The Late Herr Harrwitz

Sep 21, 2009, 7:12 PM |

Daniel Harrwitz is remembered primarily for his match loss to Paul Morphy.  With most things isolated incidents take disproportionate value while the more meaningful holistic viewpoint gets shoved into some dark corner. Though primarily a coffeehouse player, Harrwitz was one of the strongest players in his day and should be granted the dignity that such a unique position deserves.




The news of Herr Harrwitz's death has been long in reaching the Chess world, of which he was so distinguished an ornament. It would seem that, in his mountain home in Tyrol, he has been " out of sight, out of mind." The Schachtzeitung for March gives only the bare announcement, without a date, as based upon newspaper information. It is now stated that he has been dead two months; and singularly enough the earliest detailed sketch of his career comes from the New Orleans Times-Democrat. Another tolerably full account appears in the Field of March 22nd.

Like so many of the Chess masters of this century, Daniel Harrwitz belonged to the Jewish race. He was born in 1823 at Breslau, and was thus a fellow townsman of Anderssen, who was five years his senior. He received a good, we believe a university education, and passed his early years in his native city. As he became a prominent figure in the Chess world almost as soon as he reached man's estate, it would be natural to think that he was Anderssen's Chess pupil; yet it is quite certain that this was not the case. The two men appear to have met for the first time after Harrwitz had made his mark in Paris and London, and the earliest records of their play together are in the Schachzeitung of 1848. The explanation is, that the first years of Anderssen's adult life, which were those of Harrwitz's youth, were the only ones that the former passed away from Breslau, holding educational appointments in other parts of Prussia Harrwitz came to Paris in 1845, and encountered Kieseritzky (not, so far as records go, Saint-Amant) with pretty even results both blindfold and over the board. Blindfold play was then in its infancy: two games at a time were the limit, and excited as much astonishment as sixteen would now. On some occasions, it is stated, the opening moves were made for them to prevent suspicion of collusion ! In 1846 Harrwitz came on to England at the age of 23, not quite the "mere boy" he is sometimes represented to have been at the time of his encounters with Staunton and Slous. He undoubtedly showed first-class form at an unusually early age ; but Morphy, Blackburne and De Vere, and perhaps some others, have ripened still earlier. Buckle, who was scarcely older than Harrwitz, had been for some years an acknowledged first-rate, while immersed in more serious studies. The two played several games together with, we believe, about divided honours, but we have seen no record of their total scores. In justice to an eminent Englishman, George Walker, who shortly afterwards retired from active play, it should be mentioned that he also seems to have held his own in ordinary games. Mr. Slous, who still happily survives as the Nestor of English past masters, was at this time completely out of practice : but he chivalrously re-entered the arena for the pleasure of doing battle, in casual games, with the young Silesian, and naturally lost a majority. The result of the match between Staunton and Harrwitz is well- known and very singular. Seven games even were all won by Staunton ; in seven at Pawn and move Harrwitz was 6 to 1; in seven at Pawn and two Staunton was 4 to 3, thus winning the match by 12 games to 9. This was Staunton's last great performance : between 1846 and 1851 he lost the fine edge of his play, and never regained it, while he himself informed the present writer that he considered his games in the match with Harrwitz the strongest he had ever played. Staunton had, moreover, the candour to admit that the second move was "a delusion and a snare" to a player without experience, and thus virtually abandoned the claim to yield Harrwitz any odds at all. To Harrwitz the role of an odds-receiver was doubtless an unfamiliar one: he does not take nearly as much advantage of the opening as players who receive those odds at the present day, and thus has to encounter Staunton in the middle game with the surplus Pawn only. This, however, sulliced to lead him to victory in 9 games out of 14, excluding those played on even terms. There was one drawn game in the match, at the odds of Pawn and move. At the close of the same year, 1846, Harrwitz played his first match with Horwitz, and won it by the odd game (6 to 5, not 6 to 4 as sometimes stated). Returning to Breslau, he next played his very interesting, but unluckily never finished, match with Anderssen. A preliminary game was played without the board, these two, with Kieseritzky, being the only great blindfold players of the time; and was won by Anderssen. The match was to have been for the best of 11 games not counting draws; when 10 had been played each had won 5, and the final was not played out. The match was broken off owing to the political troubles of the time, and was never resumed. It is not uncharitable to remark that Harrwitz was far more given to nursing his reputation than Anderssen, who was ever ready to " put it to the touch " : and indeed in no other way can Harrwitz's absence from the Tournament of 1851 be accounted for. If not on the spot he was at least within easy reach ; but he knew he would have to encounter Anderssen and Staunton, and he kept away. In 1848-9, the years of revolution and reaction, England was by far the pleasantest abode for peace-loving Chess-players : Harrwitz was soon back again, and early in 1849 played his second match with Horwitz, won, like the former, by the odd game only (7 to 6). For some years he oscillated between London and Paris, but at length settled in the French capital. In 1853 he started a rival to Staunton's C. P. C. in the British Chess Review, which though ably conducted was very short-lived. In this year Staunton, though past his prime and fully aware of the fact, was genuinely ready to play Harrwitz a match : he could not bring him to terms, and at length put forward Lowenthal as his substitute, a challenge which Harrwitz, who knew his man, accepted for 11 games up. No match was ever more memorable from its vicissitudes. Harrwitz won the two first games and, suffering from a severe cold, lost the next five. He now felt it was time to attend to his health; but he had himself introduced a stipulation that absence on play-days was to involve the loss of the game, no excuse to be accepted; he went to Brighton, and forfeited two more games. On resuming play Lowenthal drew the first game and won the next, thus standing at 9 to 2 and 2 draws.

