Steinitz – Lasker World Championship Match 1894

After Steinitz’s successful title defence against Chigorin in 1892, chess world already started seeking the next challenger. Three names appeared as only real rivals – Siegbert Tarrasch, winner of multiple international tournament, Mikhail Chigorin, who was always „there somewhere“ and the young and ever improving Emmanuel Lasker, who scored stable victories in two modest English tournaments in 1892 and who defeated Blackburne and Bird in matches.

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Steinitz Chigorin World Championship Rematch 1892

In 1889, Wilhelm Steinitz published his famous opening guide, The Modern Chess Instructor. In this book, he published what he considered to be the best defence against the Evans Gambit. He also published a variation in the Two Knights Defence which featured the famous 9 Nh3!? retreat, later played successfully against Fischer.

Mikhail Chigorin, former Steinitz’s challenger in their 1889 World Championship match and one of the strongest players on the planet, didn’t agree with Steinitz’s assertions. He invited him to play a two game telegraph match with these opening variations. The time control was three days per move and it lasted for quite some time; during his World Championship Match against Gunsberg in 1891 (!) Steinitz even had to break from this match.

The games attracted immense public interest. Both games were won by Chigorin in spectacular fashion. The impact of these games on the broad chess public was immense. Two chess clubs, the St. Petersburg Chess Society and Havana Chess Club simulatenously made offers to organise another Steinitz-Chigorin match. Steinitz, never refusing a battle, accepted the challenged and once again chose Havana as the match venue.

The match began on 1st January in 1892. The winner was the first to win 10 games. This time, there was no „drawn match“ clause in the case of a 9-9 tie; the first player to win further three games would be proclaimed as a champion in that case.

Chigorin stick to his beloved Evans Gambit throughout the match, while Steinitz, believeing in his principles, upheld his Nh3 Two Knights variation.

Although the match was somewhat less bloodthirsty than their previous match, it was far more dramatic. After 19 games, Chigorin held the 8-7 lead. Then he somehow ran out of steam (some historians suggest he was less resilient to tropical Cuban heat than his opponent). By losing the 20th and 22nd game, he found himself in a desperate situation. The last, 23rd game of the match, to this day remains one of the most tragic games in the history of the World Chess Championship.

After the King’s Gambit has gone awfully wrong for Chigorin, Steinitz reached a much better queenless middlegame position. However, suddenly, he decided to give up his piece in order to install his rooks on the 2nd rank. However, Chigorin’s bishop held the position and it seemed that he has every chance of converting his extra piece. Suddenly, he decided to attack one rook and removed the defender of his h2 pawn, allowing Steinitz to checkmate his king in two moves.

The Cuban press described the final moments of the dramatic 23rd game:

„It is unlikely that we will ever forget that decisive moment. At the 23rd game more than a thousand people were present, and all were discussing Chigorin’s brilliant play. At any minute, Steinitz’s resignation was expected. Suddenly there was an extraordinary commotion: the spectators stood up, and they all saw how the Russian master, nervy, with a changed face, was holding his head in his hands: he had moved away the bishop that was defending him against mate. „What a pity!“ repeated hundreds of voices. What a vexatious and terrible ending to a wonderful match for the world championship! Chigorin can feel proud: never was Steinitz so close to defeat as now.“

(Source: Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors, Part One, Page 88)

Thus, Steinitz defended his title once again.

Steinitz – Gunsberg World Championship Match 1890

Although Steinitz scored a convincing victory in his match against Chigorin in 1889, he couldn’t sleep in peace for too long. There was an abundance of strong chess players in the late 1880s and many of them regarded they should have a legitimate shot at a crown. Considering that there was nothing resembling an official qualifying cycle, it was up to the champion to handpick a challenger. And since Steinitz was very principled man, he didn’t hide behind his World Championship title, but prefered to play the next match as soon as possible.

Isidor Gunsberg was one of those strong players. He distinguished himself with numerous tournament victories in the 80. In the 1889, a strong New York tournament was held. Unofficialy, it can be regarded as the first candidates tournament in the chess history; the winner was to issue a formal challenge to Steinitz within a month.

Slikovni rezultat za gunsberg isidor

However, both the surprising winner, Max Weiss, and the runner-up, Mikhail Chigorin, had no interest to challenge Steinitz to a match. Thus, third place winner Gunsberg gained the right to challenge Steinitz.  Considering that only a year earlier he claimed his play should become more mature before challenging Steinitz, he chose an alternative path. He challenged the World Championship Runner up Mikhail Chigorin to a match, instead. This match, a prototype of the modern „Final Candidates Match“, ended in a +9-9=5 draw. After the match, he issued a formal challenge to Steinitz, the latter accepted and eleven months later they met in a match for the title of the World Champion.

The match was held in the New York City. The players had one hour and 45 minutes for the first 26 moves, and additional hour for every next 15 moves. In contrast to the previous world championship matches, the number of the games was limited to 20. In the event of the 9-9 result, the match would be declared drawn. (The complete rules can be found on the Edward Winter website).

In contrast to the match against Chigorin, this one wasn’t so fierce. For today’s standards players were extremely generous and chivalrous toward each other. Thus, in the sixth game, Steinitz refused to claim a win on time (although he did win this game in the end). Gunsberg, in return, refused to claim a default win in the 18th game when Steinitz didn’t appear.

Like Chogirn, Gunsberg mainly played the Evans Gambit with the White pieces, but his style wasn’t as violent. He was able to compete against Steinitz in strategical positions as well. His wins in the fourth game in a quiet Giuoco Piano and in the fifth game in a Queen’s gambit accepted variation were entirely positional. Nevertheless, although he proved to be a tough nut to crack, Steinitz’s mastery prevailed and with the 10.5-8.5 win (or +6-4=9) he won the match before the schedule and remained the World Champion.

Weekly chess study #24 – Alexander Kuznetsov study solution

Weekly chess studies #24:

Alexander Kuznetsov study

White to play and draw


Continue reading “Weekly chess study #24 – Alexander Kuznetsov study solution”

Weekly chess study #24 – Alexander Kuznetsov study

Weekly chess studies #24:

Alexander Kuznetsov study

White to play and draw