< Earlier Kibitzing · PAGE 12 OF 14 ·
|Apr-12-10|| ||keypusher: Part I
Below is my translation of Tarrasch's Chess and Mental Illness: The Case of Pillsbury. <sneaky pete> graciously supplied the original. This sort of thing is much harder to translate than chess annotations, so I am sure I made many mistakes. But it's an interesting article. German I was particularly unsure of I put in brackets.
The American grandmaster is delivered from his suffering. "Death Challenges <bietet> Chess!" -- under this sensational title announced an American newspaper that Pillsbury had fallen victim to mental illness. And now Death has obviously won and given mate. In the flower of manhood, at the age of 34, Pillsbury has died.
Like a meteor he appeared ten years ago before the chess world. As a <homo novus> he took part in the great chess tournament at Hastings 1895 and battled against all the luminaries of the art of chess, who were all assembled -- and in brilliant fashion won a surprising victory. Then was his fortune made. His countrymen gave him an enthusiastic reception on his return, and everywhere a new chess genius was recognized. And now came a rapid succession of brilliant tournament successes, one after another. Of course, he did not again rise to the height of his first success <zum Hohe seines ersten Sieges sollte er sich nie wieder aufschwingen>, but he was always among the leading prizewinners in international tournaments.
His style had something very specifically American in it. Its main feature was unequalled energy, that instilled something very like fear in even the strongest opponents. His play was not sickled o'er with the pale cast of thought <Von des Gedankes Blasse war sein Spiel nicht angekrankelt>, and the scientific profundity, which the German master and even the German amateur know how to put in their play, was foreign to him. His play was above all practical, from which resulted the consistency of his success, in which he was equal to the best of his time. He never applied himself to the field of chess literature, and in this he resembled his brilliant countryman Morphy, as did he also in course of life, as well as chess style. For Morphy also appeared like a meteor half a century before and conquered all opponents who met him, and some years later ended in madness.
In one field of chess Pillsbury's achievements were particularly enormous and brought human capcity to a record level <Auf einem Gebiete des Schachs hat Pillsbury geradezu Ungeheres geleistet unde die meschliche Leistungsfahigkeit auf einer Rekordhohe gezeit>, namely in so-called blindfold chess, playing without board or pieces. Scarcely 100 years ago the great French master Philidor astonished observers when he played three opponents at once blindfold. Later masters brought this to eight, then 12, and the famous Zukertort even to 16 games. But Pillsbury in the year 1902 managed to conduct no fewer than 21 games in this fashion! When one considers, how difficult it must be to dictate three, eight or 21 letters at once, so can one get an idea, what is meant <heisst>, to struggle with 21 strong opponents, and, without sight of board or pieces, to retain 21 different positions in your head. What a superhuman effort is required of the brain!
|Apr-12-10|| ||keypusher: Part II
Already then competent people advised the master to abandon this idea, that must end in ruin. When he tourned Germany the following year, he everywhere exhibited blindfold play, but when he came to Nuremberg, we would not allow such an exhibition, so that we would not be accomplices in such a crime. The mental illness, that struck him a year ago, was long predicted by everyone, but, in my opinion, this was not completely correct. By itself, great effort cannot cause mental illness, if one is not (as Pillsbury was) struck by progressive paralysis. <This was, I have read, the polite term of the day for syphilis, or at least the mental symptoms that sometimes occurred in its third stage. Does anyone know whether this is true or false?> This develops rather in a body weakened by disease. Once the ground has been prepared, then many causes, for example a head injury, can bring about the fearsome mental illness that regularly ends in death. To this list of factors great mental effort can be added, but the root cause is always the shock to the whole system of already-progressing illness.
Especially in Pillsbury’s case, the newspapers have frequently stated that chess is hazardous, in my opinion quite without basis. Chess, like any intellectual activity, is healthy for men, not harmful, and mental illness comes to the insane by every possible means <und zu Geisteskrankheiten beanlagte Menschen werden durch alles moglich geistkrank>. To dispel the prejudice that chess is harmful, it is appropriate to describe those chessplayers who have fallen victim to mental illness in the last 25 years, and to investigate the causes of their disease. I will limit my investigation to those personalities I knew well and about whom I can express a knowledgeable opinion <und ich mir also hieruber eine authentische Meinung habe bilde konnen>.
