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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Gyula Breyer at Berlin 1920

The venue
    In the year 1920 a long forgotten tournament was the 10-player Berlin Masters played at the Cafe Kerkau which was owned by World Billiards Champion and chess lover Hugo Kerkau. From 1921 it was the meeting place of the Berlin Chess Society. 

 Hugo Kerkau
    The Kerkau-Palast had billiard 48 tables and was famous for chess playing also. The world championship between Emanuel Lasker and Dawid Janowski took place there. The house has been demolished in 1994. In the basement a book was found which describes the legendary match between Capablanca and Lasker in 1914 which has been believed lost.

    The winner was 28-year olf Gyula Breyer of Budapest. Although Breyer suffered defeats at the hands of Tartakower and Mieses he scored 6.5-2.5 and pocketed 3,000 marks. 
    During a period between 1918 and January 1924 the German mark suffered hyperinflation which caused considerable political instability in the country. German currency was relatively stable at about 90 marks per dollar during the first half of 1921. Because the Western Front was mostly in France and Belgium, Germany came out of the war with most of its industrial infrastructure intact, but the London Ultimatum in May 1921 demanded World War I reparations in gold or foreign currency to be paid in annual installments of 2 billion gold marks, plus 26 percent of the value of Germany's exports. The first payment was made when it came due in June 1921 and it marked the beginning of an increasingly rapid devaluation of the mark, which fell in value to approximately 330 marks per dollar. Since reparations were required to be repaid in hard currency, not the rapidly depreciating paper mark, one strategy that Germany used was the mass printing of bank notes to buy foreign currency, which was then used to pay reparations. That greatly exacerbated the inflation of the paper mark.
     Bogoljubow and Tartakower tied for second and third, splitting 3,000 marks. Reti finished 4th (800 marks). Maroczy, Mieses and Tarrasch split 1,100 marks. Spielmann's last place finish was said to have been due to his reporting on the tournament and other chess related work.
     Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) is not well known today, but as a teenager in 1912 he won the Hungarian championship. In 1921 Breyer set a new blindfold chess record by playing 25 games simultaneously. He also edited Szellemi Sport, a magazine devoted to chess puzzles, and composed at least one brilliant retrograde analysis study. A highly successful and imaginative player, he wasn't satisfied with just scoring point. He was first and foremost a revolutionary in his chess thinking and was concerned with the artistic side. He died in 1921 at the age of 28 in Bratislava. He was buried in Bratislava and after exhumation in 1987, was reburied in the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest.

     Breyer's crush of Spielmann in the following game is most instructive because it shows the value of centralized pieces.

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