Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

Nimzowitsch took first place at Carlsbad 1929, ahead of a strong field that included Capablanca and Rubinstein, but it did not earn him a shot at the World Championship.

Instead, Alekhine’s challenger later that year was Bogoljubow, who came eighth at Carlsbad, some 3.5 points behind the winner. This clearly rankled with Nimzowitsch, and undoubtedly provided one of the motives for writing the book, which was originally published in Russia in 1931. In it, he makes a forceful pitch for being the most deserving challenger to Alekhine’s crown.

It should be noted also that Nimzowitsch beat Bogoljubow at Carlsbad, their encounter yielding a fine strategic victory that shared the prize for the best played game (Euwe’s flawed win against Thomas was the other game, incidentally: about which, see below). If anything, this must have added petrol to the fire, rubbed salt into the wounds… choose your metaphor. He was not a happy bunny.

Of the 231 games played at Carlsbad , Nimzowitsch has selected 30 and arranged them by player. One would have liked to see more, but the games as given are top-notch. Nimzowitsch, as the winner, has 7 games; Capablanca and Spielmann, equal second, have 5 games apiece; Rubinstein, who finished in fourth place, has been given 3  games; the other prizewinners have 6 games between them; and, to end, there are 4 games to represent the non-prizewinners (those placed ninth to twenty-second). Among this last quartet of games is a win by Samisch (against Grunfeld) which picked up the First Brilliancy Prize.

Nimzowitsch’s annotations are lively and entertaining, appreciative and instructive; yet also abrasive at times. And it seems appropriate at this point to praise Jim Marfia’s terrific translation, which manages to bring the author’s personality fully to life.

One especially fascinating feature of the book lies in Nimzowitsch’s impressions of his contemporaries. His introductory remarks in the chapter on Rubinstein are heartfelt and genuinely moving, and bear comparison with Reti’s portrait of the same player in Modern Ideas in Chess. While his description of Vidmar’s style, a player for whom he apparently had a high regard, is insightful and eye-opening (see pages 108 and 111-112). He describes Vidmar’s chess as a blend of method and naiveté. Spielmann had publicly expressed his admiration for My System and Nimzowitsch writes of this established master and colleague almost as though he were his student. That is to say, he is just a little bit patronising. There is a sense, also, in which Nimzowitsch seems to feel as though he can appropriate some of Spielmann’s victories as his own, because they were achieved using his ideas (prophylaxis, blockade, centralization). Granted, the man wanted to promote his strategic vision of chess, but this was maybe the wrong way to go about it. Anyway, it is easy to see how Nimzowitsch could rub people the wrong way!

In his notes to the aforementioned Thomas–Euwe game, Nimzowitsch overlooks that after 22.Qxa2 axb3 White has the resource 23.Rxc5! turning the tables (see page 123). But this looks to be his only error in analysis. The move is mentioned by Euwe himself, incidentally, in From My Games 1920-1937 and so is not a ‘find’. Few would consider Euwe’s effort one of the two best played games in the tournament, anyway: Capablanca-Treybal, for one, was a much better game, pretty much a masterpiece.

Anything by Nimzowitsch is worth reading and, as I hope I have made plain, this is a fascinating book for all sorts of reasons.

The publisher’s description of Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929 can be read here.


Book Details

Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

By Aron Nimzovich

Translated by Jim Marfia

Dover Publications, 2009

ISBN: 9780486439426


Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament

Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament

It has taken well nigh a century for this classic tournament book to be translated into English. Much too long, of course, but it has been well worth the wait.

Karlsbad 1907 was a fairly strong tournament. Although it lacked the presence of Lasker and Tarrasch, the rest of the best players of the day participated. Rubinstein, then in his prime, came first and was closely followed by Maroczy. Other participants included Chigorin, Janowsky, Marshall, Duras and Nimzowitsch. The future author of My System was 20 years old at the time and shared fourth and fifth place with Schlechter. We are told by one contemporary commentator (in a newspaper account of the tournament that is given in the book) that he was ‘a young, upcoming talent, whose supporters will have to help curb his temperament if he is to attain successes at the chessboard and in the intercourse of society’. What the latter comment refers to is left unsaid.

All of the 210 games are annotated, about three quarters of them by Marco and the rest by Schlechter. The translator, Robert Sherwood, has added to these annotations: expanding, correcting and validating the authors’ analysis as appropriate. As an aid, Sherwood has made use of both his faithful Rybka and notes from a few other sources (such as Kmoch’s book on Rubinstein). From the many splendid games on show, here my favourite five:

  • Maroczy-Marshall
  • Janowsky-Rubinstein
  • Vidmar-Dus-Chotimirsky
  • Leonhardt-Maroczy
  • Tartakower-Maroczy

Marco has a high reputation as an annotator, and he more than lives up to it here. The breadth of his mind is everywhere evident; his notes are by turns poetic and methodical and rigorous. He has the knack of identifying critical moments and turning points in a game. Indeed, his annotations are often of greater interest than the games themselves. Or rather, the annotations are so penetrating and instructive that they make even pedestrian games seem interesting, so adept is Marco at showing a game’s internal logic. One modest example: Mieses-Maroczy, a bishop and pawn ending, was agreed drawn after 46 moves. Does this sound appealing? Well, perhaps not. Yet Marco’s note to Black’s 37th move, which extends over two pages and is full of detailed analyses and intricate explanations, compels you to look at this game with renewed appreciation. And this is by no means a solitary example; e.g. the note to move 48 in Salwe-Cohn is of a similar length and depth.

Often, Marco’s notes are of a more general nature. Recurring themes are the role of  risk, uncertainty and chance in chess and the ineluctable nature of human fallibility and folly (‘It is remarkable how often, in the realization of its aims, the human mind uses the most impractical methods,’ begins one such exasperated meditation). His note to the fourth move of Marshall-Cohn is a reflection on why paradigms are so slow to change, in science, religion and chess, and it anticipates the thought of Thomas Kuhn. (Well, perhaps I am exaggerating  a little here.)

Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament is, without a doubt, a classic of chess literature and this beautifully produced edition, bound in red cloth, is commensurate with its worth. Ideally, it should be read in a wood-paneled library with a glass of port by your side and your faithful bulldog napping by the fire. It is an absolute pleasure for all who love chess.

The best online summary of Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament is at the  New in Chess website – read it here.


Book Details

Karlsbad 1907 International Chess Tournament

By George Marco and Carl Schlechter

Translated by Robert Sherwood

Caissa Editions, 2007

ISBN: ?