Beside Pillsbury are in this era only three chessmasters of note who have been mentally ill, the Leipzig master Minckwitz, the German-Russian Schiffers <by the term Deutsche-Russe I take Tarrasch to mean the descendents of the 18th century German migration to Russia, and not people with dual nationality> and the world champion Steinitz. For Minckwitz chess has not the slightest to do with his mental illness, which in my opinion must be ascribed to “primary hallucinatory madness” <”primare halluzinatorische Verrucktheit”>. Minckwitz was unfortunately placed, such that he was at great risk of mental illness. Of his father, a professor at Leipzig University, it is recounted (not as a funny story, but as truth) that he used to say in his lectures: “There are only three great German writers: Schiller, Goethe, and the third modesty forbids me to name.” <This reads exactly like Janowski’s alleged statement about the great chessmasters of his own time – perhaps Janowski's quote is spurious?> This was the era in which Paul Lindau went eagerly on the hunt for Sunday poets <Sonntagdichtern> and, when he found one, tore him to pieces to the delight of the public. He came upon Minckwitz’s epic “The War for Liberation” <”Die Befreiungskriege”> and quoted the following verse describing the Battle of Leipzig:
Napoleon was yellow like a pickled egg <Solei>,
Anyone who saw him knew good health he must beg.
<Napoleon war gelb wie ein Solei,
Man sah ihm an, dass ihm nicht wohl sei.>
<Obviously I warped the meaning for the sake of getting a rhyme.>
Such a dreadful verse speaks volumes. With such an inheritance, we can rule out chess from the etiology of Minkwitz’s mental illness; surely it did him less harm than alcohol, to which he was strongly attached.
|Apr-12-10|| ||keypusher: Part III
The St. Petersburger Schiffers was broadly cultivated, highly intelligent man, with a splendid sense of humor <von prachtvollem Humor – maybe “splendid temperament” is better?>, a lively conversationalist, amiable in company <Verkehr>, in short, as the student song says, “a fellow like velvet and silk, the only harm, is that he drinks!” <”ein Kerl wie Samt und Seide, nur schade, dass er suff!”>. This he did with great consistency, and so it is no wonder, that he went to the madhouse several times, and a greater or shorter time after his release, each time relapsed. His disease was: alcoholic psychosis; chess had nothing to do with this. He never showed any particular strain playing chess; rather in tournaments he always played well “con amore,” as if nothing were at stake <sondern spielte in Turnieren immer so recht con amore, als ob es um gar nichts ginge>. Nevertheless, he achieved well-known, beautiful successes <Gleichwohl hat er bekanntlich recht huebsche Erfolge erzielt>. His sympathetic personality was known to all who met him and remains in memory. Every man has weaknesses, and every man must die, one sooner, others later, one from this, others from that disease; in fact we all die – to Life! <Swachen hat jeder Mensch, und sterben muss ebenfalls jeder Mensch, die eine fruher, der andere spater, der eine an dieser, der andere an jener Krankheit, in Grunde genommen sterben wir alle – am Leben!>
The famous Steinitz, for more that 20 years almost indisputably the strongest player in the world, fell ill in his 60th year, after the second match with Lasker in Moscow in 1896. Then the newspapers pronounced him dead, and I wrote a very detailed obituary in the Deutsche Schachzeitung, where I praised his great contributions to the art of chess, in fitting style. But lo and behold, Steinitz defied the newspapers, as well as his obituary, and in a reversal, regained his health, and seemingly recovered, played two years later in the great Vienna 1898 tournament, when I read him his obituary. <I have grave doubts about this whole sentence, which in the original reads: <Aber siehe da Steinitz Kehrte sich weder an Zeitungen, noch an seinen Nekrolog, sodern zog es vor, weider Gesung zu werden, und anschiend kerngesung spiele er zwei Jahre darauf in dem grossen Wiener Turnier 1898 mit, wo ich ihm seinen Nekrolog zu lesen gab.> Corrections welcome!> He heard it with great satisfaction and was very happy that I had placed such a bright light on his contributions.
