Kindred’s Special: A Tale of War, Intrigue–Sparks Fly at Mannheim, 1914

CHESS HISTORY matches what we call chess–a war game. Indeed, much has been documented and written in our annuals of chess that reflect a close relationship between the game and the trials and tribulations experienced by its many adherents who found themselves wrapped up and often trapped in the intrigue that lies just outside the conflict seen on the battlefield. Such was the case of the little known or remembered events surrounding a major tournament held over July 19th to August 2, 1914 in the city of Mannheim.

The Master Tournament was organized as the 19th Congress of the German Chess Federation. The strong field was composed of Alekhine, Vidmar, Spielmann, Breyer,  our own Frank Marshall,  Reti, Janowski, Bogoljubow, Tarrasch, Duras, John, Tartakower, Fahrni, Post, Carls, Krueger, Flamberg and Mieses who sat in that order on the crosstable of the tournament that never finished. Both Capablanca and Lasker were in preparation for their World Championship match but Lasker attended the event.

This great tournament also was a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the  German Chess Union and 50th of the local chess club. A total 86-participants made up 5-sections. The opening ceremonies reported by the local press was one of cheerfulness and expectancy of some quality chess fights. That was July 20th. The event proceeded until August 2nd when war brought an end to the event when Germany declared war on Russia resulting from the assassination in Sarajevo of the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. All 11-Russian participants were arrested and detained and just ironic that the event was halted after the 11th round. They were sent to the local jail in Mannheim and later to a military prison and still later to a civilian prison where Alekhine, Bogoljubow, I. Rabjnovich, and S. Weinstein shared a cell.

“Life in prison was dull and uneventful. No books, chessboard or set, nor newspapers. Bogoljubow and I entertained ourselves by playing blindfold and our fierce battles were interrupted when I was put in solitare confinement for smiling in front of a guard which was against prison policy.”sic –Alekhine.

Many of the players were housed and remained relatively free to move about, play chess and lived in some comfort.  Several decided to move to the mountains where they resided free of most restrictions and finally were able to return to Russia.  Alekhine got to Switzerland with the help of a forged passport.

A number of Prisoner Tournaments were held by the prisoners; the lst won by Flamberg with 9 followed by Bogoljubow with 8. The 2nd was won by Bogoljubow 7.5 with Rabinovich 6.

But Cupid had an arrow and bow and shot one each into the heart of Bogoljubow and a daughter of a local school teacher named Frida Kaltenbach. Subsequently they were married in 1920 and had two daughters–Sonja and Tamara.

Thus did a series of events early in the chesslife of Efim Dmitrievich Bogoljubow take root with a path that led him to the pinnacle of greatness but where the menu he had hoped for of a World Champion title forever evaded him due in part to his inconsistency in a few crucial games.  His tournament play successes sparkled with imaginative and delightful game play. He achieved the Grandmaster Title in the Breyer Memorial Tournament of 1922 with a lst place finish, scoring 15 (13-wins, 4-draws, 1-loss).

Following is his win over Wolf that won him the brilliancy prize.

White: E. D. Bogoljubow  vs.  Black:  Wolf

1. d4  Nf6 2.c4  e6  3. Nf3  c5  4. Nc3  cxd4  5. Nxd4  Bb4  6. Bd2.  The modern GM Kaspaaov vs. Short at this point went 6. g3  O-O 7. Bg2  d5  8. cxd5  Nxd5  9. Bd2, Sarajevo 1999.

6. … b6 7. e3  Bb7  8. Be2  O-O  9. O-O Na6?! A faulty notion that loses too many tempi. Reti recommended 9. …Nc6.

10. a3  Be7  11. Rc1  Nc5 12. f3 Guarding e4 from allowing Ne4 to force exchanges and lessen attacking chances.

12. … g6? This choice is suspect but apparently Wolf has trouble finding a really suitable play now that his Knight sortie was unproductive and time consuming.

13. b4!  e5  14. bxc5  exd4  15. exd4  bxc5  16. d5! d6  17. Rb1 Grabbing the file and increasing square count.

17. … Qd7  18. f4  Rfb8  19. f5!  Bc8 20. Bd3  Qd8  21. Qf3  Rxb1  22. Bxb1!  Rb8  23. g4! One square count buildup after another!  Seek and ye shall find!

23. … Rb2  24. Bc1  Rb3  25. g5  Nd7  26. fxg6 fxg6 Here I can just hear Bogo saying to himself, “lets go down and look around.”

27. Qf7+ Kh8  28. Bxg6! A terrible blunder would be 28. Bc2??  Do you see why? White busts open the King position. The King has no clothes.

28. … hxg6  29. Qxg6 Threatening 30. Rf7.

29. … Qg8 30. Qh5+ Qh7 31. Qe8+ Nf8 32. Rf7  Qc2  33. Qxe7  Qxc1+ 34. Rf1  Rxc3 35. Qxf8+ Kh7 36. Qf7+ Kh8  37. Rxc1  Rxc1+ 38. Kf2 Resigns.

There are some very sharp alternatives which I do not discuss, preferring you strike out on your own to find the truth in the position. Such study of the attacking position trying different defense moves and attacking moves will enrich your own talent for chess play. But in each case, all roads lead to Rome or, in this case, Resignation by Black.


11 Responses to “Kindred’s Special: A Tale of War, Intrigue–Sparks Fly at Mannheim, 1914”

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  5. Michael Hudson Says:

    Thanks for the story on Mannheim. I’m especially interested in the conditions of confinement and the manner in which Alekhin and others escaped. Can you tell me your source for the Alekhin quote (“Life in prison was dull …”) and other details? Thanks so much!

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    Kindred’s Special: A Tale of War, Intrigue-Sparks Fly at Mannheim, 1914 | Kindred’s Kaleidoscope

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