Ostend (1906) – The Tournament Book that kinda was/wasn’t…

Marco’s Figurine Notation Experiment – or Chess Informant before Chess Informant

Ostend (1906) is somewhat infamous for it’s fairly unique format, but it also is infamous for never having a tournament book, despite having such a large number of master players and number of games (326).  Georg Marco, who was at the time an editor of Wiener Schachzeitung (the Viennese Chess Magazine), was supposed to produce a tournament book, according to the following notice:

WSZ v9 N7/8 (Jul/Aug 1906) p204/218 It seems to me therefore necessary to make at least one attempt. to rescue the valuable material by calling all the chess friends to subscribe to the

>> Tournament Book <<

The book, whose publication is courtesy of Mr Engen Pecher, President of the Tournament Committee, should include all 326 games – although without glosses, but with Diagramme and very brief hints, as well as with introductory discussions of the individual rounds.

The price is 8 kroner, the issuance should be in 4 notebooks of 64 pages each [ed- ?? – check xlate].

Since the manuscript (apart from the diagrams) is ready to print the first issue could already be printed within four weeks, with the whole work to be in the hands of subscribers by Christmas.

The printing can, however, due to the high expenses **) be tackled only when there are 250 subscribers to send in the amount of 8 kroner.

Over the course of the subscription, the Sept WSZ issue will give precise information by making the list of subscribers in chronological order.

The 250 first subscribers who make the book possible will obtain a numbered dedication copy ***). Should the company not find the necessary support, so I will make a careful selection of the best 120 to 150 games in shape of a naturally slimmer, but also much cheaper published book at a modest price of 4 kroner.

In this case, the subscribers to the full off the amount of 4 kronen will be refunded immediately or on request credited for the sake of simplicity per 1907 (if subscribers also receive WSZ).

**) At least 2000 crowns.

***) In their name.

Dear colleagues of the chess press, I ask to promote the publication through an appropriate notice in their chess columns.

Now, it turned out that Marco never had the sufficient number of subscribers to fully fund his version of the tournament book. In fact, the Sept. issue of WSZ (N9 p265/279) only listed 90 subscribers, will Marco making another appeal for increasing the number to 250. He also included a supplement of selected games from Ostend and tournament results to whet the appetite, but it was insufficient.

In the October issue (WSZ N10 (1906) p329/343), Marco lowers his sights, providing notice that the now 70 subscribers short of 250, sufficient to fund one pamphlet/volume of 64-pages focusing on games from the first four days of play. Marco had this to say:

Das erste Heft (von 64 Seiten) wird vor Weihnachten zur Expedition gelangen. Obwohl die Glossirung der Partien (gemäß der Anzeige in Nr. 7/8 der „Wiener Schachzeitung”) auf die allerknappsten Andeutungen sich beschränken sollte, habe ich doch vielseitigen Wünschen entsprechend, die wertvollsten Spiele der ersten vier Spieltage mit opulenten Kommen taren versehen und auch weniger erhebliche Leistungen liebevoll mit Erläuterungen bedacht.

The first issue (of 64 pages) will be released before Christmas. Although the glossary of the games (according to the ad in No. 7/8 of the “Wiener Schachzeitung”) to the very shortest hints should be limited, I have versatile wishes, the most valuable games of the first four game days with opulent coming provided and also less significant benefits lovingly with He reflections. An even treatment of the remaining match days but can not be promised;

So, the gig is up, and Marco admits to only being able to publish 64 games from the tournament. What is baffling is why Marco didn’t just return the subscriber’s money, and publish all the 326 games in segments in WSZ? Certainly this would have been more beneficial to those of us living in prosperity, and Marco did something similar for at least one Viennese tournament.

I believe the reason Marco didn’t do this is because he had a vision of the future – a new form of chess publication using figurine notation, universally readable no matter what language the reader speaks. Marco’s vision needed both funding and opportunity, and Ostend (1906) supplied both. In a sense, Marco anticipated the success that Chess Informant would have some sixty years later.

Marco introduced this new feature when providing notice in the first pamphlet’s publication delay in the final issue of the year’s WSZ (WSZ N11/12 (1906) p399/413).

Die 1. Nummer des Turnierbuches kann daher erst Ende Januar zur Versendung gelangen. Den Subskribenten hoffe ich dafür eine angenehme Überraschung bereiten zu können, die auch für die Einführung einer internationalen Notation bahnbrechend werden könnte.

The 1st number of the tournament book can therefore only at the end of January for dispatch arrive. The subscribers I hope to be able to prepare a pleasant surprise for you also groundbreaking for the introduction of international notation could be.

[emphasis added]

Of course Marco also promised to utilize the delay to add two more days of play (bring the total to 108 games), another promise I believe he failed to fulfill (though he did supplement his volume with four games from day 5). Let’s also note that his subscription list now numbered 223 as well. On p2 of the next year’s WSZ Marco finally notes the final 250 subscribers, noting some contributing 8 kronen, so I’ve assume the others contribute only 4 kronen for the slim volume.

The volume did appear in 1907, but not until May 1907, according to its title page. Moreover, and alas, it was never to be followed by any others, so that many of the Ostend (1906) tournament games have been lost to history- including many from the final 9-RR-1 stage of the tournament (i.e. the strongest phase).

But Marco did publish his volume with the new notation. In fact, the volume has no information about the tournament itself, beyond the games, instead focusing on the new notation:

* * IN OSTEND 1906 **

** ON MAY 11, 1907. **

Chessbooks are still almost confined to the territory of one country or one language. Therefore, their sales are generally low and their price relatively high. The publication of a chess book is therefore still an ungrateful, even daring company. For this reason, the tournament books of Vienna 1898, Barmen 1905, Nuremberg 1906 and the present work were issued by subscription. In this way the material risk can be reduced to a minimum, the other obeliges, the low sales and the high price can not be solved in this way. So I made the attempt to introduce an international notation.

