The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part III (1945–1961)

8/7/2009 – Sunday, 9 August 2009, heralds the start of the events around the 200-year anniversary of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, the oldest chess club in the world. Attendees on the final weekend (August 22-23) include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the Schachgesellschaft.

Sunday, 9 August 2009, heralds the start of the events around the 200-year anniversary of the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. The activities begin with the Jubilee Open at the Kongresshaus Zürich. For seven days, some 600 chess enthusiasts – world class players among them – will compete in the Open for CHF 100,000 in prize money. The celebration will reach its climax on 22/23 August 2009, when the world's most renowned chess champions will launch a simultaneous exhibition and a rapid chess tournament at Zurich Main Station. Credit Suisse is the jubilee events' main sponsor.

The Jubilee-Open, slated for 9 –15 August 2009 at the Kongresshaus Zürich, will bring participants from 43 countries together, chess enthusiasts who range from occasional players through to world class champions such as Alexander Morozevich. In the Alois Nagler Memorial (Master Tournament) 44 grandmasters und 46 international masters will compete for the CHF 75,000 prize money offered by the Alois Nagler Foundation. In the Accentus (Swiss Chess) Open, the General Tournament, players will vie for the CHF 25,000 Accentus (Swiss Chess) has sponsored as a prize. The event is open to the public, and the top games will be broadcast live over the Internet. Chess enthusiasts can register through 8 August 2009 via the designated website or on the day of the event on site.

Undoubtedly, the high point of the jubilee festivities will be events on 22/23 August 2009. That weekend the world's best chess players of the last 50 years will assemble at Zurich Main Station and show their magic: Viswanathan Anand, Werner Hug, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Alexander Khalifman, Viktor Korchnoi, Vladimir Kramnik, Judit Polgar, Ruslan Ponomariov, Boris Spassky, Veselin Topalov will all be participating. On Saturday, 22 August 2009, eight of these champions will be playing in a simultaneous exhibition with 200 amateurs. On the next day, Sunday, 23 August 2009, eight of these champions will compete against one another in a rapid chess tournament. Both events are open to the public.

As main sponsor of the jubilee, Credit Suisse continues a solid association with the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, one that, on the occasion of Credit Suisse's recent 150-year anniversary in 2006, brought Kasparov, Karpov, Korchnoi und Judit Polgar to the "Chess Champions Day" in Zurich. Co-sponsor Swiss Re offers further support to the jubilee, as do four additional partners: the City of Zürich (which assumed the patronage of the event), the chess software enterprise ChessBase, the Accentus Foundation (Swiss Chess) and the Alois Nagler Foundation in Arbon.


The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part III (1945–1961)

By Dr. Richard Forster & Dr. Christian Rohrer

The first tournament organised by the Schachgesellschaft Zürich after World War II was as innocuous as it could be. Efim Bogoljubow visited the club in summer 1946, and in preparation for the national championship a small training tournament was organised with five participants. Bogoljubow won, but not without suffering defeat at the hands of one of the local heroes: Dr. Adolf Staehelin, the Swiss champion in 1927 and twice vice president of the Schachgesellschaft managed to beat the former challenger for the World championship in a protracted struggle.

Adolf Staehelin – Efim Bogoljubow
Training tournament, Zurich (4), 2 July 1946
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0–0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0–0 9. d4 Bg4 10. d5 Na5 11. Bc2 c6 12. dxc6 Nxc6 13. Nbd2 b4 14. h3 Bh5 15. Nf1 bxc3 16. bxc3 Qc7 17. Bg5 h6 18. Bxf6 Bxf6 19. Ne3 Bxf3 20. Qxf3 Ne7 21. Bb3 Bg5 22. Nd1 a5 23. g3 a4 24. Bc2 Rfc8 25. Re2 Qc5 26. h4 Bf6 27. Rd2 Rc6 28. Rb1 Qa3 29. Bd3 Rcc8 30. Rdb2 Rc7 31. Kg2 Rd8 32. Qe2 Ng6 33. Kh2 Ne7 34. Rb4 g6

35. Bb5! Tightening the net around the Black queen. 35…Ra7 36. Qc2 d5 37. Bxa4 d4 38. R1b3 Rxa4 39. Rxa3 Rxa3 40. c4 Rda8 41. Rb2 Kg7 42. c5 R3a5 43. Qc4 Ra4 44. Qb3 Ra3 45. Qb7 R3a7 46. Qb5 Ra5 47. Qc4 Ra4 48. Rb4 Rxa2 49. Nb2 R2a3 50. Rb7 Rc3 51. Qb5 h5 52. Na4 Rc2 53. Kg2 Rc1 54. Qd7 Rc2 55. Rb6 Ng8 56. Rb2 Rc1 57. Qb5 Ne7 58. Nb6 Rb8 59. Ra2 Rd8 60. Nd7 Ng8 61. c6 Rc8 62. Nxe5 Ne7 63. Nd3 R1xc6 64. e5 Bxh4 65. gxh4 Nf5 66. Kh3 Rc3 67. f3 R3c7 68. Qd5 Re8 69. Ra6 Rce7 70. Rf6 Re6 71. Rxe6 Rxe6 72. Nc5 Re7 73. Ne4 Re8 74. Nd6 1-0. [Click to replay]

In 1952 one of the key figures in Swiss chess, Alois Nagler (1907–1996), joined the Club Committee. Up until then he had been known mainly as a problemist and chess columnist. However, his great organisational talent, his excellent relations with players all over the World, and his outstanding love of the game soon made Zurich a hotspot on the international scene. Besides various large tournaments he organised numerous simultaneous tours, including, in 1956, the first public post-War exhibition in the West by Botvinnik, who was then World champion.


World champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Alois Nagler after Botvinnik’s spectacular clock simul against the Swiss national team in Zurich, 1956. Botvinnik won 6½:1½.

The first great tournament with Nagler’s participation was the Swiss championship in 1952, to which the Schachgesellschaft Zürich invited six foreigners and eight Swiss masters. The tournament saw the last major success of Sweden’s Erik Lundin and a sensational second place shared by Switzerland’s first post-War champion Martin Christoffel and the ex-World champion Max Euwe.


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Max Euwe – Erik Lundin
53rd Swiss championship, Zurich (4), 15 July 1952
1. c4 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. dxc5 0–0 6. a3 Bxc5 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. Bf4 Nh5 9. Bg3 f5 10. e3 b6 11. Be2 Bb7 12. Rd1 f4 13. exf4 Nxf4 14. 0–0 a5 15. Bxf4 Rxf4 16. Qd2 Qf8!? 17. Qxd7 Rf7 18. Qd3?

Euwe must have missed Black’s reply. Otherwise he would have taken the pawn on e6 as well, since it is not at all clear whether Black obtains sufficient compensation for the two pawns.

18…Ne5! 19. Qc2? White goes down without a fight. The cool-headed 19. Nxe5 Rxf2 20. Nf3! would have offered much more resistance.

19…Rxf3! 20. Bxf3 Nxf3+ 21. gxf3 Qxf3 22. Nd5 Qg4+ 23. Kh1 exd5 24. f3 dxc4 0:1. [Click to replay]


Dr. Martin Christoffel (1922–2001) was awarded the IM title after his success in Zurich 1952.

The following year, 1953, saw one of the landmarks of chess history: the famous candidates’ tournament in Neuhausen and Zurich. But before that, another far-reaching event took place. On the Mont Pèlerin, on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Schachgesellschaft organised the first Clare Benedict Cup. These six-nation tournaments (later there were eight nations) soon became one of the most popular events in the annual calendar. Over the next 20 years Alois Nagler and the Schachgesellschaft Zürich arranged most of these events in various resorts all over Switzerland. Because of their attractive conditions, these “mini Olympiads” always drew a strong entry and produced many memorable games.

One such was the following:

Bertus Enklaar – Borge Andersen
Clare Benedict Cup, Gstaad (7), 30 June 1973
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 3. Bc4 fxe4 4. Nxe5 d5 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Nxg6 hxg6 7. Qxg6+ Kd7 8. Bxd5 Nf6 9. Nc3 Qe7 10. Bxe4 Kd8 11. Qg5 Bh6 12. Qg6 Bf4 13. d3 Rg8 14. Qxg8+ Nxg8 15. Bxf4

15…c6 16. h4 Qf8 17. Bg5+ Kc7 18. h5 Nh6 19. 0–0–0 Nd7 20. Rde1 Nc5 21. Bg6 Ne6 22. Bd2 Bd7 23. Re4 Nf5 24. h6 Qf6 25. Rg4 Nd6 26. h7 Nd4 27. Rgh4 Rh8 28. Be3 N6f5 29. Bxf5 Nxf5 30. Bf4+ Kb6 31. Rh5

31…Nd4? 32. Na4+ 1:0. [Click to replay]


The Clare Benedict Cup.


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This is not the place to tell the story of the candidates’ tournament of 1953, which is arguably one of the toughest contests on record and one which perhaps produced more outstanding games than any other comparable event. No fewer than four books from grandmasters’ pens have immortalised the tournament, the most famous being David Bronstein’s work. It still ranks among the highest achievements in chess literature.

Yuri Averbakh – Alexander Kotov
Candidates’ tournament, Zurich (14), 23 September 1953
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nf3 Nbd7 4. Nc3 e5 5. e4 Be7 6. Be2 0–0 7. 0–0 c6 8. Qc2 Re8 9. Rd1 Bf8 10. Rb1 a5 11. d5 Nc5 12. Be3 Qc7 13. h3 Bd7 14. Rbc1 g6 15. Nd2 Rab8 16. Nb3 Nxb3 17. Qxb3 c5 18. Kh2 Kh8 19. Qc2 Ng8 20. Bg4 Nh6 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. Qd2 Ng8 23. g4 f5 24. f3 Be7 25. Rg1 Rf8 26. Rcf1 Rf7 27. gxf5 gxf5 28. Rg2 f4 29. Bf2 Rf6 30. Ne2

30…Qxh3+. Many readers will have encountered this game before, but it is always pleasant to look at it again. The king is drawn into the open and will inevitably be checkmated.

31. Kxh3 Rh6+ 32. Kg4 Nf6+ 33. Kf5 Nd7 34. Rg5 Rf8+ 35. Kg4 Nf6+ 36. Kf5 Ng8+ 37. Kg4 Nf6+ 38. Kf5 Nxd5+ 39. Kg4 Nf6+ 40. Kf5 Ng8+ 41. Kg4 Nf6+ 42. Kf5 Ng8+ 43. Kg4 Bxg5 44. Kxg5

44…Rf7 45. Bh4 Rg6+ 46. Kh5 Rfg7 47. Bg5 Rxg5+ 48. Kh4 Nf6 49. Ng3 Rxg3 50. Qxd6 R3g6 51. Qb8+ Rg8 0:1. [Click to replay]


It was not to be: Reshevsky, the only player to come without a second, almost managed to hold up the entire Soviet force. But in the end Vasily Smyslov prevailed and went on to play a World championship match against Botvinnik the following year.

Fifty years ago, the Schachgesellschaft Zürich celebrated its 150th anniversary. Besides a very young Bobby Fischer, they invited, among others, Botvinnik. The World champion declined and instead there came Mikhail Tal. The Swiss were not disappointed by the replacement, for the magician from Riga played wonderfully.


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Mikhail Tal – Dieter Keller
150th anniversary tournament, Zurich (7), 27 May 1959
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. d4 c6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. a4 Qb6 8. Bxf6 gxf6 9. Be2 a6 10. 0–0 Bb7 11. d5 cxd5 12. exd5 b4 13. a5 Qc7 14. dxe6 bxc3 15. Nd4

15…Rg8 16. Qa4+ Kd8 17. g3 Bd5 18. Rfd1 Kc8 19. bxc3 Bc5 20. e7 Nc6 21. Bg4+ Kb7

22. Nb5 Qe5 23. Re1 Be4 24. Rab1

24…Rxg4 25. Rxe4 Qxe4 26. Nd6+ Kc7 27. Nxe4 Rxe4 28. Qd1

28…Re5?? A sad mistake after a fantastic battle by both players. The four-time Swiss champion cracks after almost super-human defence. With 28…Bxe7! Black keeps good winning chances.

