The great New York tournament was, of course, the event of the year, but what else happened in the chess world in 1924?
In a sense the answer is: surprisingly little. For Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine, New York, 1924 was their sole formal appearance. Indeed, it was Capablanca’s only serious chess between August 1922 and November 1925. The Immortal Trio did, however, offer a number of simultaneous exhibitions. Here too Capablanca was the least prolific, giving just a handful, in the United States. Alekhine had preceded the New York tournament with an extensive tour of the US, also venturing into Canada, and Lasker’s 1924 displays were held in the Soviet Union, the USA, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Holland. Alekhine’s uncustomary inactivity – or, better say, quiescence – throughout the rest of 1924 is largely explained by a commitment to annotating all the games from the New York tournament. His book was published in German, English and Russian editions in 1925, and a Spanish version came out just after the Second World War. Rarely indeed has a tournament book appeared in so many languages.
The year had begun – as years still do – with the Christmas/New Year Congress at Hastings, an event won by a relative newcomer, the 22-year-old Max Euwe, with a score of +7 –1 =1, half a point ahead of a relative oldgoer, Géza Maróczy. It was Maróczy who scored the draw, and Euwe’s loss was at the hands of the Belgian Edgard Colle. On page 23 of Fifty-One Brilliant Chess Masterpieces, a Colle anthology published in 1950, Reinfeld wrote, ‘With this game the fiery elegance of Colle’s attacking play became known to the chess world’. Although it was not a particularly strong line-up at Hastings, Mieses, then 59, came two places from the bottom.
On 31 January Curt von Bardeleben, desperately impoverished, committed suicide by throwing himself out of the second-floor window of his residence in Berlin. Nowadays he is seldom mentioned except for his loss to Steinitz at Hastings, 1895, a game which Napier nominated as the finest ever played, and it is all but forgotten that in the same event von Bardeleben defeated the then world champion, Lasker. His many brief matches included wins and draws against masters of the standing of Blackburne, Teichmann, Spielmann and Leonhardt, but today it is almost as if they had never been played.
The day after von Bardeleben’s demise came the death of the ‘Queen of Chess’, Mrs W.J. Baird of England. Her obituary on page 125 of the March 1924 BCM estimated that she had composed over 2,000 problems, in addition to being ‘a valiant opponent over the board’ and an accomplished archer.
Mrs W.J. Baird
The Merano tournament (4-22 February – the tournament immortalized by the Meran Variation) was won by Ernst Grünfeld, well ahead of Spielmann and Rubinstein. The ageing Tarrasch could do no better than finish tenth out of 14 players, but he captured the brilliancy prize for his defeat of Colle. Grünfeld is another master whose accomplishments have yet to be given their full due. The first phase of his career (1911-1920) was well covered by Michael Ehn in a monograph from the Wiener Schachverlag in 1993, but no sequel has yet been published, and to many players nowadays Grünfeld is just an opening and not a human being.
By 1924 hypermodernism was close to its peak, with the openings propaganda war in full swing. Tartakower’s Die hypermoderne Schachpartie had started to appear the previous year, and the January 1924 Wiener Schachzeitung (pages 5-12) offered the rare spectacle of two leading theoreticians, Grünfeld and Tartakower, debating its analysis. Grünfeld himself wrote a book in 1924, Die Damenbauereröffnung und das Damengambit, but it would seem to have had little impact. (Confusingly, another 1924 book was Das Damengambit und Damenbauerspiel by K. Emmrich. Its impact, if any, is even less evident.) After 1 d4 d5 Grünfeld’s practice at this time was to give an exclamation mark to 2 c4, claiming (Deutsche Schachzeitung, September 1924, page 209) that ‘2 Nf3 Nf6 3 c4! c5! 4 cxd5’ was weaker for White, and, in fact, gave Black equality. At all levels of the chess world it was proving a struggle to come to terms with the newfangled openings. The game Torre v Jennings, New York, 1924 began 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 b6 4 e4 Bb7 5 Bd3 Bg7, prompting C.S. Howell to remark (American Chess Bulletin, December 1924, page 217): ‘Chess rules need revision, indeed, if Black must resort to the double “fianshutyourpiecesin” defense.’
