The Death of Baron Ignatz Kolisch

Jun 6, 2009, 12:28 PM |


Chess Monthy - May, 1889
    by William Steinitz


DEATH OF BARON KOLISCH. We deeply regret to learn the death of this celebrated master which occurred on the 1st of May, at the age of 52 years. Ignaz Kolisch was born at Pressburg in the year 1837, and made his first appearance in Vienna Chess circles at the age of 19. He showed his remarkable genius in contests with masters like Hammppe and Jenai with whom he held his own albeit his youth. In 1859, he made his debut as a European celebrity by defeating Harrwitz in two off-hand games at the Cafe de la Regence, and in the same year he proceeded to England where he encountered successfully some of the strongest English players, notably the late Mr. Barnes who had made the best score against Morphy in off-hand games but whom Kolisch defeated by the extraordinary score of 12 to 1. In 1860, Kolisch won the first prize in the tournament of the British Chess Association held at Cambridge, Stanley taking second place. In the same year his celebrated match with Louis Paulsen for 10 games up, which is one of the most remarkable on record, was arranged. Kolisch lost at first 5 games to 1, but with firm tenacity he drew game after game, occasionally adding a win to his score, until at last the match was given up as drawn, Paulsen standing only 7 to 6 with no less than 19 draws. In the Bristol Tournament of 1861, the two players met again in the final round for first and second prizes and this time Paulsen won both games. In the same year Kolisch played a match with Anderssen for the first 4 games, which was won by the Prussian master by the odd game. Sometime after he defeated Schumoff at St. Petersburg and Rosenthal decisively in matches. In the year 1867 Kolisch achieved his greatest triumph in the Paris Tournament where he won the chief prize offered by the late Emperor Napoleon III, Winawer coming out second, Steinitz third, and Neumann fourth. In consequence of this success he challenged Morphy, who was at the time on a visit to Paris, for a match, but the great American master declined the contest, on the ground it is said, that Kolisch had been defeated by Anderssen and Paulsen, who had not taken part in the Paris Tournament, but over whom, he, Morphy, had achieved a decided success. It is much to be deplored that this contest which surely would have been a most interesting one did not come off, and we can only add, that according to the views prevalent in our time Kolisch was fully entitled to offer his challenge, and provided that he otherwise proposed fair terms, Morphy was bound to accept the defi or to abdicate any claims to the championship. After his great victory in Paris, Kolisch retired altogether from direct match and tournament play and only took part as a leader for the Austrian side in the consultation match of two games by telegraph and correspondence between London and Vienna which commenced in 1872, and after a duration of 20 months, ended by one game and a draw in favor of England whose games were conducted by Messrs. Steinitz and Potter.
For several vears before the Paris Tournament and up to the time of his death Kolisch devoted himself to financial speculations which turned out most successful, and he realized a large fortune especially during his residence in Paris from 1873 to 1880. In the latter year he returned to Vienna and shortly afterward received the Baron title of one of the German principalities. He, however, never relinquished his love for the game which had given him the first start in life, and the Chess world is indebted solely to his influence for the organization of the Baden Tournament in 187O. He was also, along with Baron Rothschild of Vienna, the main promoter of the two Vienna Tournaments of 1873 and 1882, and he liberally contributed to the funds of those Tournaments, as well as to the London Chess Congress of 1883, and to other Chess institutions of a similar description. As a player Kolisch chiefly belonged during his short and brilliant career to the old school and he was gifted with most remarkable powers of originality, brilliancy and depth of combination that made him one of the most skilful and ingenious generals in the conduct of the King's side attack that ever appeared in the Chess arena. In giving large odds to inferior players he hardly ever had an equal, and some of his games at the odds of a Knight or Rook belong to the finest on record. In his match and tournament play he showed some indications of the circumspective style which tends to hold the balance all over the board and seizes the slightest advantage at any point, but in that respect he was a little inferior to his great opponent Louis Paulsen who may be regarded as one of the first pioneers of the modern school. Kolisch was however undoubtedly superior to Paulsen in the final tactics on the King's side and for brilliancy and originality of conception combined, his style would only yield the palm to Anderssen of all the opponents whom he encountered in matches. To sum up his record, he must be regarded as inferior to Paulsen as a match player whilst his chief victory in Paris cannot place him on an equal rank as a tournament player with Anderssen who three times in succession, namely: in London 1851, London 1862, and Baden 1870 bore off first honors against much stronger teams than Kolisch encountered in Paris. But it should be stated on the other hand that Kolisch had very little theoretical knowledge and that his original powers chiefly sustained his remarkable success which records his name undoubtedly among the greatest masters of the age.