Aron Nimzowitsch

On the Road to Chess Mastery, 1886–1924

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About the Book

One of the greatest chess legends of all time, Aron Nimzowitsch (1886–1935), is best known for founding the Hypermodernism school of chess, which emerged after World War I to challenge the chess ideologies of traditional central European masters. This first full-scale biography of Nimzowitsch chronicles his early life in Denmark, his family and education, and his fascination with the game that would become the focus of his life. Also included are explorations of his tournament games and records, his dispute with influential chess teacher Siegbert Tarrasch, and his role in the development of Hypermodern Chess. With detailed accounts of nearly 450 games and the only narrative of Nimzowitsch from 1914 to 1924, a period formerly cloaked in mystery, this volume offers the most thorough profile available of one of chess’s greatest innovators.

About the Author(s)

Per Skjoldager is an IT contractor, chess historian and chess book collector. He lives in Fredericia, Denmark.

The late Jørn Erik Nielsen was a former editor of Danish School Chess Magazine and Junior Chess Instructor. He lived in Aabenraa, Denmark.

Bibliographic Details

Per Skjoldager and Jørn Erik Nielsen

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 468
Bibliographic Info: 426 annotated games, 88 photos, 10 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2023 [2012]
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9137-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1832-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments and Thanks    v
Preface    1

Chapter 1 : 1886-1904
The Jews of Riga    3
The Nimzowitsch family    4
The spelling of the name    7
The young Nimzowitsch    8
First published game    10
Königsberg in 1902 and Berlin in 1903    10
Göttingen in 1903, then back in Berlin in 1904    15
Coburg 1904    18
First game against Tarrasch, Nürnberg    23
Chapter 2 : 1905-1906
Vienna 1905    25
Munich in 1905: First match against Spielmann    30
Munich in 1905: The first simul    33
Barmen 1905    34
After Barmen    45
Education    47
Zürich in 1905    49
Match against Lurie, Riga in 1906    50
Berlin in 1906    51
Munich 1906    52
Chapter 3 : 1907-1909
Munich in 1907    59
To Zürich, then a simul in Winterthur    60
Ostende 1907    60
Karlsbad 1907    75
Munich in 1907, and a simul    93
Second Match against Spielmann, in Munich, 1908    95
Chess in the Baltic, Riga in 1909    98
Chapter 4 : 1910
Professional life in Riga    100
Preparing for Hamburg 1910    104
Hamburg 1910    110
Visit to Dorpat    120
Back in Riga    125
Visit to Pernau    127
Chapter 5 : 1911
Leaving Riga    128
Match against Leonhardt, Hamburg    128
The Tarrasch-Nimzowitsch dispute, 1911 to 1913    133
San Sebastian 1911    134
Correspondence match against Behting    143
Karlsbad 1911    145
Another visit to Dorpat    165
Chapter 6 : 1912
Marshall in the Baltic    170
Riddles by A.N.    172
Rigasche Rundschau in 1912    172
San Sebastian 1912    173
Nimzowitsch: An open letter to Tarrasch    188
Vilnius 1912    189
Chapter 7 : 1913
Rigasche Rundschau in 1913    202
Nimzowitsch on The Modern Chess Game by Tarrasch    204
Nimzowitsch: “The New System”    210
Nimzowitsch on the surrender of the center    214
Father of Hypermodernism    216
Match against Giese, Riga    220
Correspondence match against Fluss    221
Capablanca in Riga    223
Chapter 8 : 1914
Rigasche Rundschau in 1914    225
All-Russian Tournament of Masters at St. Petersburg    226
Play­off match against Alekhine    237
St. Petersburg 1914    240
Der alte Ganeff    251
The Great War and Riga    254
Chapter 9 : 1915-1919
World War I at a glance    257
Riga in 1915    258
In the Russian Army, 1916, out 1917    259
Riga under German rule, 1918    262
Chess editor of the Baltische Zeitung    264
Riga simuls    265
Latvian independence, then the Bolsheviks    266
Liberated by the anti–Bolsheviks    269
Chess editor of the Rigasche Rundschau    271
At war with Russia and Germany    272
Chapter 10 : 1920
Simuls in Latvia, 1920    274
Heading for Sweden    277
Göteborg 1920    278
Match against Bogoljubow, Stockholm    289
Stockholm simuls    292
Second Stockholm Jubilee Tournament    295
Chapter 11 : 1921
Swedish tour, January to March    305
Mysterious matches    311
Visit to Kristiania (Oslo)    317
Visit to Bergen    321
Summer vacation    322
Back to Bergen, Norwegian tour    325
Chapter 12 : 1922
Nimzowitsch in Bergen    327
Swedish Tour, January to March    331
Second match against Håkansson    334
Back in Stockholm    336
Visit to Denmark    337
Danish tour, April to June    338
Summer vacation    344
Further Danish tour, October to November    348
Copenhagen 1922    350
Chapter 13 : 1923
Match against Brinckmann    354
A small tour in Jutland    357
Copenhagen chess clubs    358
Danish tour, February to March    359
Copenhagen 1923    363
Nimzowitsch the smoker    368
Back to work    375
Karlsbad 1923    377
Danish Tour, October to December    391
Chapter 14 : 1924
Simul tour in March and April    395
Correspondence match against Krause    400
On vacation at Vidtskue    404
Copenhagen 1924 (Nordic tournament)    405
Danish Tour, October to December    419
Organizing a Simul Tour to Norway    423
Appendix A. Puzzles and Studies    427
Appendix B. Schaie Niemzowitsch Games and Problems    431
Bibliography    435
Index to Games by Opponent    439
Index to Openings (ECO Codes)    442
Index to Openings (Traditional Names)    445
General Index    447

