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Spielmann - Eliskases (1st match)
Compiled by Chessical


This was a match of ten games played in Linz, the capital of the state of Upper Austria, between Rudolf Spielmann and Erich Eliskases from the 12th to the 25th of September, 1932. Eliskases won by 5½ to 4½.

The match pitted established grandmaster and Austria's leading player, 48-year-old Spielmann (11th in the world on Chessmetric's January 1932 list), (1) against an exciting new prospect the 19-year-old Eliskases. In 1932, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Linz chess club, the club and the "Oberösterreichische Schachverband" organized this match. (2) This was the first of three matches he would play against Spielmann (the others being in 1936 <+2 =7 -1> and 1937 <+ 2 =8 -0>).

"<Eliskases beats Spielmann!>

From the 12th to the 22nd (sic) of September, the Linz Chess Club organised in celebration of its 25th anniversary, a competition which is of undoubted importance in Austrian chess' history.

The experienced Grandmaster Rudolf Spielmann and the Tyrolean champion Erich Eliskases, who is just 19-years-old, faced each other over ten games. This battle was won by the youth! The first games soon showed the equal standing of both opponents, Eliskases won the second game, Spielmann won the fifth game, and the other games were drawn. The decision fell in the 7th and 9th games, where Eliskases masterfully managed to ward off Spielmann's flawed attacks, fight back to win. This decided the match, Spielmann's victory in the 10th game only polished-up his score. Austria has gained a new grandmaster!" (3)

The anniversary celebrations also included other attractions. There was a match between the Salzburg and the Linz chess club on six boards which Linz won by 7½ to 4½. Despite the hectic pace of their match, the masters found time for a public display:

"Alongside the match between the cities, a simultaneous exhibition was held, in which Spielmann and Eliskases played in alternation against 27 participants. The result was 24 wins, 2 draws, and only one loss". (4).


"The winner in the match against Grandmaster Rudolf Spielmann was born on February 15, 1913, in Innsbruck, thus he is only 19 years old. No one in his family - his father is a master tailor - is a chess player. The 12-year-old became acquainted with chess by chance, he immediately developed a strong interest in it and after a year joined the now defunct "Innsbruck Chess Society" but was not just due to his youth he was taken up as a member. Rather, a strong Innsbruck chess player, Carl P. Wagner took on the boy and Eliskases called this gentleman his teacher...

At the age of 15 years old he ventured to the Tyrolean championship tournament, with good reason as his success showed! He won 7 games out of 8 without a single loss! The new master of Tyrol had thus obtained the right to play in the forthcoming 1929 Austrian championship in Innsbruck. He tied for first and second prize with the Viennese player Glass and thus became a Master of the Austrian Chess Federation. And yet Eliskases was still only a student at middle school ...

... Whilst still at school in 1930, he surmounted a chess ordeal at the Chess Olympiad in Hamburg, where he made the best score of all the Austrian players, namely 73.3% with 8 wins, 1 loss and 6 draws. This was followed, in the same year, by a tournament in Ebensee, where Eliskases took second prize behind Kmoch, but still ahead of Prof. Albert Becker and Dr. Duhrssen. Eliskases could not then participate in any further tournaments because he was too busy preparing for his 'Matura' (the secondary school final examination - e.d.).

He passed this final exam with a good grade and in the winter of 1931/32, he went to the 'University for World Trade' in Vienna. There he joined the chess club "Hietzing" and then almost immediately won the club championship at his first attempt against 21 participants (12th-24th September 1932).

This was followed by victory in Linz against Rudolf Spielmann. Even if Grandmaster Spielmann himself thinks that his own incorrect psychological attitude is to blame for his defeat, it must be stated on the other hand that Eliskases was already in the lead after two games, thus Spielmann still had the opportunity of a further eight games to form a correct mental psychological attitude..."

Eliskases also developed his game through postal chess and especially his capacity for deep analysis. He started playing postal chess in 1928 and like Paul Keres benefited from the exposure to strong players outside of his immediate area.


Spielmann was noted for his romantic and attacking style. He had a career stretching back to 1903. According to Alekhine:

"So far as Spielmann is concerned, it is well known that this sensitive artist is capable of top-notch performances, but also that when he is not in form he can disappoint most grievously. One need only to recall his brilliant victory in Semmering (1926) and then again his finishing last in the Karlsbad (1923) tournament. The chess world, therefore, viewed him as a man of momentary successes, a prejudice which was wholly conceivable, for only those who have pursued his play in a long series of tournaments can arrive at a correct appraisal of his present unexpected series of victories.

