Siegbert Tarrasch was born in Breslau, on March 5, 1862, as the son of German Jew parents. Unfortunately he was born with a club foot but this was no handicap as he became a good scholar excelling in all subjects. As Breslau had also been the birth place of Adolf Anderssen there was no shortage of chess heritage in the area.
However, he writes in one of his many books that he was not introduced to chess until he was fifteen years old. At about the same time he discovered that books were written on chess and he proceeded to devour every book or article that he could lay his hands on. This interest did not deter him from qualifying as a medical doctor, a profession he pursued for many years before chess and writing became his prime interest.
Whilst he was at the University of Berlin where he was completing his medical studies, he visited many chess cafés and met the likes of Winawer, B. Lasker, Schallop and other notable players of that age. He took time off his studies to prepare and play in the Hauptturnier of the German chess association, held in Berlin in 1881. He failed to take first place that would have assured him a title and the possibility to be invited to other tournaments, and so returned to the University.
In 1883 he again entered the Haubtturnier in Nuremberg and this time he did take first place earning himself the title of master allowing him to submit an entry to an international tournament held in Hamburg in 1885 by which time he had passed all his examinations and become a qualified doctor.
His play in the Nuremberg international was outstanding and he shared second place with Blackburne, Englisch, Mason and Weiss.
His next tournament at Frankfurt in 1887 was not so successful. He finished in a tie for fifth place. The following tournaments were not very impressive until Breslau in 1889. This marked the start of an impressive run of tournament successes that gave him the first place at Berlin 1889, Manchester 1890, Dresden 1892, and Leipzig 1894. These results placed him as one of the foremost players of his age. He was also playing matches and it is considered that his play in games against Tchigorin in a match in 1893 was among the most interesting of Tarrasch's career. In this period, Tarrasch was invited to play a match against Steinitz, the incumbent World Champion. He had to refuse because of his professional medical duties. Who knows what the future of the world championship would have been had he been able to accept.