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Vizayanagaram 1883 Tournament (part 2)

The Vizayanagaram tournament, played as part of the London 1883 congress, was a strange affair. Tim Harding concludes his investigation, including the solution to a mystery about Gunsberg's score.

Part One looked at the genesis and early stages of the event, going up to the progress report which was published on 14 May 1883 in the Morning Post. As explained earlier, most of the provincial players and some of the Londoners played two games each weekday but others played only in the evenings, which gave them an important advantage, not only in being less tired but also knowing, in the latter stages, what the target score was for a high prize.

By 14 May, two players (the Rev. Charles Edward Ranken and James West), had completed their scores, with respectively 17½ and 7 points. The early leader, Bernard William Fisher, had 18½ points with three games left to play, while the Rev. George Alcock MacDonnell (had 16 points with four games left. MacDonnell would certainly have been admitted to the main tournament, but he had chosen not to enter because he objected to the rule in that event about replaying drawn games.

Ominously, two of the evening-only players already had scored 10½ with about half their games yet to play. One was Isidor Gunsberg, who had honed his skills as the up-and-coming operator of the "automaton" Mephisto, and who had in that guise won a game against the Russian master M. I. Chigorin shortly before the congress began. The other was Count Curt von Bardeleben, from Berlin, who like Gunsberg was afterwards to have a distinguished chess career. Only half a point behind them, George Gossip was also in contention. Nobody else seriously threatened Fisher's leadership.

Before continuing with the story of the event, I can announce that another game has turned up. John Lord, formerly of the City of London Chess Club, now lived in Lancashire and he contributed two of his games with notes to C. A. Dust’s column which ran in the Manchester Weekly Post from 1883 to the end of July 1887. The first of these, against Benima, was in the tournament book, but Lord provided Dust with additional notes; the game with Vansittart, so far as I am aware, was never published anywhere but in the Post, until now. Both those games, with Lord's notes, are included along with a selection of the best games, annotated, on the Games page linked at the end of this article.

Further progress of the tournament

Since on 16 May only a few games were played in the master tournament, the Morning Post of 17 May had space to report again on the Vizayanagaram. It said:

“The minor tournament has now reached a most interesting stage. Several players have completed their scores, and some have only one game to play. A large proportion, however, have not played more than 15 games. This difference arises from a rule made by the committee that competitors should have the option of playing once or twice a day—once being compulsory. At present Fisher has the highest score, having won 20½ out of 25 game splayed. He lost to Bardeleben, Gunsberg, Piper, and Ranken; and drew with Mundell. All these have made good scores, and are probable prize winners, with the exception of the last, who has won 8 out of 13.

"Bardeleben’s score is 13½ out of 15. He is in the enviable position of not having lost a game, though he has drawn with Lambert, Lord, and Ranken. Gunsberg has won 11½ out of 15, having lost to McDonnell, Minchin, and Mundell, and drawn with Ranken. McDonnell has won 19 out of 24, and Ranken 17½ out of 25. Lee has scored 11 out of 15, Piper 11 out of 14, and Gossip 10½ out of 14. The following have also completed their scores:—Benema, 10½; Ensor, 11; Lambert, 16½; Lindsay, 12; Lord, 14½; Minchin, 12; West, 7; Puller, 4. It will therefore be seen that those who have the best prospects for the six prizes are Bardeleben, Fischer, McDonnell, Gunsberg, Piper, Gossip, and Lee.”

On 18 May the Morning Post reported that Lee, Piper, and Gunsberg had just scored victories, but did not say whom they had defeated. The Gossip-Bardeleben game (which has not survived in English sources) was started on the 17th and adjourned.

On 19 May the same paper reported three more results, presumably games played the previous day: “Piper lost to Bardeleben, Mundell beat Gattie, and Gossip won of Lee.” Then on the 23rd it said that Gattie had beaten Rabson and Bardeleben beat Mundell. “An extremely difficult and interesting game was played between Lee and Piper, but was unfinished at eleven o’clock, Lee having the exchange against two pawns.” Lee eventually won the game but unfortunately it is not one of those to have been preserved. Another lengthy report in the Morning Post came next day, on 24 May.

