Siegbert Tarrasch, (born March 5, 1862, Breslau, Prussia [now Wrocław, Poland]—died February 17, 1934, Munich, Germany), German chess master and physician who was noted for his books on chess theories. Tarrasch won five major tournaments consecutively between 1888 and 1894. A medical doctor by profession, Tarrasch may have been the best player in the world in the early 1890s. He scored heavily against the aging World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz in tournaments, (+3-0=1), but refused an opportunity to challenge Steinitz for the world title in 1892 because of the demands of his medical practice. His best achievement was probably in 1898 at Vienna, where he tied for first with the American Harry Nelson Pillsbury, whom he defeated in a play-off match. After 1907 he participated in more than 20 international matches but never placed in the top three positions. Especially disappointing to him was his loss to Emanuel Lasker (in the main picture Tarrasch and Lasker analyzing together) in 1908 for the world championship. Lasker beat Tarrasch convincingly +8-3=5. Despite his failures, Tarrasch is best remembered for his books, especially The Game of Chess (1935), which developed and popularized Wilhelm Steinitz’s theories while differing with the master about what constituted a small advantage.
Marshall and Tarrasch (right)
What can we learn from Dr. Tarrasch?
Tarrasch was a very influential chess writer, and was called Praeceptor Germaniae, meaning “Teacher of Germany.” He was editor of the magazine Deutsche Schachzeitung in 1897 and wrote several books, including Die moderne Schachpartie and Three hundred chess games. Although his teachings became famous throughout the chess world, until recently his books had not been translated into English. He took some of Wilhelm Steinitz’s ideas (e.g. control of the center, bishop pair, space advantage, active pieces) and made them more accessible to the average chess player. In other areas, he departed from Steinitz. He emphasized piece mobility much more than Steinitz did, and disliked cramped positions, saying that they “had the germ of defeat.” Tarrasch stated what is known as the Tarrasch rule, that rooks should be placed behind passed pawns—either yours or your opponent’s. Andrew Soltis quotes Tarrasch as saying
“ Always put the rook behind the pawn…. Except when it is incorrect to do so! ”
In the next game, we can see how Tarrasch with Black pieces is winning by following two basic strategic elements: Control of the center and passed pawn.
Schallopp-Tarrasch, Breslav 1889