The Baden Baden chess tournament

Adolf AnderssenIf you are vaguely aware of the chess history you might wonder: ‘Baden Baden’ where did I hear this name before? Well the Grenke Chess Classic is not the first chess tournament held in this spa town. 

In fact the first super tournament in the history of chess was held in this picturesque town.

The 1870 chess tournament was stronger than previous tournaments in London (1851 and 1862) and Paris (1867).

Compared to these earlier tournaments some rules were changed. First chess clocks were introduced. The players had to make 20 moves per hour. Before draws did not count. Games had to be played all over again. Now draws counted as half a point. And only top international players were invited. These are their names:

  1. Adolf Anderssen,
  2. Wilhelm Steinitz,
  3. Gustav Neumann,
  4. Joseph Henry Blackburne (nicknamed ‘the black death’),
  5. Louis Paulsen,
  6. Cecil De Vere,
  7. Samuel Rosenthal,
  8. Szymon Winawer (from Poland and not as I always thought from the UK!),
  9. Johannes von Minckwitz
  10. Adolf Stern.

Adolf Stein withdrew from the tournament because he had to fight the French in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. This war came very close to the town. The thunder of the artillery could be heard at a distance of 30 km. At the end of the war Adolf Stern sent a card from the battlefields near Sedan on September 4th:

‘Emperor Napoleon has been mated’! (this was Napoleon III)

The tournament was won by Adolf Anderssen with 11 points out of 16 games (it was a double round robin). Wilhelm Steinitz was the runner up with 10½ points. Here you can find the complete score and some more details…

The 1870 tournament would not be the last in Baden Baden. Another big tournament was held in 1925. This tournament was won by Alekhine. He kept ahead of strong players like Rubinstein, Sämisch, Bogoljubov and Marshall (just to mention a few). See complete results…

In 1870 the runner up, Wilhelm Steinitz, was considered one of the best, maybe the best player in the world. He had not yet crowned himself as world champion.

This happened after his match with Johan Zukertort in 1886. Steinitz won this match: 10 – 5. After this victory Steinitz declared himself to be the chess champion of the world.

Isn’t this a bit like Napoleon Bonaparte who crowned himself as emperor of France in 1804? But it seems that the chess world agreed.

In his early days Steinitz was much like his contemporaries. In these days chess players preferred an attacking (Romantic) style of play and did not bother too much about their defense. Steinitz was famous for his tactical bravery. Here you have his win over Neumann in the Baden Baden tournament. Go to the game…

By the way: how does white win from the diagram position?


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