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Curt von Bardeleben

Curt von Bardeleben (4 March 1861 in Berlin - 31 January 1924 (aged 62) in Berlin) was a German chess master, journalist, and member of the German nobility.


Bardeleben was originally a student of law, but gave it up in order to become a professional chess player. He later quit competitive chess for four years to complete his law degree. He was described thus by Edward Lasker:

He always wore a black cut-away suit of dubious vintage. Apparently he could never spare enough money to buy a new suit, although I learned one day that at fairly regular intervals he received comparatively large sums - from one to several thousand marks - through the simple expedient of marrying, and shortly after, divorcing, some lady who craved the distinction of his noble name and was willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, when he received his reward, it was usually far exceeded by the amount of the debts he had accumulated since his last divorce. Evil tongues had it that the number of the ladies involved in these brief marital interludes had grown so alarmingly that they could easily have made up a Sultan's harem.

Bardeleben apparently committed suicide by jumping out of a window in 1924. According to one obituary, however, he fell out by accident. His life and death were the basis for that of the main character in the novel The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, which was made into the movie The Luzhin Defence. He edited the magazine Deutsche Schachzeitung from 1887 through 1891.

Bardeleben tied for first place with Riemann at Leipzig 1888, tied for first place with Walbrodt at Kiel 1893, was first at Berlin (SV Centrum) 1897, and tied for first place with Schlechter and Swiderski at Coburg 1904.


Bardeleben is perhaps best known for the game he lost to the former world champion Wilhelm Steinitz at Hastings 1895, especially because he just walked out of the tournament room instead of resigning. Although he was leading the tournament before this game (7.5 in 9 rounds), he achieved only 4 points in the final 12 rounds. The game against Steinitz:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 d5 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Be6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Bxd5 Bxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Re1 f6 15. Qe2 Qd7 16. Rac1 c6 17. d5 cxd5 18. Nd4 Kf7 19. Ne6 Rhc8 20. Qg4 g6 21. Ng5+ Ke8 22. Rxe7+ Kf8 23. Rf7+ Kg8 24. Rg7+ 1-0