16 November 2008

Emanuel Schiffers (Emmanuel Shiffers)

Continuing with my post on Chigorin and Schiffers, Kotov & Yudovich covered Emanuel Schiffers at the end of their first chapter ('Early History'), after Petrov and Jaenisch (with mention of Shumov, Urusov, and Mikhailov), in Soviet School of Chess. Chigorin was the subject of the entire second chapter ('Founder of the Russian School').

Emmanuel Shiffers (1850-1904), 'Russia's chess teacher', as enthusiasts of the game called him, did a great deal to popularize chess in Russia.

A prominent international master with substantial tournament achievements to his credit, Shiffers realized the social and cultural significance of chess and worked untiringly to unite the country's lovers of chess and to elaborate problems of theory and instruction. He wrote many articles on chess and also a textbook.

Shiffers was the first in Russia to deliver a course of public lectures on chess theory. The lectures, given in the hall of the St.Petersburg Chess Association in 1889, aroused great interest. 'The public lectures on chess theory delivered last year by our noted player, E.S. Shiffers, were an outstanding event', the magazine Shakmaty (Chess) declared in 1890. 'They were attended by almost 100 persons, who listened to the lecturer with pleasure. ... These lectures, the first experiment of the kind in Russia, enjoyed a big and deserved success.'

Due credit must be given Shiffers as a teacher who trained a number of gifted players, chief among them Mikhail Chigorin. (p.15)

Note the two variations in spelling the name. 'Schiffers' appears to be the preferred spelling, but according to Google, it's a close call between 'Emanuel' and 'Emmanuel'.

Schiffers made several other brief appearances in Soviet School. Here is an excerpt from a section titled 'The Middle Game : Systematization of Typical Positions':

Soviet players are studying various typical positions in openings of all kinds. This work cannot, of course, be considered finished; on the contrary, it is still in the initial stage, for only an insignificant percentage of the infinite number of middle game positions has been studied so far. Soviet masters are on the right track, and they are continuing their daily systematization and study of various positions.

There have been comments in chess publications abroad to the effect that this reduces interest in chess, by substituting 'drill' for creative thought.

That view is fundamentally incorrect, as Shiffers pointed out many years ago in his Chess Self-Taught. He said, 'As to the opinion that the study of theory is detrimental to originality in play, it is sufficient to recall that although in any field of knowledge the duplicated discovery of truths that are already known may be highly interesting and instructive, it is capable of consuming too much time.' (p.104)

The passage is a good example of chess as science, as opposed to chess as sport or chess as art. Schiffers also figured in the chapter on 'Chess Literature', where it mentions that he edited a journal known as Shakmaty Zhurnal (p.116). Later, we learn that

The life of a chess master in tsarist Russia was no bed of roses. Even the best Russian players of that time, Chigorin and Shiffers, had a hard time making ends meet; they were dependent on the whims of rich patrons and were unable to develop their gifts to the full. (p.284)

More information on Schiffers can be found in the the stalwarts of web information Wikipedia.org (Emanuel Schiffers) and Chessgames.com (Emmanuel Schiffers).

No comments: