Louis Eichborn: Better than Adolf Anderssen?

by Johannes Fischer
2/4/2017 – The ChessBase Mega Database 2017 lists 35 casual games Adolf Anderssen (photo) played from 1851 to 1859 against Louis Eichborn. Eichborn won 32 of these games, lost 2 and only one game ended in a draw. Now Anderssen is considered as one of the best if not the best player of that time while Eichborn is relatively unknown. How then to explain his overwhelming plus against Anderssen?

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Louis Eichborn was born on June 30, 1812, in Breslau. His father was a wealthy businessman and when Eichborn's father died Louis Eichborn took over the company. With success: In 1845 Eichborn founded a private bank which was granted the privilege to issue bank notes.

Historical view of Breslau in Silesia (today Wroclaw in Poland).
Wilhelm Kandler - Wolfgang Schwarze: "Romantische Reise
durch den historischen Deutschen Osten".
Gondrom Verlag, Bindlach, 1989. (Source: Wikipedia)

Eichborn was a passionate chessplayer. Although he never took part in  tournaments he played a lot of casual games against strong players. One of his regular opponents was Adolf Anderssen (6th July 1818 to 13th March 1879), who also lived in Breslau.

Adolf Anderssen

Most of these games are not recorded but a few survived because Eichborn kept a notebook in which he entered the games he considered to be noteworthy - mainly his wins. After Eichborn died on May 9, 1882, the notebook with the games was found and Hermann von Gottschall published some of these games in his biography about Anderssen, which appeared in 1912 in Leipzig. One player who was delighted by these games was Bobby Fischer, as John W. Collins, Fischer's first trainer, remembers in his book My Seven Prodigies of Chess:

“I remember I once lent a brand-new copy of Adolf Anderssen, by Dr. Hermann von Gottschall, to him. Some weeks or months later he returned it and I had good reason to believe he had worked over every game and note in it – all 751 games in the main section, plus eighty problems by Anderssen in another section! And later on Bobby and I played over thirty-six games that Anderssen played during 1851 to 1859 in Breslau with Louis Eichborn, a banker and a good friend of chess. Much to our great glee we found that Anderssen lost them all!" (John W. Collins, My Seven Prodigies of Chess, New York 1974, p. 55.)

In a lot of the games Eichborn won against Anderssen he successfully parried the wild sacrificial attacks of his opponent. But as the following nice game shows Eichborn also had a feeling for the attack:


The recorded games between Eichborn and Anderssen are now part of the ChessBase Mega Database 2017. This is due to the work of Gisbert Jacoby who extensively revised, edited, improved and enlarged the historical section of the Mega. More than 10,000 additional games were added, a lot of them commented with historically interesting material.

In the following video Gisbert Jacoby and Karsten Müller present some of the additions and novelties of the Mega 2017:

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Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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coxacose coxacose 2/9/2017 05:25
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koko48 koko48 2/7/2017 01:57
@mcplayerus Not quite sure what you're getting at...Are you suggesting that Anderssen was throwing games, and hustling the Rich Fish Eichborn?
mcplayerus mcplayerus 2/6/2017 06:17
It's amazing that nobody here understands what was going on: this Eichborn was a very rich person so obviously was a source of money for Anderssen.
Pieces in Motion Pieces in Motion 2/6/2017 03:57
Fascinating article. The Victorian period was truly the romantic era of Chess and it's interesting personalities and dazzling games are riveting. Never heard of Eichborn and reading this compels me to know more about the man. As an Anderssen admirer it's interesting to know more about someone who seemingly trounced perhaps the most brilliant player of the 19th-Century.
islaw islaw 2/6/2017 04:07
Nah, it looks like he wasn’t playing at his usual level. That 17...Qh4 and 18...Nxg4 wouldn't have worked would have been readily apparent. And right in the horizon is a possible pawn push by black, wouldn't have been completely off the radar. Doubtful 20...Rh2+ would have been to missed by a gambiteer either. And what's up with 20Rh1? Just lame. Maybe he just wanted his friend to enjoy the game, discover the combinations for himself, the sneaky little...
turok turok 2/6/2017 03:57
interesting story
Truffaut Truffaut 2/5/2017 08:03
Reminds me of the story of Grandmaster X who played a patzer many games over the years in a coffeehouse for a small sum each game. After many years of playing, the grandmaster decided to let the patzer win a game so he wouldn't kill his cash cow. When the patzer finally "beat" the GM, he stood up and proclaimed, "I beat Grandmaster X!" The grandmaster never saw the patzer again.
MHBChessFan MHBChessFan 2/5/2017 10:46
Possibly ONLY Eichborn's wins were conserved...
For french readers, there is a thread in france-echecs forum:
koko48 koko48 2/5/2017 08:30
@mistery How do you know he got crushed any games?

Just because chess history doesn't say Eichborn wasn't The Greatest Chess Player in The World. doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't the Best Chess Player in The World...History ('His Story') is riddled with holes, inconsistencies, and cover-ups

Nevertheless it seems Eichborn was playing chess around the same time as Morphy...And the traditionalist in me likes to think that Morphy would have crushed him ;-)
mistery mistery 2/5/2017 05:44
Yeah. No way he was better than Anderssen. He's not showing us the games he got crushed. Clearly he was just a sparring partner, but these are wonderful games! Eichborn will be added to my search terms.
koko48 koko48 2/5/2017 02:33
This reminds me of a fictional short story that once appeared in Chess Life then disappeared, I can't even find it online..."The Jersey Rifle"....About an unknown, unassuming man who was the Best Chess Player in the World, had beaten the top players of his day in casual games, but never played in tournaments and didn't even have a rating....He ended up giving up chess to concentrate on horseshoes or shuffleboard or something...A charming and well written story if anyone can find it...and Eichorn's story seems to be another example of art imitating life
diegoami diegoami 2/4/2017 11:26
Most of these games are not recorded but a few survived because Eichborn kept a notebook in which he entered the games he considered to be noteworthy - mainly his wins. ... Well, that's easy then. Amateur games don't count anyway