But Harrwitz was now himself again : with rare courage he maintained the uphill battle, won game after game, and finally the match by 11 to 10 and 12 draws. Staunton was greatly chagrined at this unexpected result, and his comments on both players were highly unflattering; some amusing anecdotes of what passed behind the scenes between him and Lowenthal may be read in Chess Life Pictures.

For the next stage in Harrwitz's career we follow the account in the Times-Democrat.
" Shortly after Kieseritzky's death, which Itook place in the summer of 1853, Harrwitz was called to Paris by the proprietor of the Cafe de la Reyence to succeed the eminent Livoniau expert as the special attache of the establishment. He therefore took up his abode in Paris, and remained there almost uninterruptedly for six or seven years, busily engaged in playing the numerous foreign amateurs who constantly flock from all parts of the world to this temple of Chess. There in the winter of 1856-57 he played a match with M. Arnous de Riviere, an able Tand enthusiastic amateur, who had lately risen to the front rank of French Chess, a position which, by the bye. he holds to this day. Harrwitz won the match by a score of 5 to 2. In the summer of 1857 he took a short trip to England for the purpose of engaging in a tournament of the British Chess Association at Manchester. Lowenthal and Anderssen were among the participants. The tournament was conducted on the old system, where it often happened that a contestant was thrown out of the competition if defeated on the first round. In this instance Harrwitz was pitted against Anderssen, and, having lost a game, was, under the rules, debarred from any further participation in the tournament. Lowenthal won the first prize, beating Anderssen handsomely. A match was begun between the victor and his former adversary, but, for some unexplained reason, after a fierce battle of over 100 moves, which ended in a draw, the match was never resumed. Returning to Paris he enjoyed a period of comparative rest until the fall of 1858, when Morphy arrived in the French capital and boldly challenged him to a match. The circumstances of this celebrated contest are too generally known to require repetition here. Suffice it to say that the American, after losing the first two games, entered upon his career of victory by winning five games in such style and by such powerful play that Harrwitz lost heart and avowed to some of his more intimate friends that his new adversary was by very much the greatest player he had ever met over the board. There was no hope here of repeating the feat he once achieved against Lb'wenthal. Indeed, Harrwitz was demoralized ; he pleaded illness and resigned the match, mortified and almost humiliated. After this, we hear but little of him, although a year or two after, on the appearance of the new star of the Chess world, Kolisch, he contested a few games with that renowned master; but he must have realized that his day was past. He wisely preferred to resign the French Chess sceptre to seeing it wrenched from his grasp, and he so quietly made his exit from the world of Chess that even his former admirers, dazzled by the exploits of the new-comer, seemed to have failed to notice his disappearance."