But a year later came a relapse of his disease, and soon he died. Diagnosis: progressive paralysis. Cause: constitutional, perhaps inherited disease, that knowledgeable observers diagnosed from an unusual collapse of his nose, which looked exactly as if a cure had been undertaken hastily at the last moment to prevent further damage. Chess certainly was not the cause of his illness, at least not the mental effort of chess. But it is very possible that the disappointment over the loss of his second match with Lasker was a cause of the outbreak of the illness. For grief and sorrow, defeat, disappointed hopes are all important factors in the genesis of mental illness, especially for paralysis. How very rational, therefore, the teaching of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who in the 19th chapter of his little handbook of morals earnestly instructs: "You can remain undefeated; you must not engage in any battle where the result does not depend entirely on your own power." <"Du kannst unbesiegt dastehen, du musst dich nur in keinen Kampf einlassen, in welchem obzusiegen nicht in diener Macht steht."> Epictetus was -- it must be said in his defense -- a slave, and a slave with such meager <mag> morality is satisfied. But he who is no slave by birth or inclination will prefer the uncertain struggle -- and a just struggle is always uncertain -- and seek the elation of victory, though on the other side threatens the despair of defeat.
|Apr-12-10|| ||keypusher: Part IV/Conclusion
With Pillsbury, the first symptoms of his illness began to show soon after the tournament at Cambridge Springs 1904, where he for the first time came away empty-handed, and had to see the star of his rival Marshall in shining ascent. It is probable, though, that his failure in this tournament resulted from his disease, already present, that little by little gained the upper hand and soon completely conquered him.
Pillsbury had a short but brilliant career behind him: less than 10 years. But his outstanding games were recorded and will in times to come be enjoyed by chess fans, as they have been in our time, and thus his name is engraved in the annals of chess. At his grave, the whole chess world weeps together with his widow. He had rivals and opponents, but not a single enemy -- and this is the only reproach I can make against him.
|Sep-02-10|| ||Ron: Thank you <keypusher> for the translation. I have stated more than once here that Tarrasch is one of my chess heroes, and yet I was hitherto unware that he wrote about Pillsbury.
The Tarrasch selection you translated shows his magnanimity. Not only did Tarrasch seek to advace himself in chess (like any other chess player) but he had a higher goal: the advancement of chess itself.|
|Nov-29-10|| ||brimarern: The grave of Tarrasch at Nordfriedhof Cemetery in Munich.|
|Feb-10-11|| ||bronkenstein: <brankat: Let's also remember that the likes of Steinitz, Tarrasch, Lasker, later Nimzowitch and Reti, were pioneers in a field with not much of a social "prestige" or status.|
Although they did their their work primarily due to sincere intellectual curiosity, it was also necessary to give credibility, to assign serious scientific weight to a pursuit viewed by many as somewhat frivolous.
Sometimes almost fanatical swearing by, and adherence to the newly discovered principles came with the territory. Historically, the course was the same, or similar, in other fields. Until they were taken seriously.
Rather than nitpicking on a particular phraseology, we should be grateful to the Pioneers and Teachers.
By the way, was it not Dr.Tarrasch who remarked that Nimzowitch was so "anti-dogmatic" in his views of the predecessors that that in itself constituted a form of dogmatism :-)>
Excellent formulation of the thing that I , somehow , felt so many times when reading attacks on Tarrasch or Nimzowitsch as ´dogmatics´ .
But my vocabulary and overall knowledge was way too modest to articulate it so simply and precisely B)
|Feb-10-11|| ||Shams: <keypusher> Splendid work. You're a credit to the site.|
|Mar-05-11|| ||lost in space: Happy Birthday Siegbert, your books were my first chess-teachers.|
|Mar-05-11|| ||Penguincw: R.I.P. Siegbert Tarrasch.I like your game against Aron Nimzowitsch. The game was a true piece.Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch, 1914.|
|Mar-05-11|| ||WhiteRook48: "To you, Dr. Lasker, I have only two words to say: check and mate."
|Mar-05-11|| ||HeMateMe: Was it Tarrasch who said "Chess has the power to make men happy."?|
That may be true, but it also has the power to make me throw my notebook out the window, when I lose to crappy gambits.
