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Steinitz – Bardeleben, 1895

Chess knows no age.

I dedicate this article to my late friend, Raffi Djikerian. May your soul rest in peace.

Wilhelm Steinitz (14 May 1836 – 2 August 1900) was the first world champion, a great researcher, the creator of a new positional chess school.

That what Lasker said about him: ‘When Paul Morphy, despairing of life, renounced chess, Caissa fell into deep mourning and into dreary thoughts… The games of the masters of that period are planless; the great models of the past are known, and the masters try to follow them and to equal them, but they do not succeed. The masters give themselves over to reflection. One of them reflects for a long time and intensely on Paul Morphy, and gratefully Caissa encourages him; and the greatest landmark in the history of chess is reached: Steinitz announces the principles of strategy, the result of inspired thought and imagination… In order to distinguish between the true and the false principles, Steinitz had to dig deep to lay bare the roots of the art possessed by Morphy… The world did not comprehend how much Steinitz had given it; even chess players did not comprehend it. And yet his thought was revolutionary… This fundamental and universal principle may be briefly expressed as follows: the basis of a masterly plan is always a valuation. To evaluate, to judge, to estimate a thing does not pretend to exact knowledge. But knowledge by estimate, by judgement, by evaluation, though not exact, according to the principle of Steinitz, is still an efficient guide for the master.’

Steinitz put forward the concept of the well-founded attack, resulting from the continuous accumulation of small advantages.

Curt Von Bardeleben (4 March 1861 – 31 January 1924) was born in Berlin. Originally a student of law, he gave it up in order to become a professional chess player. He later quit competitive chess for four years to complete his law degree.

He always wore a black cut-away suit of dubious vintage. Apparently he could never spare enough money to buy a new suit.

Bardeleben tied for first place with Riemann at Leipzig 1888, tied for first place with Walbrodt at Kiel 1893, was first at Berlin (SV Centrum) 1897, and tied for first place with Schlechter and Swiderski at Coburg 1904.

Bardeleben seemingly committed suicide by jumping out of a window in 1924. According to one obituary, however, he fell out by accident.

His life and death were the basis for that of the main character in the novel The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, which was made into the movie The Luzhin Defence.

Bardeleben is perhaps best known for the following game, especially because he just walked out of the tournament room instead of resigning. Sharing the second place in the tournament before this game (7.5 in 9 rounds, including a win against Lasker! without a defeat) gives an idea about his chess strength.

Steinitz,W. – Bardeleben,C.

Hastings (10), 17th of August, 1895

A 59 years old guy versus a 34’s one. Chess knows no age.

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Nc6

3.Bc4 Bc5

4.c3 Nf6

5.d4 exd4

6.cxd4 Bb4+


This old line of the Italian opening is known as the Greco gambit variation.

A safer, but not necessary less adventurous, is: 7.Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.Nbxd2 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Qb3 and now 10…Na5! 11.Qa4+ Nc6 with equal chances.


Bardeleben avoids repeating the game Steinitz-Schlechter, played in the first round: 7…Nxe4! 8.0–0 Bxc3. Now we have 2 branches:

a) 9.bxc3 d5 10.Ba3?! Be6? 10…dxc4! is the correct move: 11.Re1 Be6 12.Rxe4 Qd5 13.Qe2 0–0–0 14.Ne5 Rhe8 , with an extra pawn, which was played in the 3rd game of the Steinitz – Lasker 1896 return match in Moscow) 11.Bb5 Nd6 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Ne5 0–0 14.Nxc6 Qf6 with somewhat difficult game for Black.

b) 9.d5!? The Muller Attack, dated on 1899:

b1) 9…Bf6 10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6 12.Bg5 Bxg5 (instead of 12…0–0? 13.Bxf6 gxf6 14.Qd2) 13.Nxg5 h6 14.Qe2 (Black stands better after 14.Bb5+ Bd7 15.Qe2 Bxb5! 16.Qxb5+ Qd7 17.Qe2 Kf8 Barczay-Portisch, Hungary 1969) 14…hxg5 15.Re1 Be6 16.dxe6 f6 with very complicated game.

b2) 9…Ne5! 10.bxc3 Nxc4 11.Qd4 0–0! (but not 11…Ncd6? 12.Qxg7 Qf6 13.Qxf6 Nxf6 14.Re1+) 12.Qxe4 Nd6 (12…b5!? is sharper, Djindjihashvili-Karpov, Mazatlan rapidplay 1988) 13.Qd3 b6! 14.Ba3 Qf6 15.Qd4 Qxd4 16.Nxd4 Bb7 17.Bxd6 cxd6 18.Nf5 g6 19.Nxd6 Bxd5 with an extra pawn for Black.

