A Famous Loser
It is a pleasure to present "A Famous Loser" by chess historian Tomasz Lissowski and Grandmaster Bartlomeij Macieja. Written especially for ChessCentral, this important article provides for many of us our first glimpse into the life and work of Lionel Kieseritzky - perhaps the most famous "loser" in the annals of chess. As we will see, however, Kieseritzky was far more than that; he was indeed a chess artist of the first order, surpassed in his day only by Anderssen and (probably) Staunton.
The authors have written an excellent book about Kieseritzky entitled Zagadka Kieseritzky'ego, or "The Mystery of Kieseritzky". It is unfortunately available only in Polish, but even so it is well worth obtaining for the games alone, which number 170 - a fivefold increase over what is found in the typical database. The book was conceived with the idea of contributing to Polish chess history, but the authors were surprised to find that Kieseritzky eluded them even in his nationality. What they discovered instead was a sensitive man of wide-ranging interests, who happened to play Romantic chess with consummate skill. [Sid Pickard]
Which game of chess is the most famous? Among the millions played and recorded, which single game is so distinguished? Perhaps it is the short offhand game played in 1851 at Simpson's on the Strand, in London, between Anderssen and Kieseritzky. Within 5 years of its conclusion this contest was known everywhere as the "Immortal" game (German "Unsterbliche").
Anderssen - Kieseritzky
This game quickly became famous thanks to Anderssen's brilliant style; the cascade of sacrifices from the very beginning, and for the finish - a wonderful combination with a Queen's sacrifice, clearing the way for White's remaining pieces to deliver a mate - in which the helpless Black forces could only observe the execution of their Monarch.
Anderssen's name is extremely well known to all chess aficionados, with many books and countless articles being written about him. Polish chess players in Wroclaw (German "Breslau") completely restored the German Master's tomb some years ago.
But who was Lionel Kieseritzky, the loser of the most famous game of all times? Only a handful of players can say more than a few words about this old chess master with a Polish/Slavonic family name, and who was born in the 19th century region of Livland (today Lettland and Estland).
A careful reader of the Soviet chess press can recall two short texts devoted to this player; both reprinted in 1981: Imants Blaus, "An Eminent Baltic Chess-Player of the XIX Century" in Shakhmaty (Riga) and "The Flash and Fall of Kieseritzky" in 64 (not signed). Over the years I kept those two articles in my small home archive, and in 1992 I decided that Kieseritzky must be remembered and re-introduced to the chess world. Notes in some chess encyclopaedias, including the fundamental Russian Encyclopaedical Dictionary - Chess (Moscow 1991) convinced me that our hero was not only "the most famous loser" of all times in chess, but that his work was really heterogeneous and extensive, and that his biography, rich in events and dramatic turns, ought to be interesting for true fans of chess history. His Polish(?) family name, plus the constantly repeated assertion that "Lionel's father was Polish" or that "the Kieseritzky family came from Poland to Livland only 50 years before Lionel was born", was for me a kind of challenge.
I invited my club mate from "Polonia" Warszawa, International Master (now a strong GM) Bartlomiej Macieja, to be my collaborator and game analyst. I reviewed many private collections of chess literature, and visited libraries in Warsaw, Gdansk and Amsterdam. The most important source was the collection of Prussian diplomat, chessplayer and author Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa, whose precious books are preserved in the library of the Polish Academy of Science, housed in a romantic gothic castle near the city of Poznan. I asked two professional historians, two eminent representatives of Polish chess composition, an ex-champion of Poland and a psychologist (Sc.D.) from the University of Lublin to be my critics. Their essays were to be included in a book, which crowned 3 long years of work. I cannot say whether the book (Note 1) is good or bad, but at least now Lionel Kieseritzky has a chance to recover his place in the Pantheon of Chess.
Livland is an area currently divided between the Baltic countries Lettland and Estland. Colonised in the 12th century by settlers from the German kingdoms, Livland was ruled by the Teutonic Order of Knighthood until the 16th century. After decades of crushing wars, during which the monarchs of Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Russia variously laid claim to Livland, the country was in 1793 finally incorporated into the Russian Empire. Allowed to keep a measure of local autonomy and customs, Livland in those years was a mixture of religions, nations, cultures and languages. The townsfolk and those well born used to speak German or (more seldom) Swedish and even Polish in the south; whereas the mother tongue of villagers was Lettish or Estish - although linguistic purists will note some necessary omissions and simplifications.
