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Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Rèti

34. Breyer

In Bratislava there appeared for some months a journal called Czellini Sport (sport for the mind). If a person were about to take a long journey he readily bought a copy, for with the study of a short chapter he could pass the time occupied in the whole journey, so difficult was each line as a mental exercise. For example, in one number appeared a love letter which when read letter for letter backwards disclosed the original. There were keys for the discovery of secret codes and many other things of that description. There was also a chess rubric, the contents of which were peculiar.

For example, the following problem. White to play: who wins? The position was complicated: all the pieces on both side were en prise, and only after a long study could it be seen that White was bound to have the advantage. Yet that was not the correct solution. On the contrary, what was apparently incredible could be proved, namely, that in the last fifty moves no piece had been taken and no pawn could have been moved. Therefore according to the rules of chess it was a drawn position. The sole editor of this paper, in which were to be found only original contributions, was Julius Breyer. And for that man, so sagacious that the finest finesses were not fine enough for him, and who at a glance saw through the most complicated conditions and had moreover at his command an untiring and intellectual capacity for work, there was only one art. In the domain of that art he worked not only with his mind, but he cast his whole personality into it. That domain was chess.

In his booklet “The Tree of Chess Knowledge” Dr. Tartakower describes the style of the “Hyper-moderns.” He has clearly Breyer in particular before his eyes.

This lucid sketch contains the following: “Chess can also show its cubism. Its chief representatives, Alekhin, Bogoljubow, Breyer and Rèti, gained, especially in the year 1920, splendid successes in their contests with the tried big men of the old school like Rubinstein, Tarrasch, Maroczy and others, and thereby attracted the attention of the whole chess world to the most modern school. The tenets of the latter school had, till then, indicated a state of secession. They involved not only plans which had never disclosed themselves to us before: schemes which gave to the games an unhealthy stamp: moves which scoffed at any endeavour to obtain freer development of pieces, but also, finally, methods which seek salvation in their malignant and endless storing up of latent energy, and which in all earnestness were held up to us in the light of science. Through these methods the disclosure of secrets of hundreds of years’ standing is promised to us. ‘Not to build up rather to obstruct a position’ is the watchword there given out. The idols of the old school are smashed: the most favourite openings appear to be refuted; compromising the four Knights opening and above all (as Breyer preaches in one of his published treaties) ‘After the first move 1. e4 White’s game is in the last throes’

“Credo quia absurdum”

At the end of the year 1921, the chess world lost in Breyer not only a chess master of the first rank, but a pioneer, who by his profound investigations, destructive of old principles, effected reforms. A new Steinitz was all too soon snatched from us. Breyer had set out his views on theory in numerous treaties and analysis of games, which appeared in the Hungarian papers. In close detail he analysed the games for the world championship, between Capablanca and Lasker. I give the following as an example.

In this position white went on 17. Bxd5, Nxd5; 18. Bxe7, Nxe7. Capablanca had then, having regard to the isolated pawn at d4, a slight positional advantage and won by means of his superior technique. As Breyer has proved Lasker could instead have gained a forced advantage. The combination was overlooked by both the masters as well by numerous analysts. The reason is to be sought in the fallacious earlier chess technique. Since the introductory move of the winning combination, namely, Bxd5!! loses time and develops Black’s position: it was almost an impossibility for a chess player who thought on the old principles to discover this combination.

Breyer analysis is as follows: