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