A Chat with Zukertort

A Chat with Zukertort

From The Salt Lake Herald, June 28, 1884:


The World’s Champion Chess Player Here.

A Herald reporter found the great chess player at the Walker House yesterday afternoon, and had a very pleasant chat with him on chess, and on matters in general. Dr. Zukertort is not only the greatest chess player living, but he is at the head of a leading publishing house in London, and has been connected with some of the chief journals of England and Germany as a political and literary writer. He is of small stature, with a large and finely shaped head, and eyes that betoken superiority of intelligence and perception. He may be 40 or 50 years of age, for he is one of those men whose age it would be difficult to guess. He speaks with a slight German accent, and is a very interesting conversationalist. During the talk had with him yesterday by the HERALD man he said that he learned the game of chess when he was 19, and has attained his wonderful skill by dint of practice and concentration. He had made his progress in the art step by step, until as chess-players know, he has astonished the world by his play.

From chess the conversation turned on the Doctor’s impressions of America and Americans. He said that he was immediately struck with the truth of a report that has long been current in Europe – that Americans as a rule, whether rich or poor, are slaves of the the almighty dollar. They allow themselves no time for rest or relaxation, which are only to be had by change of occupation, but plunge ahead in their chase after cash, regardless of every other consideration. In England, he said, the men who do brain work, like those who do manual labor, have their hours so divided and systemized as to prevent that lassitude and collapse which inevitably result from overwork.

In his own business, that of a publisher, the hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the system is universal among the guild, so that all persons having business in that line must attend to it during the four hours of open office or not at all. The mechanic has a maximum limit of labor fixed at nine hours per diem, and the law is so strict that even if a man makes a bargain to work more hours it is null and void, and the employer is liable. Publishing firms, newspapers, and other industries in which the bulk of labor to be done taxes the brain rather than the muscles, guage their hours of labor to such a nicety as not to overtax and thereby ruin the usefulness of the brains on which their success largely depends. The Doctor had many other interesting things to say, but a prior engagement interrupted.

At about 8 o’clock he met a number of local chess devotees according to arrangement at the Alta Club’s rooms, and gave them an exhibition of his skill after this fashion: There were six of the local players, namely, Messrs. Orson, Harmel and Arthur Pratt, Zera Snow, Joseph Barnett and Mr. Brook. These were to play against the doctor simultaneously, each having a separate board. The doctor sat in a corner of the room with his face turned away from the tables, and called out his moves, which were made by another local chess player who acted as teller. He played a different game on each of the six boards, being obliged to carry in his brain not only the situation of each man played by himself, but each and every move of his six opponents, several of whom are very skillful at the game. It was a wonderful sight, and one which can never fade from the memory of those who witnessed it. At the close of the evening the doctor had check-mated five of his adversaries without once looking at the boards; but the other, Harmel Pratt, managed to win a game, which is no small feather in his cap as a chess player.

The visit of Doctor Zukertort to this city should give an impetus to the study of the greatest of all games – a game that is a solace, an educator, a refiner, and a moral instructor.

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