Erich Seuberlich, a leading genealogist of Baltic-German families with noble descent, has traced the oldest "foot-prints" of the Kieseritzkys to the year 1688. At that time the tailor Juergen Kieseritzky possessed a house in the wealthier neighbourhoods of Wolmar, which is today the city of Valmiera in Lettland. Seuberlich was not able to discover when the Kieseritzkys came to Livland, or from where they immigrated. He searched for the family roots in Sweden and Germany (Sachsen - Anhalt) but failed, finding only pleasant family legends, but no material evidence. Surprisingly for us, Seuberlich did not discuss at all the possibility of a remote Polish ancestry.
Lionel Adalbert Bagration Felix Kieseritzky was born on the 1st of January, in 1806 (or December 20th, 1805, in the Gregorian calendar) to his parents Otto Wilhelm Kieseritzky and Felicitas Catharina von Hoffmann. Lionel's father was born on the 6th of August, 1755, in Lehova close to Fellin (Viijlandi in Estland). In February 1783 he married Felicitas, who was 10 years younger than himself and the daughter of a Russian "court-councillor" named Andreas von Hoffmann. The young couple settled down in Werro (Voeru in Estland), where Otto Wilhelm held the job of secretary in a local law court. In Werro they had 9 children, 6 among them surviving to adulthood. In 1798 the family moved to Dorpat (Tartu in Estland); Otto Wilhelm was by now a lawyer in Dorpat's regional court.
In Dorpat the Kieseritzkys owned their own house on Johannisstrasse, and over the next 7 years were blessed with 4 more children; the two youngest were boys - Guido and Lionel.
It is not certain how old Lionel was when he first learned rules of chess. According to an article prepared over 50 years ago by Guido, a strong chess amateur himself, for the German paper Deutsche Schachzeitung, it occurred when Lionel was about 3-4 years old. The boy's first tutor was naturally his father, one of the strongest players in the university city of Dorpat, but as a schoolboy Lionel did not distinguish himself as a chess prodigy. After graduating from the gymnasium, following his brothers and other boys from their social class, he entered the university. First he studied philology, and then law, but he was mainly occupied with mathematics. However, he did not finish his studies and left the university in 1829. The same year, having passed a special exam, he started to work as a private teacher. After the university curator confirmed Lionel's qualifications, he devoted himself over the next 10 years to giving private lessons to children from the best families in Dorpat, developing his reputation as a most sought after and popular tutor. For several months he was also a teacher in Carl Raupach's private school. Along with his teaching duties Lionel was constantly improving his chess, and at the end of his university years he was the strongest player in Dorpat, and perhaps also in all of Kurland, Livland and Estland.
Lionel never established his own family; but lived with Guido and his sister Lydie in their parents' house. The habits and lifestyle of this trio was far from the normal patterns accepted by the middle class. Guido and Lydie never held a steady job, and renting part of the house was their only source of income during these years. Meanwhile, Lionel's chess fame was quickly growing throughout the province. For example, journals from both Livland and Petersburg avidly followed the progress of the correspondence encounter between Petersburg - Doormat. The loud theoretician and author Karl von Jaenisch lead the team of chess players from the Russian capital, while Kieseritzky conducted the game from the Livonian side.
Just at the moment when he was finding happiness in his life and achievements, a sharp turn occurred. Lionel had a delicate nature, and was easy to stimulate or provoke. Certain neighborhood wagging tongues (these types are found everywhere and always) began to whisper about the unconventional Kieseritzky household. Lionel became embroiled in a court case for libel as the plaintiff. He probably won the case (Note 2), but suddenly he was at risk of having to repeat the proceedings on appeal. With an aching heart, and following the advice of his friends, he decided to leave Livland. Before departing in May 1839, he organized a "living chess" exhibition in Morgenstern's garden. At the beginning of June he traveled to Riga, where he obtained a pass with a clause allowing him to come back to Russia within 3 years. However, before this period expired he prepared and sent by post a request to abdicate his Russian citizenship, so he was never able to visit the Russian governor general's office in Riga again.
Our research into Lionel's youth has clarified two previously uncertain points.
