GERMAN CHESS CONGRESSES
1. Regional federations
Georg Schnitzler from Düsseldorf and Otto Wülfing from Elberfeld took the initiative for a congress of chess players in Rheinland-Westfalen. The meeting place became Düsseldorf, because it was located at a crossing of railroads. Many players from Düsseldorf, Elberfeld, Köln, Mühlheim, Duisberg, Crefeld and Wesel travelled to the lovely Ananasberg in the Hofgarten on Sunday 21 ix 1861. Casual games were played. They went to the Europäischen Hof in downtown Düsseldorf for an afternoon banquet. At the end Alfred Schlieper proposed to establish an annual chess congress and got an ovation. The Westdeutschen Schachbund was founded. Hereafter, the friendly hostilities were resumed. A special guest was the 80-years-old first-rate butcher Frank, who had fought with the old war-horse Blücher on the chessboard. A popular opponent was Graf Conrad Vitzthum von Eckstädt from Dresden. He played several games with the three mentioned organisers.
Although top players participated in the early congresses, the atmosphere was relaxed, because the players had fine jobs and the stakes were low. 4-6 players took part in the main event. When the master tournament was unfinished at the end of the official program, extra days were added. A more professional mood was created, when the field increased to ten, and chess clocks were used. Two games were played per day and a tight time schedule was applied. A tradition of congress books started at once and continued, though few copies were sold of the report about Düsseldorf 1861-62.
2. Congresses until the Great War
The Deutschen Schachbund had been founded in Leipzig on 18 vii 1877. When the next meeting took place in the Schützenhaus on 15 vii 1879, sixty-two clubs had become member of the chess federation. Hofrat von Gottschall became Chairman and Zwanzig the General Secretary. Twelve players participated in the master tournament of Leipzig 1879. Thereafter the field increased and improved.
When foreign players were invited for Berlin 1881, an important and successful formulae was completed: 1. A master tournament was organised every second year, in a time when few international events took place. 2. Germans could partake in many groups and their talents qualified for master tournaments by a master title in the Hauptturnier.
Many important chess players took part, but Lasker found the prizes too low, when he was world champion. Tarrasch and Schlechter won three master events. Organisers kept a balance between the interests of amateurs and professionals. The Great War ended a fine tradition.
Winners of the master tournament (Deutschen Schachbund)
Master title in Hauptturnier
3. The Interbellum
Mannheim 1914 had been ended after eleven rounds by the outbreak of the Great War. Germany became exhausted by the warfare and an influenza epidemic.
When the disaster had ended, the DSB dropped its leadership in the organisation of international tournaments. The Schachbund gave priority to the preparation of national events. Master tournaments became local occasions. The DSB organised four Hauptturniere as Berlin 1920. Ehrhardt Post was the manager. A master tournament followed in the same city at the end of that year as a regional initiative by Kagan.
The Großdeutschen Schachbund (GSD) was founded in 1931. When Hitler took power in 1933, the DSB was dissolved. Bad Pyrmont 1933 counts as the first German chess championship. The level sank deeply, when Otto Zander spoke against the Jews. Emanuel Lasker and Jacques Mieses emigrated. Siegbert was refused in the Tarrasch club.
The national German championships continued until 1943. When the Schachbund was founded in 1877, some had wanted a broad federation with Austria. The wish came true by the Anschluß in 1938. The Austrian Eliskases won the championships of 1938 and 1939. He stayed in Buenos Aires, when the Second World War began. The tragedy for German chess was immense, when the great talent Klaus Junge fell in 1945.
German chess revived quickly after the horrendous war was over. The first closed championship was held in 1947. A new star became Wolfgang Unzicker. The DSB was reestablished in 1950. Separate championships were organised in the West and East until 1990. Thereafter, the efforts were combined.
A remarkable initiative was taken by the DSB in the 1970's. Every second German championship became an international tournament. The events showed similarity to the master tournaments of the past. However, the involvement of the Schachbund remained restricted to one main event.
The DSB had planted seven seeds. It became a full-grown tree in Dortmund. The Schachtage were an annual event with many groups in the 1980's. A super tournament crowns the occasion since 1992.
A standard formula exits for annual super tournaments. Top ten players and other stars participate in the main group of Dortmund, Linares and Wijk aan Zee. Many chess professionals and amateurs participate in lesser groups. Hundreds of enthusiasts watch the explication. Results appear in the media, especially internet. So everybody gets something. Compared to the German chess congresses, the problem tournament and solving competition have disappeared. Only Wijk aan Zee has a collective dinner, the traditional pea soup.