Not that all theoreticians were solely concerned with openings theory. The March Wiener Schachzeitung (pages 77-78) reported that Réti had profited from a visit to Saragossa to undertake a little detective work, investigating the well-publicized claim that José Juncosa y Molina had set a world record by playing 32 blindfold games simultaneously and winning 29 of them. In the Berliner Börsen-Courier Réti filed his report; Juncosa had actually played five games. The other 27 opponents had signed up but not turned up.
After the New York tournament Réti went to South America and later in the year, playing hors concours, won the third Argentine National Tournament in Buenos Aires, finishing no fewer than four and a half points ahead of Roberto Grau. The ebullient Boris Kostić toured Australia and South Africa.
In early April Euwe won a match in Zutphen (Holland) against Colle (+5 –3 =0) and later the same month returned to Britain to win the Weston-super-Mare tournament, in front of Sir George Thomas and Znosko-Borovsky. Although it was a ten-man all-play-all event, there were three days when two rounds were played, thereby enabling the contest to be completed within a week. Euwe was also becoming a prolific writer, mainly in Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond, where an increasing number of annotated games ended with ‘M.E.’.
Meanwhile the June 1924 BCM went badly astray by reporting the death of the French problemist Gustave Lazard, its claim being based on a simple misunderstanding. In fact, Lazard (perhaps one should say Lazarus) lived on until 30 November 1948, as recorded by L’Echiquier de Paris, January-February 1949, page 6. His younger, more famous brother Frédéric predeceased him by 12 days.
Frédéric (left) and Gustave Lazard
The name of the 18-year-old Vera Menchik started to be seen more often in chess periodicals, and page 273 of the July 1924 BCM commented that her style was ‘a demonstration both of her own talent and of the benefit she has derived from Maróczy’s coaching’. Just three years later she won the women’s world championship, a title she retained until her death in 1944.
Mieses and Teichmann shared first prize in a small Leipzig tournament (27 June-1 July), each winning all his games apart from the draw in their individual encounter. Another event that summer was the Paris Olympic Tournament in July. Participants in the complex set-up included Colle, Duchamp, Euwe, Mattison, Rey Ardid and Rueb, and the top honours, together with the not altogether prestigious title of ‘Amateur World Champion’, went to Mattison. The whole tournament was despatched in just one week. Bringing up the rear in national terms were Russia and Yugoslavia, but this was because they were represented by only one player and two players respectively. A book on the tourney, containing 258 games, was published by M.A. Lachaga in Argentina, but not until nearly 50 years later.
Paris, 1924 also marked the foundation of the Fédération Internationale des Echecs, with the appointment of the above-mentioned Alexander Rueb of The Hague as its President. Initially there were 15 signatories to FIDE: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. The Lachaga book reprinted the document which established the organization, whose statutory aims were expressed as follows:
‘La Fédération Internationale des Echecs aura pour but le développement de l’art des échecs, comme jeu universel, de propager l’idée d’entente entre les fédérations, de favoriser toute démonstration internationale relative au jeu d’échecs.’
With the ink scarcely dry on these noble generalities, the politicking began. Deutsches Wochenschach wanted to know what would be done about countries with a strong racial minority which had formed an independent chess association, such as the German Chess Association in Czechoslovakia. The ‘Olympic Tournament’ itself had provoked controversy, on the grounds that it could not legitimately decide the amateur championship of the world while nations such as Germany and ‘German Austria’ were barred.
Also in the summer of 1924 the British Championship was held in Southport. It was won by H.E. Atkins, who celebrated his 52nd birthday during the event. It was his eighth national title, though the first since 1911. (He was also to win once more, in 1925.) The ‘Major Open’ tournament played concurrently found Rubinstein outclassing a rather weak field, scoring 11 straight victories.