As you can conclude from the brief analysis above, the Italian opening players of our era deviate from the early c3-d4 plan, and seek more ambitions with the c3-d3 setup.

8.exd5 Nxd5

9.0–0 Be6

White stands better after 9…Bxc3 10.bxc3 0–0 11.Qc2 h6 12.Re1 Be6?! 13.Bxh6! (Steinitz-Schiffers, Rostov-on-Don match 1896.

10.Bg5 Be7?!

[Better was, 10...Qd7: 11.Bxd5 Bxd5 12.Re1+ Kf8! (12...Be7? 13.Nxd5 Qxd5 14.Bxe7 Nxe7 15.Qe2 Qd6 16.Qb5+) 13.Re3 14.bxc3 f6 15.Bf4 Re8 16.Nd2 with a slight advantage to White.]


Entering a chain of exchanges, aiming at keeping the black king in the center. Even in his advanced age, Steinitz follows Morphy’s rules.

11… Bxd5


If 12.Bxe7 Nxe7 13.Re1 0–0 14.Rxe7 , then 14…Bxf3! 15.Qe1 Bc6 16.Qe5 Re8 with equal chances.


13.Bxe7 Nxe7

[After 13...Kxe7 14. 14.Rc1 Rhe8 (14...Kd7 15.Qa4!) 15.Rc5 Qd6 (15...Qxa2 16.Qc2 Kd6 17.Rb5) 16.Qc2 White has the advantage.

14.Re1 f6

A critical position


A basic move of the coming master piece, though not the best one.

15.Qa4+! was the best , but after 15...Kf7

(15...c6?15...Qd7 – then comes16.Qb4!; if 15...Kd8?! there is a choice between 16.Re2, 16.Nd2; and 16.Qb4 Re8 17.Rac1) ;

16.Ne5+! fxe5

(16...Kf8 17.Nd3! with the threat of Nf4, while if 17...g5 , then 18.Rac1 c6 19.Qa3 wins)

17.Rxe5 Qd6 18.Qc4+! Kf8 19.Rae1 Ng8

(19...Ng6? 20.Rf5+; and 19...Re8 20.R1e4 g6 21.Re6! are both winning for White)

20.Rd5 Qc6 21.Qb4+! Kf7 22.Rc5 Qd6 23.Qc4+ Kf8 24.Rxc7 and wins. As demonstrated by Geller in 1983.


[But not 15...Qd6? in view of 16.Qb5+ Qc6 17.Qb4 Qd6 18.Qxb7 .]


16.Qe4 is suggested by Keres.

16.Rad1!? also looks logical.

a) . Now, according to analysis by Zaitsev, bad are both 16…Kf7 17.Qc4+ Kf8 (17…Nd5? 18.Ne5+! fxe5 19.dxe5 and wins) 18.d5 with a clear advantage;

b) 16…Kd8 17.d5;

c) , and 16…Rd8 17.Qc4 c6 (17…Kf8 18.Qb4 c6 19.d5! cxd5 20.Nd4 Kf7 21.Ne6 Rde8 22.Qg4 Nf5 23.Nxg7 wins) 18.Rd3 Kf8 19.Ng5! fxg5 20.Rf3+ Nf5 21.g4 g6 22.gxf5 gxf5 23.Qc5+ etc.;

d) . However, after 16…Kf8! 17.d5!?

(17.Qc4 Nd5! 18.Nd2 (and 18.Re2 c6 19.Rde1 Kf7) 18…Kf7 19.Ne4 Rhe8 are both equal)

17…Nxd5 18.Ng5! Re8

(Inferior is 18…fxg5 19.Qf3+ Qf7 20.Qxd5; or 18…c6 19.Ne6+ Kg8 20.Nf4 Rd8 21.Qh5 Qf7 22.Qf3)

19.Qf3 c6 20.Qa3+ Kg8 21.Ne4 (21.Qh3 Qc8!) 21…b6 22.b4! White has the initiative for the pawn. Black has to play very accurately: for example, 22…f5? is bad on account of 23.Ng5 Rxe1+ 24.Rxe1 g6 (24…h6? 25.Qxa7 wins) 25.b5! .;as Analyzed by Kasparov.


