The players in the 3rd All-Russian Championship held in Kiev in Sept. 1903
from the tournament book.
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.
THE KIEV TOURNAMENT OF 1903
by M.S. Evenson
Grekov, Nikolai Ivanovich,
M.I. Chigorin : velikii russkii shakhmatist.
350 izbrannykh partii, biograficheskie materialy, statii, vospominani´i`a
(M.I. Tschigorin: The Great Russian Chessplayer. 350 Selected Games,
Biographical material, Articles, Reminiscences). Moscow:
In 1903, returning to Kiev after a trip abroad, I was
passing through Berlin. There I met with a group of chess players; Teichmann,
Мieses and Cohn. After a countless number of blitz-games, we struck up, over
mugs of beer, a conversation the subject of which became M. I. Tschigorin -
obviously in consideration to me, as a Russian. All of the masters expressed
indebtedness to the genius of Tschigorin, who had struggled with honour against
such glorious champions as Gunsberg, Tarrasch and Steinitz himself.
Teichmann proved to be an especially fervent admirer of Tschigorin, challenging
Mieses's opinion that " Tschigorin lacks the evenness and endurance necessary
for the highest achievements in the field of chess."
- “True”, Mieses declared in the end with a witty
smile, - “I recognize this deficiency in myself also.”
Teichmann asserted that Tschigorin was one of the most brilliant chess players
in the world, that his talent was not inferior to "even Lasker's" and that the
only thing that interfered with his practical successes was this tendency "to
create in each of his games an immortal monument of chess art", not taking into
account either his position in the tournament or match, or the psychologies of
his much more sober, calculating opponents.
-“This feature of Tschigorin's has cost him a large
number of points and still many more half points!” - exclaimed Teichmann towards
the end. – “In fact, your Tschigorin”, he said addressing me, “completely does
not recognize a game as a draw at all, which, however, brings him together with
another brilliant master, his compatriot Janowski.”
On returning to Kiev I found out about the upcoming tournament with Tschigorin
and Schiffers participating.
Tschigorin kept himself aloof during the time of the tournament, was
uncommunicative and was apparently depressed. Few chose to talk with him,
although on the free days he would, now and then, yield to the requests of some
amateurs to play casual games against all-comers. And in these games, where,
naturally, his opponents made more or less serious errors, he manifested so much
brilliance in the exploitation of these mistakes, that the ensuing series of
stupendous sacrifices and, especially, "quiet" pawn moves, that culminated in
the formation of mating nets, caused an indescribable admiration by the
Play took place at the "Bicycle" club, which had no
relation to either cycling - then yet to be conceived as a sport, nor to chess.
A spacious room was allotted for play; which was sufficiently convenient, aside
from the noise from the adjoining rooms where there was conducted gambling over
card games, the main source of the club’s income and the purpose of its
existence. The spectators gathered at the tournament were ridiculously few: I
tried to count them up over the first rounds and seldom achieved a figure
exceeding 30-35 people.
Tschigorin, evidently, felt himself indifferent the
whole time. Having played a game, during which he invariable drank from a bottle
of red wine placed on a special little table, he would pass by the boards of the
other participants of the tournament, silently stopping sometimes for some
minutes near those of Bernstein, Rubinstein, Salwe, less often at Yurevich’s and
then he would depart together with Schiffers.
However, on the first Sunday, during the free day, the
chairman of the Kiev chess society, Plater, arranged a dinner in Tschigorin’s
honour. Among the participants in the tournament who were invited to the dinner
there was, besides Schiffers, if I am not mistaken, only Breev, the former
secretary of chess society; then M. A. Shabelsky, a great chess amateur, and Ya.
Shabelsky who was a medical officer at a frontier zone and had with difficulty
obtained short-term leave in order to be able to come to Kiev to the tournament,
though mainly, as he acknowledged, in order to see Tschigorin.
Shabelsky began to ask M. I. about his impressions from
his encounters with world celebrities at tournaments and in matches. M. I.
dwelled especially on his meetings with Steinitz.
-“He is, undoubtedly, a brilliant chess player and,
what I respect most of all in him, he highly esteemed chess as an art. But at
the same time he personally, when sitting down at a board or writing about
chess, is diverted to its scientific treatment. He himself accepts this duality,
explaining it by the fact that any art should have a scientific foundation.
Well, perhaps, he is right and that’s it, but in fact if a chess player
appearing in competitions, is constantly distracted by thoughts about these
foundations then when exactly will he give the same knowledge? The struggles
with him across the chessboard forced me endure minutes of the greatest
enjoyment, and periods of depression, Steinitz is, undoubtedly, one of greatest
chess players who has appeared until now; but I personally do not like his
exaggerated dogmatism. I wanted to demonstrate in my struggles against him that
it is possible to oppose his exaggeratedly solid positions with elements more
characteristic of art: the personal treatment of a position, intuition,-fantasy,
ultimately. This did not succeed for me, at least, it did not succeed
completely. Our three matches gave Steinitz 20 points against my 16. But is the
whole matter really about points? I consider that Steinitz and I represent
simply two different directions in our art. And if it did not sound like an
exaggeration, I would have said that he reminds me of Salieri, whereas I would
like to be Mozart.”
