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Adolf Anderssen

 By  U.S.C.F.  LIFE-Master  A.J. Goldsby I 
 (Click  here  to visit my main chess home-page.) 


 This material was originally generated for use on the  "About"  website, but was 
 rejected by the chess guide, Mark Weeks. These writings are my work and may 
 only be used with my specific permission. No other usage is allowed. 
    A.J. Goldsby I, 2002. 

(The comments below were written in late August and early September, 2002.) 

The new head guide for  chess  on  About,  has asked me to do a series of articles. These articles are planned to be on the World Champions, (un-official or official); starting with A. Anderssen. Each one of these articles will be accompanied with a brief game, which -hopefully! - will be both instructive and entertaining. (These were originally planned to be a monthly feature.) 

NOTE:  When I first wrote Mr. Weeks, I informed him that I had a series of lectures on the World Champions, and that I wanted to turn them into articles. Some of this material is stuff that I have used before. If you ever attended one of my simuls, you might have heard this before. (Some of this material is at least 10 years old, maybe older.) 

I also had another web page on this player 5-10 years ago, but that server folded.  {A.J.G.}  

Who was the first world chess champion? You could actually make MANY arguments ... for many different players. Many of the earlier players - such as the French player, Philidor - were clearly the strongest players of their day. But the early records are pretty sketchy, and I prefer to start with Anderssen, for reasons that will soon be made clear.

This is not to say that chess in the 19th century started with Anderssen. In fact one of the most interesting and historically important matches took place in 1834 between the very strong French player La Bourdonnais, and the pride of the British Isles, A. MacDonnell.
(See my web site for more details and several annotated games.)

The next leading player would have to be the Englishman, Howard Staunton. After several convincing victories, including a defeat of Saint-Amant, he was considered to be easily the strongest player of his day. (From 1843 to 1851.)

The next player to come on the scene was a player - whom I deeply believe to one of the 'Top Five' best, pure tactical players to have ever lived - was the German, Adolf Anderssen. He was born in 1818, in a sleepy little village outside (what was then) Breslau, Germany. (Today this is in Poland.) He loved to play chess, but during his youngest years, his family insisted he complete his education. But he slowly gained a reputation as one of the best chess players in his area. He drew a match with Daniel Harrwitz - widely considered to be one of the best chess players in all of Europe. (At that time.)  He was 33 when he was chosen to play in the FIRST (!) international chess tournament ever held: London, 1851.  (Anyone interested in this tournament can either: A.)  Look for a copy of the re-print of the original book of the tournament; or  B.)  Check out  Andy Soltis's  very enjoyable book, "The Great Chess Tournaments, and Their Stories." 1975, Chilton books.)

In this great tournament, the bettors had many favorites, but Anderssen was NOT one of them. The odds-on favorite had to be Howard Staunton. But Anderssen dismissed him as easily as he might a naughty child from one of his classes. Anderssen also defeated the very steady Wyvill in the final, and therefore deserves the distinction as the winner of the first ever  International Chess Tournament. Because of this - and several games and matches he convincingly won shortly thereafter - he is clearly considered to be the first UNOFFICIAL Chess World Champion.

What follows is probably his most famous game. (And one of his prettiest as well.)

The Immortal Game

 Adolph Anderssen (2700) - Lionel Kieseritsky (2650) 
Match Play London, England (#9), 1851

[A.J. Goldsby I]


This is one of the most famous and also one of the most historically important games 
of chess ever played. It is also a game that has 'firsts' in several different categories.

It has appeared literally hundreds of times in books and magazines since it was played. 
And virtually every annotator who ever lived has taken his hand at attempting to annotate this game. 

There is also some confusion about the correct score of the game or even the 
move order.  (See Chernev's book on "The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess;" 
or Fox and James's book, "The Complete Chess Addict.")  Various sources give 
conflicting versions of this game.   The version I have chosen here is the one given 
 in the scholarly work: "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games, Volume # 1 
 1485-1866." By IM David Levy & Kevin O'Connoll. (Page # 176.)  

(The annotations are based on what Steinitz wrote about this game in one of his newspaper columns, 
 and also the comments by Lowenthal in  "The Chess Player's Quarterly.") 


1.e4 e5; 2.f4!?,   
A King's Gambit, a very popular opening for that period. GM John Nunn, just a few 
short years ago, awarded GM M. Adams an exclam for his  'revival'  of this opening. 