In his later years, possessing a competent fortune inherited from his father, Harrwitz retired to Botzeu, South Tyrol, in the midst of some of the finest scenery of the Alps, adjoining the dolomite mountains and the Stelvio. Five or six years ago he again visited England, wishing, as he said, "to see old friends and the scene of his past glories once more before he died." The present writer, who in his undergraduate days had taken some lessons from him at the odds of Pawn and move, had the pleasure of renewing an old acquaintance and of finding that he was still remembered. We thought Harrwitz carrying his years remarkably well; very little altered, his black hair just tinged with iron grey. Of the illness which has caused his death at the age of little more than 60, as of the actual date of the event, we have no information. In person Harrwitz was small and dark, with bright dark eyes and hair and very round shoulders. The Hebrew physiognomy was much less marked in him than in some of his brethren, but was still traceable. The portrait in Chess Life Pictures is, to our mind, one of the caricatures of that volume. He was a man who said little about himself, and when he disappeared for a time from Chess circles it was not easy, as the gaps in the foregoing account show, to follow his movements.

Among the Chess paladins of his time he clearly belonged to the inner group. Apart from those who have culminated since 1860, we reckon only four his superiors, Anderssen, Kolisch, Morphy, and Staunton. He does not seem to have met L. Paulseu, who in his best days was certainly, we should say, his equal.   

British Chess Magazine 1884



ОNЕ more link from the chain, connecting the past generation of Chess-players with the present, has been severed through the death of Daniel Harrwitz, which occurred about two months ago at Botzen, Tyrol. Few masters, Anderssen excepted, leave such a splendid record аs the late Harrwitz.

During the fifteen years of his active Chess career—from 1815, when his name first cauie into notice in Paris, up to his retirement in 1862—he stood prominently out in the first rank, in the dual capacity as a practical player and writer of eminence. Physically of a frail constitution, the slight reverses he experienced at the hands of the then youthful heroes, Morphy and Kolisch, told severely on a naturally sensitive temperament, and were the cause which prompted his early retreat from the Chess arena, when he felt that his power was on the wane. This step taken by Harrwitz is evidence of a great deal of common sense, and might serve as an example worthy of imitation, not only in Chess, but also by votaries of other sciences and arts, under similar circumstances. His choice fell on a secluded nook of the Tyrolese mountains, from which he only emerged once some six years ago, when he visited England again. " He wished to see old friends and the scene of his glories once more," he said, " before he died." We made his acquaintance then, and had the rare advantage of admiring his sparkling wit at the convivial meetings of the West-End Chess Clnb. Harrwitz was a clever conversationalist, and full of anecdote and reminiscences. His health seemed unimpaired both in body and in mind, and there were certainly no signs of an early end noticeable. The following salient events of his Chess career we quote from the Field
"Herr Harrwitz was a native of Breslau, and became notorious in Paris in 1845, especially as a gifted blindfold player. Twelve months later he visited England, and contested a match with Howard Staunton ; but was defeated in a series of twenty-one games. The conditions were—seven games to be played on even terms; in seven the English champion to concede the odds of Pawn and move ; aud in seven the odds of Pawn and two moves. Harrwitz, who was quite a youth then, lost all the even games, the majority of the Pawn and two games ; but, strange to say, won the Pawn and move series. Later on he contested a match with Horwitz, beating him by six to four ; and also won a short match of Williams. After a stay of two years in England he returned to Germany ; but in 1849 we find him again in London, as a regular frequenter of the St. George's Chess Club. In 1853 he established the British Chess Review, and conducted it very ably during the short period of its existence. About that time Lowenthal appeared on the scene, and a match was arranged between the two rivals. This match proved the most exciting contest which ever took place. The conditions were, the winner of the majority out of twenty-one games to be the victor. Harrwitz won the first two games, and, suffering from a severe cold, Löwenthal scored seven games running, and two draws. Harrwitz went to Brighton in restore his health, thereby forfeiting two more games. The score then stood— Löwenthal, nine ; Harrwitz, two, and two draws. Harrwitz returned to town invigorated in health, and steadily won game after game, and the match. The final score was :—Harrwitz, eleven ; Löwenthal, ten, and twelve draws. Shortly afterwards he left England for Paris, and greatly contributed to popularise Chess in France. He defeated Mr. Arnous de Riviere, a rising young player then, by a score of 5 to 2. Harrwitz's successful career was, however, marred by the advent of the youthful American star, Paul Morphy, who arrived in Paris in 1858, and challenged Harrwitz to a match. After scoring the first two games, the latter- lost the next five, when, pleading ill-health, he resigned the match to the youthful hero. Two years later another genius, Kolisch, appeared, and defeated Harrwitz ; after which, seeing his star was on the decline, he quitted Paris, and lived a retired life in the romantic mountains of the Tyrol."

