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Monday, May 20, 2019

Sixth American Congress and a Couple of Forgotten Giants

     In 1889, the President was Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. Cleveland was an interesting fellow. 
     There were juicy allegations of philandering, an illicit pregnancy and a coverup. A bachelor, he was ill at ease at first with all the comforts of the White House. “I must go to dinner,” he wrote a friend, “but I wish it was to eat a pickled herring, a Swiss cheese and a chop at Louis’ instead of the French stuff I shall find.” In June 1886 the 49 year old Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom; he was the only President married in the White House. 
     He was different from today’s politicians. He said, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?” 
     He was tight fisted with Federal money. He vetoed a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas and wrote: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . ” 
     He rightfully vetoed many pension bills to Civil War veterans whose claims were fraudulent. When Congress, pressured by the Grand Army of the Republic, passed a bill granting pensions for disabilities not caused by military service, Cleveland vetoed it, too. 
     He angered the railroads by ordering an investigation of western lands they held by Government grant and forced them to return 81,000,000 acres. He also signed the Interstate Commerce Act, the first law attempting Federal regulation of the railroads. When railroad strikers in Chicago violated an injunction, Cleveland sent Federal troops to enforce it. “If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a post card in Chicago,” he thundered, “that card will be delivered.” 
     Naturally his policies were generally unpopular and his party deserted him and nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896. 
     In 1889, four states—North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington—were created. A dollar was worth the equivalent of $26.64 in 2017 dollars. 
     In March a German naval force shelled a village in Samoa, destroying some American property. As a result three American warships enter the Samoan harbor and prepared to fire on the three German warships, but before they could open fire a hurricane commenced blowing and sunk all six ships. The result was an armistice was called because of the lack of warships.  
     In June the Johnstown Flood hit and in November the first jukebox went into operation at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. 
     After the new title of World Champion was invented and claimed by Wilhelm Steinitz after he defeated Johannes Zukertort in a match in 1886, and then adopted the US as his home with the result that the popularity of chess was on the upswing during the late 1880s. 
     In New York the strongest chess tournament ever held up until that time took place. It was supposed to be for the World Championship, but it has never been recognized as such, primarily because Steinitz, who helped organize the event and who was present as a journalist ans wrote a book on it, refused to play
     According to the rules, the tournament was to be for the World Championship as long as four Europeans played, but actually half the field was from Europe: Chigorin, Gunsburg, Blackburne, Burn, Bird, Mason, Pollock, Gossip, Taubenhaus and Weiss...all of the leading players of the world except for Steinitz. 
     The Sixth American Congress’ main event would be a double round robin tournament of twenty players. A world championship match would then follow based on the results. 
     When the required sum of $5,000 became available in 1888, the tournament was scheduled for the following year. It was during this period that Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin played their first world championship match in Havana from January 20th until February 24th 1889 with Steinitz winning 10.5-6.5 and the New York tournament started only one month later. Steinitz was scheduled to play, but withdrew leaving the organizing committee horrified. 
     The schedule called for six games played per week with rounds beginning at at 1pm and continuing until 5pm with a break for dinner and then resumed as necessary at 7pm with games adjourned at 11pm. Adjourned games were completed on rest days. The time limit of was moves per hour. 
     The rules concerning draws was somewhat unique. They counted as a half a point in the first cycle of nineteen rounds, but had to be replayed once during the second cycle, with the second result standing. 
     The tournament lasted from March 25th until May 27th 1889. The Congress consisted of 38 normal rounds, 8 replay rounds, and 4 playoff rounds, for a grand total of 50 rounds. 
     At the end Weiss shared first prize with Chigorin and a four game playoff was intended to determine a clear winner to face Steinitz for the world crown, but they drew all four playoff games. 
     Lipschutz, as the highest placing American, lobbied to be considered the American champion that year, but was unable to generate unanimous support. Jackson Showalter was also making a name for himself in the Midwest at this time, winning at Cincinnati 1888, and at Saint Louis, in February 1890. The rivalry between the two culminated in a short match in 1890, won by Showalter, who claimed the National Title. 
     New York 1889 can be regarded as the first candidates’ tournament because the winner had the obligation to start a match against Steinitz within a month. But, as neither Weiss nor Chigorin wanted to play a championship match against Steinitz, the Committee cancelled the match. 
     The third prize winner Gunsberg was interested in a match against Steinitz in New York. First Gunsberg drew a match against Chigorin in Havana at the beginning of 1890 and based on that result, Steinitz accepted the challenge. They played a match at the Manhattan Club later that year. Steinitz won with 10.5-8.5. 

