CHESS

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The Independent Culture
Col Polhill examines the link between brilliance and luck.

I have always been suspicious of any man who claims to have played a blinder. If their vow of silence did not preclude it, most members of the Grand-masters' Brotherhood would admit that their most brilliant sacrifices were more often than not based on oversights. As today's game shows, it has always been thus.

White: Wilhelm Steinitz

Black: Curt von Bardeleben

Hastings 1895.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 d5

A century ago, they had not explored the ramifications of 7...Nxe4! 8.0- 0 Bxc3! 9.d5! Bf6! 10.Re1 Ne7, now known to be comfortable for Black.

8.exd5 Nxd5 9.0-0 Be6

Wisely refraining from 9...Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bxc3 when 11.Bxf7+ is good and 11.Qb3! even better.

10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxd5 Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.Re1 f6 15.Qe2 Qd7 16.Rac1 c6

A Pavlovian response to White's Rac1, but 16...Kf7 would have been better.

17.d5!! cxd5 18.Nd4 Kf7 19.Ne6!

White's pawn sacrifice earn-ed him the threat of 20.Rc7.

19...Rhc8 20.Qg4 g6 21.Ng5+ Ke8 22.Rxe7+!! (see diagram)

Steinitz had surely calculated that 22...Qxe7 loses to Rxc8+, while 22...Kxe7 succumbs to 23.Re1+ Kd6 (or 23...Kd8 24.Ne6+ Ke7 25.Nc5+) 24.Qb4+ Kc7 25.Ne6+ Kb8 26.Qf4+ Rc7 27.Nxc7 Qxc7 28.Re8 mate, but I'll eat my best boater if he saw Black's reply.

22...Kf8! 23.Rf7+

With Rxd7 or Qxd7 mated after Rxc1+, and most other moves losing to Qxg4, White is lucky to have this resource, and luckier still that it wins.

23...Kg8 24.Rg7+!

Steinitz's good fortune runs: 24...Kxg7 loses to Qxd7+; 24...Qxd7 is routed by Rxc8+; and 24...Kf8 25.Nxh7+ also wins easily.

24...Kh8 25.Rxh7+!

At this moment, von Bardeleben, realising that he had been the victim of the most rotten luck, put on his overcoat and stalked from the hall. After 25...Kg8 comes 26.Rg7+Kh8 27.Qh4+! Kxg7 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qg7+ Ke8 31.Qg8+ Ke7 32.Qf7+ Kd8 33.Qf8+ Qe8 34.Nf7+ Kd7 35.Qd6 mate!

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