In concluding we desire to entirely endorse the censure passed by the Field upon the German Chess Press for the scanty notice, or rather want of notice, taken by them of the loss of their eminent countryman. Even the Schachzeitung for March confines itself to the bald announcement, without a word of further comment. Some mark of respect, though tardy, will be expected by the English, French, and American Chess-players. We may add a word of praise for the elaborate sketch of Harrwitz's career given in the New Orleans Times Democrat. The Chess Column in that paper is most admirably conducted, and by far the best ш America.
The Chess-monthly, by Hoffer and Zukertort , 1884


from Chess Life Pictures

by G. A. Macdonnell 

     "What odds will you give me?" asked a provincial youth of a well-known player at the Divan, as they were arranging the pieces on a board close to the table at which I was sitting. "Well, let me see," said the celebrity. "How do you play with Mr. B. and Mr. O.?" (naming two magnates). "They give me a knight, and win a slight majority." "Then I will give you a rook." Here the speaker flashed his eyes rapidly around him upon each of the spectators that had already gathered to witness the coming fight, and as he did so there was a peculiar twinkle in his dark orbs which admitted of various interpretations. It might have been construed into saying - "Behold in me a player superior to all other men; please wonder and admire." But to my mind that twinkle seemed but to say - "I know that I am bold, but am I not also generous? Moreover, have I not created a small sensation that amuses you all and frighten my opponent?"
     In short, it was more the flash of fun than of conceit that sparkled in the eyes of Harrwitz, who was the hero of this little incident. I observed in after times that Harrwitz generally gave greater odds than any other player, but I think he was influenced to do so, not by his belief in the superiority of his own powers, but by the delight he took in coping with difficulties. He certainly was a wonderful odds-giver-amongst the very best. His manner and his speech, coupled with the peculiar nature of his mental gifts, all favored his success in this department of the game. He played with great, almost unsurpassed rapidity, scarcely ever pausing more than a few seconds to think out his moves, and when his opponent was poring over the board unlike most fast players, he was looking about him on all sides, twittering out some gay or witty remarks. There is nothing more calculated to disturb the equilibrium and lessen the strength of an inferior player than a lively manner and a seeming carelessness as to the result of the game. It seems to say - "I feel and look happy because I am going to win; I do not exert myself, because it is not necessary to do so." Harrwitz was always very quick, even with the strongest opponents. I saw him once play a match-game with Anderssen, and he did not take half as much as that quick-sighted player. Even in games upon which considerable stakes depended, he seemed at times less anxious to obtain a victory than to excite admiration by the rapidity of his play. He was not exactly nervous, but extremely restless, and exhibited this feeling throughout the progress of the game in an almost perpetual motion, or sawing up and down with one of his hands. His countenance was highly intellectual, his eyes dark, full, deep-set, and lustrous with varied expression; his head was large and well-shaped; his forehead was high and broad, and looked all the broader on account of the form of his face, which was long and tapered down to his chin. He had, undoubtedly, a genius of the highest order for chess, and it was only his restlessness, springing, no doubt, from delicacy of health, that prevented him from taking his place by the side of the very greatest masters. The indomitable