First, his trip across the continent was not quite voluntarily - he did not leave his family, city and country, because he was obsessively looking for chess fame. Kieseritzky was not a knight-errant of chess, such as later Steinitz, Zukertort, Janowski and others were. On the other hand, for obvious chess reasons he finally settled in France, which was in his imagination a kind of chess Eldorado, and not in the German countries. Here was a place much more suitable in terms of geographical distance, language and culture.
Second (and what a painful stroke to our Polish nationalism!), a "fact" repeated in chorus by many eminent authors that Lionel's father was Polish must be forgotten. Without a doubt, Kieseritzky was a citizen of the Russian Empire from a Baltic-German family, which settled down in Livland no later than the second half of the 18th century.
Nevertheless, we could not understand or accept the paradox of a Polish (Slavonic?) family name combined with his unknown descent. Therefore, backed by our experts, we created no less than 3 different theories; each can be taken as the starting point for new genealogical researches. We do not quote these suppositions here, since they are neither strictly scientific nor perhaps very interesting for non-Polish readers.
In Paris and London
After a week-long stay in Riga, Kieseritzky sailed on the ship "Lisette" to Rostock. Next, on wheels, he traveled to Hamburg, from where he was taken by the steamer "Paris" towards Le Havre. The weather was stormy and the voyage lasted 130 hours instead of usual 60. Departing Le Havre on the 1st of July by stagecoach, he passed through Bolbery, Rouen and Andelys - finally reaching Paris. There he rented a small but nice room in a pensioners home on rue de Lille 5; these modest accommodations cost Lionel 18 francs per month. In Paris the Hungarian Janos Lajos Hora (born 1812 in Budapest), a painter educated in Vienna, became Lionel's first close friend. Hora was a weak player but a good painter, whose works are still displayed in Hungarian galleries.
At last, in the summer of 1839, Kieseritzky visited the "Temple of Chess", the famous Café de la Regence. There he had the opportunity to play games with Charles de Labourdonnais, then the unofficial chess champion of the world. The newcomer was paralyzed by nervousness and de Labourdonnais won several games, giving odds of pawn and move and perhaps even the Queen's Knight, but soon Lionel developed a fighting style befitting the young Russian. Two games by Kieseritzky, a win and a loss against the strong local matador Boncourt, were printed in de Laboudonnais & Mery's journal Le Palamede. His Slavonic name "Kieseritzky" was obviously too difficult for those French journalists (as sometimes happens even today), and it was comically distorted and printed as "Zekeriski".
Readers may well ask at this point how it is possible that our story contains so many details. Is it a bluff or fantasy? After all, more than 150 years have come and gone....
Of course not. We are simply delivering a "first-hand" report! It happens that we know the contents of several private letters sent by Lionel from Paris to his brother Guido in Dorpat, covering the years 1839 to 1849. Guido Kieseritzky showed 16 of these letters to Friedrich Amelung in 1858, who was a citizen of Dorpat as well as a Baltic chess organizer and historian, now chiefly remembered as a skillful chess composer. Between 1889 and 1902 Amelung issued the German periodical Baltische Schachblaetter, and Heft number 2 from 1890 contained Kieseritzky's letters and several of his games.
We know from Lionel's correspondence that during his first months in Paris he intensively searched for a "normal" job. He intended to be a teacher of German language and mathematics. Unhappily he failed, perhaps because his knowledge of French was insufficient, or maybe due to his lack of recommendations. And how might a guest from some distant corner of Europe find in this French metropolis the necessary recommendations to be a teacher?
Chess was Lionel's "lifeboat" in those difficult days - chess players could (and still can!) communicate with few words. There were plenty of gamblers at the Café de la Regence who wanted to play a game, with a stake sometimes even higher than 5 francs. If sufficient games were won, a proper living could be made - perhaps the 25 francs per month required for food, drink, clothes and the newly rented room at rue Dauphine. After de Labourdonnais died in December 1840, it was clear that only a few local players could compete with Lionel.
His chess reputation grew, and he started to write short articles for the renowned Le Palamede. His games, perhaps not all quite sound, but full of sacrifices and rapid attacks, were printed by the English press. Step by step, chess became for Kieseritzky his single source of income, a quasi-profession, the subject of his reading and object of his lonely meditation.
