THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                       JOHN JACOB LOWENTHAL

 

 

Jßnos Jakab L÷wenthal

 


     John Jacob Lowenthal (or Johann Loewenthal or L÷wenthal) was born in the twin city of Buda-Pesth (now Budapest), Hungary, in July 15, 1810. L÷wenthal claimed he first got interested in chess after spending some time in a Pesth cafÚ watch a crowd gather around a certain table after 4:00 pm to watch a certain player make his moves. The player was Joszef SzÚn, an archivist for the city of Pesth. SzÚn didn't particularly care for stakes and would play for a nominal amout of about a zwangziger or a sevenpence piece. He also didn't like odds games and played everyone of even terms. Known to be a slow, boring, analytical player, SzÚn considered the opening and middle game as just something to get through in order to reach the endgame where he excelled. L÷wenthal was impressed by the attention SzÚn commanded and started studying whatever chess books he could find. When he felt confident enough, he started playing SzÚn daily, receiving no odds of course. After playing SzÚn for 18 months and never winning a game, SzÚn had business out of town for a few months. L÷wenthal practiced until SzÚn returned and, upon his return, convinced him to give Pawn and move odds and L÷wenthal which beat SzÚn every game. Playing again even, L÷wenthal lost most of the games, but not all and over a period of time the distance between them decreased. A third player joined them. This was Vincent Grimm, a music publisher and pianist. These three,  Buda-Pesth's strongest players, formed the Pesth Chess Club (which included, among others, J. Oppenheim and the Zenner brothers). Aaron AlexandrÚ, (a one-time Turk operator, born in Hohenfeld, Bavaria. 1766), came to Pesth trying to sell his EncyclopÚdie des Echecs. He played the Pesth triumvirate, and lost. AlexandrÚ convinced them to challenge Le Cercle des Echecs, members of the Paris Chess Club (including St. Amant, Chamouillet, Calvi, Devinck and LaRoche - both Lionel Kieseritsky and Deschapelles were originally on the team but dropped out) to a correspondence match. The match stakes were 1,250 francs per side and the 2 game match lasted from 1842 and 1846, resulting in the shocking score of 2-0 in favor of Pesth who introduced the Hungarian Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7)  for the first time. This gave L÷wenthal the fame and attention he craved.

While traveling to Paris, L÷wenthal played against many of the Le Cercle des Echecs members in person. He played a match with Hofrat Hampe (1814-1876), winning 2-1. He traveled to Breslau and played Adolf Anderssen, whose chess career was just beginning, and beat him in the majority of off-hand games. Then, in Berlin, he played the Pleiade members: Heyderbrandt, Bledow, Bilguer, Hanstein, Mayet, H÷rwitz and Mendheim. He played even with Hanstein and beat Mayet. Heyderbrandt beat L÷wenthal and Bledow, who was stronger than all but Heyderbrandt, while beating L÷wenthal, gave him a draw to help L÷wenthal's reputation.

Grimm had left Pesth a political refugee. L÷wenthal is said to have left for political reasons, but it doesn't seem to have been anything urgent.

He left for the U.S. and arrived in New York December 29, 1849 and played Charles Stanley who was considered the U.S. champion. He won the match with Stanley and one with Mr. Turner. Turner accompanied L÷wenthal to Kentucky where, in Lexington, he played and won a match with Colonel Dudley, considered the strongest player in the west. On April 10, 1850 L÷wenthal traveled to Cincinnati, arriving on the 16th, where he met another Hungarian, Colonel Pragay who, in turn, traveled with L÷wenthal to New Orleans on May 10, carrying with them a letter of introduction to EugÚne Rousseau (the man Stanley had beaten to become the recognized U.S. champion). On arriving in New Orleans, L÷wenthal had taken ill but upon recovering he called on Rousseau and first learned about Paul Morphy. Although Paul was only 12, L÷wenthal agreed to play him a few games. The games were played on  May 27 (May 22nd and 25th according to the Book of the First American Chess Congress - Morphy won 2 and drew 1) and with Morphy winning all three. While L÷wenthal was surprised at the outcome and recognized Paul's talent, he couldn't conceive just how strong his small opponent would become.

L÷wenthal returned to Cincinnati with the idea of becoming a western pioneer. His friends discouraged him from such an unlikely occupation and helped set him up as a proprietor of a smoking and chess divan with showed promise of become quite successful. But about this time, L÷wenthal received a personal invitation from Staunton to come to England and participate in the tournament to be played there in 1851.

London 1851 was a knock-out tournament and L÷wenthal got knocked-out in the first round by Elija Williams. But after the tournament, L÷wenthal beat Williams in a match. L÷wenthal stayed in England (too embarrassed to return to the U.S. and facing his backers after losing in the first round of the tournament). Then in 1852, L÷wenthal experienced an unexpected loss to Harrwitz in a match where the winner needed 11 wins. L÷wenthal led the match 9-2 and ended up losing 10-11. That match tried to introduce a fixed time per move - 20 minutes in this case, monitored by a sand clock and enforced by a fine.  At the Manchester tournament of 1857,  L÷wenthal took first place ahead of Anderssen. Also in 1857, L÷wenthal designed the first demonstration board. In August of 1858, a week after his lost to Morphy, Lowenthal won the British Chess Association meeting at Birmingham.

In 1862  L÷wenthal organized two separate and important events. The first was the first chess study/composing  tournament (won by H÷rwitz);
then, in June, L÷wenthal organized  Second International Chess Tournament in London.
 

L÷wenthal was elected secretary of St. George's after it moved to St. James Street in 1853. Then in 1854 he was given a chess column in the Era newspaper which he edited until 1857. In 1857 L÷wenthal was elected  president of the St. James's Chess Club. He wrote a chess column for beginners in the Family Herald and in 1858 also had a column in the Illustrated News of the World that lasted until 1876. In 1860 he published Morphy's Games of Chess, with Analytical and Critical Notes. He, along with Ernst Falkbeer, edited Chess Players' Magazine from 1863 to 1867. He edited or assisted with several tournament books such as The Chess Congress of 1862. A Collection of The Games Played and a Selection of the Problems sent in for competition and The Book of the First American Chess Congress. In 1867-1869, he published Transactions of the British Chess Association.

L÷wenthal was Jewish, but was converted to Catholicism through the influence of a fellow chess player W. G. Ward.

John Jacob Lowenthal  died in Hastings July 21, 1876

 

Lowenthal vs. Morphy 1850

 


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