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Spielmann - Eliskases Match

Erich Eliskases6/10(+2 -0 =8)[games]
Rudolf Spielmann4/10(+0 -2 =8)[games] Chess Event Description
Spielmann - Eliskases (1937)

This was the last of three matches between Spielmann and Eliskases in the 1930's, and the second for the Austrian Championship. (1) Eliskases had won both the preceding matches, in 1932 with +3 =5 -2 and in 1936 with +2 =7 -1. This third match of ten games was between Austria's leading grandmasters. It took place in June 1937 in Semmering, a fashionable resort at the time for health cures and alpine sports. (2)

"The Eliskases-Spielmann match. Eliskases remains Champion. The Eliskases-Spielmann return match, which was held from 5-16 June at the Hotel Erzherzog Johann in Semmering, recently ended with the victory of the Tyrolean Master, who remains Austrian Champion and he will now have to defend his title against either Albert Becker or Ernst Gruenfeld. Eliskases won the 1st and 9th games, all the remaining being drawn. Both opponents did not play up to their best form, Eliskases was even more restrained and cautious than usual and Spielmann lacked the vigour required to win the 3rd or 10th games respectively. Forthcoming foreign tournaments will provide an opportunity for both champions to show who is the most formidable opponent for the great masters." (3)


Using Chessmetrics, in 1931, Spielmann was ranked 9th in the world, (4) Eliskases was just emerging onto the international stage, having become (joint) Austrian Champion in 1929. In June 1937, Spielmann was 54 years old, whilst Eliskases was 24. Eliskases was then ranked at 14 in the world whilst Spielmann had fallen to 34. (5) Spielmann's ranking had been in slow decline since 1935. He was still able to have respectable scores in smaller tournaments. He was second to Alexander Alekhine at Margate (1938) (+3 -0 =6), but at Noordwijk (1938), he lost to all the leaders including Eliskases (+1 -5 =3) and his role had become that of a journeyman.

For Spielmann, a Jew, the situation in his native Austria was becoming increasingly precarious and he was currently living in the Netherlands. The Nazis had attempted a coup in 1934 and the country's independence was less than assured due to on-going German pressure and interference in its internal affairs. It would be Eliskases who represented Austria in the Semmering/Baden (1937) super-tournament (September 8th - 27th). The Wiener Schach-Zeitung said of the eight participants: ".. these eight have been chosen with a care, which makes it possible to say that it is a tournament of World Championship aspirants". (6)


Eliskases was approaching his peak form, and in 1938 he became one of the top ten players in the world. (7) At Semmering/Baden (1937), he finished mid-table (+3 -5 =6) in this exceptionally strong tournament. He tied his personal score with Paul Keres with a win and a loss, and defeated Jose Raul Capablanca (1 to 1), having outplayed him in a delicate bishop ending (E Eliskases vs Capablanca, 1937). After this, he began a run of significant victories which established him as the Grossdeutsche Schachbund's leading player, and a putative world championship contender.

At Noordwijk (1938), Eliskases won first prize (+6 -0 =3) ahead of Keres and Max Euwe. This was the first of a series of impressive tournaments results: German Champion at Bad Oeynhausen (1938), first with Ludwig Engels at Krefeld (1938), German Champion again at Bad Oeynhausen (1939), first at Bad Elster (1939), first at Harzburg (1939), first at Milan (1939) and first at Vienna (1939). In January-February 1939 he played a match against the strongest player in the Grossdeutsche Schachbund, Efim Bogoljubov, and defeated him +6 =11 -3 (Bogoljubov - Eliskases (1939)).

The progress of the match

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Eliskases 1 1 6 Spielmann 0 0 4

Progressive score:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Eliskases 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 Spielmann 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4

Spielmann was White in the odd-numbered games.

The games

Game 1. Spielmann with the White pieces showed that he had concluded that raw aggression was the best policy against his opponent's technical proficiency: "This time I had to cope with an immensely difficult, if not an impossible task. Eliskases, to defend his champion's title, needed only a drawn result which for him was synonymous with winning the match. But for me, a drawn result was tantamount to a loss. So I did not only have to give my opponent 30 years of life but I also had to avoid a draw and therefore use openings which had a lively fighting character irrespective of whether theory found them correct or frowned upon them. I was indifferent to whether the Kings Gambit was on its death bed or in a triumphal chariot, my watchword was "Schach dem Remisgeschiebe." (8)

Opening with the Center Game (C22), an opening that was neither fashionable nor one with which he had experience, Spielmann quickly castled long and threw his Queen-side pawns forward. Eliskases did not panic and it appears from his notes to the game (9) that he knew the precursor to Spielmann's plan - Winawer vs Steinitz, 1896, and regarded his opponent's attacking strategy as "premature". Spielmann's attack ground to a halt as his opponent's counterattack on the Queen-side built up momentum. Spielmann shed two pawns but could not achieve any compensatory counterplay and resigned when faced with a hopeless endgame.

Game 2. The second game was the polar opposite of the first. It followed contemporary theory for 19 moves (E Eliskases vs Vidmar, 1934), as Spielmann used the Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran (D48), then at the height of its popularity. Careful defensive play by Spielmann led to an equal game, and Eliskases was content to accept a draw after only 21 moves.