One line from the King's Gambit Accepted, which rises after moves 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5, became a matter of special study, his beloved "child". It is true that the variation was known decades before Kieseritzky, but the Livonian player did so much to popularize it, that already by the mid-1840s a new name was in use all over Europe: the Kieseritzky Gambit.
Lionel was also a skillful problem composer. Starting usually from a practical position, he had no ability as a great innovator, as for example August d'Orville and Bernhard Horwitz, and should instead be considered an eminent representative of the "old school" - although many of his works are remarkable, and bear signs of originality.
In 1842 Kieseritzky is mentioned with 9 others as a member of the French team in a correspondence encounter Paris-Budapest. Long before the Frenchmen's sensational loss Kieseritzky distanced himself from the team, which was surely dominated by Saint-Amant, best known as Howard Staunton's opponent in 1843. This falling out was the first symptom of a growing conflict between Kieseritzky and Saint-Amant; obviously Paris was too small for two chess Kings. Perhaps Saint-Amant was jealous of Kieseritzky's popularity, for the latter's table at the Café de la Regence was always surrounded by a "corona" - a group of loud, impatient on-lookers. Kieseritzky was an expert in offhand games, but his real fame was due to his ability to play several games simultaneously blindfold, without sight of board and pieces. In April 1851 he surpassed Philidor's achievement of 3 games, giving a blindfold performance against Potier, Witcomb, Campbell and de Sivers (+3, -1).
Meanwhile Saint-Amant and his followers had the media in their hands (Le Palamede), and from time to time directed their pens against Kieseritzky. Alphonse Delannoy in 1844 published an article with the clear conclusion:
"Kieseritzky is a coward, he refused to play an official game against Saint-Amant" and that "he hides himself under explanations, the substance of which is inexplicable".
And again, when Kieseritzky edited the book Cinquante parties in 1846, using his own system of notation, Le Palamede blasted the novelty with some malicious remarks.
However, sympathy for Lionel seems to have been abundant. An important moment was the solemn meeting at the "Cercle", when Kieseritzky was endowed with a cheque for 500 francs and a gilded silver medal decorated with symbols "from physical and mathematical sciences" and inscribed: "Le Cercle des Echecs de la Regence a Mr. Kieseritzky, Paris 1846". This gift so much affected the sentimental master that, as he later wrote to his brother Guido, he left the room and started to cry.
In the summer of 1846 Kieseritzky undertook a journey to England. The main purpose was to promote Cinquante parties and its new "lexicographical" notation, but also Lionel wanted to demonstrate his mastery of blindfold play, and perhaps to fight against one of London's champions - maybe against Staunton himself?
But the "Giant of Three Kingdoms" (Note 3) preferred not to risk his reputation in a contest "for nothing". His seconds required a stake of 100 pounds from each side. Poor Kieseritzky did not possess even a quarter of that amount, while his London supporters were not ready to put their money into such a hazardous business. The champion from Paris had to be satisfied with a short match against G. Walker (+1, -2) and the longer one against B. Horwitz (+7, -4, =1) for 10 guineas presented here:
In addition, Lionel played dozens of off-hand games and several blindfold, naturally visiting the most famous English chess salon of the 19th century, the "Cigar Divan" on the Strand.
The year 1848 was filled with important events. In July rebellious workers raised the barricades in Paris, but after several days the forces of General Louis Cavaignac suppressed all resistance from the badly armed rebels. Lionel described those dramatic days in a letter to Lydia:
"Meine liebe theure Schwester! Meine Lebensweise ist einfach. In den Junitagen habe ich nichts zu leiden gehabt, ausser, dass ich fuenf Naechte in der Regence geschlafen oder vielmehr gewacht habe. Nach Hause konnte ich nicht gehen, - die Communication war sehr schwierig, selbst am Tage, so dass ich am Sontag, den 25. Juni, ueber eine halbe Stunde brauchte, um vom Cafe de la Regence nach der Rue Dauphine zu gehen, wozu ich sonst nur 8 bis 10 Minuten brauche. Nur am Montag Abend hatte ich einen kleinem Schreck. Gefangene hatten sich auf dem Carousselplatz losgemacht und bei der Gelegenheit wurde hin und her geschossen, sogar vor dem Cafe, so dass ungefaehr 40 bis 50 Menschen ihr Leben verloren. Ich habe die ganze Nacht bei einem Verwunndeten gewacht und Charpie gezupft. - Jetzt is Alles wieder ruhig. Gott gebe, dass es besser werden moege....Dein treuer Bruder Lionel"
The most important chess event of the year was his match with Henry T. Buckle, a self-taught genius, whose intellectual powers and profound erudition were displayed in his book The History of Civilisation in England (London 1857). In the late 1840s Buckle was one of the best English players (behind Staunton) along with Boden, Williams, Walker and Evans. This time the question of a monetary stake was not decisive because Buckle, a financially independent gentleman, played chess only for amusement. Kieseritzky overlooked an easy win in one of the last games (a Bishop versus Knight ending) and lost the fight +2, -3, =3.
