Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Who is Oscar Chajes?"

"Who is  Oscar Chajes?" So begins Louis Uedemann's "For the Devotees of Chess" column in the Chicago Tribune, for September 19, 1909, Chajes had just won the championship of the Western Chess Association.

   " Mr. Chajes was born Dec. 13, 1877, at Koriz, in Austrian Silesia. There he learned to play chess from his private teacher at the age of  9 years. Only an occasional game was played, however,  and when Mr. Chajes was old enough to attend the gymnasium Leinberg in Galicia, he knew barely more than the moves. 
   With more opportunity to play fellow students he advanced rapidly. While attending university in Vienna at the age of [?] he meet many strong players in the coffee houses and soon became one of the best odd givers in these popular chess resorts of the Austrian capital."
Chicago Daily Tribune; September 19, 1909

Uedemann noted that Chajes was an expert endgame player and odds giver, and though Chajes was no opening theoretician, those opening he knew he knew well.

Oscar Chajes first came to attention of most readers of the Chicago Tribune  in 1905, with his win over Emanuel Lasker, during Lasker's simultaneous exhibition at the Chicago Chess Club that year. Annotations are by Emil Kemeny.

Chajes is reported to have settled in Chicago in 1904, once settled, he soon became a fixture and the champion of the Chicago's new West Side Chess Club.

We next catch sight of Chajes in 1907, the Tribune noting that at West Side Chess club, Chajes "is always ready to meet any visitor over the board." On November 3rd, the Tribune had news that Chajes would give a simultanoues exhibition at the West Side Chess club.

In 1908, Chajes tied for second, third, forth with Louis Uedemann, H. F. Lee for the championship of the Illinois Chess association, each player losing but one game. Charles W. Phillips won the annual tournament, traditionally held on George Washington's birthday, Phillips winning the tournament without the loss of a game,.

Later in 1908, Chajes contested a match against the Tribune's chess editor, Louis Uedemann, the winner of the match being the first player to win five games. As Uedemann reported in Tribune column of August 9th. "The result was as close as possible: Uedemann, 5; Chajes, 4; drawn, 3."

In the eleventh game of the match: "Black injures his fine position, at the twentieth move by the injudicious exchange but white later goes after a pawn which places his rook out of play and the last mistake loses."
Chicago Daily Tribune; August 2, 1908

 "An old chess adage says the man who tries to win a draw position generally loses. This proved true in the final game of the match at the Chicago Chess and checker club, when O. Chajes played for the win beyond the danger point and lost the final game and with it the match to L. Uedemann."
Chicago Daily Tribune ; August 9, 1908

January, 1909 would turn out to be a busy month for Chajes , first he would challenge Uedemann to a return match to take place in later part of February at the Chicago Chess and Checker club. At a rapid transit tournament, with 15 seconds to the move, held on the 9th at the Chicago Chess and Checker club, Chajes shared first and second place with B. A. Czaikowski . January, also saw the beginning of the preliminaries of the annual tournament of the Chicago Chess and Checker club, which also commenced on the 9th. On the 25th, Chajes gave simultaneous exhibition , the exhibition began at 8 p.m., at midnight, four games were left for adjudication. Chajes won 18 games of the twenty four contested, 3 were lost and 3 drawn.


On Monday, February 22nd, Chajes won the title of champion of the Illinois State Chess Association at it's George Washington birthday tournament, the Tribune published the following game, noting that Chajes considered it to be one his best games of the day.

On April 18, the chess column of Tribune announced that Chajes along with H.F. Lee had tied for second and third prizes in the championship tournament of the Chicago Chess and Checker club. Chajes had drawn his game with winner of the tournament John Winter.

In early August, Chajes contested several games with George H. Wolbrecht of St.Louis  during the latter's visit to Chicago. Wolbrecht , as well being the champion of St. Louis, had won the tournament of the Western Chess Association in 1906, held that year in Chicago and would win it again in 1910. The games with Wolbrecht may have served as training games for both player for the upcoming Western Chess Association tournament.

The Tenth Western Chess Association tournament took place from August 15th thru the 25th, in Excelsior, Minnesota. Chajes won the tournament with 12 1/2 points, second with 12 points Edward R. Schrader of St. Louis; third with 11 1/2 points the Chicago Tribune's chess editor, Louis Uedemann, Wolbrecht would finish in seventh place with 9 points.

December saw the start of the annual Chicago Chess and Checker club tournament, the newly minted western champion began the tournament well, losing but one game (to Uedemann) in the first four rounds, but there would be many more weeks of play to decide the championship. December also saw the first rapid transit tournament of the season, Chajes tied for second with three other player, behind the winner, John Winter.

The Tribune for February 20th reported that with only one more game to play, E. Michelsen, who's score could not be reached by another player, was the winner of Chicago Chess and Checker Club tournament. At the time of the report Chajes and John Winter were tied for second and third place.

On February 22nd, at the seventeenth annual meeting of the Illinois Chess Association Chajes won the 1910 edition of the George Washington Birthday tournament, winning the tournament without the loss of a game.

The return match between Chajes and Louis Uedemann, finally took place, after much delay, in January 1910, Chajes winning the match decisively with five wins and one loss.The final game of the match appeared in the Tribune. " A good game by white, in which black does not recover the weak 8. ...d6."

The eleventh meeting of the western Chess Association took place from August 15th to the 24th in Chicago. the defending champion, Chajes would finish in second place with 15 1/2 points, behind the winner George H. Wolbrecht of St.Louis who had 18 points.

The American Chess Bulletin organized, on short notice a National Tournament, to take place in New York City, during the month of January 1911, taking part in the tournament would be Frank Marshall, Jose Raul Capablanca, and making his debut on the national stage Chajes, along with ten other players.

Chajes (9 points) tied for third and fourth place with Charles Jaffe, behind  the winner Marshall (10 points) and Capablanca (9 1/2 points). Chajes drawing his games with both Marshall and Capablanca.

"When Oscar Chajes left Chicago for the tournament in New York with the good wishes of local players it was generally believed  he had a even chance with the eastern talent to be near the top after Capablanca and Marshall. to them the first two places were conceded. The Chicagoan's play, including drawn games with Marshall the American champion, and Capablanca, who many consider a world beater, has been of a high order."
Chicago Daily Tribune; February 5, 1911


On the strength of his showing at the New York tournament, Chajes recieved an invitation to participate in the upcoming Karlsbad tournament, from Victor Tietz, president of the Karlsbader Schach-Club. Chajes sailed  from New York aboard the Olympic on July 27 to London, on his way to Karlsbad.

The tournament was to be a month long affair, to take place from August 20th to September 24th. Chajes international debut proved to be a major disappointment for Chajes and his friends back home. Chajes finished tied for 23rd thru 26th place at the very bottom of the cross table with Jaffe, Alapin and Fahrni.

Some consolation could be had from his game with Julius Perlis, which won Chajes a brilliancy prize.

After the Karlsbad tournament, Chajes removed himself from Chicago and relocated to New York City, and just he as become part of the chess scene in Chicago, so would he become part of the fabric of the New York chess scene, though as late as 1913, The New York Times still described Chajes as the "Chicago chess player".

Oscar Chajes died on February 28,1928 at the age of 54. We take leave of Oscar Chajes, with his victory over Capablanca at the 1916 Rice Memorial tournament, it was Capablanca's last defeat prior to his undefeated stretch from 1916 to 1924.

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