The Polish Heritage Society
Starry, Starry Knights by GM Stuart Conquest
For about two years Vincent van Gogh and Johannes Zukertort paid such regular visits to the same part of London that their paths could easily have crossed. The former, 20 years old, had come to England to take a job with the firm of Goupil and Co., an art dealership whose main gallery was in Paris. He began his new position on or around 19 May 1873, being placed under the direction of Mr Charles Obach, a man with whom Vincent seems to have enjoyed good relations. On 8 June Vincent accompanied Mr Obach and his family on an outing to Box Hill in Surrey.
He also spent Christmas with the Obachs. The London offices, which Vincent likened to a stockroom rather than an art gallery, were at 17 Southampton Street, just off the Strand. Johannes Zukertort, then 30, had been in England since the previous summer. Invited to the London tournament of 1872, he had repeated Steinitz’s action of ten years earlier and stayed on, a chess refugee, resolved to make his living as best he could. His English backers had hoped he would usurp the Austrian as London’s best player, but their scheme had come to naught: in their match of 1872 Steinitz crushed Zukertort by seven wins to one. Nevertheless, the younger man’s popularity soon earned him a firm footing among the capital’s chess society.
He lived wholly for chess, writing, teaching and playing amateurs for small stakes. Always a keen and rigorous analyst (in Germany he had edited the Neue Berliner Schachzeitung), he was soon contributing regular articles for the British chess press - and later he would begin Chess Monthly with his friend Leopold Hoffer. His blindfold simultaneous displays would astonish the public - for example, on 6 June 1873, shortly after Vincent’s arrival, Zukertort gave a ten board blindfold simul at the City of London Chess Club...
Stuart Conquest further writes:
I am now working with Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki, Chairman of the Polish Heritage Society in the UK, to return Zukertort’s grave to its proper state, fully restored, and in the secure knowledge that it will remain in that same condition for future generations. We will also add a new headstone, with Polish and English inscriptions, and incorporating a chess motif. A ceremony to re-dedicate the grave will take place next year.
© Chess magazine October 2011. Used with permission
Jan Herman Zukertort vs. Joseph Henry Blackburne, London, 1883