|Mar-05-11|| ||markwell: What is it with the historical revisionism on this site? Tarrasch was born German in Germany. He died German in Germany. The fact that his birthplace was forcibly annexed to Poland doesn't mean he was born in Poland, or that he died in Poland. Gimme a break!|
|Mar-05-11|| ||HeMateMe: He was born in the part of eastern Germany that was ceded to Poland at the end of WWII? I think Russia stole some of Polands eastern lands, so Poland was given a piece of Germany, as a "make up". Germany also lost the Danzig peninsula, I think.|
|Mar-06-11|| ||BobCrisp: <Tarrasch was born German in Germany.>|
<Tarrasch> was born in 1862 before the formation of Germany as a nation-state, so I think this would actually render him a <Bohemian>.
|Mar-06-11|| ||Phony Benoni: At the time of Tarrasch's birth was that Breslau was the largest city in the region of Silesia, which had been annexed by Prussia in 1742.|
This is an impossible situation to resolve. For example, Emanuel Lasker was also born in what is now Poland. Both men considered themselves German, and that ought to be enough for us.
|Mar-07-11|| ||markwell: Phony, it isn't that both Tarrasch and Lasker 'considered' themselves German. They were German. The fact that their various birthplaces were later seized by other countries doesn't change their nationality or ethnicity. It seems obvious that the bios on this website are driven by informants who cheerfully invent nationalities and citizenship based on fantasy. Siegbert Tarrasch and Emmanuel Lasker were about as Polish as a Volkswagen. I see that the site has amended Tarrasch's bio to reflect this fact.|
|Mar-07-11|| ||Benzol: <markwell> Have you thought of getting yourself signed up as a bio writer?|
|Mar-07-11|| ||keypusher: <markwell: What is it with the historical revisionism on this site? Tarrasch was born German in Germany. He died German in Germany. The fact that his birthplace was forcibly annexed to Poland doesn't mean he was born in Poland, or that he died in Poland. Gimme a break!>|
If he'd made it through another year he wouldn't have died German....
|Mar-07-11|| ||markwell: Keypusher, your post is sort of shallow. Do I take it you agree with the Nazi definition of German? Otherwise, bringing in the Nuremberg laws is kind of stupid. And the bios on this site are already stupid enough. Lots of luck with that. The appropriate German word for that is quatsch.|
|May-29-11|| ||parisattack: English translations of Dreihundert Schachpartien?
Ault was the original. Apparently a new one by Schwarz? Others?
I also have the manuscript of Eugene Salome's translation which I believe to be better than Ault's - but I have not seen Schwarz's for a comp.
|Jun-22-11|| ||oscarwilde: In the presentation of Dr Tarrasch you write that he was nearly fifty in
1908 which is a truth with modification. He was 46 and Lasker 40 so the difference wasn´t that great.|
|Oct-06-11|| ||whiteshark: Quote of the Day
< Weak points or holes in the enemy position must be occupied by pieces, not pawns. <>>
|Feb-19-12|| ||whiteshark: Capablanca admired Tarrasch. Here are his comments, taken from an article the Cuban had written after winning the San Sebastian tournament of 1911:|
"Dr Tarrasch has studied, and continues to study, the game a great deal, and modern theory has advanced under his impetus. He sometimes plays the first 15 moves of a game at lightning speed, which, in a player as calm and deliberate as him, is clear proof that everything has been studied and prepared. Against me at San Sebastián in 1911 he made his first 16 moves in three minutes. His style is characterized by solidity; he tries to construct a wall of steel and leave his opponent to crash into it. He will take great pains to obtain or maintain a pawn, and this often costs him the game. Finally, though this does not concern chess but rather the personal character of the chessplayer, Dr Tarrasch is a great admirer of music and of the fair sex."
|Feb-19-12|| ||AVRO38: <I think Russia stole some of Polands eastern lands, so Poland was given a piece of Germany, as a "make up".>|
Actually, Russia liberated territory that had been stolen by Poland, and Germany was forced to give Poland territory as punishment for starting the war. The two are completely separate and unrelated.
<Phony, it isn't that both Tarrasch and Lasker 'considered' themselves German. They were German.>
Actually, their nationality was German but neither one of them was an ethnic German.
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