Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blast from the Past: IGK Symposium Hamburg 1999

At the behest of Dr. Ricardo Calvo (a/k/a The Chief) in 1999, we scrambled around frantically to make - literally - last minute arrangements to get Don McLean over to Hamburg to give a presentation on behalf of Goddesschess, then a fledgling new website.

You can read more about Mr. Don's adventures in Hamburg at the Goddesschess website (scroll down to 1999 Hamburg in Table of Contents).

Egbert Meissenburg
(Seevetal, October 26, 1999)

[The following is excerpted and paraphrased from an English translation of the original German "Programm zum V. Symposium der INITIATIVGRUPPE KONIGSTEIN, Hamburg, November 1999". The original English translation was done by Kenneth Whyld, one of the participants in the 5th Symposium of the IGK. An extensive bibliography of presentations and papers by the members of the Initiative Group Konigstein is omitted.]

Chess history is a journey into an extensive past – and the house in which the researcher dwells and works has many doors.

The Initiative Group Konigstein is a world-wide association of chess historians, originating from Germany; its aim as a community in researching chess history is emphasizing and promoting scientific research and expert treatment of the entire history of the game of chess in all its branches and facets. It is, without actually having an established organization structure, a loose union of scientists, serious researchers into the history of chess and, finally, also the enthusiasts generally interested in chess history. The circle, open to all, is international in all aspects, as its many languages and diversity of promotion proves.

While the primary goal of the Initiative Group Konigstein is to attempt to approach a little closer to chess-historical truth: "Quid est veriats?"—it is also a fundamental aim to promote sympathetic cooperation of the various directions of chess research through mutual support of, and respect and tolerance for, the personalities of each scholar. The specialist respects the ingenious essayist, and vice versa! This tolerance should always stand in the forefront of our mutual relations, the relationships of chess historians in general, and in all journalistic transactions.

Chess history remains an assembly ground of greatly differing temperaments – but never should learning, or objectivity (objectivity in no way means lack of opinion!), or thoroughness, or love of truth, or caution in judgment (yes, along with the ability to admit to errors), be lacking in anyone participating. Thus, journalistic chutzpah, arrogance, bias, intolerance and polemics should be rejected and banished as something totally unacceptable.

The Initiative Group Konigstein is a group of some seventy members, of many nationalities and languages, all of who have dedicated themselves in varying degrees to chess history. What we have really "initiated" will perhaps, remain debatable – as, for instance, whether the 1991 Konigstein meeting, in fact, triggered the C-14 investigation into the Venafro chessmen (with publication in 1995); on the other hand, without the Initiative Group Konigstein, perhaps many chess-historical studies might never have been written, or might never have been published.

The initial Symposium of the IGK was held in Konigstein/Taunus [near Frankfurt/Main, Germany] in August, 1991, with fourteen participants invited by Dr. Thomas H. Thomsen and Joanna Thomsen. The group discussed "The Origins of Chess". The group took its name after the place of their initial meeting.

The second workshop of chess historians was hosted in November 1993 by the Max Euwe-Centrum in Amsterdam, organized by Egbert Meissenburg. Subjects of discussion included the early history of chess (India, China, Uruk, Talmud), how "chess" might be defined within historical context, and the existence and origins of the abstract-form Arabic/Islamic chess pieces.

In November, 1994, the third meeting of the group took place at the "Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften" in Vienna, Austria, organized by Dr. Ernst Strouhal (Hochschule fur angewandte Kunst, Lehrkanzel fur Philosophie, Vienna). Its theme was "Vom Wesir zur Dame, Kulturelle Regeln, ihr Zwang und ihre Bruchigkeit. Uber kulturelle Transformationen am Beispiel des Schachspiels"

In July, 1995, the first issue of "Okkasioneller Rundbrief" was published in Seevetal, edited by Egbert Meissenburg. The goal of the "Rundbrief" was to foster closer contact among the chess historians of the Initiative Group Konigstein. The first issue contained articles from Ricardo Calvo, Gerhard Josten, and Franco Pratesi. There have now been fourteen issues of "Rundbrief", the last in August, 1999.

In November, 1996, the fourth chess historical workshop on "Approaching the Roots of Chess" was held at the Central University in Pondicherry, India. This meeting represented the first time an attempt was made to bring together well-known specialists in chess history, Sanskrit studies, Indology and archaeology. Dr. C. Panduranga Bhatta was the chief organizer. Five members of the IGK group attended: Dr. Andreas Bock-Raming, Manfred A.J. Eder, Dr. Irving Finkel, Koichi Masukawa, and Egbert Meissenburg.

Copyright (c) Egbert Meissenburg, 1999. All rights reserved.

Egbert Meissenburg
November 15, 1999

A cordial welcome to all participants of the 5th Symposium of the Initiative Group Konigstein in Hamburg held at the Club Center of the Hamburger Schach-klub.

Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa passed away in July,1899. The peculiar areas of his chess research were the European Middle Ages and the early modern times. It was our aim to celebrate the centennial of von der Lasa’s death primarily but not exclusively with the interests of this most prominent German chess historian in the 19th century.

These are the themes I offered for lectures:


Everyday Culture and Game-Specifics

a.. The literary dissemination of the game
b.. The situation regarding chess manuscripts
c.. New Chess and the changes; the Europeanisation of chess
d.. Chess techniques and chess players
e.. The nature of chess problems
f.. Chessmen and archaeological discoveries
g.. Chess representations in paintings
h.. Other games in competition with chess
This is and was [only] a program. As you shall remark, some of the subjects cannot be treated in this 1999 Hamburg Symposium. Other lectures to be read shall concern the earliest history of chess in the Far East. As von der Lasa was a successful bibliophile too, I decided to ask a professional (now retired, but still active) librarian to say some words concerning the situation of the literature of chess history in a public library.

I wrote for the 2nd Amsterdam Symposium of the IGK the following words of introduction which were valid not only for 1993 but are valid in the same manner for 1999, too:

"Wir freuen uns auf neue personliche Kontakte und auf das Wiedersehen mit alten Freunden. Wir werden arbeitsreiche, aber auch fruchtbare Stunden der wissen-schaftlich-forschenden Auseinandersetzung haben."

My further expectations for the Hamburg meeting are that we have days in friendship and tolerance without any disturbances and with fair and serious discussions on the history of chess in general and in detail.

Last, but not least: my hearty thanks to all those who gave me assistance in organizing this Symposium.

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