Réti’s First Publication – Aufgabe #15 – Über Land und Meer v47 (1905) p1099
Réti’s first published composition is often discussed as playing a role in his development, due to the encouragement he received when submitting it for publication. Given his early age, it’s impossible to overestimate the positive influence on Reti of the letter the columnist wrote back upon accepting the composition for publication. Our problem with Reti’s problem, as chess historians, is that most (ok, all) previous sources discussing this encouragement wrongly attribute it to H. von Gottschall, when it was Emil Schallopp who was the editor of the Über Land und Meer chess column. Here is the scan of the composition as it was published:
(click to enlarge)
Richard Réti was born on May 28, 1889 which made him about fifteen and a half years-old when his first problem was published. Here is the FEN for the problem, 5n2/8/1p6/4q3/K1Pk1B1Q/5p2/2P3N1/1B6 w – – 0 1, and here’s the published solution:
(click to enlarge)
The published solution, 1.Qh8, is actually an M4, whereas 1.Qf2+ is an M3.
Here is Edward Winters’ discussion on the matter:
One day in the midst of this summer tranquillity a letter arrived addressed to Richard from Über Land und Meer, a then popular illustrated weekly in nineteenth-century style, to which we subscribed and in which a man named Gottschall [sic] ran a little chess column. Rather puzzled by the correspondence between the magazine and the 12-year-old boy [sic], we learned that non-talkative Richard – of course in utmost secrecy – had submitted a chess problem to Mr Gottschall [sic]. Here was the answer:
“Your problem is gratefully accepted and will be published in one of our next columns. And I wish to add that if it is really true that you are only 12 years of age [sic], as you wrote, and nobody helped you with the problem, let me congratulate you wholeheartedly. This is quite an exceptional achievement, which should encourage you to continue your work in chess with all seriousness. Personal greetings, Gottschall [sic].”
Such praise from an acknowledged expert impressed Father and Mother very much, but their natural parental pride was somewhat overshadowed by a feeling that their two sons, each of whom spent most of his time at the keyboard or chessboard respectively, might perhaps be lured into careers of an uncertain future.
And lest modernists get confused, the “keyboard” referred to in the last paragraph is that of a piano, and not a computer or smartphone.
Now, I originally attributed this quoted secton to Edward Winter when I first quickly scanned the article, as it bears his imprimatur:
The Réti Brothers
at the top of the article, and I skipped to the relevant section quoted above, not attentively reading sequentially the entire article.
So, when one quickly scans the heading, and then searches for a term, like Gottschall, it’s rather easy to miss the important lead sentence:
We present from our archives a memoir of Richard Réti by his elder brother. Rudolph Réti (1885-1957) was a composer, pianist and writer on music.
This means that the article, and all its facts, near-facts, or misrepresentations are due to Richard’s brother Rudolph (who did, after all, become a musician of note!).
But, even if one recognizes Rudoph Réti wrote the article, iWinter, who is such a vehement critique of others sourcing, offers no source for the article. Nor does Winter fact-check the material, which is why so many sources attribute Gottschall as being the columnist who first offered Réti encouragement, when it was actually Emil Schallopp. Nor was Réti only twelve, he was a more believable fifteen and a half years-old.
Given the reputation of Edward Winter for accuracy, he bears responsibility for the promulgation of these inaccuracies, e.g. to places like <CG> and perhaps also to karlonline:
If I may quote the material from karlonline…
In den Erinnerungen Rudolf Rétis rührt die erste Bekanntschaft Richards mit dem Schachspiel in einem Alter von kaum sechs Jahren her. Er sah den Eltern beim
Spielen zu und wollte es dann selbst versuchen. Es kam, wie es kommen musste, der Vater verlor zwei Partien hintereinander: „‘Woher hast du so gut spielen gelernt’, riefen wir alle, ‚niemand hat es dir jemals gezeigt.’ ‚Ich habe eurem Spiel zugeschaut und von euren Fehlern gelernt,’ antwortete Richard.“ [Rudolf Réti, Manuskript]
Sollten hier auch bekannte Vorbilder, wie Capablanca oder Morphy, Pate gestanden sein, so zeigt die Geschichte doch die frühe Bekanntschaft und das große Interesse der Familie für das Schachspiel.
Tatsächlich hören wir von Richards Schachkünsten zum ersten Mal im Jahr 1904, als er knapp 15 Jahre alt ist.
Hermann von Gottschall, der die Schachkolumne der Zeitschrift Über Land und Meer leitete, veröffentlichte Rétis erstes Problem und gratulierte ihm zu dieser für sein Alter außergewöhnlichen Leistung:
Über Land und Meer, 1904/05, Nr. 47
Weiß zieht und setzt in 3 Zügen matt.
Die beabsichtigte Lösung 1.Dh8! mit der Drohung 2.Dxe5+ Kxc4 3.La2 matt 1…Dxh8 / Sd7 / Sg6 2.Kb4! De5 3.c3# funktioniert wegen 1…Kxc4 2.Dxe5 b5+ 3.Ka5 f2 4.Se3# nicht, was weder Gottschall noch den Lesern auffiel. Hingegen gibt es eine andere Lösung, die aber sicher nicht im Sinn des jungen Erfinders gewesen wäre: 1.Df2+ Kc3 Oder 1…Kxc4 2.La2+ Kc3 3.Lxe5# bzw. 1…De3 2.Dxe3+ Kxc4 3.La2 #. 2.Lxe5+ Kxc4 3.La2 #.
… is a good treatment of the material, except for the basic inaccuracy. It is only due to karlonline that I was able to quickly find, with a little work, the original article and finally definitely settle the matter. Of course, this extra info isn’t presented in the Winter article quoted above, so perhaps karlonline was misled by Rudolf’s faulty memory as well. A good historian should also double-check a recounting of events from memory – and the “Réti Brothers” article is begging for such footnoting (and, if I might add, is also slightly mistitled – which should explicitly mention it is the memoirs of one brother about the other). At least karlonline got the age of Réti correct
In fact, we hear of Richard’s chess arts for the first time in 1904, when he is almost 15 years old.
Obviously they found the original date of the problem’s publication. Curious that they didn’t note the column’s editor was Schallopp and not Gottschall.
( For an example of some working notes on researching this matter, see here: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/kibitzing?kid=P10626&reply=324 )