Leipzig 1888. A Forgotten Tournament and How Tarrasch Actually Wrote!
von Bardeleben, Tarrasch and Mieses. Dresden 1892.

Leipzig 1888. A Forgotten Tournament and How Tarrasch Actually Wrote!


Afternoon chess history lovers. Back with another look at an old forgotten tournament, with a little added bonus in that you get to see how the much maligned Siegbert Tarrasch actually wrote.

Yep, you will have read about Tarrasch's writings without actually having seen them. His 300 Chessgames was the bible for the next generation of Masters. One of the most important works in the history of chess. Hands up anyone who actually has a copy!! If you have, let me know in the comments. I would find that interesting.

So, Leipzig 1888. For a period of 10 years or so, Tarrasch was the killing machine of the chess tournament world. He was utterly dominant. This little German Masters tournament was his one failure, and a pretty big failure at that. Imagine Carlsen coming in 7th out of 8 in a tournament without many of the World elite. Yep, it was that shocking!!

Only the tragic figurer of Johannes Minkwitz finished below him. It should have been the greatest result of Fritz Riemann's career, until the madness of the last round saw him lose sole first place.

To start, let's give Tarrasch's account of the event from 300 Chessgames. ( As usual, the translations here from German are my own - non-literal - efforts to capture the spirit of the original writings. )

'' Not long after the Nuremberg Congress the famous chess club Augustea sponsored a national master's tournament to mark it's 40th anniversary On this occasion eight Masters were invited. v. Bardeleben, Mieses, Minkwitz, Wilfried Paulsen, Riemann, v. Scheve, Schottlaender and I.

Quite  a surprise was caused by the success  in this tournamentof  Riemann, previously perhaps not in the first rank of the German Masters. Through the splendid skill and elegance of his attacking play; he won 5 games, made one draw and lost one; this last game because he would not accept the draw offered by his opponent Mieses, although that would have given him first prize.. So he had to share first and second prizes, 250 and 150 marks, with v. Bardeleben,

Curt von Bardeleben. Chess Monthly 1888.

who also managed 5 1/2 points.

The 3rd prize, 100marks, went to Mieses with 41/2. who reinforced the good impression he had made at Nuremberg.The 4th prize, 80 marks, went to v.Sheve, who had begun with 2 losses, but continued without defeat,  before earning 4 points.

I myself played poorly in this tournament, finishing above only one of the other masters, losing 5 games and winning just 2.....

....My poor result did not seem to come as a surprise to either the other masters, or the public, who believed that I had simply performed to my real standard for the first time.

Later Schottlaender, with his normal cynical sense of humour, refferred to me as 'the master of short duration'.

I came to the realisation that my result was not down to my lack of playing strength, but rather to my failure to actually play at that level of strength.  Underestimating my opponents, and overestimating my own strength, that was what resulted in my failure. I believed that i just had to arrive at the board, make some moves, and I would win. I failed to concentrate fully on my games. This same overestimating of my strength also resulted in a contempt for a drawn result., even in uncomfortable positions, such as in my game against von. Scheve.

Traces of this unfortunate way of thinking had already surfaced in earlier tournaments,( for example my game with Gunsberg in Hamburg)  quite apart from from the event in Nuremberg some months before this tournament. There, despite this shortcoming, I was able to win first prize. So, I felt myself to be almost 'invincible'.

Now I realized that it is not enough to be a good player, but that one must also play well.

I was rather depressed by this poor performance, but I went home, and during the Winter I tripled the size of my medical practice.''

The Young Tarrasch.

 O.K., best get to some chess! I have chosen a few games and put annotations to them. The notes to Tarrasch's games are from 300 games. Any additional input of my own marked S.

Most are not in the databases, and are culled from Deutsche Schachzeitung and, of course, via the incredible Tony Gillam - a man after my own heart. If, in these strange times, you get a few days to yourself or on holiday, invest a tiny sum in one of his books and sit yourself down with a chess set for a few hours. Lets support these guys who work so hard to bring us lost and neglected material.

The Tournament was on the usual 2 games a day schedule of these events. The interesting pairing of the first Round was Mieses Tarrasch - a repeat of the game at Nuremberg with the same colours where Mieses won a wonderful game using Louis Paulsen's system in the Vienna.

Tarrasch's second game of the day is the best illustration of his attitude as expressed in his summary of the event. His opponent was in his late 50's at the time, I think, and never in the same class as his more illustrious brother, but he was not to be messed with in the way Tarrasch does here.

Wilfried Paulsen. various sources.
W. Paulsen and Minkwitz. Barmen 1869.
Fritz Riemann. Deutsches Schachblatter 1925.
Schottlaender. Dresden 1892. crop.

And on to the final round. Riemann needed just a draw to secure first prize - regardless of what else happened. As an old style - by then - member of the Anderssen school, he wasn't having any of the cowardly 'take a draw and the prize money' stuff. As with his mentor it was a case of 'you don't deserve anything gained by sneaking in the back door and stealing it - break down the front door and take it'. The game, with his comments at the critical moments via Tony Gillam.

Whilst all that was happening, Curt von Bardeleben

A picture of von Bardeleben inn his later years. Kagan's Neue Schachnachriften. 1924.

was doing battle with the out of sorts Siegbert Tarrasch. It must have been hard to concentrate! ( particularly for someone of his somewhat unstable temperament)
However, a win would secure at least second prize.

Well, like many, at one time my knowledge of him was very limited - I knew his famous loss to Steinitz at Hastings 1895, of course ( it is hardly well publicised that he was very much in the running for first place before the game, and then collapsed completely after it) and a loss late on to Alekhine. It was only later that i came to know that he was a very strong player in his own right, as well as an important theoretician and - as at the time of this tournament - the editor of Deutsche Schachzeitung.

)Prior to that, another of the players here - Johannes Minkwitz - had been editor for around 20 years, and prior to that the great Anderssen himself, amongst others)

One of those players to whom history has been unfair, casting him in the role of 'strictly the opponent'.

A tough fight ensued, and in the end it was von Bardeleben who's nerves held out the best - albeit only just.

As noted, von Bardeleben and Riemann played a quick play off draw at some point - if it was on the last day, time may well have been pressing - and shared first place.
To close, a couple of nice pictures that I did not fit in elsewhere.

Arnold Schottlaender. W.S. 1909. page 307.
A famous image of Tarrasch - this version via wikiwand because it was easy!!