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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Andrei Davidovich Dadiani

A Different Perspective          

Translated from an article published in the June 20, 1997 issue of
Zerkalo Nedeli (A Ukrainian newspaper published weekly in Kiev)

by Ippolit Gamsakhurdia

In 1903 in Kiev there appeared a collection by the well-known Petersburg chessmaster E. Schiffers; "The Endgames of Prince Dadian of Mingrelia”. The compiler included two beautifully won consultation games of Andrei Dadian and Mikhail Chigorin, played by them against the well-known French chess-player Arnous de Rivière.

But who exactly was this Prince Dadian, to whom the Petersburg master had paid such attention? And why precisely was the book issued in Kiev?

Here is the story behind this. After the final subjugation of the Caucasus, Russia took the families of the former local tsars and
landowners to Petersburg for a "proper" education. And so, it is a widely known fact that in 1859 the family of rebellious
Chechen-Daghestan Imam Shamil was brought to Petersburg. Therefore it is not surprising that the family of the deceased landowner the Megreli Prince David Dadian was also to be found in Petersburg. The wife of David, Ekaterina Chavchavadze-Dadian, the daughter of the Lieutenant General and romantic poet Aleksandr Chavchavadze, sent their young son Andrei to Heidelberg University (in Germany), where he graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1874. Then Andrei entered into the service of the Russian army. There he himself rose to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Andrei Dadian had an interest in chess in his blood, since in Tbilisi at the house of Aleksandr Chavchavadze (Andrei’s grandfather) gathered the progressive intelligentsia of Europe, who entertained themselves with playing chess. Furthermore, David Dadian (Andrei’s father) himself, having received his upbringing in Europe, knew this ancient game well.

In 1895, the 45-year old Lieutenant-General retired and left Petersburg. In the same year he moved to Kiev, and settled in one of the local private residences and occupied himself with playing chess.

It has been recorded in a mass of publications that in his retirement the Lieutenant General Dadian invited chess players to his home. Furthermore, it was frequently possible to see him playing at the then well-known gathering place of amateur chess amateurs, - "the Warsaw Cafe", where, by the way, the prominent Ukrainian dramatist Mikhaylo Staritzky loved to play.

A. Dadian left a significant mark on the history of game of chess. It is sufficient to say that in 1982 the English journal "Chess
Monthly", completely dedicated its June-July number to Andrei Dadian's biography. The periodical printed his photograph, several games and even one problem.

For the purpose of the study of the biography of my renowned compatriot I began to search for documents about him, and my efforts did not prove to be futile. In 1950, ¹11 of the journal "Chess in the USSR" was completely dedicated to the century after the birth of Mikhail Chigorin, a contemporary of A. Dadian. In this number of the periodical there was included the recollections of Master Fedor Duz-Chotimirsky about Chigorin, where we read:

"In 1902[sic] the III All-Russian Championship of Chessplayers took place in Kiev. At that time in Kiev resided the Prince Dadian of  Mingrelia. Before the arrival of Chigorin here, there was a small incident between the Chessplayers' Club and the Mingrelian Prince. Representatives of the club had published in one of the Kiev newspapers a game won by them. Dadian perceived this as a big insult and challenged all the managers of the club to a duel, which, however, did not take place. Two days after this incident Mikhail Chigorin arrived in Kiev. Prince Dadian invited the honoured guest to his home. Frightened by the rumours about the incident, Chigorin did not visit the Georgian lieutenant-general and well-known chess player. According to Georgian custom, the refusal of an invitation is perceived as a great insult. The proud Prince decided to stand up for his honour. And here there arose a convenient opportunity. In 1903 in Monte Carlo there was set an international tournament, at which Andrei Dadian himself presided. He also financed the committee that conducted the tournament. At the meeting of the participants A. Dadian came forward with the demand that Chigorin be excluded. If this did not occur, he would refuse the presidency and would take back his money. The committee was compelled to agree with the president. M. Chigorin was excluded from tournament ."

