- Johannes Zukertort
Infobox chess player
caption=Zukertort, early 1880s
birthname=Johannes Hermann Zukertort
country= POL flagicon|German Empire
Lublin, Congress Poland
datedeath=death date and age|1888|6|20|1842|9|7
Johannes Hermann Zukertort (
7 September 1842– 20 June 1888) was a leading chess masterof German-Polish- Jewish origin. He was the "world number two" for most of the 1870s and 1880s behind Wilhelm Steinitz, who won both of the matches they played (1872 and 1886). Their 1886 contest is often described as the first recognized World Chess Championshipmatch, but it simply resolved competing claims to a title that was already in use.
Zukertort filled his relatively short life with a wide range of other achievements as a soldier, musician, linguist, journalist and political activist.
Early life and non-chess achievements
Zukertort was born
7 September, 1842 in Lublin, Congress Poland. His father was a Christian Protestant missionaryof Jewish origin. The Christian mission among the Jewish population in Russian-occupied Poland was considered an illegal activity. Therefore, the Zukertort family emigrated to Prussia. In 1861, he enrolled at the University of Breslauto study medicine; he later claimed that he completed his degree, but this has been disputed. In any case he met Adolf Anderssenwhile in Breslau and fell in love with chess.
This new passion did not prevent Zukertort from distinguishing himself in other ways. He became fluent in a wide range of languages (perhaps as many as 14). He fought for Prussia against
Austria, Denmark, and France; was once left for dead on the battlefield; and was decorated for gallantry 9 times; and he was noted as a swordsman and marksman. He was an accomplished pianist and, for a while, a music critic. He even found time for political activity, as editor of a political paper, a writer for Bismark's newspaper, the " Allgemeine Zeitung", and as a leading spokesman for prison reform.
In Breslau Zukertort met the leading chess player
Adolf Anderssenand studied with him. Among many other notable matches he played with Anderssen, he defeated him in 1866, lost in 1868 by a score of eight wins, three losses, one draw, and finally defeated him convincingly (5-2; no draws) in a match in 1871. cite web | url=http://www.geocities.com/siliconvalley/lab/7378/andersse.htm | title=Bill Wall's Chess Master Profiles: Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879) ] cite web | url=http://www.endgame.nl/match.htm | title=Chess Matches: from Lopez to Kramnik ] In 1867 he moved to Berlinand in 1872 to London. In that year, he played Wilhelm Steinitzin London, losing 9-3 (7 losses, 1 win, 4 draws).
Although Zukertort lost both his matches against Steinitz, he proved that he was superior to other opponents throughout the late 1870s and early 1880s. cite web | url=http://db.chessmetrics.com/CM2/PlayerProfile.asp?Params=199510SSSSS3S147051000000111000000000036010100 | title=Chessmetrics Player Profile: Johannes Zukertort ] During this period top-class tournaments were rare and Zukertort's best performances were mostly in matches, notably against Anderssen in 1871 and
Joseph Henry Blackburnein 1881 (6 wins, 2 losses, 5 draws). cite web | url=http://www.chessarch.com/excavations/0010_bla_zuk/1881blzu.shtml | title=The Blackburne-Zukertort Match,London 1881 ] Nonetheless Zukertort was one of the most successful tournament players of his time: 3rd behind Steinitz and Blackburne at London, 1872; 1st at Cologneand 2nd at Leipzigin 1877; tied for 1st with Simon Winawerat the ParisInternational Chess Congress in 1878 and beat Winawer in the play-off; 2nd at Berlinin 1881, behind Blackburne; tied for 4th at Viennain 1882; 1st at London in 1883, 3 points ahead of Steinitz. cite web | url=http://www.geocities.com/siliconvalley/lab/7378/zuk.htm | title=Johannes Zukertort by Bill Wall ]
Zukertort's win in the 1883 London tournament was his most significant success, since: it was at that time the strongest tournament ever held; he won his games against most of the world's leading players, scoring 22/26; he finished 3 points ahead of Steinitz, who was second with 19/26.Mark Weeks' Chess Pages: cite web | url=http://www.mark-weeks.com/chess/y3lon-ix.htm 1883 | title=1883 London Tournament] This tournament established that Steinitz and Zukertort were clearly the best two players in the world, and led to the