pluck he displayed in his memorable contest with Lowenthal, not merely enhanced his reputation as a player, but rendered him - and very justly too - a hero in the eyes of all who admire the brave spirit which never surrenders. I may here mention, without in any way detracting from the merits of Lowenthal, that in the early part of the match Harrwitz was suffering from severe cold in the head, and it was to get rid of it, not to postpone a defeat which seemed looming in the distance, that he went to Brighton for a week, when the score stood 7 to 2 against him, thereby forfeiting two more games. His match with Staunton of 21 games - 7 even, 7 at pawn and move, and 7 at pawn and two - exhibited fine generalship on both sides, and perhaps contributed more than anything else to increase the reputation of the Englishman. It was, indeed, for him a grand victory; but in justice to Harrwitz it should be remembered that at the time he was a mere youth, unpracticed with masters and unskilled in the odds rendered. An amusing little incident occurred in that contest which I think is worth recording. In one of the games Staunton made a sacrifice whereby he expected to win; but Harrwitz retorted by also sacrificing a piece, and the result was that the Prussian emerged from the scrimmage with a superior game and a pawn ahead. Somewhat chagrined at his discomfiture, Staunton muttered - "Dear me, dear me, I have lost a pawn!" in a voice and with an accent that indicated rather anger towards his opponent for his clever maneuver than blame towards himself for his faulty combination. When he had repeated those words, "I have lost a pawn", several times, Harrwitz rang the bell sharply, and, upon the waiter appearing, he exclaimed -
"William, will you kindly look about the floor for a pawn. Mr. Staunton has just lost one." Harrwitz was a great favorite at the London and St. George's Clubs, where for some years he had lucrative engagements. His obliging disposition, amiable character, and readiness to encounter all opponents in any way worthy of his powers, excited the admiration and gained esteem of all with whom he came into contact. There was, however, a touch of cynicism in his nature, which sometimes gave offence where it was really not intended; but he never intentionally wounded any man, unless circumstances provoked and justified the aggression. Here is an instance of his fun, which has been mistaken for vanity. A gentleman from the provinces one day visited the Divan and got into conversation with Harrwitz. He did not know the Prussian master, but suspected his identity. "And whom," said he, "do you consider the best player who frequents this room?" "Do you see," replied Harrwitz, "that gentleman with yellowish hair, standing near the fireplace?" pointing, as he spoke, to Mr. Williams. "Yes." "Well, he is the best." "Indeed, and how do you play with him?" "Well, I beat him every game." By-the-bye, it is only just to Mr. Williams to state that he certainly owed his ignominious defeat by Harrwitz to a time limit, which was most unfavorable to him against so rapid an opponent. Harrwitz was a clever epigramist. On one occasion, when he was playing a match, annoyed with his opponent, who frequently failed to keep his appointment, and habitually pleaded illness as an excuse for his neglect, Harrwitz observed to him - "Yes, sir, you are always ill; one day you can't play because you are ill; and the next day you are ill because you can't play." About thirteen years ago Harrwitz retired altogether from chess, and left this country to take up his residence at Botzen, in the Tyrolese mountains, where surrounded by some of the loveliest scenery in Europe, and possessing a competent fortune inherited from his father, he enjoys good health, and passes his time in intellectual pursuits, the chess-world forgetting, but not by the chess-world forgotten.