“Although public attention is of course principally absorbed by the major tournament, the minor contest excites great interest among amateurs, not only in London, but in the many parts of England and the Continent which the players represent, This affair has now drawn so near its close that it is easy to predict the nine prize winners, for in addition to the sum of £200 given by the Maharajah of Viz, which will form the first six prizes, it is stated that the 26 entrance fees will be divided into three more. Bardeleben, who is said to be the strongest amateur in Germany, undoubtedly has the best prospects for the first prize, for out of 17 games played he has lost none and drawn three. Considering that he has had to contend against the principal amateurs of Europe this is a remarkably fine performance.”

“Fisher, who is among the foremost provincial amateurs, has completed his score of 25 with 21½ games won, and this is the more creditable from the fact of McDonnell, with 19 out of 24, and Gunsberg with 14½ out of 19, being below him in the score. Both the latter have proved themselves to be first-class players and some discontent was excited by the action of the committee in admitting them to the tourney. The result, however, fully justifies the decision of the committee, and, from their point of view, must be very satisfactory.”

An offence and a double default

One of the mysteries about this tournament has long been the fact, stated in the official record, that the pairing between Gunsberg and Henry Lee was scored 0-0. Given the final score that Gunsberg achieved, a further point (had he been able to beat Lee) would at least have brought him a higher prize. Moreover, occurring when it did, the lost point may well have affected how he played some of his later games, including that against Bardeleben whom he had not yet met at this stage and conceivably could have affected the final result. The Morning Post report of 24 May sheds some light on what actually happened:

“The next best performances have been by Piper, who has won 12½ out of 15; Gossip 11½ out of 15; and Lee, 13 out of 18. The latter was fortunate enough to obtain a winning game against Gunsberg, but, in consequence of his having infringed the rules by showing the position during the adjournment, it was annulled and will have to be played again.”

In Victorian times, a gentleman was not supposed to look at an adjourned position, and certainly not to discuss it with anybody else. So far as the international tournament was concerned, Rule 13 explicitly stated that "Consultations and analysing moves on a Chess-board during adjournments are strictly prohibited, and any competitor proved guilty of the same will be expelled from the Tournament, and will forfeit his entrance-fee and deposit." (See pages xii-xiii of the tournament book.) Moreover the Vizayanagram rules (on page xvi) state that "all rules of the Major tournament not specially modified by these rules will be in force for the Vizayanagaram tournament."

How Lee's misdemeanour was found out, and why he was not expelled under the above rule, is unknown. Perhaps it was clear that he had inadvertently shown the position and had not sought advice. However, if the Morning Post report is correct, had the game been played out Lee would have won. Moreover, the committee ruling meant that Gunsberg was given a second opportunity of playing, and perhaps, winning that game. As the game was not replayed, we can only assume that Gunsberg, as a gentleman, did not wish to take advantage of Lee's infraction of the code (if not the rules) in viw of the fact that he would otherwise have lost the disputed game. The Morning Post report continued:

“Ranken and Lambert have finished their scores, the former having won 17½ and the latter 16½. The following have also completed their score: Lord, 14½; Minchin, 12; Lindsay, 12; Ensor, 11; Benema, 10½; Newham, 7; West, 7; Puller, 4; Pilkington, 1½; and Dudley, 1. The small score made by Mr. Minchin, who is among the best of English amateurs, is no doubt accountable to his duties as hon. secretary having interfered with his play. He, however, indicated his capabilities in the game he won from Gunsberg. If the latter wins all his games he may yet tie with Fisher for first prize, and his meeting with Bardeleben is looked forward to with great interest, as on this game greatly depends the final position of the leading three. No play in any of the contests in connection with the tournament took place yesterday, an adjournment having been made in order to allow a large number of the competitors to avail themselves of the welcome recreation of a visit to the Derby.”

Among other things, that report is of interest for indicating (indirectly) why the game Gunsberg versus Lee was scored as a double default. A speculation is that Gunsberg may have felt it would be unsporting to take advantage of the committee’s decision, since he was losing the original game, and so should not benefit by a replay, while Lee (of the St. George’s Club) for his own reasons (perhaps annoyance with the committee) also declined to replay. Only a few months after the tournament, Henry Lee was gone at the age of 29; he died on 20 December 1883 after an acute illness.