The Dutch championship in Amsterdam was won by Euwe, ahead of Jacques Davidson, and towards the end of the year the two played a match, which Euwe won +5 –1 =3. J.H. Morrison won the Canadian Championship in Hamilton with a score of +13 –0 =2, and page 176 of the September-October 1924 American Chess Bulletin recorded: ‘Play went full steam ahead, with two rounds a day and three on the Friday, in order to meet the requirements of those players whose time was limited.’ Around the same period the Hungarian Chess Federation Congress in Győr was won by Nagy ahead of Przepiórka and Asztalos. Later in the year Maróczy, who had finished only equal eighth, brought out the tournament book, with light notes in German. At the Nordic Chess Congress in August, Nimzowitsch outshone all rivals, scoring +9 –0 =1 to finish first ahead of P. Johner. It was Nimzowitsch’s only formal event of 1924, but he was writing extensively, and his first two books, Die Blockade and Mein System, were to be published the following year.
Detroit was the venue for the 25th Western Chess Association Tournament (23 August-2 September). The prodigy Reshevsky, his days as a touring Wunderkind behind him, came fifth, and it was the 18-year-old Carlos Torre who emerged victorious from the 17-man field, by a two-and-a-half point margin.
The July-August American Chess Bulletin (page 156) remarked that ‘Carlos Torre, the young Mexican expert, who for several years has made his home in New Orleans, where he outranked all others in interest in chess, recently came to New York and affiliated himself with the Marshall Chess Club. Like Capablanca, he has shown himself to be almost invincible in rapid transit play, although primarily he prefers slow, studious play.’ On pages 166-170 of the September-October issue of the same magazine, C.S. Howell presented some of Torre’s best games and offered a challenging comment on the Mexican:
‘He lacks technique and for the sake of his chess future, I hope that he will not hasten too much in cultivating it. Acquired naturally and as a result of the experience of play, technique is a valuable asset but the attempt to acquire it before one’s ability to combine has been fully developed has stopped permanently the improvement of a good many young players.’
The All-Russian tournament of 1924 (i.e. the third USSR Championship), played from 28 August to 15 September, was won by Bogoljubow, two and a half points clear of Romanovsky. Other well-known participants included Bogatyrchuk, Levenfish, I. Rabinovich and Dus-Chotimirsky. The Soviet Union was paying ever more attention to Western chess, and 1924 saw the publication of Russian translations of two Capablanca books, My Chess Career and Chess Fundamentals. The former had a striking silhouette of the Cuban on the front cover, and the editions doubtless helped pave the way for the extraordinary popularity that he was to enjoy during his stay in the Soviet Union the following year.
On 1 September J.H. Blackburne died at the age of 82, although most of the obituaries mysteriously gave his year of birth as 1842 instead of 1841. Inevitably many also spoke of the end of an era and the last link with a bygone age, phrases which were to be wheeled out again the following year when Amos Burn died and, once more, with the death of Gunsberg in 1930. Due emphasis was placed on the magnificence and duration of Blackburne’s career, and there were many anecdotes about his happy-go-lucky approach to simultaneous displays, counter-balanced by occasional references to his testiness. On page 402 of the October 1924 BCM, John Keeble reminisced:
‘Mr Blackburne held one peculiar view on chess. I showed him a problem in which en passant occurred. He at once said he thought that when an International Chess Federation is formed, one of their first acts will be to abolish PxP en passant from the game of chess, and I think he meant it, for in later years he adhered to that view.’
Joseph Henry Blackburne
Other notable deaths in 1924 included George E. Carpenter (a gifted problemist), Eugène Chatard (who has the distinction of joint billing with Alekhine in a variation of the French Defence), Harry Davidson (a strong player from Philadelphia), Václav Kautský (one of Czechoslovakia’s leading chess figures, dead at only 44) and Stepan Levitzky (immortalized by his loss to Marshall at Breslau, 1912).