World Chess Championshipmatch between these two. ["The Centenary Match, Kasparov-Karpov III", Raymond Keeneand David Goodman, Batsford 1986, p.9] At the time the match was not regarded as creating the title of "World Chess Champion" but rather as resolving conflicting claims to the title; the term "World Chess Champion" had already been applied to Howard Stauntonand then to Paul Morphyin the 1850s. cite web | title=Early Uses of ‘World Chess Champion’ | url=http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/champion.html | author=Winter, E. ]
The 1886 World Chess Championship match lasted from
11 Januaryto 29 March 1886. After building up a 4-1 lead Zukertort wilted, lost 4 of the last 5 games and lost the match by 12½-7½. cite web | url=http://www.mark-weeks.com/chess/y6sz$wix.htm | title=World Chess Championship: 1886 Steinitz - Zukertort Title Match ]
After this defeat, Zukertort's health suffered and he was a greatly weakened player for the remaining two years of his life. Diagnoses of his ailments include
rheumatism, coronary heart disease, kidneyproblems, and arteriosclerosis. His results after the 1886 match declined steeply: 7th at London and 3rd at Nottinghamin 1886; 15th at Frankfurt and 4th at London in 1887; lost a match in 1887 against Blackburne (1 win, 5 losses, and 8 draws); 7th at London in 1888.
Poor health and lack of physical stamina appeared to be one of Zukertort's two long-term weaknesses: some commentators attributed to illness the severity of his defeat in the 1872 match against Steinitz; in the 1883 London tournament he won 22 of his first 23 games, enough to give him an uncatchable lead, but lost his last 3 games; and he initially built up a 4-1 lead against Steinitz in 1886, but then his performance sharply deteriorated. cite web | url=http://www.chesscorner.com/worldchamps/steinitz/steinitz.htm | title=World Chess Champions: Wilhelm Steinitz ] His other weakness was that, while no-one had greater attacking flair, Zukertort never approached Steinitz' understanding of positional play and Steinitz often out-maneuvered him fairly simply. cite book | author=Fine, R. | title=The World's Great Chess Games | year=1952 | publisher=Andre Deutsch (now as paperback from Dover) ]
Unlike the majority of attacking players, Zukertort preferred openings such as 1. c4 and 1. Nf3 that were closed or semi-closed and offered the possibility of transpositions - in fact in the early 1880s 1. Nf3 was known as "Zukertort’s Opening", 40 years before it became known as the
Réti Opening. cite book | title=Transpo Tricks in Chess | author=Soltis, A. | publisher=Batsford | year=2007 | isbn=0713490519 See review at cite web | url=http://www.chessville.com/reviews/TranspoTricks.htm | title=Transpo Tricks in Chess - review | publisher=chessville.com ]
In his prime Zukertort also excelled at playing while blindfolded. In 1876, he played sixteen games simultaneously while blindfolded, winning twelve and losing only one.
20 June, 1888, in London from a cerebral hemorrhageafter playing a game in a tournament Simpson's Divan, which he was leading at the time. He is buried in Brompton Cemeteryin London.
It is said that Steinitz and Zukertort, present at the same dinner party, both rose in response to a toast to the "greatest chess-player in the world". Research by
Edward G. Wintersuggests that this story has been embellished. [ [http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/winter22.html Chess Notes 4360] , by Edward G. Winter, 13 May 2006]
Notable chess games
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1152032 Johannes Zukertort vs NN, Leipzig - 1877, Vienna Game: Vienna Gambit (C26), 1-0] White sacrifices the queen and hunts the black king to death. In the final position, "17. Bf4 mate" is unavoidable.
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1001802 Mikhail Chigorin vs Johannes Zukertort, Tnmt, London 1883, Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. Rio de Janeiro Variation (C67), 0-1] Two strong central pawns against the white king
* [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1001854 Zukertort's Immortal: Johannes Zukertort vs Joseph Henry Blackburne, London, 1883] Zukertort sacrifices his Queen but Blackburne cannot accept, Zukertort sacrifices a rook which Blackburne declines, soon Zukertort forces Blackburne to take the rook and resign 3 moves later. Steinitz described this as "one of the most brilliant games on record."
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