Unfortunately the score of the game between Gunsberg and Von Bardeleben has not survived in the British press, and nor is it to be found in ChessBase’s database. Was it ever published anywhere? Both men impressed enough to receive invitations to the master tournament of the German Chess Federation at Nuremberg, which began on 16 July.

W. N. Potter commented in Land and Water on 28 May that the American player Sellman was a dark horse in the main tournament, while “Messrs. Mortimer and Skipworth, it is true, would have found peers in the Minor Tourney, but their desire to link their names with such an occasion is far from blameworthy.” The Vizayanagram entry list formed “an array of strong amateurs such as has never before been comprised in a single tourney.”

Conclusion of the tournament

The Morning Post carried another lengthy report on 28 May:

“The minor tourney will probably be concluded this week. Although the contest is of undoubted importance as deciding the supremacy among amateurs, interest in it has unfortunately been partially eclipsed by the fact of its proceeding concurrently with the all-important masters’ tournament. The results up to the present afford to amateurs the useful lesson that in a protracted contest of this description, careful, persevering, and unadventuresome play is much more effective than that of the brilliant and inventive order.

No better proof of this could be desired than the score of Fisher, who ranks as a second class player, Mason having recently beaten him in a match at the odds of pawn and move. His play exhibits to a very great extent the first-mentioned qualities, and he has won 20½ games out of 25, whereas those admittedly first-class players, Macdonnell and Gunsberg, whose games are full of combination and brilliance, are behind him in the score, the former with 19½ and the latter with 15 out of 20.

Bardeleben, who has not yet met with defeat, having won 15 games and drawn four, owes his success more to the extreme care and accuracy of his play than to his powers of invention, and the same may be said of Gossip, who has won 13½ out of 17, and Piper, 13 out of 18, Lee, however, with the creditable score of 13 out of 20, is a player of the opposite class, who relies entirely upon ingenuity and invention.

During the past week Gunsberg has spoilt his chance of first prize by losing to Gattie and drawing with Bardeleben. He has now lost 5 games, while Fisher, who has completed his score, has only lost 4½. It is possible, however, that he may catch Bardeleben and be second, although this is somewhat improbable from the fact that Bardeleben has already met all the strongest players in the tournament. The next best scores to the above-mentioned are Ranken 17½, and Lambert 16½, both of whom have played all their games; Gattie, who has won 12 out of 20, and Lord, who has completed his score with 14½.”

Then the Morning Post, on 1 June, stated that Bardeleben beat Fevret [sic], “thereby virtually securing first prize”. Hunter beat Vyse, while Piper v Vansittart and Gattie-Gossip were both adjourned.

On 4 June, the Morning Post announced that “Baron” von Bardeleben had at last suffered a defeat, administered by Gattie, “late President of the Oxford University Chess Club,” who also beat Gunsberg and Ranken. This report also said that “Bardeleben is generally considered strong enough to have played in the major tourney.” Despite that defeat (which was published in the report with light notes), his score reached 21½, and Fisher was now certain to take second prize. The third and fourth prizes lay between McDonnell, who had 19½ and Gunsberg who had 18 with two to play.

At that point Gattie still had to play one more game, Gossip 3, Lee 2, and Piper 2. The last game, a win for Gunsberg against Gossip, was played on 6 June, the result being reported next day in the Morning Post.

In this article I do not include the crosstable for the tournament, which it would be laborious to produce in HTML, but it may be found in various periodicals, on page xxxi of the tournament book (even in the BCM reprint) and also in Gino Di Felice’s book Chess Results, 1747-1900 on page 89. The final totals, below, show that Gunsberg was sure of fourth prize before the game began but a draw would have enabled Gossip to avoid a tie with Ranken, which would have been worth an extra £5 to him. The final totals of all the players, with their prize money (as stated in the Post), where applicable, were as follows:

Bardeleben 21½ (£60); Fisher 20½ (£50); MacDonnell 19½ (£40); Gunsberg 19 (£30); Gossip and Ranken 17½ (£15 each); Lambert 16½ (£10); Piper 16 (£8); Lee 15½ (£7); Mundell 15; Gattie, Hunter, and Lord, all 14½; Lindsay and Minchin 12; Vyse 11½; Ensor 11; Benima and Vansittart, both 10½; Febvret 8; Newham and West, 7; Rabson 6; Puller 4; Pilkington 1½; and Dudley 1. The Standard on 11 June, while indicating Lee and Gunsberg as having lost one game each by forfeit, didn’t mention any prizewinners having a win by forfeit, which implies that most if not all the back-markers did play out their games.