Many books have said this opening is unsound. I feel it is as good as practically 
any other opening. (But it takes a great deal of courage to play it at the Master 
level. Especially in modern tournament practice.)  

The King's Gambit actually seeks to do several basic things: 
# 1.)  Accelerate White's development; 
# 2.)  Open key lines; 
# 3.)  Gain a pawn preponderance in the center. 

The open f-file ... and combinations involving this line ... are every well-known 
to any player of this opening. (See any good trap book.) 

     [ The expected beginning today - especially at the GM level - is: 2.Nf3 Nc6
        3.Bb5, {D?}  which is the venerable opening known as, "The Ruy Lopez." ] 


Black accepts the challenge, but he has other options here as well. 

     [  An instructive trap occurs in the King's Gambit Declined:  2...Bc5;  
{D?}  This is a terrible mistake, but most traps are based on a 
         'mis-play'  by the opponent.  (Better was: 3.Nf3, "=")   3...Qh4+4.Ke2??, 
         Yet another 'boo-boo.'  (g3 was forced.)  (4.g3[] Qxe4+; 5.Qe2 Qxh1, "-/+") 
         4...Qxe4#{Diagram?}  White has been mated.  ] 


A little unusual, but nothing really unsound. 
(Fischer once used this line in a U.S. Championship game ... and won!) 

      [  Much more customary is the move: 3.Nf3; {Diagram?}  which is the main line. 
         3...g5!4.h4! g45.Ne5! Nf66.d4 d67.Nd3 Nxe48.Bxf4 Qe7!?;  
         9.Be2 Nc610.c3,  {Diagram?}  White has good play.  (Whether or not 
         White has enough for the pawn is for the theoretical manuals to debate.) 

         Strangely enough, this line is known as,  "The Kieseritsky Variation,"  in most 
         opening books!   [ See MCO-14, page # 6, and mostly column # 1 here.]  ]


This early Queen check - although very much in vogue at the time - is frowned on 
by theory today. (The Queen gets into trouble in many cases.) 

Ideas like simple and straight- forward development, were not, (in my own opinion); 
either considered necessary nor were they really commonplace. 
(During that era of chess.)

4.Kf1 b5!?;   
An actual 'book' line, (at the time this game was played); this move is considered 
grossly inferior by the standards of modern theory. 

This line was brought into chess practice, by Thomas Jefferson Bryan. 
(Bryant? Several sources give different spellings of his name.) 

     [ Better was  4...d6;  or even  4...Nf6!?;  with an acceptable game for Black. ]  


5.Bxb5 Nf6!?6.Nf3 Qh6!?7.d3 Nh5!?;   
With the rather transparent threat of ...Ng3+ on the next move. 

This move looks awkward, but Black has difficulties in the normal completion of 
 his development. 

White's next is an early deployment of his Knight to the outpost on f5. 
The really odd thing about this whole maneuver is Black has no effective 
answer to this move! 
8.Nh4! Qg59.Nf5 c6?!; ('?')  
Black wants to kick White's Bishop, which is preventing him from 
getting his pieces out. 

But this move is of doubtful value.  (It also weakens d6.) 

     [  Better was: 9...g6; "=/+"  ] 


Now White brilliantly sacrifices a piece to embarrass Black's Queen. 
10.Rg1!! cxb511.g4 Nf612.h4 Qg613.h5 Qg5; 14.Qf3, ('!')  
Now White threatens Bxf4, trapping and winning his opponent's most powerful 
piece here. 

     [ White could play: 14.Nc3!?;  or even  14.e5. ]


Black's game has gone sour, this move is forced. 
(To give his Queen a flight square.) 

15.Bxf4 Qf616.Nc3 Bc5!?;   
Black thinks to scare White with further material losses. 

     [  I am sure wiser was: 16...Na6with (maybe) a slightly better   
         game for Black here.

        Or Black could play: 16...Bb7!?; 17.Qg3, "+/=" - Steinitz. ].  


The combination that follows is so extraordinary that the Secretary of the Chess Club 
 had several affidavits sworn out about the authenticity of this game. 
 (The line of thinking was that this game was so brilliant that the average player - 
  especially as time went by - would scarcely believe this to be a real game of 
17.Nd5! Qxb2!?
A fantastic concept, brand-new and original at the time this game was played. 
(A two-Rook sacrifice purely for a gain of time.) 

     [ 18.Nc7+!? ].  


Black swallows the bait. 

(Indeed. In those days it was considered unchivalrous - by some 
 players - to decline a proffered sacrifice.) 