[16...Kf7! was strong and nearly the only move:

a) , not fearing the exchange sacrifice 17.Qxe7+?! Qxe7 18.Rxe7+ Kxe7 19.Rxc7+ in view of 19...Kd6 20.Rxg7 20...Rac8! 21.g3 Rc7 , when Black has a good endgame.;

b) . And if 17.Qc4+ there is...Nd5 .;

c) . The immediate knight sacrifice also gives nothing real: 17.Ne5+ fxe5 18.dxe5 Qe6 19.Rxc7 Rhd8! 20.Rxb7 Kg8;

d) , or 17.Ng5+ fxg5 18.Qf3+ Nf5! 19.g4 Rhe8

e) 17.Nd2 c6 18.Ne4 b6! (restricting the knight) 19.Qc4+ Kg6! 20.Qd3 (or 20.Rc3 Nf5) 20...Kf7 21.Qb3+ Nd5 22.Nc3 Rac8 is level.


A classic breakthrough in the center, strictly in accordance with Steinitz's own theory: the player holding an advantage is obliged to attack!


[17...Kf7 18.dxc6 bxc6 (18...Nxc6 19.Rcd1) 19.Red1 is also winning for White: 19...Qe6 (or 19...Nd5 20.Nd4 Rac8 21.Qc4 with the unavoidable Nxc6 (for example, 21...Qg4 22.h3 Qf4 23.g3 Qe4 24.Re1 Qg6 25.Nxc6 )) 20.Qxe6+ Kxe6 21.Nd4+ Kf7 22.Nxc6 etc.]


A dominant-Nimzowitschian knight!



Threatening Rc7


Black is lost after 19…Rac8 20.Qg4 g6 21.Ng5+ Ke8 22.Rxc8+;


19…Nc6 20.Nc5! Qf5 (20…Qc8 21.Qh5+) 21.Nxb7 Qd7 22.Nc5 Qf5 23.Ne6 Rac8 24.Qa6 Ne7 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.h3 Rc4 27.f3!


Threatening the g7-pawn as well as Ng5+.


21.Ng5+ Ke8


A pearl is starting shining on the board


[After 22...Kxe7 Steinitz calculated the variation 23.Re1+

(The engine shows that 23.Qb4+ would have won more quickly: 23...Ke8 24.Re1+ Kd8 25.Ne6+)

23...Kd6 (23...Kd8 24.Ne6+ Ke7 25.Nc5+) 24.Qb4+ Kc7 25.Ne6+ (or 25.Rc1+) 25...Kb8 26.Qf4+ Rc7 27.Nxc7 Qxc7 28.Re8#.]


Not 23.Qxd7?? Rxc1+; and not 23.Rxc8+? – please check White’s 25th move.


23…Qxf7 24.Rxc8+ Rxc8 25.Qxc8+ Qe8 26.Nxh7+ is hopeless for Black.


Another fantastic move. Did you notice how many pieces are hanging and untouchable?


Avoiding 24…Kf8 25.Nxh7+! Kxg7 26.Qxd7+.


The culmination of the combination! The opening of the h-file will be the decisive factor for White’s victory.

At this moment, Bardeleben suddenly stood up and silently walked out of the room (later he sent a note by special delivery declaring his resignation).

Steinitz willingly demonstrated to the spectators that which awaited Black: 25.Rxh7+ Kg8 26.Rg7+! Kh8 27.Qh4+ Kxg7 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qg7+ Ke8 (30…Kd8 31.Qf8+ Qe8 32.Nf7+ and 33 Qd6 mate; 30…Kd6 31.Qxf6+ , and the rook at c1 prevents the king from escaping onto the c-file) 31.Qg8+! Ke7 32.Qf7+ Kd8 33.Qf8+ Qe8 34.Nf7+ Kd7 35.Qd6# .

Most probably, this was the most brilliant game of Steinitz’ life, a jewel of attack by a rook on the 7th rank that is not ever repeated by any GM.

And they said to you: Why wasting time studying the Classics?! Playing and watching online games is better.

No classics means No Chess.


(I just produce the main moves in a 3D movie. Hope you will like it).


[Event "Hastings International Masters"]
[Site "Hastings"]
[Date "1895.??.??"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Steinitz, William"]
[Black "Von Bardeleben, Curt"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C54"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "1895.08.05"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "21"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "MainBase"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceVersion "2"]
[SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4
exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 d5 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Be6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Bxd5 Bxd5
12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Re1 f6 15. Qe2 Qd7 16. Rac1 c6 17. d5 cxd5 18.
Nd4 Kf7 19. Ne6 Rhc8 20. Qg4 g6 21. Ng5+ Ke8 22. Rxe7+ Kf8 23. Rf7+ Kg8 24.
Rg7+ Kh8 25. Rxh7+ 1-0