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Spielmann - Eliskases Match

Erich Eliskases5.5/10(+2 -1 =7)[games]
Rudolf Spielmann4.5/10(+1 -2 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Spielmann - Eliskases (1936)


This was a ten game match for the championship of Austria, (1) played in the fashionable Alpine resort of Semmering, from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 12th December 1936. It was the second match between these masters. In the first match, Spielmann - Eliskases (1932), Eliskases won (+3 =5 -2), and in this second match, Eliskases won again (+2 =7 -1). It was a very close affair where Spielmann was never behind until the penultimate game. According to Chessmetrics: "The strongest match held between 1936 and 1937 was Eliskases-Spielmann II (Semmering), 1936. This was a matchup of ... #17 Erich Eliskases (2632) and #22 Rudolf Spielmann (2618) from the January 1936 rating list." (2)

Spielmann was 52 and Eliskases was 22 years old. Spielmann's best years as a chess professional were behind him. His peak years were in the 1920's when he had been a candidate for the world championship (see New York (1927)), had won Semmering (1926), and come second in the strong Karlsbad (1929) with a career-best performance. Although he had slipped out of the top ten players by the mid-1930's, Spielmann was still capable of impressive performances. At Moscow (1935) he came fifth in a very strong tournament behind Mikhail Botvinnik, Salomon Flohr, Emanuel Lasker and Jose Raul Capablanca.

Schedule of the match

The Wiener Schach-Zeitung appears to have been running late in its publication. The match which ended on the 12th December was reported in the November issue!

Game 1 - 1st December, Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 338
Game 2 - 2nd December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 339
Game 3 - 3rd December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 339
Game 4 - 5th December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 341
Game 5 - 6th December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 342
Game 6 - 7th December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 344
Game 7 - 8th December, ibid., Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 344
Game 8 - 9th December, ibid., Nr. 23/24, December 1936, p. 355
Game 9 - 11th December, ibid., Nr. 23/24, December 1936, p. 358
Game 10 - 12th December, ibid., Nr. 23/24, December 1936, p. 358

Progress of the match

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

Progressive score:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Eliskases 1 1 2 2 2 3 4 5 5 Spielmann 1 1 2 3 3 3 4 4 4

Spielmann was White in the odd-numbered games.

Contemporary comment

"The first Austrian master. Eliskases beat Spielmann 5 : 4. With the same result as four years ago in Linz, Eliskases also now in Semmering kept the upper hand, and thereby as the first conquered the earlier in Austrian chess history officially unknown title of Austrian Champion. While Eliskases' victory four years ago was a great surprise, this time it is rather astonishing that after four years Spielmann is still on equal parity with his 30 years younger opponent; because with such a narrow margin of victory, we can hardly speak of the superiority of one over the other. Austria, to be sure, can be proud to call two such first class masters its own. The "old" Spielmann still has the fire of a twenty-year-old, and the young Eliskases has the cold-bloodedness and maturity of an "Old Timer" - we are glad that we have two such guys! It is to the merit of the Chess Federation that this the most important and valuable event of the year ran so perfectly smoothly and without the slightest incident. Yet we believe that the Chess Federation has been much too modest and could have made more of this occasion. Its diffidence was compounded by the feeble coverage provided by the Viennese press and a lack of interest from the general public. In any other country an event such as this match Eliskases-Spielmann would have been promoted with publicity abroad and in every respect supported materially and morally by the authorities and the public. But with us so little happened that the public did not even take the cheap special buses to Semmering and consequently most of the specially arranged charters had to be cancelled. We hope that the great success of the Eliskases-Spielmann match will, at last, provoke a transformation in the attitude of public institutions to chess with the effect that the state, country, and municipalities will grant the chess federation the recognition and influence it deserves by virtue of its organizational achievements." (3)

The games

Game 1. Having being defeated in their previous match in 1932, Spielmann, with White, started his campaign 'with all his guns blazing'. Yet, the renowned tactician was the first to blunder.

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With 16.Re1? Spielmann gave Eliskases the opportunity to play 16...Qf6, after which Spielmann had no attack and too many vulnerable pieces. In a sharp but winning position, Eliskases himself then miscalculated:

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18...Qf4! (instead of 18...Bxf2+) would have won. Spielmann was able to scramble to a draw.

Game 2. The second game was very different from the first. Eliskases held the initiative for a long time, and entered an advantageous Rook and Pawns ending. Spielmann played the ending well and was able to escape with a draw.