He has had to conquer errors of a sporting nature as well as such as have to do with chess. As an artist, he is impelled by an impetuous passion for combinations which, although they have earned him a number of brilliancy prizes, have also lost him many an important point in tournament scores. A tendency to explore all tactical details of his repertory of openings is characteristic of his play. He opened almost exclusively with his king’s pawn, which inevitably resulted in the clarification of the most important battleground of chess, viz.: the centre. While this may have injected an outward element of liveliness into the early stages of his game it nevertheless also resulted in a lessening of the more real tension." (6).

His greatest career performance were to remain Karlsbad (1929) and Semmering (1926). The 1930s would be an increasingly difficult, decade for Spielmann. The threat of fascism would eventually force him into exile away from Austria and his family. In these very difficult and exhausting circumstances and with new and younger opponents such as: Eliskases, Mikhail Botvinnik, Reuben Fine, Salomon Flohr, Paul Keres, Samuel Reshevsky and Gideon Stahlberg, Spielmann achieved few outstanding results to match the former triumphs of previous decades.

The progress of the match:

Spielmann was White in the odd-numbered games.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Spielmann ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 4½ Eliskases ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 5½

Progressive score:

Eliskases was never behind in this match, Spielmann caught up at Game 5, but then suffered losses in Games 7 and 9.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Spielmann ½ ½ 1 1½ 2½ 3 3 3½ 3½ 4½ Eliskases ½ 1½ 2 2½ 2½ 3 4 4½ 5½ 5½

<Schedule of the match>

Game 1 - Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.305

Game 2 - Wednesday 14th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.308

Game 3 - Thursday 15th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.310

Game 4 - Friday 16th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.311

Game 5 - Sunday 18th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.312

Game 6 - Monday 19th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.313

Game 7 - Wednesday 21st September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.313

Game 8 - Thursday 22nd September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.315

Game 9 - Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.21-22, October 1932, p.325

Game 10 - Saturday 24th September 1932, Linz, "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.21-22, October 1932, p.326

The games

Game 1 - Spielmann opened the first game of the match with a rare Ruy Lopez sideline. Perhaps he counted on his greater experience being of advantage in a non-standard line, but he was unable to maintain any benefit from the first move. Instead, he twice came close to a loss. Eliskases missed a win after Spielmann blundered on move 39,

click for larger view

<39.Rd1?> should have lost to <39...Qb3>, instead Eliskases played <39...Rb1?>

and again when Eliskases, a pawn up, misplayed the Q and pawns ending.

Game 2 - This game followed the latest theory in the QGD Flohr vs K Treybal, 1932 - Bad Sliac (10th-28th June 1932). Spielmann had played in that tournament and written the tournament book. Karel Treybal had achieved a draw, but Eliskases played more vigorously than Salomon Flohr. Spielmann had a constricted position and was unable to break down his opponent's centre. Eliskases then built up a winning King-side attack.

Game 3 - Spielmann once again opened with Ruy Lopez and Eliskases replied with the Berlin Defence. Eliskases played very precisely against Spielmann's King-side assault and the game was poised on a knife-edge:

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Spielmann played <28.Rfe1> which in Eliskases opinion secured a draw, "After more than half an hour's contemplation. It is the only move which secures the draw." (7). Spielmann could do no better than to reach a drawn opposite-coloured Bishop's ending.

Game 4 - Spielmann replied energetically to Eliskases' Colle system, by pushing his <g> and <h> pawns. At a critical point, on the 15th move, he missed an advantageous variation and Eliskases managed to equalise and the game was then quickly drawn.

Game 5 - Eliskases, as black, equalised using the Slav Defence, but then overplayed his hand. With attacking prospects on the King-side, Eliskases underestimated Spielmann's counter-play on the opposite wing. As a consequence, he lost the exchange. Eliskases desperately continued to attack Spielmann's King by sacrificing a Knight, but Spielmann kept his head and won the game:

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Game 6 - Eliskases' Queen's pawn opening transposed into the Exchange variation of the French Defence. Pieces were exchanged to a lengthy but ineluctably drawn Queen and Pawns ending.