On 9 June, MacDonnell wrote in his column that:

“I congratulate the young Prussian upon his well-deserved victory. His pleasing manners and courteous demeanour throughout the tournament gained him the good will of all with whom he came into contact. Mr B. W. Fisher has considerably enhanced his reputation, not merely by winning the second prize, but by winning it in excellent style.”

Unfortunately the rules of the tournament did not make the recording of games in the tournament compulsory because there was never any intention of including more than a selection in the tournament book. While most, if not all, of the games, probably were recorded for the satisfaction of the players themselves, and to ensure observance of the time limits, the rule meant that most scores were probably not submitted to the committee and as a consequence fewer than 70 games have survived.

The page of games for this article, which opens in another window, has a selection of annotated games including the two submitted to the Manchester paper by Lord. A downloadable CBV archive file of all the known games from the tournament is also available.


Additional matters: (1) B. W. Fisher

The case of tournament runner-up Bernard Fisher is somewhat strange. Soon after this tournament he went on to the Counties Chess Association congress, in Birmingham, where the First Class players were divided into two groups of roughly equal strength. Fisher was still on a high and won all six games in his section, with Amos Burn and the Rev. John Owen among those he defeated. (He did not play his seventh game, against Mills, because he had already won the group with a round to go.)

That performance tends to confirm his strength of play at that time, and to refute the denigrating comments made by the Morning Post about his play. Sadly for Fisher, in the play-off against the winner of the other section, Edmund Thorold, he was defeated, and Fisher appears never to have played chess in an English event again. For a long time I wondered what had happened to him, until I received an email late in 2010 from Jerry Spinrad who suggested he was the same B. W. Fisher who is mentioned as a former member of the Wilmington Chess Club in the Wilmington Star column of May 3, 1885. Spinrad also noted that then in the column of July 12, 1885 they say that the St Louis Globe Democrat mentions a player Fisher from England visiting Cleveland beating all their top players including John G. White and they have confirmed this is former Wilmington CC vice president BW Fisher who has been in Cleveland a year and can hold his own with anyone in the US except Steinitz.

Further research, mostly by Spinrad, shows that Fisher did eventually return to England and even played in the 12th Kent County Chess Association Tournament at Bromley, where he finished next to last with 2˝ out of 9. He was probably long out of serious practice and admittedly this was a strong tournament, won by Yates ahead of Shories and G. A. Thomas.

Additional matters: (2) Kasimir de Weydlich

As a footnote to this tournament, Minchin's book mentions that twenty-seven entries were accepted, but Casimir de Weidlich (said to be from Paris) was at the last moment unable to attend. I would be interested to learn more about him. He must, Wikipedia says and I also think, be the Count Kasimir de Weydlich (1859-1913) who played at Leipzig in 1894 in the 9th German Federation master tournament. In The Field, 29 September 1894, Hoffer wrote that he "hails from Galicia. He is known only as a correspondence player, having no opportunity for practical play."

As yet I have seen no correspondence games of his, but apparently he played in the third international correspondence tournament organised by Rosenthal for Le Monde Illustré in the mid-1890s. As Kazimierz Weydlich he played in a city tournament in Warsaw in 1884 (which would fit with his being originally from Galicia, which has been Polish at one time but is now in western Ukraine). The only other results for him on the Edochess website at present are two tournaments in Lemberg, 1895 and 1896. (Di Felice's Chess Results does not recognise the 1884 Warsaw player as being the same man.) Wikipedia also cites a Polish source showing that in 1898 at Warsaw he won a mini-match against French master Jean Taubenhaus 2-0.

© Tim Harding, 2014 (updated 2015, 2017, 2019)

Back to Part One.