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Wilhelm Steinitz (2645) - Curt Von Bardeleben (2614)

The International Chess Congress Hastings, England 1895

Model Game for King in the Center

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nc6

3. Bc4 Bc5

4. c3 Nf6

5. d4

The Guico Piano, or Italian Game.

5...exd4

6. cxd4 Bb4+

7. Nc3

This is the most thematic but requires White to play a gambit.

Also playable is 7.Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.Nbxd2 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Qb3 Nce7 or 10. 0-0, 0-0 with approximate equality.

7...d5!?

Some strong computers recommend 7...d5, but it has been condemned by many Grandmasters.

Theory considers the pawn grab 7... Nxe4!? as best, but this is also risky as after 8...Bxc3 9. d5! enters into the "Moeller Attack" which has scalped many heads.

8. exd5

8...Nxd5

9. 0-0!

Best.

9...Be6!

Not 9...Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bxc3?! 11.Bxf7+ Kxf7 12.Qb3+ Be6 13.Qxc3 with a strong initiative against the exposed Black King.

10. Bg5!

Here white begins a very ambitious plan.

10...Be7

Now by initiating a series of exchanges Steinitz keeps the black king in the center.

11. Bxd5!

It's not good to take the bishop on g5 because after 11...Bxg5 12. Bxe6, fxe6 13. Qb3 black is unable to protect the e6 pawn, and on 13...Nxd4 there would follow 14. Nxd4, Qxd4 15. Qb5+ winning a piece for white.

11...Bxd5

12. Nxd5, Qxd5

Taking the bishop on g5 is still bad since black loses a pawn: 12...Bxg5 13. Nxc7+, Qxc7 14. Nxg5

13. Bxe7 Nxe7

14. Re1

This is the point of whites previous play. By pinning the knight, white prevents black from castling into safety and keeps the black king in the center of the board where it can be attacked more easily.

14...f6

15. Qe2, Qd7

The black Queen not only had to protect his knight but also cover the b5 square.

16. Rac1!?

(16. Rad1! is also strong here.)

16...c6?

A seemingly logical looking defense but, is too optimistic. Instead 16...Kf7 offered a better defense as it connects the rooks and eventually bringing his king to safety.

17. d5!!

A square vacating sacrifice to obtain the d4 square, it also opens up a second central file from where white will threaten to invade his opponent's camp. If black declines the sacrifice, then after 18. dxc6 white will create an attack on the open central files while maintaining material equality.

17...cxd5

18. Nd4! Kf7

Forced if 18...Rc8?? 19.Rxc8+ Qxc8 20.Qxe7#

19. Ne6!

Steinitz referred to this Knight, as "A bone stuck in poor, old Bardeleben's throat!"

19...Rhc8

20. Qg4!

With numerous threats including to win Black's Queen with a discovered check as well as mate in 2 beginning with Qxg7+.

20...g6

There is no other defense: eg. 20...Rxc1?? 21.Qxg7+ Ke8 22.Qf8# or 20...Ng6 21. Ng5+ winning.

21. Ng5+

Now Steinitz uncorks a brilliant combination, made possible because of the unfortunate placement of the black king in the center.

21...Ke8

Black had to protect his Queen.

22. Rxe7+!!

One of the most brilliant moves ever played. Note that White has everything hanging, and now he will be constantly threatened with a back-rank mate.

"There were many critics of Steinitz, who said he played penny-pinching chess. But if that were true, he would have played 22. Nxh7, which wins a Pawn ... and probably the endgame. But he has more." - GM Andrew Soltis.

If now 22...Qxe7 white wins after the simple 23. Rxc8+! and if 22...Kxe7 then 23. Re1+, Kd6 24. Qb4+, Kc7 (24...Rc5 is met by 25. Re6+) 25. Ne6+, Kb8 26. Qf4+, Rc7 27. Nxc7 winning.

22...Kf8!

White does not have an ample escape hatch against blacks threatened back rank mate threat, so white cannot take the black Queen. At the same time all of White's pieces are under attack! Nevertheless white combination is sound.

23. Rf7+!

23...Kg8

Its bad to take the rook because of 24. Rxc8+!

24. Rg7+!

The Rook is teasing black!

24...Kh8

Immediately losing is 24...Kxg7?? 25.Qxd7+ with an easy win for white. Or 24...Qxg7? 25.Rxc8+ Rxc8 26.Qxc8+ Qf8 27.Qe6+ Kh8; 8.Nf7+ Kg7 29.Nd6 with an obvious win for white, and 24...Kf8 25. Nxh7+ wins.

25. Rxh7+!!

Black Resigns

1-0.

Steinitz demonstrated the win after the game.

After 25.Rxh7+!! Kg8

Black cannot capture the Rook.

26.Rg7+!

By taking the h7 pawn white opened the h-file so now the Queen lands the decisive blow.

26...Kh8

Forced. (26...Kf8? 27.Nh7+ wins easily for White.)

27.Qh4+! Kxg7

28.Qh7+ Kf8

29.Qh8+ Ke7

30.Qg7+ Ke8

31.Qg8+ Ke7

32.Qf7+ Kd8

(32...Kd6?; 33.Qxf6+ Qe634.Qxe6#).

33.Qf8+ Qe8

34.Nf7+ Kd7

35.Qd6#

A pretty Dovetail Mate.

GM Andrew Soltis called this game, "The Pearl of Hastings."

Tactical Themes: square vacation, line opening, discovery, pin, unfortunate piece exploitation, enticement, double attack, x-ray attack

Mating Themes: Epaulette Mate, Back Rank mate, , Queen and Knight Mate, Dovetail Mate


I consider this to be the 5th Greatest Attacking Game of All Time.