1-2) Weiss and Chigorin 29.0-9.0 
3) Gunsberg 28.5-9.5 
4) Blackburne 27.0-11.0 
5) Burn 26.0-12.0 
6) Lipschutz 25.5-12.5 
7) Mason 22.0-16.0 
8) Judd 20.0-18.0 
9-10) Delmar and Showalter 18.0-20.0 
11) Pollock 17.5-20.5 
12-13) Bird and Taubenhaus 17.0-21.0 
14) D. Baird 16.0-22.0 
15) Burille 15.0-23.0 
16) Hanham 14.0-24.0 
17-18) Gossip and Martinez 13.5-24.5 
19) J. Baird 7.0-31.0 
20) MacLeod 6.5-31.5 
First Place Playoff: all four games drawn 

     For winning the following game Pollock was awarded a special prize of $50 donated by Professor Isaac Rice for the most beautiful game in the second round. Steinitz described the game: Mr Pollock’s play from the 17th move renders this game one of the finest monuments of chess ingenuity, and altogether it belongs to the most brilliant gems in the annals of practical play.
     Neither Pollock nor Weiss are well known today. In his time W.H.K. Pollock (February 21, 1859 – October 5, 1896) was celebrated for his spectacular combinations and original style of play. He seldom won any tournaments, but in Belfast, 1886 he scored 8-0 and finished ahead of Blackburne and Burn. 
     Pollock was a surgeon. He studied in Dublin from 1880–82, at which time he was a member of the Dublin Chess Club. In 1882, he joined the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and his first published game and problem appeared in The Practical Farmer. Upon receiving his medical license Pollock returned to England and worked as a surgeon. 
     After Pollock participated in the Sixth American Congress he moved to Baltimore, Maryland as the resident chess professional and soon was writing a chess column for the Baltimore Sunday News, as well as reports on American chess for the British Chess Magazine. In 1892, he was Wilhelm Steinitz's secretary. 
     In 1895 he represented Canada at the famous Hastings 1895 tournament where he finished 19th out of 22, but did defeat Tarrasch and Steinitz. 
     Following the tournament, Pollock's health progressively deteriorated due to tuberculosis, commonly called “consumption” in those days. Without proper treatment up to two thirds of people ill with TB will die. 
     It was only March 24, 1882, that Dr. Robert Koch had announced the discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. During this time, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. It wasn’t until 1943 that Selman Waksman discovered a compound that acted against the bacteria. Called streptomycin, it was first given to a human patient in November 1949 and the patient was cured. 
     In August 1896, Pollock returned to England, where he died at the age of 37 at his father's home in Clifton. 
     Max (aka Miksa) Weiss (July 21, 1857 – March 14, 1927) is probably even less well known than Pollock. Born in the Kingdom of Hungary, Weiss moved to Vienna where he studied mathematics and physics at the university and later taught both subjects there. 
     Weiss learned to play chess at age 12 and his strength increased steadily throughout the 1880s. After having become one of the top players in the world, Weiss quit international chess after this tournament, though he did play a few Viennese events. In 1905 Weiss was employed by S. M. von Rothschild bank in Vienna. 
     These two fellows have been forgotten by the chess world. Chessmetrics assigns Pollock an all time high rating of 2451 in 1889 ranking him number 23 in the world. Weiss gets assigned a rating of 2779 on the same list putting him at number 4 in the world behind Steinitz, Gunsberg and Chigorin. By the time Weiss retired from chess, Chessmetrics has him rated at 2580 and he was still in the world’s top 25 players. Truly. Weiss was a forgotten man, having been among the world’s elite players during his short career. 

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