’s arrival, the Prince invited Mikhail Ivanovich to his place, but Tschigorin, after learning about the incident, refused to visit the Dadian of Mingrelia’s. "His Highness" was enraged and decided to get revenge. An opportunity soon presented itself. Tschigorin was invited to the international tournament in Monte Carlo in 1903. At the meeting of the participants the honorable chairman of tournament Prince Dadian of Mingrelia demanded Tschigorin’s exclusion from the tournament, declaring, that otherwise he would resign from the presidency and would take back his donation of 500 francs. This threat worked. The committee gave in to the Prince, and Tschigorin was excluded from the ranks of the tournament participants.

   My third encounter with Tschigorin took place in 1903 at the All-Russian tournament in Kiev. Unfortunately, the tournament committee not was equal to the occasion. It did not create normal conditions for play. At the tournament there were many incidents. Some of the younger participants, attempting to usurp Tschigorin’s superiority, behaved provocatively. Tschigorin painfully endured all this. 
   But nevertheless at the third All-Russian tournament Tschigorin again came out the victor.

                                          3rd All Russian Tournament, 1903 in Kiev.
backrow: Rabinovich,Izbinsky, Kylomzin, Lebedev, Znosko-Borovsky, Levitsky, Kalinsky, Ben'ko, Lowtzky
frontrow: Rubinstein, Vengerov, Salwe, Chigorin, Loxting, Count Plater, Yurevich, Bernstein, Schiffers, Duz-Chotimirsky
Plater was the tournament patron, Loxting and Vengerov were tournament  officials.
(photo directly from the tournament book)

   My fourth encounter with Mikhail Ivanovich occurred at St. Petersburg in 1906. I lived then at the home of an amateur chessplayer and close friend of Tschigorin’s, Sergey Yakovlevich Rozhdestvensky. Once we received a letter from Mikhail Ivanovich inviting us to come to his place on his birthday. Tschigorin cordially accepted us and after dinner we settled down at the chessboard.

   I then stayed with Tschigorin for two days. During these days Tschigorin told me  much about his meetings with well-known chess players. He appreciated highly Steinitz, Janowsky, and, in particular, Lasker. "Not soon will there be found a player who will conquer Lasker"- he said.
   Tschigorin related skeptically to the chess creativity of Tarrasch and Schlechter. He was irritated by the countless dogmatic lectures of Tarrasch, which filled each of this boastful German champion's appearances in the press.
   We played many casual games, perhaps about hundred. In the beginning, I, as White, selected the first move 1. d2-d4, and defended Black with the Sicilian Defence.
   Using only these openings, I caused Tschigorin to remark with dissatisfaction:
   - "Why do you avoid the open games, Feodor Ivanovich? Perhaps someone has proved that after 1. e2-e4 it is bad to answer 1... e7-e5?"
   In order not to distress him, I began to play the King's gambit, but for Black's defense in the King's gambit, Tarrasch's recommendation of 2...Bf8-c5.
   Tschigorin again rebuked me: "This defense of Tarrasch's is the defense of a coward. Be more daring and this will bring benefit to you. Dare and live by your mind. Only then you will really create".
   The year 1907 is also memorable to me. I lived then in Moscow. Here a small tournament was organized to which Tschigorin was invited from St. Petersburg. The participants were Tschigorin, myself, Goncharov, Nenarokov and Ostrogsky.  The position of the tournament after the third round was such: Duz-Chotimirsky - 3, Tschigorin and Goncharov, -1 point, Nenarokov and Ostrogsky- at 0.

   In the fourth round I was due to play with Goncharov. I felt unwell this day and consequently asked Goncharov to postpone the game. He agreed, but Tschigorin protested. The tournament committee ordered me to play. I refused, and they forfeited me.

  I was upset and Tschigorin was upset as well.

   However, afterward I realized my mistake. This incident distressed me to depths of my soul. I addressed Tschigorin with an apology. To my relief, Tschigorin tenderly accepted me and explained, that, in his opinion, it is impossible to permit any deviations from the tournament order to anyone of the participants.

  In the same year, 1907, I received a letter from the chairman of the All-Russian Chess Union, Saburov. Saburov informed me, that the All-Russian Chess Union had received from the committee of Carlsbad International tournament an invitation to the tournament of one Russian chess player who had yet to achieve the rank of master. Saburov had turned to Tschigorin requesting him to specify whom he advised to send to the tournament. Tschigorin named myself and Evtifeev.

   And here, thanks to Tschigorin, I had an opportunity to participate in an international tournament.

   The heads of the Chess Union sent me to the tournament but without giving me the means for the trip. At that time each participant went to a tournament at his own expense. My money only sufficed for me to reach Carlsbad and to pay for an apartment. I played the first half of the tournament hungry. Tschigorin, having seen me become emaciated and pale, asked whether I was sick. Receiving a negative answer, he surmised that I was simply starving. After calling the leaders of All-Russian Chess Chess Union "heartless scoundrels", Tschigorin helped me to arrange and organize my life. 
   Tschigorin’s help favorably affected my game. In first half of tournament I collected 2.5 points out of 10, in the second - 7.5 points out of 10, and I not only earned the title of master, but also became a prize-winner of an international tournament.

   In Carlsbad I usually accompanied Tschigorin to the hotel after the game. He  felt very unwell then and could hardly move. We slowly reached his room. " [END]



(Chigorin went to the doctor in Carlsbad who gave him just a short time to live due to the advanced stage of his diabetes. Chigorin died in January of 1908.)

While Duz-Chotimirsky talks about accompanying Chigorin in Carlsbad in 1907,  fellow Ukrainian, Fedor Bohatirchuk also claimed he accompanied Chigorin in Carlsbad in 1907.

Fedor Bohatirchuk on the left and his friend and fellow Ukranian, 
Efim Bogoljubov on the right

In 1909, Fedor Dus-Chotimirsky, a frequent Kiev champion, finished 13th in the Chigorin Memorial. He defeated the 1st and 2nd place winners (Lasker and Rubinstein) in individual games and was the first Ukrainian to play in a top-level international tournament.
In 1912,  Efim Bogoljubow became the first Ukrainian to win 1st prize in an important international tournament (Lodz)
In 1927,  Fedor Bohatirchuk shared 1st/2nd place with Peter Romanovsky in the USSR Championship. In five games vs Botvinnik scored 3 wins and 2 draws.