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Friday, October 12, 2018

Lasker vs. Maroczy World Championship Match, 1906

     It never took place. In 1906, Lasker singled out Siegbert Tarrasch and Geza Maroczy (pronounced Gay-zaw Marrow-tsy) as being worthy challengers. Lasker wrote that the chess world expected him to play matches against both. 
     Maroczy?! He's not much appreciated today, but he had established himself as one of the world’s leading players in the early 1900s. Lasker characterized him as “spirited” and as an “artist” who loved complicated positions with hidden resources. 
     Maroczy (March 3, 1870-May 29, 1951) was born in Szeged, Hungary. He won the minor tournament at Hastings 1895,and over the next ten years he won several first prizes in international events. Between 1902 and 1908, he took part in thirteen tournaments and won five first prizes and five second prizes.
     The idea of a match for the world championship had its beginnings at the Cambridge Springs tournament in 1904 and chess players in New York tried to raise the money but failed. Personally, Maroczy was not unhappy because he realized that Lasker would have been too much to handle, plus he hated playing against heavy smokers. 
     Maroczy arrived in the United States on February 20, 1906 to tour the country and arrived back in New York on April 6.  Negotiations were finalized at a dinner to celebrate the formation of the Rice Chess Club in the Cafe Boulevard on 2nd Avenue, Manhattan. More than 70 guests were present, among them Frank Marshall and Jose Capablanca. Lasker and Maroczy were in attendance and took advantage of their meeting to draw up and complete an agreement to play a world championship match to begin in October. The two had met before about the matter and it only took them two hours to hammer out the final details. Their agreement covered, among other things, the following points: 

1) The winner was the first to win 8 games, draws not counting. 
2) Both players put up $2,000 and the winner received the entire amount. And it was a substantial amount! In 1904, $4,000 equates to over $113,000 in 2018 buying power. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 2018 are 2,733 percent higher than prices in 1904. 
3) The time limit was to be 15 moves per hour. 
4) They would play 6 days a week and no more than 3 games would begin in a week and not on consecutive days. 
5) Play would be 6 hours per day and would be between 1 pm and 11 pm. 
6) The match would consist of three series: the first in Europe and the two others in the United States. Maroczy had to arrange the series in Europe, while Lasker had to arrange the series in the US. 

     As part of the financial arrangements each player had to deposit $500 with the Empire Trust Company of New York on or before June 1, 1906 as a guarantee of good faith.  In case of one of the players had to end the match, the other player would get the money as compensation. 
     Maroczy had planned on staying in the US until May 22nd, but unexpectedly departed on the 19th headed for the tournament in Ostend, Belgium even though he was not sure he would actually play; it depended on the conditions. He did play and the tournament ended on July 12th. 
     More than a month later, the forfeit deposit of $500 had still not been made by Maroczy. Lasker had made his deposit on June 1st. Maroczy was informed during the Ostend tournament that the deposit had not been made and was surprised that his representatives in Budapest had not acted on his behalf and made the deposit. He wrote to Lasker during the tournament stating that he would take care of the matter immediately after returning to Hungary.
     Meanwhile, in late June, Lasker received a letter stating that the Vienna Chess Club was willing to arrange the match. One condition was that the whole match had to take place in Austria. Lasker agreed to the conditions in general, but refused the condition that the whole match had to be played there. 
     In the meantime Lasker had heard nothing further, so in August he requested The Brooklyn Daily Eagle to get a statement from Maroczy, but the paper received no answer. Two weeks later they cabled Georg Marco seeking information, but none was forthcoming.
     On August 26, 1906 there was an article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle with the headline "Silence of Maroczy Embarrasses Lasker." The article stated that Lasker was loath to believe that Maroczy wished to evade his obligations and was embarrassed by his failure to comply with the agreement or furnish any further explanation for his neglect and silence. Lasker was hoping for a letter from Marozcy that would shed light on the situation and put any further misgivings to rest. 
     Finally, on September 10, 1906 Maroczy declared that he would not be able to play the match because he was “too much engrossed in politics.”  I was unable to determine any details as to the nature of Maroczy's political activity, but this statement verifies that he was involved in something that got him in trouble with the authorities.  It also refutes Hans Kmoch's belief as stated in his memorial to Maroczy in Chess Review that Maroczy was too naive to have engaged in such activities.
     Maroczy claimed that he was still willing to play under the same conditions in 1907, and added that he would pay the $500 forfeit if Lasker insisted on it. Lasker did not insist and stated he was willing to play at a later date, but noted he was also ready to accept other challenges. 
     Almost immediately after hearing about Maroczy's withdrawal Frank Marshall challenged Lasker. Their match took place from January 26 to April 8, 1907 and it was a disaster for Marshall who failed to win a single game and took a 11.5-3.5 drubbing. 
     About one month after the match with Marshall was over, Maroczy, in the magazine Deutsche Wochenschach, claimed the negotiations ceased because Lasker wouldn't consent to the Vienna Chess Club conditions. This declaration is at odds as stated in his letter to Lasker that he was “too much engrossed in politics” to play the match.  One gets the feeling that after signing the agreement, Maroczy had second thoughts about the match, or perhaps he was unable to raise the money and was too embarrassed to admit it.
     After 1908, Maroczy retired from international chess to devote more time to his profession.  As an auditor and made a career at the Center of Trade Unions and Social Insurance. When the Communists came briefly to power he was a chief auditor at Educational Ministry. After the Communist government was overthrown he couldn't get a job. 
     He did make a brief return to chess after World War I, with some success. With him at the head, Hungary won the first Chess Olympiads in London in 1927. 
     During World War Two Maroczy had a difficult time in Budapest. He was forced to live for long periods in shelters with only beans to eat and no sanitation. He also nearly died from pneumonia. 
     After the war he realized things were changing in Hungary and attempted to leave, hoping to go to either Holland or the United States. In 1946, he and his wife left for Amsterdam, but didn't get past Vienna. They tried again in 1947 and managed six months in Amsterdam where he made an attempt at a chess comeback that ended in failure and they again returned to Hungary and nothing further was heard of him by the chess world until May 30, 1951 when Max Euwe was stunned to receive a telegram that Maroczy had died. 
     When Maroczy passed away at the age of 81 he was one of the last great players whose career had begun in the previous century; only Jacques Mieses was left. Writing in Chess Review, Hans Kmoch referred to him as the “unchallenged champion of chivalry.” 
     Although dueling was outlawed in Austria, it was common in Hungary when Maroczy grew up and during the tournament at Bled in 1931, he challenged Nimzovich to a duel with pistols. Nimzovich refused to participate in what he called his own assassination and so Maroczy was satisfied because to refuse the challenge was a fate worse than death. Kmoch added that had the challenged been accepted it's likely that Marozcy, a peaceable man, would not have known which end of the pistol to use. 
     Physically, Maroczy was described by Kmoch as being six feet of skin which hung in ripples and bone with a main of long hair which he rarely cut. Small, deep set eyes, accentuated cheekbones and a set of huge dentures completed Kmoch's description. I was unable to find any photos that depicted Maroczy in manner described by Kmoch.
     An Anglophile, for seven years he lived in exile in England and the United States after having somehow become compromised in the Communist revolution that took place in Hungry in 1919. For details of the “forgotten revolution” visit HERE

The Maroczy – Korchnoi correspondence game. 
    From 1985 until 1993 Maroczy played a postal game against Viktor Korchnoi (who emerged the winner) even though Maroczy had died more than thirty years earlier! How could that be, you ask. You can read the story HERE

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