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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rudolf Spielmann

     Rudolf Spielmann (May 5, 1883 – August 20, 1942) is pretty much a forgotten player from long ago and that is a shame. His father was a newspaper editor in Vienna who played chess in his spare time and taught the game to Rudolf and his brother. 
     Though Spielmann had a degree in law, he never worked as one because he devoted his life to chess. He never married but was devoted to his nieces and nephews and Fine described him as having two passions: beer and chess. Interestingly, on February 25, 2015, The Guardian carried an article about Spielmann's nephew, 92-year-old Eric Roland Spielman, from Loughton, England who died after being hit by a car while walking to the chess club. The driver of the car was another 92-year-old! More details on Eric Spielmann can be found HERE
     According to Chessmetrics his highest performance rating of 2791 came at Carlsbad in 1929 and his highest rating was 2716 in 1913 which ranked him number 7 in the world behind Rubinstein, Lasker, Nimzowitsch, Tarrasch, Schlechter and Marshall.   He was devoted to gambits, vicious attacks against the enemy King and brilliant tactics and that's why his games should be better known by players who like the tactical play by the likes of Tahl and Nezhmetdinov.
     The reason he probably isn't better appreciated is because of his tournament record. While he did very well in some, in others he bombed and so he was never among the world's elite players. Spielmann loved the King's Gambit and the Center Game continued playing then even after most players gave up on it. But, by the late 1920s he switched mainly to 1.d4 as dictated by fashion of the day. 
     Spielmann's first tournament was the Berlin City Championship 1903/04 in which he tied for 2nd and 3rd with Bernstein. During his career, he did well, winning 33 of the roughly 120 in which he played, including Stockholm 1919; Bad Pistyan 1922; and Semmering 1926.
     In 1934, Spielmann fled Vienna due to rising pro-Nazi sympathies in the city and the moved to the Netherlands. In 1938, he went to Prague to be with his brother Leopold, but the German army occupied Czechoslovakia only a few months later.  His brother was arrested and died in a concentration camp a few years later. One of their sisters also perished in a camp, the other survived the war, but never recovered mentally from the ordeal of it and ended up committing suicide. 
     Spielmann managed to flee to Sweden and hoped to eventually reach England or the United States and attempted to raise money for the trip by playing exhibition matches, writing chess columns and a book which was not published for political reasons...some members of the Swedish Chess Federation were sympathetic to the Nazis and disliked Spielmann who was Jewish. 
     World War Two was in progress and because of Nazi sympathies in Sweden, Spielmann became withdrawn and depressed and one day in August, 1942 he locked himself in his apartment and didn't come out.  On August 20, concerned neighbors summoned police who entered his apartment and found him dead. He was 59 years old. The official cause of death was ischemic heart disease, a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart.
     Rumor has it that he intentionally starved himself. Generally, humans can survive without any food for 30-40 days as long as they are properly hydrated and death can occur at around 45 to 61 days. However, the body can sustain itself no more than about two weeks (at most) without fluid intake. He was buried in Stockholm, his tombstone reading "A fugitive without rest, struck hard by fate.” 
     The following game was played in King's Gambit Accepted tournament in Abbazia, 1912. This theme tournament was organized by Georg Marco and of the 12 players, who met each other twice, at the time only Spielmann, Duras, Cohn and Leonhardt were regarded as masters at the time. This may be one of the reasons why no tournament book appeared, and many of the games are apparently lost forever. The tournament was a big success for Spielmann, but a tragedy for the King's Gambit. White scored only +40 -59 =21. 

1) Spielmann 15.0 
2) Duras 13.5 
3-4) Cohn and Reti 11.5 
5) Lowcki 11.0 
6-7) Flamberg and Freymann 10.5 
8) Szekely 9.0 
9) Leonhardt 8.0 
10-11) Nyholm and Rosselli 7.5 
12) Aurbach 5.5

     In The Art of Sacrifice in Chess, Spielmann presents this game as an example of a “vacating sacrifice” which is designed to clear a certain square for a certain piece. Going over the game with Stockfish shows that while Spielmann's sacrifice at move 16 is very good and sound, the play which results gets extremely complicated and his notes did not bring out all the hidden finesses. This game is a great example of Spielmann's brilliant play.

1 comment:

  1. This is a nice blog which I just came acros. I think he was known for playing the Vienna game as way to reach the King Gambit. This time period with Mieses, Speilmann,Chigorin saw alot of those trashy openings I enjoy playing. Cheers