In 1849 Lionel's hopes seemed to revive. Mr Vieille, the owner of Cercle des Echecs and Café de la Regence, formerly the main shareholder of Le Palamede, appointed Kieseritzky as editor of a new chess monthly. Lionel accepted the commission and named the paper La Regence. Despite the only moderate success of his book Cinquante parties he persisted in using his own notation system once again. This provoked a stream of complaints from everywhere; French readers were accustomed to the good old (and quite extended) descriptive system, while the Germans and English trusted their own notations and did not wish to study the complex Kieseritzky system. Deutsche Schachzeitung in 1850 published an article by Karl Jeanisch, in which Kieseritzky's old rival dedicated 14 pages(!) discussing the weak points of this innovation. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we must confirm the view that Kieseritzky's obscure notation was one of the main reasons that La Regence collapsed.
In the January 1850 issue Kieseritzky published a letter from Louisiana in North America: Mr. Ernest Morphy informed the readers that his 12-year-old nephew Paul was demonstrating extraordinary ability in chess. Notes by Kieseritzky to one of the games, in which the prodigy had sacrificed a Knight and crushed Mr. R. (Rousseau?), were very flattering.
By the next year the magazine was gone. In January 1851 La Regence published an extensive article by Saint-Amant - two months after Aron Alexandre died (1765?-1850) in England, the first Encyclopedist of Chess. Alexandre was the author of two fundamental works: Encyclopedie des Echecs ou Reseme comparatif ne tableaux synoptiques des meilleurs ouvrages ecrits ce jeu par les auteurs francais et etrangers (Paris 1837), and Collection des plus beaux problemes d'echecs (Paris 1846), the latter containing several Kieseritzky compositions. Saint-Amant regretted the destitute and lonely end of Alexandre's life, and appealed to the chess world to found a sculpture of the late master.
The fate of Alexandre can be taken as a type for Kieseritzky himself; as a chess veteran with no family support and no reliable profession, he was perfectly dependent upon his results over the chessboard. But Lionel, who passed only 45 years in this life, certainly did not think a lot about his future and eventual decline. In fact, he was at this time fully absorbed with preparations for the Big Tournament in London, the first international tournament in the modern history of chess.
This event raised and then dashed the hopes of many. Several strong players could not visit London in the summer of 1851, and especially noted was the absence of Calvi (Italy), Schoumoff and Petroff (Russia), Saint-Amant (France), von der Lasa (Prussia) and Schulten (USA-Germany), while von Jaenisch (Russia) could not take part due to his late arrival. Worse yet, the English players were disorganized by a schism. The two leading circles of St. George's Club and the London Chess Club were in a permanent state of war, and representatives of latter such as Walker, Perigal, Mongredien and Daniel Harrwitz boycotted the competition.
The Big Tournament was fatal for Kieseritzky. In the first round he had to face the formidable Adolf Anderssen along with the "KO" system of rules. After a quick loss in the first game Lionel exerted all his energy for game two and was very close to success:
Yet he failed to carry the full point! At this critical moment in his career, what was it that Kieseritzky lacked? An ability to play Rook endgames? Physical stamina? Patience and concentration? Or was he simply unlucky - did not Napoleon often repeat that a general must be lucky!?
In the third game Kieseritzky played as if condemned to death. He repeated the variation from their first game (1.e5 c5 and then 2.b3) and, in a state of abnormal nervousness, made several mistakes and surrendered after only 17 moves. Anderssen in the following rounds easily defeated Szen (+4, -2) and Staunton (+4, -1), beating in the final round the underestimated Wyvill (+4, =1, -2).