29. Rb7+ Kxb7 30. Qd7+ Kb8 31. e8Q+ Rxe8 32. Qxe8+ Kb7 33. Qd7+ Kb8 34. Qxc6 1:0. [Click to replay]


Dieter Keller, tragic hero of a great battle.


Paul Keres and Mikhail Tal enjoying themselves during the Zurich 1959 tournament.

Another future World champion showed up in 1961, but Tigran Petrosian came only second. The grandmaster tournament was won by Paul Keres, who was probably the most popular of all grandmasters who visited Zurich. He was a close friend of Nagler’s and in 1968, after he coached the Swiss team at the Olympiad in Lugano, he also became a member of the Schachgesellschaft.


Tigran Petrosian (1929–1984), in a shot from the candidates’ tournament, 1953.

Tigran Petrosian – Paul Keres
Grandmaster tournament, Zurich (2), 28 May 1961
1. c4 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. a3 Be7 6. d5 d6 7. e4 c6 8. dxe6 fxe6 9. Ng5 Bc8 10. f4 0–0 11. Bd3 e5 12. f5 c5 13. g4 Nc6 14. Nh3 Ne8 15. Nd5 Nd4 16. 0–0 Nc7 17. Nxe7+ Qxe7

18. Bg5. Petrosian was not just a cool defender but could also be a strong attacker on his day. What hidden defence had he anticipated against 18 g5?

18…Qe8 19. Qe1 Ba6 20. Qh4 Qa4!

21. Be7 Qb3! Well calculated. If 22. Bxf8, then 22…Qxd3 and Black stands better in all lines.

22. Rad1 Qxd1!

23. Rxd1. Or 23. Ng5 Nf3+!.

23…Nf3+ 24. Kg2 Nxh4+ 25. Bxh4 Rf7 26. Be2 Rd7 27. Bg3 Re8 28. g5 b5 29. Bh5 Red8 30. f6 Bb7 31. Kf3 Ne6 32. cxb5 Nd4+ 33. Ke3 Rf8 34. Bh4 Rc7 35. a4 g6 36. Bg4 Bc8 37. Nf2 Kf7 38. Bxc8 Rfxc8 39. Ng4 c4 40. Be1 Nc2+ 41. Kf2 Nxe1 42. Kxe1 c3 43. bxc3 Ke6 44. b6 axb6 45. Rb1 Rc4 46. Ne3 Rxe4 47. Kd2 h6 48. Rxb6 hxg5 49. c4 Rh8 50. Ke2 Rh3 0:1. [Click to replay]


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The Schachgesellschaft Zürich is celebrating its 200th anniversary with another spectacular event in August 2009, featuring Anand, Kasparov, Korchnoi and many other chess legends. Its two centuries of colourful history are vividly recounted in a handsome jubilee book just released:

Richard Forster: Schachgesellschaft Zürich 1809 bis 2009. Eine helvetische Schachgeschichte in zwei Jahrhunderten mit einem Personen- und Turnierlexikon. 576 pages, with over 300 illustrations and more than 500 diagrams, games and fragments (in German). Ordering details and an excerpt are available at http://www.sgzurich2009.ch/pages/book.php.

Previous ChessBase articles

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part II (1914–1945)
14.07.2009 – In August there will be a spectacular event celebrating the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, which was founded in 1809. Attendees include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. To prepare you for the jubilee Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the club.

The World’s Oldest Chess Club: Part I (1809–1914)
24.06.2009 – In August there will be a spectacular event celebrating the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich, which was founded in 1809. Attendees include Kasparov, Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov. To prepare you for the jubilee Richard Forster and Christian Rohrer retrace the historical development of the club.

Zurich: A chance to meet the World Champions
02.04.2009 – They will all be there, for the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. The festivities, which include a Jubilee Open, will see Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov playing a Champions Rapid. They are joined by Garry Kasparov for a Champions Simul against 200 opponents. One could be you, if you solve a Jubilee Quiz.

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