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Both players analysed the position together and concluded it was a drawn ending after:

53. Kg2 Qe4+ 54. Qxe4+ dxe4 55. Kf2 Kf4 56. Ke2 e3 57. d5 cxd5 58. b5 Ke5 59. Kxe3 d4+ 60. Kd3 Kd5 61. c6... (8).

Game 7 - "The Immortal Boomerang Game" a game that suddenly turned from an apparent overwhelming attack by Spielmann to defeat.

Reuben Fine wrote that this was, "The most brilliant game of that match (and) is an enduring masterwork." (9).

Spielmann attempted to overwhelm his opponent's defences before Eliskases had the opportunity to castle. After 14 moves, Spielmann was faced with a critical decision:

click for larger view

It appears that he now attempted to win his opponent's Queen, but overlooked her refuge on <a6>. With <15.Rxf5!> all would still to be to play for, the Rook cannot be captured as it allows mate in one.

"Spielmann sees that the Black Queen will be cornered in a6, with her king exposed in the centre, but he does not correctly evaluate that Black will then have more developed pieces than White, the only good move was <15.Rxf5>" (10). ...

Game 8 - A steady game, in which Spielmann played the Queen's Indian Defence. He was able to eliminate his only weakness, a backward <c> pawn and the position liquidated to a drawn Rook and Pawns ending.

Game 9 - Spielmann blundered this game away in the endgame with an unnecessary check:

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Instead of pushing the <f> pawn, he checked with the Rook on <d8> losing a vital tempo.

Game 10 - Game 10 began on the same day as its adjourned predecessor. Spielmann might not now be able to win the match but professional and personal pride meant that he was not going down without a fight.

click for larger view

29...Nxe3! and Spielmann soon won to reduce his match deficit to a single point.

Reflections on the match:

"In Austria, something very special happened with chess recently. The chess club at Linz on the Danube celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and for this occasion organised a contest between the great master Spielmann and the youthful Tyrolean master Eliskases. They did not expect much from this match, because no one doubted that Spielmann would easily win. Eliskases was no unknown, because he had represented Austrian team in the of the World Chess Federation Olympiad in Hamburg two years ago, and did so with great success. Since that time people had heard little of him and nobody could have suspected that this young man could be the equal or even the superior of a chess player like Spielmann. However, it was so!

The messages from Linz sounded favourable from day one for Eliskases, which was a great surprise in Vienna chess circles. Almost everyone, until the very last moment, expected this to change, but Eliskases remained dominant and as a result this very modestly set up match became a sensation for the whole chess world....The age difference probably played a role in this competition. Thirty years are a great difference, and in the eternal struggle between young and old, Youth will always remain victorious. In Linz, Youth has surely found a promising representative of whom one will no doubt hear great things." (11)


Three missing games (nos: 6, 7 and 9) were submitted to the Database to complete the collection.


(2). "Vorarlberger Landes-Zeitung", 21st September 1932, p.6.

(3). "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.17-18, September 1932, p.272.

(4). "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.316.

(5). From a biography by Prof. Dück, Innsbruck in "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.305-6.

(6). “New York Times”, 20 August 1929, p. 21 and 24. See

(7). "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.310.

(8). "Wiener Schach-Zeitung", Nr.20, October 1932, p.313.

(9). "The World's Great Chess Games", Reuben Fine p.182.

(10). Leontxo Garcia in "El Pais", 20th February 2013,

(11). Hans Kmoch, "Het Volk" (Holland), 6th October 1932.

Text and original research by User: Chessical. Thanks to User: OhioChessFan for suggestions to improve the text.

Game 1.
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932
(C77) Ruy Lopez, 66 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 2.
E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1932 
(D55) Queen's Gambit Declined, 36 moves, 1-0

Game 3.
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932
(C65) Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense, 32 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 4.
E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1932
(A40) Queen's Pawn Game, 22 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 5.
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932 
(D18) Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Dutch, 37 moves, 1-0

Game 6.
E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1932
(C01) French, Exchange, 52 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 7.
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932 
(D31) Queen's Gambit Declined, 32 moves, 0-1

Game 8.
E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1932
(E12) Queen's Indian, 39 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 9.
Spielmann vs E Eliskases, 1932
(C26) Vienna, 53 moves, 0-1

Game 10.
E Eliskases vs Spielmann, 1932
(E34) Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation, 31 moves, 0-1

10 games

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