It cannot be asserted that 1924 was a vintage year for chess literature. Alekhine’s book of the Hastings, 1922 tournament finally showed up, and the BCM (June 1924 issue, page 225) commented darkly, ‘the late appearance of the book is not, we believe, due at all to the editor and printer’. In his preface to the book W.H. Watts also referred to the delay, absolving himself of blame, and adding blandly that there seemed to have been ‘a misunderstanding between the parties concerned’. In a rare tribute from one leading master to another, Rudolf Spielmann produced a 178-page monograph in Swedish on Schlechter’s best games and problems. Another important work was Troitzky’s 500 Endspielstudien. On a lower literary rung stood Chess of To-day by Alfred Emery, about which the December BCM (page 485) remarked, ‘Despite the increased cost of printing and paper since 1914, we think that a cloth cover might have been provided for the half-crown.’ The magazine (June 1924 issue, page 226) had been more impressed by a book published earlier in the year, Chess Masterpieces by W.H. Watts, 50 annotated games and ‘the cheapest shillingsworth we have seen for many a long day’. The American Chess Bulletin (May-June 1924, page 131) also liked it, but revealed itself as a stickler for historical accuracy concerning the book’s illustrations: ‘it might be well to point out that Alekhine has since shaved off his moustache and that Bogoljubow has become a jolly “200-pound master” – a fact that the photographs in this book would hardly lead one to surmise.’
In a relatively quiet year for chess, periodicals had much space available for dross and trivia. A news item in the November issue of the Chess Amateur (page 34) read, in full: ‘The Bury and West Suffolk Chess Club is now starting its 57th season with a strong membership.’ The same month the BCM announced (page 447): ‘The Grimsby Chess Club has just entered on its jubilee season and has had an unbroken record of unostentatious success. There are nearly 60 members, one of whom once beat Capablanca in a simultaneous display.’ The same month F.P. Betts of London, Ontario had a letter published on page 204 of the American Chess Bulletin in which he denounced a book by Edward Lasker (unnamed, but presumably Chess and Checkers The Way to Mastership) for using the ‘extraordinary’ algebraic notation. ‘This mania for improving the established chess notation by freak innovations seems to entirely overlook the fact that there is an immense volume of chess literature centuries old in which the old and accepted notation is enshrined, the value of which would be greatly impaired if this novel jargon should become the vogue.’
One of the last tournaments of the year was a small double-round, four-man event in Berlin on 9-17 December, unexpectedly won by P. Johner of Switzerland ahead of Rubinstein, Teichmann and Mieses. (It was the final tournament of Teichmann’s career, and he died about six months later.) Then, as 1924 drew to a close, it was back to Hastings with, for once, abandonment of the single all-play-all format. Maróczy and Tartakower were to finish equal first, but that news, of course, belongs to 1925.
We conclude with some little-known games and positions gleaned from the two-volume Schachjahrbuch 1924 by Ludwig Bachmann. Apart from Mieses’ win, they all involve minor players and thus often illustrate the kind of chess produced by the rank and file 75 years ago.
J. Dunkelblum-E. Sapira, Antwerp, 17 February 1924
In reply to 38 g3, Black now played 38…Rxg4 39 fxg4 Nxg4+ 40 Kg1 Nxh3+ 41 Rxh3 Qxh3 42 Qf3+ Qh2+ 43 Kf1 Ne3+ 44 Qxe3 Rf8+ 45 Ke1 Qh1+ 46 Ke2 Qg2+ 47 Kd1 Rf1+ and White resigned.
As theoreticians were stressing the value of doubled rooks on the seventh rank, one player found success by doubling his knights there:
L. Schmitt – Grimm
Munich, 30 March 1924
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1 Nf3 c5 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 O-O Bf5 5 c4 e6 6 cxd5 exd5 7 d4 Nc6 8 Nc3 Be7 9 Bg5 O-O 10 dxc5 d4 11 Na4 h6 12 Bf4 d3 13 e3 Ne4 14 Ne5 Nb4 15 g4 Bh7 16 Qb3 Qa5 17 a3 Nc2 18 Rad1 Nd2
19 Rxd2 Qxd2 20 Nc4 Qe2 21 h3 d2 22 Nc3 Qd3 23 Ne5 Qd8 24 Bxb7 Bxc5 25 Bxa8 Qxa8 26 Nd7 Ne1 27 e4 Bxe4 28 Kh2 Bc2 29 Qd5 Qxd5 30 Nxd5 d1(Q) 31 White resigns.
