Tarrasch was born in Breslau, in Prussian Silesia. He left in 1880 to study medicine, and qualified as a physician. He lived most of his life in Nuremberg, Bavaria, and later in Munich. Tarrasch was born Jewish, and converted to Christianity in 1909. He was a patriotic German, who lost a son in World War I, but he faced antisemitism in the early stages of Nazism.
Tarrasch won more strong tournaments in the 1890s than any other player, and drew a 22-game match against Mikhail Chigorin, the leading Russian player. Tarrasch was also an influential chess writer, who summarised the chess ideas of the 1890s. It was his ideas against which the hypermoderns reacted in the early 1920s.p411
Occupied with his profession, Tarrasch did not challenge Steinitz, and turned down the young Emanuel Lasker's request for a match. This turned out to be a mistake, for Lasker then challended Steinitz, and won the world chess championship. Later Tarrasch unsuccessfully challenged Lasker for the world championship, in 1908. He was by then past his best, though he continued to play in tournaments for many years. His best result in later years was to reach the final pool in the strong St. Petersburg 1914 tournament. He came fourth, behind Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine.
Tarrasch was a highly esteemed chess writer. His Dreihundert Schachpartien (1895; 300 chess games) was a landmark; it was the first 'best game collection' with in-depth annotations. The notes were readable and could be understood by ordinary players. This led to his being described as the praeceptor mundi, which is Latin for 'teacher of the world'. The book was called by the American grandmaster Reuben Fine "One of the monuments of our game".f/w
Tarrasch regularly wrote tournament reports and notes for games in the Deutsch Schachzeitung, the German-language chess magazine. These annotations were read throughout the world, since that was the leading chess magazine of the day.
In his later elementary textbook The game of chess (1931) he wrote
- "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy".
- Kamm, Wolfgang 2004. Siegbert Tarrasch: Leben und Werk. Fruth, Unterhaching.
- Chess Notes 5997 by Edward Winter
- Hooper D. and Whyld K. 1992. The Oxford companion to chess. 2nd ed, Oxford.
- Brinckmann, Alfred 2003. Siegbert Tarrasch: Lehrmeister der Schachwelt. De Gruyter, Munich.
- Tarrasch, Dr Siegbert 1999. Three hundred chess games. English edition transl. by Sol Schwartz. Hays Publishing. ISBN 1-880673-18-5
- Capablanca on Tarrasch and other players 
- "Capablanca on San Sebastián, 1912 (presented by Edward Winter)". Chesshistory.com. 1912-04-25. Retrieved 2010-08-13.