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Ignatz Kolisch | Romantic Chess Part 4

Written by Yash Mehta

My goal is to make chess the most widely played game in this planet. Although this may be overly ambitious, this is the right estimate looking at the amount of effort and dedication put in this website. This blog is just a by-product from the youthful exuberance of a 16 year old. I hope you will support me in this journey which I have undertaken.

May 13, 2020

Today’s blog will cover a lot of games because Kolisch is such a strong player with a phenomenal technique. It’s a shame that most people don’t even know him, forget the games part! With this intent, I plan to show at least 5 games of his. With that said, let’s move on.

Baron Ignatz von Kolisch (1837 – 1889) was born in Pressburg, which today is Bratislava, Slovakia. While a young man, he was the private secretary of the Russian Prince Sergey Urusov. Kolisch eventually got involved in banking when he met Albert Salomon von Rothschild, and after that, the sky was the limit.

Here is a little column of an article published about him. Note: It’s in very small text so you have to open the image in a new tab and zoom in.

An ambiguous part of Kolisch’s life is how was he introduced to chess? There is a theory that Prince Urusov, who was ten years older than Kolisch and a very strong player (International Master level!), most likely took him under his wing and became – aside from his employer – his chess teacher. Even so, Kolisch had a deep love for opening gambits, and Urusov was the creator of the Urusov gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4). In other words, it is quite possible that Urusov’s infatuation with gambits is what may have influenced Kolisch to embrace the same love affair.

Prince Urusov – Creator of the “Urusov gambit”

It is obvious that Kolisch could play strong positional chess and excellent endgames when he had to, but his style was mainly dedicated to violent attacks and slashing tactical takedowns. He was a genius in this form of chess, but often went too far in his search for thrills and beauty. In fact, at times his games incorporated a bit of gambling in that he “threw the dice” in the hopes that his opponents would drown in the not-quite-sound complications he created. I have to admit that most of his gambles paid off, and that he was able to defeat other opponents from beginning to end.

It is surprising that Kolisch only played serious chess from 1860 to 1868. A multimillionaire, businessman, writer, and chess patron, he gave up serious play after 1868 (at 31 years old) and devoted himself to business.

Although, having only a few years of experience of playing serious chess, he was we one of the world’s best player at that time. It is said that Kolisch was the number one player in the world in 1867 ( the year he retired), number two in 1862, number three in 1860 and 1863, and number four in 1861! His highest rating was an astounding 2785!

I decided to share his games and his life since very few people have heard of him, even though he was one of the strongest players of the 19th Century. And there is another reason why I delved into this gentleman’s past: unlike most players (both long ago and also today) who live lives of quiet desperation, complete poverty, or with barely sufficient means, Kolisch seems to have been successful in every endeavor he embraced (after all, he was a businessman.

His first exposure to serious chess was in 1860 (23 years old), and what a year it was! He literally went from an unknown to one of the top five players in the world – all in the span of a few months!

One thing in common between Kolisch and Anderssen is that both players were known berserkers, and Kolisch, instead of fighting Anderssen by positional methods and safe play, he went head-to-head. For example, as White he dared toss the King’s Gambit at Andersen three times (winning all three games)! Evidently, his crazy strategy worked! I am planning to cover these games on my youtube channel.

Adolf Anderssen, known for his attacking combinations and aggressive nature

Now let’s look at some games which I think would best describe Kolisch.

Here Kolisch thrashes the Russian Illya Shumov in great style,

Next Kolisch annihilates Winawer by going for a horrendous endgame assault that is executed in a style which is attractive for the average spectator.

Another Beautiful Andersson Knockout

Now we see a sparkling finish against star problemist Sam Loyd.

The next game is proof that Kolisch was not just good in one area of chess say endgame or calculation. He had a pretty good understanding of the fundamentals of chess.

And the game which I was waiting to show you all. This my favourite game of Kolisch and is one of the best games in chess history.

Hope you’ve enjoyed all these games. I hope that you’ve learned something new today and can enjoy the games from the historical gem: Kolisch. This was my attempt at giving Kolisch justice and giving him his deserved fame. Such an underrated player.

Happy Learning,
Yash Mehta

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