A forgotten game by Mieses:
Jacques Mieses – O. Goertz
Leipzig, 30 June 1924
1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nge2 Nc6 4 g3 Nf6 5 Bg2 Be7 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 a6 8 O-O Qc7 9 Re1 h5 10 Bf4 Qb6 11 Be3 Ng4 12 Nf5 Nxe3 13 Nxe3 Qxb2
14 Ncd5 Bd8 15 Nc4 Qd4 16 Nd6+ Kf8 17 Qe2 Qc5 18 e5 exd5 19 Rad1 d4 20 Rd3 Be7 21 Rf3 Nxe5 22 Rxf7+ Kg8 23 Rxe7 Ng6 24 Qf3 Resigns.
A rapid transit game:
von Seefried – Künzler
Munich, 15 November 1924
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 c6 3 c4 Nf6 4 Nc3 Bf5 5 Bg5 Ne4 6 cxd5 cxd5 7 Qb3 Qa5 8 Qxd5 Qxd5 9 Nxd5 Na6 10 e3 e6 11 Bb5 mate.
There cannot be many games which end in such a quick mate after an exchange of queens. For some reason various databases incorrectly give 1927 as the date.
A position from Giersing v Kinch, Copenhagen, 1924:
White won as follows: 30 Bf6 Kh8 31 Ng6+ hxg6 32 hxg6 Rc7 33 Be7 Qxg6 34 Rxf8+ Kh7 35 Rh8+ Kxh8 36 Qxg6 Rxe7 37 Bxe6 Bf3 38 g4 Resigns.
T. Steinebach – Radloff
Two Knights’ Defence
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 d4 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 dxe5 Be6 7 O-O Be7 8 Nbd2 Na5 9 Bd3 Nb4 10 Bb5+ c6 11 Be2 b5 12 a3 Nd5 13 c4 Nc7 14 cxb5 cxb5 15 b4 Nc6 16 Bb2 a6 17 Rc1 Bd5 18 Qc2 Ne6 19 Ne4 Rc8 20 Ng3 Qb6 21 Rfd1 Nf4
22 Rxd5 Nxd5 23 Qe4 Rd8 24 Nf5 O-O 25 Bd3 g6 26 e6 Bf6 27 Rxc6 Qxc6 28 Nh6+ Kg7 29 Bxf6+ Kxf6 30 e7 Qe6 31 exd8(Q)+ Rxd8 32 Qh4+ Kg7 33 Nf5+ gxf5 34 Qg5+ Qg6 35 Qxd8 and Black resigned a few moves later.
Loerbroks-Clauss, Inter-city match (Stuttgart v Pforzheim), 1924
White has just played 24 Bd6, and play went 24…Bd7 25 Bxb8 h3 26 Nc5 Bg4 27 Bxc6 Bf3 28 Nd3 g4 29 Ne1 Be4 30 f3 gxf3 31 Nd3 Bg1 32 g4 f2 33 Nxf2 Bxf2 34 Bh2 Bxd4, and White resigned since 35…Be5 will follow.
Finally, a rare line in the Marshall Counter-Gambit:
Sinischa – Poliaxoff (Poljakhov?)
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 O-O Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 O-O 8 c3 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 d3 Bg4 11 Nbd2 Nf4 12 Bc2 Nxd3 13 Bxd3 Qxd3 14 h3 Bh5 15 g4 Bg6 16 Nxe5 Nxe5 17 Rxe5 Qd7 18 Qe2 Bd6 19 Re3 Bc5 20 Rg3 Rfe8 21 Qf3 Re1+ 22 Kg2 Rae8 23 b4
23…Bxf2 24 Kxf2 Qe6 25 Kg2 Qb6 26 Kh2 R8e2+ 27 Rg2 Qg1+ 28 Kg3 Rxg2+ 29 Qxg2 Re3+ 30 Nf3 Rxf3+ 31 Kxf3 Be4+ 32 Resigns.
The above article first appeared at the Chess Café in 1999.
From a letter contributed by Leonard B. Meyer to Chess Review, June 1949, page 161, regarding the conclusion of the New York, 1924 tournament:
‘… local chess-players were divided into Capablanca, Marshall and Réti camps, and I was in the center as a member of the brilliancy prize committee. I was strongly in favor of giving the first prize to Réti for his game against Bogoljubow. The other judges were Hermann Helms and Norbert Lederer, and it was common knowledge that originally the committeemen did not see eye to eye. However, on the night before the dinner at which the awards were to be made, the committee finally unanimously selected this game for first prize.