These actions may look unjustified from our position today, but it is necessary to discount historical realities and national customs. In 1953 Duz-Chotimirsky published his memoirs "Selected Games" where he again speaks negatively about Dadian:

" Dadian as a general, - writes the author of the memoirs, - could not participate in official games, therefore he invited strong players to his home and played with them there. Personally I, a 23-year old fellow, was often there, and stayed to have dinner. Once we played a match, - he continues the narration, - of 12 games from which Dadian won only 3, losing the rest. In one game, it is true, he won beautifully. Dadian had the habit of sending a good game with his own notes to Paris, to the journal "La Strategie", where he had many friends. This game he won was, of course, immediately sent there. The magazine soon published it. I was outraged. The
Mingrelian Prince himself was also dissatisfied. " I did not send it in this form ", - he said. Friends did not give me any rest, - further writes Duz-Chotimirsky, - insisting that I also have published the most beautiful game won by me from the Prince in the newspaper. And so that game appeared in the press … "

Investigating the different kinds of evidence of people who knew A. Dadian, I was convinced, that Duz-Chotimirsky somewhat preconceivedly describes the Prince's nature.

Andrei Dadian was frequently selected as President of large tournaments. He knew personally many outstanding chess players; he corresponded with the world champions W. Steinitz and E. Lasker. Periodicals, especially "La Stratégie" (France), frequently published games with the annotations of the Georgian Prince. Andrei Dadian highly valued combinations; therefore he had a habit of offering prizes for beautiful games. It must be noted that Prince himself did not participate in official tournaments, since it was not acceptable at that time for such high ranking people to do this.

Several periodicals and the newspapers wrote about Prince Andrei Dadian's personality, although this did not greatly please some Russian journalists. Thus, the International Arbiter Tengiz Georgadze published an article about Andrei Dadian in the special bulletin dedicated to the Tbilisi semi-final (1956, 24th All-Union Championship), which became the cause for attacks on its author. In particular, Georgadze underwent criticism in the journal "Chess in the USSR" ("Shakhmatny in the USSR") [#7, 1957]. Also sharply opposed to it was the International Master V. Panov, who in "Chess in the USSR" [#11, 1962] wrote an article by the name of "Attention! Prince!” The well-known historian of chess and the first Soviet Master, Peter Romanovsky, gave an answer to Panov, and supported T. Georgadze with the words: "Do not pay attention, they do not know history, continue your research."

In 1972 the publishing house "Soviet Georgia" released Tengiz Georgadze's book "Play Andrei Dadian", which became an
adornment of the home libraries of many amateurs of the game of chess.

In this book we find much interesting information about Prince Dadian. The author writes that contemporary publishers frequently printed the combinations of Prince Dadian, sometimes even without mentioning their author. So, for example, in 1955 the well-known chess player Alexander Koblenz in his book included a beautiful game, without knowing, between whom it was played. When he was asked about its "authors", he answered: "I do not know, it took it from some German periodical". A. Dadian played this game in West Georgia in 1887 at the house of a local priest, Fedor Khoshtari. Alexander Koblenz corrected his "error" in 1962, when he republished the book.

Of course, Dadian's circle of the acquaintances was not limited only to chess players. The Prince had close relations with many representatives of the progressive intelligentsia; in particular with the writer Turgenev, he was friends with the cultural figures of Kiev of those days. Thus, he had friendly relations with the sugar-refinery owner Lazarus Brodsky, and with Kiev's provincial architect Gennadi Antonovsky, whom he knew from Petersburg. A. Dadian frequently invited them to his home or to the "Warsaw cafe".

In 1898 Dadian together with his compatriot, the merchant and folklorist, Peter Anchabadze, were present at a solemn opening ceremony of a choral synagogue of Lazarus Brodsky at what is presently Shota Rustavelli Street. A puzzled question is possible - What did this, seemingly, single-faith event have to do with the Georgian prince? But Dadian participated in the opening the synagogue because he deeply respected Lazarus Brodsky whose philanthropy and charity were not limited to one nation.

In 1910 Andrei Dadian died, not having left any descendants.

Andrei's sister, Salome Dadian, the wife of a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte, Achille Murat, placed on the epitaph of her
brother a piece of marble with the inscription:  "This marble gravestone was put here by me, the sister of Andrei, Princess Salome Murat."

The services this knight of the game of chess rendered to his native land and a wide circle of amateurs of the sport have been
preserved only in memoirs, which it would be desirable to see republished

                   Salome Dadiani