Lasker-Maroczy (-Pillsbury) (-Marco) tour of Europe – Summer/Fall 1900 – The Beginnings

The new century began as a great, and busy, time for chess – with Lasker and Pillsbury both playing very near their peaks, and Maroczy emerging as another great talent. I think it’s worthwhile to try to track the master’s  European activities during this period of time. Hopefully, we can fill out the calendar below a little, and extend it into the Fall to match up with the Maroczy Vienna simul.

The year’s chess was mostly framed by the three major tournaments – London (grey), Paris (blue), and Munich (green) shown, at least partially, in the following span:
Let’s note that London was essentially just a British tournament, and none of our featured master players participated. But all of the concerned did play in Paris, which marked the end of the World exhibition chess, a historical association begun in London 1851. After the Paris tournament ended there was a goodly stretch of time, about 4½ weeks, until the Munich tournament. We’ll come back to Lasker’s activities in a moment, but let’s cite Bachmann’s timeline of Pillsbury’s blindfold play (p168+169)- which was peaking at about this time as well.


So Pillsbury managed to dazzle the Europeans with his phenomenal feats of memory and visualization, playing two 12-board blindfolds in Paris and London, and then a 16-board simul in Augsburg.

Let’s pick up the story at the end of the Paris tournament, when this notice of an intended multi-master tour of Europe appeared in the American press:

CHESS STARS WILL TOUR. Paris Quintet to Travel Through Europe – May Come Here

Advices from Paris state that five of the masters competing in the International chess tournament there have made arrangements to tour Europe In company at the conclusion of the big event. The party will include Lasker, the world’s champion and winner of the first prize: Pillsbury. the American champion, and Showalter, ex-champion, Schlechter of Vienna and Maroczy of Budapesth. Their intention is to visit Budapesth, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Munich, Frankfort on the Main, Augsburg and other places in Germany and Austria. Thereafter they will proceed to Great Britain, and in all probability wind up in America. In the latter contingency there will be enough celebrities here to form a nucleus for the proposed seventh American Chess Congress of 1901. On the tour Pillsbury and Schlechter are to give blindfold, simultaneous exhibitions, while the others in the party will play consultation and simultaneous games. Engagements have already been closed with the Augsburg. Vienna, Budapesth and Dresden Chess Clubs.

At the close of the chess tourney an international bridge tournament, for which eleven prizes to the value of 3.000 francs. have been guaranteed, will be started. Pillsbury, Marshall, Showalter. Maroczy. Schlechter. Mieses, Marco, Rosen, Didler. Brody. Weiss and Barteling have entered for the contest. It will last about three days. The game of bridge, which is payed on a board of a hundred squares, has gained great popularity both in England and on the continent.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… of course the grand, glorious Tour of Masters didn’t come off exactly as planned, but it does seem to indicate the impetus for such a tour was there. And while Schlechter and Showalter didn’t seem to join the engagement, Lasker and Maroczy actually did make the tour, with Pillsbury joining them for a short stint at the beginning. Outlining this tour accurately is the goal of this, and the previous, posts.

(And while we’re here, let’s ask what the heck is this version of bridge?! At least, the version that is played on a 100 square board. Was it true that bottles of champagne were used for the kings? Actually, I think they are referring to the game known today as Salta

The World Trade Fair of 1900 in Paris exhibited a Salta board made of mahogany with golden counters adorned with more than 5,000 diamonds. Famous players were the US chess master Frank Marshall, the German World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker, and the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (the “Divine”).

Apparently Salta was a fad that didn’t last.)

OK, we’ve set the stage at the end of the Paris tournament, and indicated, at least roughly, the possibility of an European masters exhibition tour (though we don’t know who actually were engaged in its organization). There is one other prerequisite to understanding the time with respect to chess, and that is the amazing blindfold feats of Pillsbury, which are contained in the timeline given in Bachmann’s tables above. The 1876 Zukertort record was finally broken by Pillsbury in 1900, first by the 17-board blindfold in New Orleans (Mar 3) and then shattered by the 20-board Philadelphia exhibition (Apr 28). This explains the dynamic driving a player like Lasker, who wasn’t really inclined to blindfold play, as well as Maroczy, who was so inclined,  to also engage in blindfold exhibitions during the 1900 tour.

Let’s end this installment here, to pick up again in the near future.



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