If this innovation is understood and supported by my chess press colleagues, then the chess authors of the future, and perhaps even some of today’s generation, will no longer work for the paper and printing ink manufacturers alone. But not only the authors, but also the general public would benefit from an international notation, because the increase of the sales area would entail a reduction of the prices, and many, which are still far from the chess literature today. would, in more favorable conditions, seize the opportunity to enrich their knowledge by studying master parts. The prospect of a brighter future may well justify the introduction of this innovation, although it may be inconvenient for some to begin with.

The types of hulls, as well as the Latin characters, as well as the Arabic numerals, have become the common property of all educated people, and the hope that our algebraic notation will be adjusted in this new way will become common to our chess-brothers in America, England, France, etc., is accordingly not unfounded.

With this goal in mind, comfortable readers will certainly enjoy a little temporary discomfort.

The report on the tournament, the list of subscribers, the register of openings etc. appears in the last issue.

The extremely slow progression of the subscription, the particular difficulties which the typographic innovation brought with it for the printing house and also for the author as corrector, as well as other adverse circumstances, have delays the publication of this book in a most unpleasant manner.

I hope that the contents of the book will compensate the dear readers for the long wait. Incidentally, I would like to take credit for this as a mitigation ground:

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.”

Georg Marco.

To the honored colleagues of the chess press I send a review copy and ask for promotion of the enterprise by an appropriate announcement in their chess fissures. The complete work costs 8 kroner. Orders are to be directed to the publisher of Wiener Schachzeitung, Vienna VIII., Alserstraße 51.


* * IN OSTENDE 1906 **

** AM 11. MAI 1907. **

Noch immer sind Schachbucher nahezu auf das Gebiet eines Landes oder einer Sprache beschränkt. Daher ist im allgemeinen ihr Absatz gering, ihr Preis relativ hoch. Die Herausgabe eines Schachbuches ist daher noch immer ein undankbares, ja sogar gewagtes Unternehmen. Aus diesem Grunde wurden die Turnierbücher von Wien 1898, Barmen 1905, Nürnberg 1906 und das vorliegende Werk im Subskriptionswege herausgegeben. Auf diese Weise kann das materielle Risiko auf ein Minimum reduzirt werden, den anderen Obelstanden, dem geringen Absatz und dem hohen Preis ist auf diesem Wege nicht beizukommen. Ich habe daher den Versuch gemacht, eine internationale Notation einzuführen.

Wenn diese Neuerung bei meinen Kollegen von der Schachpresse Verständnis und Unterstützung findet, dann werden die Schachautoren der Zukunft und vielleicht auch noch einige der heutigen Generation nicht mehr bloß für die Papier- und Druckschwärzefabrikanten arbeiten. Aber nicht nur den Autoren, auch der Allgemeinheit käme eine internationale Notation zugute, denn die Zunahme des Absatzgebietes würde eine ErmäBigung der Preise nach sich ziehen, und viele, die heute der Schachliteratur noch ferne stehen. würden bei günstigeren Verhältnissen die Gelegenheit wahrnehmen, ihre Kenntnisse durch das Studium von Meisterpartien zu bereichern. Der Ausblick auf eine schönere Zukunft dürfte die Einführung dieser Neuerung rechtfertigen obwohl sie für den Anfang vielleicht manchem unbequem fallen wird.

Die Schachtypen sind ebenso wie die lateinischen Schriftzeichen, ebenso wie die arabischen Ziffern Gemeingut aller Gebildeten geworden und die Hoffnung, daß unsere algebraische Notation auf diese neue Weise adjustirt, auch bei unseren Schachbrüdern in Amerika, England, Frankreich etc. sich einbürgern wird, ist demnach nicht unbegründet.

Dieses Ziel vor Augen werden gewiß auch bequeme Leser eine kleine vorübergehende Unbequemlichkeit geme mit in den Kauf nehmen.

Der Bericht fiber das Turnier, die Liste der Subskribenten, das Register über Eröffnungen etc. erscheint im letzten Hefte.

Das auBerst langsame Fortschreiten der Subskription, die besonderen Schwierigkeiten, welche die typographische Neuerung für die Druckerei und auch für den Autor als Korrektor mit sich brachte, sowie andere widrige Umstände haben das Erscheinen dieses Heftes in sehr unliebsamer Weise verzogert.

Ich hoffe, daB der Inhalt des Buches die geehrten Leser für das lange Zuwarten entschädigen wird. Im übrigen bitte ich mir als Milderungsgrund anzurechnen:

„Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.”

Georg Marco.

Den geehrten Kollegen von der Schachpresse übermittle ich ein Rezensionsexemplar und bitte um Förderung des Unternehmens durch eine entsprechende Mitteilung in ihren Schachfpalten. Das vollstandige Werk kostet 8 Kronen. Bestellungen sind an den Verlag der Wiener Schachzeitung, Wien VIII., Alserstraße 51, zu richten.

Marco’s tournament book, such as it is, can be found here:


Thanks to the State Library of Victoria, Australia, we can see an example game of Marco’s radically new notation:

 So, figurine notation, but no Chess Informant annotation symbols – instead we still have German in the comments. So a good try, but ultimately, a failed attempt – maybe a little too far before its time (though I myself have little trouble reading the chess moves in any language I’ve encountered so far, provided algebraic notation is used).




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