Some outtakes of my second book

Some outtakes of my second book

FM like-a-hurricane
Nov 25, 2017, 6:54 AM |

A few days ago I received the first batch of proofs of my manuscript which will quite soon result in the publication of my second book, Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle. 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

In September 2015 - around the time when I delivered my manuscript on H.E. Bird to McFarland, i got in touch with Fabrizio Zavatarelli, the author of a biography on Ignaz Kolisch (a truly grand attacking player, whose games you should definitely check out!!), published by McFarland as well. A highly enthusiastic exchange of e-mails began and soon we were talking about each others projects. It turned out that Fabrizio had been working on Philip Hirschfeld and Berthold Suhle, two little known yet very, very strong players who were active mainly in Berlin around 1860 - though Hirschfeld continued to play later in England as well where he was a close friend and inspirator of Zukertort. During my research I had been busy with some side projects as well - one of these being Gustav Richard Ludwig Neumann. Neumann was an extremely strong player, who also played a lot in Berlin in the 1860s - so there definitely existed a link between these three men, who also knew each other well, though didn't play that much against each other. I had talked about the Neumann idea with McFarland but, much to my surprise, they considered him too small a subject. But with Hirschfeld and Suhle on board a much more voluminous work would become viable - and so off we went. As much research and even writing had been done already, the manuscript was ready around May this year and subsequently delivered.

I invite the reader to have a look at the games and careers of Hirschfeld and Suhle (i.e. at chessgames), but here I will mainly talk about Neumann.

As said, he was a formidable player, though quite forgotten these days. And unjustly so. When in 1901 Charles Devidé published a small biography and games collection on Steinitz, he noticed an important parallel in his introduction between Paul Morphy, Steinitz and Neumann. Not only were they extremely strong players - at some time even the best in the world (for Neumann this can be discussed) - they also perished in dreadful circumstances, and all three suffered from severe mental troubles towards the end of their lives (or longer, certainly this is so for Morphy and Neumann).

Much about Neumann has been written by Paul Seuffert - a minor master whose fate ran remarkably similar to Neumann's. Recently Michael Negele wrote about both in very good articles for the German Chess Association. His position as a chess historian is outstanding (he worked on Lasker, but there is also a great biography of his on Paul Felix Schmidt) - and I am greatly honored that he was willing to write the foreword for this book. You should certainly check out Michael's articles, the link to one of these being HERE.

Neumann was an extremely fanatic chess player, as will become clear to those who'll read my book. Until 1867 he played in Berlin and outclassed all others. Then he went to live in France for three years. In 1867 he scored a mediocre result at Paris, but next beat Winawer with 3-0. Kolisch and Steinitz avoided a direct confrontation. A bit later in Dundee he won, ahead of Steinitz, though the latter won greatly in their game with the Steinitz Gambit - played for the first time. In 1870 Neumann ought easily have won the Baden-Baden tournament - the very first absolute top tournament - but two losses against Steinitz, and certainly the way in which one of these came into being, crushed him and made him lose 2-3 points against weaker players. Mental problems were already obvious then, and two years later he disappeared from the chess scene, being confined to mental asylums not much later. He died there in 1881.

Negele's article talks about Neumann's life in detail, but more has been discovered and can be found in Fabrizio and my book. Hirschfeld and Suhle have been completely unsearched till now - so there is a lot to be found about them as well.

If you look for Neumann on the internet, you'll find one picture that is quite well-known, him wearing a hat. During my research I found another one, of much better quality, that I consider the crown jewel of my research and which I would like to share with you here.

null (G.R. Neumann, 1867)

I learned about Neumann from the great Anderssen biography by Von Gottschall. They played a huge number of fascinating games against each other. But I was always most impressed by Neumann's win against Steinitz at the Paris 1867 tournament. It is an incredible game, and I'll give it here with condensed notes.

But first a word from Neumann himself in which circumstances he played this epic struggle that lasted 11 hours.

[The game] began around three o’clock of a very sultry afternoon. A violent storm burst soon after, but we [Neumann and Steinitz], spirited by true enthusiasm for chess, do not realize both the raging of nature and the hour of sunset, which we let pass with poor refreshment.” [Schachzeitung, November 1869, p. 326]