Therefore Kieseritzky won no prize. He searched for consolation in off-hand games, where his results were more reliable. He won the majority against Bird, Perigal, Mayet, Szen, Buckle, Mongredien and others, Anderssen included. Of the several games played against the German Master we have already quoted that from June 21st, the well known "Immortal" game, the starting point of our story.
The ambitious London Club soon arranged for its players to observe a new chess competition:
"Ein Zweites Turnier in London. Der London - Club hat ein neues Turnier angeordnet, welches den 28. Juli beginnen sollte. Der Sieger empfaengt den grossen silbernen Pokal im Werthe von 100 Guineen. Die Kaempfer sind: Anderssen, Loewenthal, Deacon, Lowe, Harrwitz, Meierhofer, Horwitz, Sabo, Kling. Von diesem 9 Combattanten wird jeder mit jedem eine Partie spielen; wer zuletzt die meisten Partieen gewonnen hat, erhealt den Preis." Berliner Schachzeitung 1851, p. 277.
Actually, Kling and Loewenthal were replaced by Kieseritzky and Ehrmann from Strasbourg. Not all the games of this little-known tournament were played, and therefore the event could be called unfinished, but...a winner was declared! As commonly expected it was Anderssen, who scored 7 points in 7 games (one draw with Horwitz was replayed). Kieseritzky, who had already came back to Paris, returned after receiving Mr. Augustus Mongredien's letter.
Once again the committee made a serious mistake in setting the rules. Only one prize was offered, so after Anderssen started to win one game after another, his rivals withdrew in a mass. Kieseritzky was able to conclude 3 games, winning against Szabo and (rather unexpectedly) losing to Mayerhoffer and Anderssen. In his encounter with the favored German Kieseritzky played the White pieces. Again a Sicilian Defense, and again disastrously weak play from the French representative, who lost a piece after only 11 moves. It is merely speculation, but we deeply believe that in those days Lionel Kieseritzky's sad fate was determined.
We know few details of what happened to Lionel after his return from London. English and German papers offer only a few notes in reference to the last months of Kieseritzky's life:
"From a letter just received from Berlin we hear that Messrs. Staunton and Kieseritzky are expected there shortly; the former to play his match with Mr. Anderssen, the latter to test the strength of the Berlin players". The Chess Player, 18 Oct. 1851, p. 110.
In fact, Berlin did not get the chance to observe both heroes. In the November 1851 issue of La Regence Kieseritzky announced the match Paris vs. London by "electric telegraph under the sea". The event fell through. The next issue for December was the last. The magazine had too few subscribers and was closed, so that France lacked a professional chess periodical for over 10 years.
Information for the years 1852-1853 is extremely scarce, and only a few games are recorded. Perhaps Lionel was consumed by his new passion: three-dimensional chess. He showed Anderssen his new invention while still in London, but the German Master showed complete indifference:
"Eines Tages, als ich mit ihm im Salon des Hotel, das wir gemeinschaftlich bewohnten, zusammentraf, nahm er mich geheimnisvoll beim Arm und lud mich ein., ihm in sein Zimmer zu folgen, wo mir ein hoher Genuss bevorstuende. Dort angekommen, wies er nach der Decke, wo ich einen Gegenstand haegen sah, der nach Inhalt und Form mit einem Vogelbauer Aehnlichkeit hatte. Er liess mich nicht lange auf die Loesung des Raetsels warten. Was ueber mich schwebte, war nichts geringeres, als das einfachste ‘Matt im Raume' bei umfassender Wirksamkeit der mattsetzenden Dame. Ich war der erste und einzige in London, dem er dieses Mysterium offenbarte, und doch haette er sich keinen Unwuerdigeren aussuchen koennen; denn ich begriff von seiner ganzen Erklaerung kein Wort, ohne das Beduerfnis nach naeherem Aufschluss zu fuehlen." Von Gottschall, Adolf Anderssen, p. 102.
The following quote must be taken as an echo of Kieseritzky's last attempt to change his fortunes:
"In Paris, the Café de la Regence has recently sustained the loss of its most powerful chess player, by the departure of Mr. Kieseritzky for his native country, Livonia". British Chess Review, 1853, p. 30.