Game 3. Spielmann changed tack with a <d4> opening. A Nimzo-Indian, Classical (E33) developed but the closed nature of the position with interlocked pawns led to manoeuvring in which neither player was able to establish an advantage. The game was drawn in 37 moves.

Game 4. Spielmann played very precisely and equalized using the then popular Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower (D59). Eliskases had the opportunity to castle on opposite wings, but preferred a slower exchange of central pawns. Spielmann in his notes to this game stated that "Eliskases does not love dashing double-edged positions, but aspires for simplicity and clarity". (4) It seems that Spielmann had been studying Euwe vs S Landau, 1936 and was hoping for a sharp tactical battle.

Game 5. With the first four games tied, Spielmann returned with aggressive intent to the opening he has used in the first game - Giuoco Piano.

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With the sacrifice 22.Nxg7! he methodically built up an overwhelming King-side attack. Spielmann in his notes to this game wrote that the Knight sacrifice could "not be calculated exactly, but rather only be sensed emotionally". (5) Ironically, his misfortunes began with this beautiful victory. He wrote that "I had exhausted myself with this creative game" and with a lack of rest days, he suffered in the second half of the match. In particular, Spielmann considered that his dissipated strength led directly to the loss of the ninth game. (6)

Game 6. Spielmann with Black accurately defended and equalized the game. In the final position, he stood somewhat better:

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"World Champion Max Euwe commented on the end position that black could make various attempts to win beginning with e. g. 33...Kh7, but if properly defended, these attempts would be unsuccessful. This is why I agreed to draw because I wanted to conserve my strength for the exhausting finish without rest days." (6)

Game 7. Eliskases came back to level terms with a win as Black. Spielmann again used an <e> pawn opening and Eliskases defended with the Two Knights (C59). Spielmann followed a variation he had used successfully in Spielmann vs E Cohn, 1909. Despite this, he blundered with

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22.Rd1?, overlooking that 22...Qh5! threatened mate on <f3>.

Game 8. Spielmann used a variation of the French Defence which he was to employ several times over the next two years. Eliskases had pressure for most of the game, until Spielmann sacrificed a pawn to achieve a draw although a pawn down:

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42...f4!? was a move of an experienced grandmaster. It is possible that Eliskases could have played perfectly and won, but it was far from inevitable.

Game 9. This game followed a previous victory of Spielmann's: Spielmann vs Alatortsev, 1935. Eliskases carefully neutralised his opponent's solid Colle System and the game seemed to be heading for a draw. Spielmann, with his last White of the match, overplayed his position with

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18.Nf5? This move had no substance and by taking the Knight Eliskases was able to rapidly release his pieces and then win the exchange. Spielmann's position collapsed and he was now one behind in the match with only one game left to play.

Game 10. Spielmann could draw the match if he won with Black. He played a Sicilian Defence which was not part of his standard repertoire. From the opening his position had a significant weakness with a backward <d> pawn. Active piece play gave him dynamic equality but he was outmanoeuvred by Eliskases in the middle game. Eliskases built up a winning position and then agreed to a draw so sealing his victory in the match.


(1) Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad, (Holland), 2nd January 1937.
(3) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 337.
(4) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 341.
(5) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 343.
(6) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, Nr. 22, November 1936, p. 344.

This text and original research by User: Chessical. Two games (nos 2 and 4) were submitted to the database to complete the collection.

 page 1 of 1; 10 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Spielmann vs E Eliskases ½-½281936Spielmann - EliskasesC54 Giuoco Piano
2. E Eliskases vs Spielmann ½-½551936Spielmann - EliskasesD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
3. Spielmann vs E Eliskases  ½-½371936Spielmann - EliskasesE33 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
4. E Eliskases vs Spielmann ½-½301936Spielmann - EliskasesD59 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower
5. Spielmann vs E Eliskases 1-0471936Spielmann - EliskasesC53 Giuoco Piano
6. E Eliskases vs Spielmann  ½-½331936Spielmann - EliskasesD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
7. Spielmann vs E Eliskases 0-1271936Spielmann - EliskasesC59 Two Knights
8. E Eliskases vs Spielmann ½-½671936Spielmann - EliskasesC11 French
9. Spielmann vs E Eliskases 0-1311936Spielmann - EliskasesA47 Queen's Indian
10. E Eliskases vs Spielmann ½-½321936Spielmann - EliskasesB29 Sicilian, Nimzovich-Rubinstein
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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