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Chess, October, 2007

Hermann Mattison

Sometimes life is good and you get a reward for making a mistake. My mistake, a couple of issues ago in my column about Timothy Whitworth, was not knowing that Timothy had published, in 1997, a revised edition of his book about Hermann Mattison. Being the gentleman that he his, Timothy sent me a letter and a free copy of his book. So, not only do I get a reward for my mistake, but I also get some free inspiration for this column!

The Latvian composer Hermann Mattison (also known by the Latvian form of his name 'Hermanis Mattisons', sometimes with only one 't') was born in 1894 in Riga and died of tuberculosis at the tragically early age of 37 in 1932. As well as being a first class study composer, he was also successful as a player in international events. He won the first Latvian Championship in 1924 and the first World Amateur Championship in Paris that same year, ahead of Colle and Euwe. After several other tournaments in the years following, he played as the Latvian board one at the Prague Olympiad of 1931. His playing career included wins over Alekhine, Colle, Maroczy, Rubinstein and Vidmar.

Mattison (like Adolf Anderssen before him) became established as a chess composer before gaining renown as a player. I suspect that this experience explained some at least of his strength as a player. Our studies this issue were both composed when Mattison was aged just nineteen or twenty. Here's the first, with notes based on those in Timothy's book.

Hermann Mattison

Rigaer Tageblatt, 1914


White to play and draw

1.b7 Rd7 1...Rd8? gives up early - 2. b8=Q+ Rxb8 3. Kxb8 = 2.Nd5+! Two losing alternatives are 2.Ka8? Rxb7 3.Kxb7 Rg7 0-1 and 2.Nc6? Rgg7 3.Na5 Rd6 [3...Rg5? 4.Kb6 Rd8 5.Nc6 Rh8 (5...Rg6 6.Kc5 Rxc6+ 7.Kxc6 =) 6.b8=Q+ Rxb8+ 7.Nxb8 =] 4.Nc4 [4.Nb3 Rd5 (threatens 5...Rxb7+ 6.Kxb7 Rb5+ 0-1) 5.Nc1 5...Rb5 0-1; 4.Kb8 Ra6 5.Nb3 (5.Kc8 Rg8+ 6.Kc7 Rxa5 0-1) 5...Ke5 6.Nc5 Ra5 7.Nb3 Rb5 0-1] 4...Rd1 5.Kb8 Rb1 6.Na5 Rb5 7.Kc8 Rc5+ 8.Kd8 Ke4 9.b8=Q Rg8+ 10.Kd7 Rxb8 0-1 2...Ke5! There is 2...Kg3 3.Nb6 Rc7 4.Ka8 Rg5 5.Nc8 leading to the finish that we find in the main line, but with the g-pawn blocked instead of captured, and 2...Kg5 3.Nb6 Rc7 4.Ka8 Rxg2 5.Nc8 Ra2+ 6.Na7 = 3.Nb6 Rc7! Protecting the black king from check whenever the pawn is promoted. If the rook moves to any other square on the seventh rank, then 4.Ka8 secures a draw at once. 4.Ka8 4.Ka6? Rg8 0-1 4...Rxg2! Threatening to attack down the a-file. 4...Rg3?, with the same idea, is worse because of 5.Nc4+ Kd4 6.b8=Q 1-0 5.Nc8! Preparing to answer 5...Ra2+ with 6.Na7. Mistakes are 5.Nc4+? Ke6 6.Na5 Ra2 7.Kb8 Rh7 0-1 and 5.b8=Q? Ra2+ 0-1 5...Rg8 6.b8=B! 6.b8=Q? Rgxc8 0-1 6...Rgxc8 = (stalemate) 6...Rgg7 7.Bxc7+ Rxc7 8.Kb8 =. Timothy writes in his book: "Mattison's lightly constructed position yields a rich tapestry of play."

The study for you to solve is from the same year and the same Latvian source.

Hermann Mattison

Rigaer Tageblatt, 1914


White to play and win

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