     [ Some books give: 18...Bxg1; as being played first. ]


19.Ke2, ('!')  19...Bxg1; (!?)   
Black looks to be winning. 

(In actuality - Black may have missed the best line here. But it is also possible
 that a different move order corrects this problem. As virtually every different 
 source gives a different move order ... we are not sure whether this was an 
 oversight ... or just a misinterpretation of the game score. As it is, Paulsen was 
 the first to point out that 19...Qb2; might have been a better move here. But that 
 is only  IF this is the correct move order to the game.) 

     [ Black should not play: 19...Qxg1?20.Nxg7+ Kd821.Bc7# ]


Now the position has become very critical for Black. 
20.e5! Na6?;   
This VERY likely-looking defense is actually a big mistake, Black had to play 

A little-known fact about this game is that Black thought for a very long time here 
and was actually forced to move by those who had made wagers on this game. 
(- La Palimede.) 

     [ Black simply had to play: >= 20...Ba6[] with possibly a 
       defensible position. (But White still has a strong attack.) 

       Also bad for Black was: 20...f6?!; 21.Nxg7+ Kf722.Nxf6, "+/-" 
       and White has a winning attack. ].  


21.Nxg7+ Kd8[]{For a diagram of the current position, see just below.}  
Black appears to have defended his position pretty well. 

  The actual position before White brings this game to a stunning finish. (a_ander1.gif, 25 KB)

Now White crashes through with yet another sacrifice!. 

22.Qf6+!, (Maybe - '!!')   
This is more like a problem ... than a game.  

This is forced, or Black's only legal move here.  
(Other than the stupid and suicidal ...Ne7.) 

23.Be7#  ('!')  {Diagram?}  
Several noted writers, such as Mason - and also the noted chess historian, 
Franklin K. Young - called this game the most brilliant 'partie' ever played 
over a chess board. (At least, up to that particular moment in time.) 

Copyright A.J. Goldsby I, 2002.  

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  (Code initially)  Generated with  ChessBase 8.0   

   An interesting blog on "The Immortal Game."  

 Click  HERE  to see a slightly different take on this game.   
(There if you are interested, you will also find a fairly comprehensive list of books
  on A. Anderssen as well, if you are interested in finding out more about him.) 

Anderssen was widely recognized - after his victory in the London 1851 tournament - as the strongest player in Europe. (Staunton made his usual excuses, and even demanded that Anderssen face him in a match. But the German teacher was forced to return to Breslau to resume his teaching job.)

When Morphy came to Europe in the late 1850's, once more he sought out Anderssen ... as one of the strongest possible opponents he could face. But although Morphy defeated the great German, (as he did everyone else!); he disappeared from the chess scene all too quickly. 

When Morphy had 'retired' to the United States, Anderssen was once again considered by many to be the strongest (active) player in the world. (He was ... "universally regarded as the strongest player in the World between 1859 and 1866," says Ms. A. Sunnucks, in her "Encyclopedia of Chess." { 1979}  Many other chess historians echo this opinion.) It was Anderssen - of course! - whom Steinitz sought out, when he wished to prove himself.  

A few other things about Anderssen: He was tall, somewhat shy, and never one to brag. He was virtually well-liked by everyone. And he may have been the last Chess World Champion who was an amateur in the truest sense of the word. I recommend his games to any player who wishes to master pure tactics. (And combinations.) 

A. Anderssen died on March 13th, in 1879 from a heart ailment.  (Sunnucks.)  

I consider A. Anderssen to be one of the greatest natural tacticians who ever lived.   
(Only the great Mikhail Tal was truly superior in this regard.)  January 01, 2006. 

 This concludes my article on Anderssen. - A.J. Goldsby. (October 6th, 2002.)

Click  HERE  to see the next article on Paul Morphy. 

  Click  HERE  if you would like to read an article on the history 
  of the World Championships by GM. R. Fine

 Click here to return to my page on the best players who ever lived. 

  Click here to return to my home page. 

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Note:  By now, (May 06, 2003); I was sure the next article in this series would have been completed. But many episodes have occurred in my life as of late. The computer crash earlier this year, (Feb.) virtually wiped out nearly all of my files that were not backed up. As of this writing, I am not sure when or how I will be able to continue this series. ------> This note is just an answer to the literally dozens of e-mails I have had inquiring when the next installment in this series would be complete. (And posted!)   

This page was last updated on:  Saturday, January 24, 2015 .  

  Copyright () LM A.J. Goldsby I.  

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 1975 - 2014. 

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