Game 3. Spielmann again decided to use the White pieces with aggressive intent. He disinterred his former signature opening King's Gambit Accepted (C34), but a variation with which he had a poor record ( Once again, Eliskases played calmly and equalized despite having little experience of playing this opening. The game entered a Bishop and pawns ending in which Spielmann could not make any progress.

Game 4. The match continued its pattern, Spielmann playing aggressively with White but conservatively with Black. In this game, he chose a defense which was not in his normal repertoire: Caro-Kann, Classical (B18). Eliksases played without any particular ambition and the game was drawn in 30 moves.

Game 5. One game down and at the halfway point of the match, Spielmann changed his approach. He abandoned his former speculative King-Pawn opening attacks for the very solid Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Classical, (D69). The game was played in a 'correct' positional fashion and ended with a perpetual check.

Game 6. Eliskases missed the opportunity to go two points ahead with only four games to play. His 44.Rg3+

click for larger view

unnecessarily lost a tempo to push his passed <b> pawn. The threat to take on <g2> was a chimera.

Game 7. Spielmann once again changed tack and reverted to a King-Pawn opening using a plan from the games of the Viennese master Leopold Loewy, Sr. (10). Spielmann had a great deal of experience with White in this line (, but Eliskases managed to exchange material and damp down any attacking prospects for his opponent. The game was drawn in 37 moves without any great incident.

Game 8. A game up and in sight of the end of the match, Eliskases used his opportunity as White to play a very solid opening with which he had accrued significant experience. He had previous experience against Spielmann in this line (E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1935), and the position out of the opening suited his careful positional style. Spielmann was given no opportunity to let loose his tactical ability. Material was exchanged and the game entered a completely drawn Rook and Pawn ending.

Game 9. One game down with only two to play, this was Spielmann's last game with White. With the experience of the early games of the match, he now did not attempt to overwhelm Eliskases with a King-Side attack. Unfortunately, Spielmann made an egregious blunder which decided the match:

click for larger view

18.Bxh6? simply lost a piece, as Spielmann found he had no effective follow-up.

Game 10. Two games down and having lost the match, Spielmann did not give up. As Black, he avoided the dangers of a solid but ultimately prospectless position that could result from using the Queen's Gambit. He chose instead the modern Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation, 5.Ne2 (E44) which had gained popularity in the 1930's. Eliskases avoided falling into a passive approach and sacrificed a pawn to open the position up for his pieces. Spielmann mitigated his opponent's initiative by a counter-sacrifice of the exchange.

click for larger view

Spielmann then held the initiative, but it was not quite enough to yield winning prospects. Eliskases was thus able to hold a Rooks and Pawn ending, a Pawn down, to win the match without losing a game to his opponent.


(1) Chess Review, February 1937, p. 39.
(2) The article Panhans: "... und dann war der Semmering tot", by Georg Renner, in Die Presse, 04.08.2012 (
(3) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 9-10, May 1937, p. 129 (
(6) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 11-12, July 1937, p. 161.
(8) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 9-10, May 1937, p. 129.
(9) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 11-12, June 1937, p. 170.
(10) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 11-12, June 1937, p. 173.

This text and original research by User: Chessical. Thanks to User: OhioChessFan, User: Stonehenge and User: ChessHigherCat for their assistance.

 page 1 of 1; 10 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½551937Spielmann - EliskasesD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
2. Spielmann vs E Eliskases  ½-½401937Spielmann - EliskasesD69 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Classical,
3. Spielmann vs E Eliskases 0-1301937Spielmann - EliskasesD67 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Bd3 line
4. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½401937Spielmann - EliskasesD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
5. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½301937Spielmann - EliskasesB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
6. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½211937Spielmann - EliskasesD48 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran
7. Spielmann vs E Eliskases 0-1311937Spielmann - EliskasesC22 Center Game
8. Spielmann vs E Eliskases  ½-½481937Spielmann - EliskasesC34 King's Gambit Accepted
9. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½521937Spielmann - EliskasesE44 Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation, 5.Ne2
10. Spielmann vs E Eliskases  ½-½341937Spielmann - EliskasesC30 King's Gambit Declined
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: There is an incomplete sentence in the text to Game 7: "Eliskases, perhaps to avoid any improvement by his opponent."
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I'd be interested to know how many matches Spielmann played in his life.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <offramp>
There is a long list of events in his chessmetrics player profile/event details. The only problem is that the match count seems to confuse Tartakower with Teichmann - there is a Spielmann-Tartakower I (Vienna), 1913, a Spielmann-Teichmann II (Leipzig), 1914 and a Spielmann-Tartakower III (Vienna), 1921.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <offramp>
To answer your question directly, the source above lists 23, of which three were with Eliskases (in 1932, 1936 and 1937). I could post the entire list if you want, but I think it might be better on the Rudolf Spielmann page.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Dear <BeatGiant>, posting on his page seems best. He liked his matches! Many thanks.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <offramp>
Done. Counting them again today, I got 22. But there are questions about the completeness of the list from chessmetrics (see my posts on the Rudolf Spielmann page).

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