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Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Rèti

11. Siegbert Tarrasch

The ideas of Steinitz were too new for his time. The neglect of development, the extended Knight manoeuvres which were bound up with the withdrawal of apparently well posted pieces, the contempt for the momentary as opposed to the permanent positions (more difficult of comprehension), were so remote from his contemporaries that what was original in Steinitz was attributed more to his obstinacy and his preference for what was quaint, rather than to any deep deliberation on his part. But the facts themselves spoke for Steinitz, for he had beaten the best of his contemporaries, namely, Anderssen, Blackburne, Zuckertort and Tschigorin.

The aspiring young Masters of that day began to fashion themselves upon Steinitz’s games in preference to those of any others; and thus arose the Steinitz school. It could not be said to be an imitation of the Steinitz method but rather a combining of the Steinitz technique (not Steinitz’s scheme of the game) with the otherwise usual method of playing, whose tendency was the quick development of pieces. The latter Steinitz had neglected. The founder of this new style, the man to give the lead in it, and indeed the most prominent representative of that epoch, is Doctor Siegbert Tarrasch. Furthermore Tarrasch developed another branch of Steinitz’s investigations, namely, the correct treatment of the opponent’s cramped positions, which was not merely a small or less important branch. The greater freedom of space is by much the most important of the Steinitz permanent positional characteristics. Most of the others (like the advantage of two Bishops or the disadvantage of a weak point on the other side, etc.) may force a cramped position.

It will be remembered that a large number of tournament games of such masters as Maroczy, Schlechter and Teichmann, etc., resembled trench warfare and one perceives also the overwhelming influence of Tarrasch upon the actual development going on in his time. This great influence was due not only to Tarrasch’s activity in chess playing but also to his literary achievements.

Contrary to many other masters who kept their methods to themselves, Tarrasch always communicated his theories and his mode of thought in chess to others, and brought them under discussion. In the last decade the general standard of play had risen considerably. A large part of the credit for that can be attributed to Tarrasch’s activity in chess literature. Possibly he could have attained better success as a chess player had he not always published his knowledge and given it to all the others. Still posterity, which will appraise chess not merely as a game but as an art, will judge Tarrasch, not from his material successes (great as they were), but from the intrinsic merit of his performances and from his whole personality.