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Book of the Year—Chess Cafe
  • “Skjoldager and Nielsen have produced a magnificent book which not only surpasses everything else we have ever seen on the subject of Nimzowitsch but also one which enjoys the extremely high production values typical of McFarland. The depth of research is apparent from the very first page…the book contains an excellent collection of games. This is the finest book written on Aron Nimzowitsch and the authors should be applauded for their efforts. In my opinion this is easily the best and most important chess book of 2012, a fascinating book on a fascinating man”—Chess
  • “At last we have a magnificent biography of the famous grandmaster, Aron Nimzowitsch. This volume tells his story up to 1924 in great detail…exhaustive”—British Chess Magazine
  • “An epic piece of work…splendid, meticulously researched…serves as a critical biography as well as a repository of nearly four-hundred fifty of the Master’s games…a substantial reference volume which traces Nimzowitsch’s life chronologically,while also providing a treasury of charts, drawings and photographs to bring this intriguing chess master into contemporary understanding…the most comprehensive treatment available of Nimzowitsch’s life and work up to 1924…uncovers numerous sources that provide as full as possible a picture of this chess genius. This book will take an esteemed place in chess literature and is gratefully received”—IM John Donaldson (
  • “Supremely well researched”—Edward Winter, Chess Notes
  • “Fills in a big gap in the chess literature…this book has everything you could want and more…. The authors have produced a fine tribute to one of the founding fathers of Hypermodern chess. The physical qualities of this book are of the highest standard…beautifully and sturdily bound…will sit proudly on any shelf. This is a book for all lovers of chess history. Strongly recommended!”—Chess Today
  • “The first fully-fledged biography…produced by McFarland publishers in the impeccable way that they are known for. The authors have left no stone unturned to find a wealth of unknown material about the life and games of Nimzowitsch. Many interesting and beautiful old photographs adorn the well-written text. A great book”—New In Chess
  • “Truly exceptional book”—,
  • “Merely opening this book might immediately raise the reader’s pulse with beautiful page spreads, solid binding and a cover that feels inviting. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy, both for the scholarship I knew it would contain, and for the history it was sure to reveal about chess in a bygone era. Part biography and part games collection, this compendium captures a golden age of chess culture through the life of Aron Nimzowitsch, a progressive force in the growth of of twentieth century chess. Skjoldager…has unearthed and compiled a wealth of information about the first part of Nimzowitsch’s life that is a rare combination of comprehensiveness and readability. This may be the most thorough treatment of Nimzowitsch and his times ever in print. This book has everything. Readers interested in early twentieth century chess will find hundreds of games to study. Stories are filled with colorful anecdotes. The book is filled with nostalgia, beauty and atmosphere. The feel of this book is very solid, and its font is easy on the eye, and looks appropriate. Printed in the U.S. on acid free archival stock, all pages are bound together in signatures for durability and permanence. Only the best books are still produced this way. There is far more scholarship in Skjoldager’s book than the average reader might comfortably take in, it is exhaustive in its research and its revelations. Skjoldager and Nielsen have produced a significant work. It is wonderfully written and edited, and beautifully bound and produced. This tribute to Aron Nimzowitsch represents the spirit of traditional book publishing at its unqualified best”—