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.

Max Euwe best games

The Man Who Beat Alekhine

In 1935, the chess World was struck with a shock of epic proportions. Alexander Alekhine, celebrated World Champion, has been defeated in a World Championship Match by relatively lesser known Dutch master, Max Euwe.

Although Euwe is known as the ‘Man Who beat Alekhine’, it seems to me that even today he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for accomplishing that feat. Many people try to diminish that feat. Most often, people say that Alekhine was already getting quite old, that his peak has already passed, that he had a drinking problem during this match and that in 1937 in the return match, he showed who is the boss.

I think that by doing so, people don’t give enough credit to Euwe, who has been really playing some good chess and scored a deserving victory.

Also, many people criticize Euwe because he was unable to assert any sort of dominance in tournaments of those era. And I have to admit, this criticism has some ground; he wasn’t able to dominate tournaments like Alekhine in the early 30s, or Botvinnik in the post-war era.

However, his tournament results were not lacklustre either. Kasparov himself wrote that Euwe was “A Worthy Champion”; I think that this is the best description of Euwe’s tournament career.

Some of his notable results are:

  • Hastings 1930/1931 – Clear 1st, ahead of Capablanca
  • Zürich 1934, – Shared 2nd, 1 point behind Alekhine
  • Bad Neuheim 1937 – Clear 1st, ahead of Alekhine
  • Maastricht 1946, Clear 1st, 2 points ahead of competition
  • Gröningen 1946, Clear 2nd, half a point behind Botvinnik

Finally, most people who don’t know much about Euwe in general claim that he played boring, positional chess. That he was primarly a strategist. However, it couldn’t be further from truth. Euwe was described by Alekhine as “primarly a tactician”. His games are wonderful, they are fighting, they are complicated, they are intriguing and there are tactical complications going on.  While annotating the games (with the help of Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors, part two), I was struck by the fact that Euwe’s play often had some sort of ‘Tal element’ .

All in all, I think that Euwe is the most underrated champion of them all.

Take a look at the games and judge for yourself. I hope that this list of Euwe’s best games will change a couple of minds.

Slikovni rezultat za max euwe YOUNG

1. Geller – Euwe, Zürich Candidates, 1953

Zürich 1953 was sort of a swan song for Euwe on the international level. He scored a number of fascinating victories and the game against Geller is one of them. It features a fascinating attacking – defensive shot, 22 Rh8!!?.

2. Euwe – Alekhine, 26th game, World Championship Match, 1935

A game from the match against Alekhine and Euwe’s most creative achievement. He gives up a piece for three pawns and outwitts Alekhine in a grand struggle. This game would later be known as the ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’, named after the Dutch town in which it was played.

3. Euwe – Fischer, New York, 1957

A miniature against young Fischer, definitely worth a closer look.

4. Euwe – Maroczy, Zandvoort, 1936

The second ‘Pearl of Zandvoort’, although much less clear one.

5. Euwe – Najdorf, Zürich Candidates, 1953

Another gem from the Zürich candidates. A sacrifice of the ful rook, a dashing attack on the kingside. One of my favourite Euwe games.

6. Euwe – Loman, Rotterdam, 1923

A miniature from Euwe’s early years, notable for the concluding sacrifice. But I also like the way he extracted advantage in the opening.

7. Euwe – Landau, Amsterdam, 1939

8. Keres – Euwe, Match, 1940

Another wonderful creative achievement by Euwe. The bishop sacrifice on f3 is one of the most beautiful moves I have ever seen. Make sure to check it out.

9. Szabo – Euwe, Groningen, 1946

Another game in the same variation of the QGA, and another victory for Euwe.

10. Tartakower – Euwe, Venice, 1948

Last, but not the least, a Tal like sacrifice followed by a king chase. One of the more famous Euwe games, but beautiful nevertheless.

Alexander Alekhine best games

Alexander Alekhine – Alexander the Great

The fourth World Champion, Alexander Alekhine is widely regarded, together with Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov, as the World Champion with the most combative, tactical and attacking style.

Although he was a sort of late bloomer, after his surprising victory over Jose Raul Capablanca, he dominated world chess for decades, won a number of tournaments and left a very rich chess heritage.

His games are full of rich tactical ideas, beautiful combinations and flights of imaginations. But his combinations didn’t arise from the thin air; his strategical understanding and his endgame skills were also superior then those of his contemporaries.

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Jose Raul Capablanca best games

Jose Raul Capablanca – The Cuban Genius

Jose Raul Capablanca, the third world champion, is widely regarded as the greatest natural talent that ever played our ancient game.

Already from his early days his gift for the game was apparent. He learnt the rules of chess by watching his father play. At the age of five he already beat all the player in the Havana Chess Club and at the age of thirteen he was already the Cuban Champion, after beating the previous champion Corzo in a one sided match.

During his peak, he didn’t lose a single game between 1916 and 1924 (and  astounding 8 years without defeat).

His style reflected his talent perfectly. He was known for tendencies toward clarity and simplicity; he would often make his victories seem effortless. Moreover, his mastery of the endgame was unmatched during those times; instead of calculating variations he would simply “see” through the position and immediately “feel” where his pieces belong.

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Best games of Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker – The Fearless Fighter

Emanuel Lasker, the second World Champion, has accomplished numerous feats that will probably never be surpassed.

First of all, he held the title of the World Champion longer than anyone else in the history. When he lost his crown to Jose Raul Capablanca in 1921, it was the 27th year of his tenure as a World Champion.

And even after his loss, he continued playing successfully, winning numerous tournaments and remaining a member of the world elite for almost a decade afterward.

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