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Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard R├Ęti

42. Tartakower

This work would be incomplete did we not mention this master, who is not, so to speak, directly related to the newest school, but whose style of play shows a close relationship with that of the youngest masters. In order to present the connecting, and also the distinguishing features of Tartakower’s play, I shall have to give here a short retrospect. In Anderssen’s time positional play had been but little developed. He who was better at making combinations was, on that account, as a rule the better player. The more gifted masters sought to bring the game in the quickest manner into the whirlpools of combination play. Then came the development of positional play, especially through Steinitz. Those who had studied this Steinitz science were more than a match for those who had not done so, even though the latter might be more generally gifted. This led to the monotonous play of the ‘90’s and of the turn of the century. Even Tschigorin’s genius succumbed, in the long run, to the dry play of Steinitz’s disciples, who had caught the great master’s technical artistic touches without possessing his creative powers.

Tartakower, from the beginning of his career, moved in the direction of Tschigorin; not that he had doubted the correctness of the principles, or the greatness of the acknowledged great master of the time. Quite the contrary. As a young, enthusiastic chess lover, he retained the deepest veneration for the possessors of names so renowned, but the dry play was opposed to his nature. Thus we see in his instinctive resistance to the then prevailing style of play, a premonition of the later rise of the modern school. It is remarkable that Dr. Tartakower had already then got into the habit of avoiding the replies 1...e5 to 1. e4; 1...d5 to 1. d4. Then came the youngest of all. They contested a style which did not stand for personality, but rather for a conglomeration of rules to be mentally acquired, and they contested it, not by despising these rules, but by deeper investigations of their own. Above all, they perceived that every chess principle meant only an approximation, and that no rules of universal application could exist. The Steinitz conceptions are to the youngest masters no longer the alpha and omega of chess, but elements for combination, just as in Anderssen’s time the different mating positions and double threats, etc., were. To express it not quite accurately, but popularly: before Steinitz, combinations were sought after: after Steinitz, a dry positional game was played: the modern men have positional plans, and combine positionally, and as the moderns had disturbed the legend of inviolability of Tarrasch, Maroczi, etc., a new era for Tartakower drew near. For he saw that his striving against the increasing shallowness of the game was no longer without prospect: therefore Tartakower, a child of his time, continued to perfect his chess technique without regarding it, however, as the essence of his game, and thus, by a different path, he gradually approached the latest experts.

An example of what has just been stated is found in the following game containing many moves which deviate from the usual routine.

His opponent, Spielmann, secured for himself centre pawns and, with good development, the open ‘c’ file. At first sight he had a good game. Tartakower blocked his ‘c’ Pawn by 8. Nc3 despite the rule obtaining in the ‘nineties that in the Queen’s pawn opening the Queen’s Bishop’s pawn should not be blocked. He castled on the Queen’s side (although Black had opened the ‘c’ file), and then he followed consequentially his idea, which, in conjunction with the open Rook’s file, effected the destruction of Black’s centre.