The next day a bomb burst. There had been a leak, and Herbert R. Limburg, president of the congress, was in a dither. He had received a letter from John Barry, objecting to the committee’s decision. The letter also included a vitriolic attack against me. It began about as follows: “It has come to my knowledge that one Meyer, who is either a knave or a moron, has decided to give the brilliancy prize to Réti”. The balance of the letter, besides discussing patriotism, included a system for deciding prizes, with points for various types of sacrifices, all of which added up to first prize for Marshall for his game with Bogoljubow.
At a hastily called meeting of the tournament committee, the decision of the brilliancy prize committee was upheld. To further sustain the verdict, I quote the following from Dr Alekhine’s annotations to the Réti-Bogoljubow game in the tournament book: “Rightfully, this game was awarded the first brilliancy prize”.
In 1930, I met Dr Tartakower in Paris. He told me that, in his opinion, when all other details of the tournament are forgotten, the Réti-Bogoljubow game will be remembered as one of the six greatest games ever played.
… It is like judging any other work of art: the experts are bound to disagree.
Just for the record, in later years, Barry apologized, and we buried the hatchet.’
Thomas Niessen (Aachen, Germany) raises two matters concerning New York, 1924 on the basis of information in the tournament book: a) the speed with which the event was organized and b) the pairing system used.
We offer some supplementary facts from the 1924 volume of the American Chess Bulletin, whose editor, Hermann Helms, was on the board of the tournament directors.
Page 1 of the January 1924 issue announced the proposed tournament:
‘First steps were taken at a meeting in New York on 18 January, having in view a possible gathering of the world’s leading experts as early as 17 March.
As we go to press, there is no absolute certainty as to its taking place, as planned. It is sufficient to say that a number of good men and true are bending all their energies to make it so. Should success crown their efforts, then the congress will be quite unique in the annals of the game, at least in so far as rapidity of action is concerned.
This much can be said. Thanks to good use of the cable, the readiness of several European masters to come over has been ascertained.’
And from page 2:
‘Although a total of nearly $10,000 will be required to defray the expenses, including the prizes, as well as the transportation of several European experts, close upon $4,000 was pledged as a starter [at the committee’s meeting on 18 January].
The members of the committee undertook to raise most of the balance through subscriptions within a fortnight, after which word was to be sent to Europe to the masters who are in readiness to come whenever the call is issued.’
Page 25 of the February 1924 Bulletin stated:
‘Since the announcement made in the January issue of the Bulletin, matters have progressed famously in connection with the New York International Chess Masters’ Tournament. It is now an assured fact. New York, therefore, will be the scene for a gathering of the world’s most famous masters, the like of which is not apt to be witnessed again in our generation.’
Page 4 of the tournament book reported:
‘With the hearty co-operation of Dr Arthur A. Bryant [the Treasurer] and Mr Helms, the preparations at this end were carried forward with the least possible delay, and on 8 March we were able to welcome the masters at the docks with the satisfying knowledge that everything was ship-shape, barring, perhaps, some of the masters. Several unforeseen incidents helped to maintain the interest and contribute a bit of anxiety, chiefly the illness of Capablanca from a severe attack of la grippe, which made his participation in the tournament somewhat doubtful up to the last minute.’
Source: page x of the tournament book.
The pairing system was set out in point 19 of the tournament rules (pages 27-28 of the February 1924 American Chess Bulletin):
‘The draw will be made according to the Berger system and the players will draw their own numbers before beginning of the tournament. The number of the round to be played each day will be decided by draw and announced 15 minutes before beginning of playing hours. The first half of the tournament must be completed before any of the rounds of the second half are drawn.
The draw for numbers took place on 11 March (American Chess Bulletin, March 1924, page 49), and the first round of play was on 16 March.
Mr Niessen asks whether other major tournaments have handled pairing in a similar way.
Concerning the pairing system, see C.N. 6631.
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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.