It is true that Lionel's destiny was to leave Paris very soon and forever, but not to start a new chess tournament, not to spend the holidays in the country, nor even to return to his distant, native Dorpat. The Highest Referee had already counted the last days, hours and minutes of Kieseritzky's terrestrial game. Soon European lovers of chess received the bad news:
"It is with feelings of deep regret that we have to announce the decease of the one of the most eminent players in Europe - Mr. Kieseritzky. It appears that he had been laboring under mental derangement for several months, which may partly have been caused by the too frequent practise of playing 'blindfold', for which he was so celebrated". British Chess Review, 1853, p. 191.
The English chess writer and journalist R. N. Coles for many years conducted a column titled "One Hundred Years Ago" in the British Chess Magazine. In 1953 on page 137, unhappily without giving the source, he reprinted the following text, which ought to be studied carefully:
"With profound regret we have to record the death of the celebrated Herr Kieseritzkij, so long the ornament and pet of the Paris Chess Club, and one of the most brilliant players of the day. From various distressing causes he had for many months previously been obliged to abandon all attendance at the club, his intellect having become affected, till at length friends deemed it advisable to place him in that receptacle of the afflicted, the Hotel de Dieu, in which he breathed his last on May 18th. The authorities of the Hotel de Dieu applied to the Paris chess-players to bury him by a small subscription, but this was so ill-responded to that poor Kieseritzkij was given the burial of a pauper. Truth is, the Paris players are broken up, the club all but gone and the band who should keep alive the sacred fire without head or permanent locale. The Café de la Regence is to come down, its site being required for building improvements."
A careful trace shows that the quotation was taken from G. Walker, the same writer and player who defeated Kieseritzky in their match in 1846 and who for many decades was one of the main English chess journalists. Yes or no, numerous modern chess encyclopedias (for example, A. Sunnucks' work, London 1970) pass on the story that the Hotel de Dieu, a famous Paris hospital and poorhouse, was Kieseritzky's last asylum. Is it true?
We are sorry to say no. We searched for confirmation by writing to the Service Documentation et Archives of Paris Hospitals. In her letter from the 1st of September 1994 Mme. Velerie Poinsotte wrote us:
"(...) je vous informe gue nous n'avons pas trouve d'admission ou de deces entre le 1er janvier et fin 1853 dans les registres de l'Hotel-Dieu au nom de Lionel Kieseritzky".
Only a second request sent to the same address solved the enigma, one of so many in the biography of this Baltic chessplayer. We were informed that Kieseritzky died in "La Charite" hospital, and that the diagnosis was hemiplegia. A serious dysfunction of the brain (ramollissement du cerveau) was the direct cause of death after 45 days in the hospital. No record in reference to any funeral probably means that the poor, sick and lonely Livonian master was buried in a common grave.
Kieseritzky's Favorite Variations
A) 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5
The Kieseritzky Gambit
B) 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 b5 (or 3...Qh4+ 4.Kf1 b5)
The Bryan Countergambit
C) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.d3
The Fried Liver Attack
D) 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4
French Defense, Exchange Variation
E) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4 4.Qe2 Qe7 5.Qxe4 d6
The Petroff Defense, Damiano Variation
F) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bd6 6.d4 Nf6
Evans Gambit, Stone-Ware Variation (Editor's note: Pillsbury used this variation to good effect in the Hastings 1895 tournament!)
G) 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 f5
Queen's Gambit Accepted, Schwartz Defense
Examples of Kieseritzky's Creative Work
1) Zagadka Kieseritzky'ego (The Mystery of Kieseritzky), Tomasz Lissowski and Bartlomiej Macieja, Warszawa 1996, 300 pages, ca 170 games, with diagrams, maps, drawings etc.
2) In this chapter we used extensively the contents of Friedrich Amelungs paper: Baltische Schachblaetter. In Heft 2, page 64 he wrote: "The records of the proceedings are still available, and now we only can point out, that [L. K.] won the case."
A certain Estonian chess amateur, who wishes to remain anonymous and who several times assisted in the preparation of the book, visited Tartu (formerly Dorpat) in the summer of 1995 in order to check the archives of Tartusian courts. He was surprised and disappointed not to find in any archive any records connected with Lionel Kieseritzky.
Also in the University archives, which is complete and well maintained, he noted the absence of Lionel's file, while the files of many students - members of Kieseritzky family, for example - were in their proper places. We are not able to explain this phenomenon. We cannot say whether the missing documents will be ever found.
3) Alphonse Delannoy on Staunton in Le Palamede 1846.