- “Well, and the others? Tarrasch, Janowski, Lasker?” -
- “Tarrasch – He is a follower of Steinitz, however he
is more flexible, less persisting in the once-and-for-all mastered dogmas. And
he is therefore a more dangerous opponent in practical play. Janowski is closer
to me: he is more often guided by intuition. I rate Janowski very highly and I
am enraptured by many of his games. His talent is luminous, brilliant, but,
unfortunately, his play sometimes, as if suddenly, becomes colourless and grows
dim… Perhaps it is simply fatigue or weakness of nerves... However, as far as
Lasker is concerned, he, in my opinion, represents a third direction: he
considers chess mainly as a fight. And his weapons are diverse. Lasker will
still be a terror for the most talented opponents for a long time. Here
Tarrasch, who does not care for Lasker, found the time somehow to calculate how
many games he [Lasker] had won which were "presented" to him by his opponents.
At one Nuremberg tournament, by Tarrasch’s calculation, Lasker was obliged to
"Luck" for no more and no less than five whole points! True, from these five won
games he really stood to lose in three of them. In particular, I had a won game
against Lasker, which I spoiled, after moving my queen away out of play. But
who, besides Lasker, could have planned a dangerous attack on my kingside with
such small means as remained at his disposal? … No, all this is nonsense.
Neither luck nor hypnotism explain Lasker’s strength. He has the temperament of
a champion and enormous talent. Steinitz wants to make from chess a science, I –
an art, Lasker – a fight or, if you like, a sport...”
Then the conversation passed to the participants in the
tournament. We wanted to know M.I.’s opinion of the Russian chess players
present. Tschigorin expressed himself in very flattering terms about Rubinstein.
He briefly spoke about Bernstein, that he promised much. About Yurevich he
answered that as a chess player he undoubtedly had talent, but "I sense from
him”, said M. I., “that he will not love chess".
He especially noted Duz-Chotimirsky as a talented, but
still unbalanced chess player, from whom much could be developed, "if he does
not go crazy"...
I do not consider it superfluous to give one episode,
which occurred several days before the dinner at Plater’s. I went to the club
prior to the beginning of the next round and, having passed through the buffet
of the club, I saw Tschigorin in a corner behind a small table and bent toward
him and speaking of something in lively undertones was one of the participants
in the tournament, NN. Suddenly M. I. jumped up and almost yelled:
-“So then, tell your Maecenas 1,
not to send such offers to Tschigorin”.*
[* In order to make this
small episode intelligible, it is necessary to explain that the "Maecenas"
who is spoken of here is "His Highness the Prince" Dadian of Mingrelia, who
sold his “ancestral land” of Mingrelia to the Tsar for a lump sum and a
lifetime pension of 12.000 rubles, he coveted the glory of the great chess
players by preserving many dozens of games, won by him from or drawn with
very important European and Russian chess players. He never lost at all
(according to him). I had been told then, and earlier, that very many of
these games had simply been “bought”. NN played for Dadian, obviously, the
role of an adjutant, who had ventured, apparently to make some dirty
proposal to M. I. Tschigorin and received the proper rebuff, which explains
M.I.’s last sentence. It should be added that Dadian of Mingrelia, who had
made himself into a chess Maecenas, in reality he limited his bounties to
fattening up corrupt chessplayers like NN, but when Plater attempted to
obtain from him even a comparatively small sum as a donation to the
tournament, he encountered a flat refusal. - M. E.
(The incident described is of considerable interest, since protagonist is
the same "His Highness” Prince Dadian of Mingrelia, who gained for himself
notoriety by causing the greatest indignation of all chess world by his
disgraceful actions against Tschigorin at the international tournament at
Monte Carlo in the beginning of 1902(sic) (see pg. 309)-N.G.]
What remains in my memory still is
the statement by M.I. Tschigorin in the presence of Shabelsky, Kulomzin,
Nikolayev and some more, it appears, of the participants of the tournament about
the position of chess art in Russia. M.I. bitterly lamented the fact that it was
not possible to find the means for the publication of a genuine, special chess
periodical. With unconcealed contempt he talked about our Maecenas’s, who were
ready "to condescend" and slap you on the arm, but became deaf when it was
necessary to give several hundred rubles to a chess publication. Neither the
column in "Niva" nor the one in "Novoye Vremya" satisfied Tschigorin:
They are assigned little space (advertising brings in the income, and chess is
only an excess expenditure...); the publisher of "Niva", Marx, seriously
demonstrated to Tchigorin, that the rebus occupied a higher place than chess:
the former interested tens of thousands of readers, and the latter - hundreds
(certainly, not a thousand...). "Here is a pile of reader's letters concerning
the rebus!" - the publisher triumphantly pointed out.
- “Under such circumstances it is difficult to make
something for our art”- concluded Tschigorin. – “All right, I already cannot
personally achieve the aims of my striving, but even if it is possible for me to
leave after myself ten others absorbed by our art today, from them will come
hundreds and thousands.”
Everything that I could recall in connection with
Tschigorin, whose name is dear to me, ends at this. It is insulting that this
great talent had to live all his life in conditions when communication between
the hundreds and thousands of chess players was a Utopia, and the present chess
periodical was an inaccessible ideal. And it was necessary for the Great October
Socialist Revolution, so that, among other arts, chess could also become one of
the levers of culture, covering not hundreds nor thousands, but millions of
organized chess players. How happy Tschigorin would be if he could see the
Post-Revolutionary blossoming of our fine art!
1. Gaius Maecenas (Maecēnas,
Mæcenas) was a wealthy Roman diplomat whom some classicists believe was either
the father or grandfather of that greatest of Roman orators, Marcus Tulius
Cicero. Although he had been criticized by some of his contemporaries for his
extravagant lifestyle, he is chiefly remembered today for his support of
the poets Propertius, Horace and Virgil. As such, his name is synonymous with
"Patron of the Arts."