Spirit of Atticus


Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008

Dedicated to the 'Spirit of Atticus'

Famous Players



Tigran Petrosian

Tigran Petrosian (June 17, 1929 – August 13, 1984) was World Champion from 1963 to 1969.



He is often known by the Russian version of his name, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian (Russian: Тигран Вартанович Петросян). He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasised safety above all else. He was a Candidate for the World Championship on eight occasions (1953, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1971, 1974, 1977 and 1980). He won the world championship in 1963 (against Botvinnik), successfully defended it in 1966 (against Spassky), and lost it in 1969 (to Spassky). Thus he was the defending World Champion or a World Champion candidate in ten consecutive three-year cycles. He won the Soviet Championship four times (1959, 1961, 1969, and 1975). He was arguably the hardest player to beat in the history of chess.


Petrosian's first important result was a shared 1st-3rd place at the 4th USSR Junior Championship, Leningrad 1945, with 11/15; he tied with Y. Vasilchuk and A. Reshko. In the 6th Armenian Championship, Yerevan 1946, Petrosian won the title with 9/10. But that same year at Leningrad for the Candidates to Masters event, he could only score 6½/15 for a shared 8th-11th place. In the 7th Georgian Championship, Tbilisi 1946, Petrosian scored 12½/19, and was second among Georgians; the winner Paul Keres (18/19) played hors concours ("far ahead of the competition"), and conceded just two draws, one of them to Petrosian. He failed badly at the USSR Championship semi-final, Tbilisi 1946, with just 6/17, for a shared 16th-17th place. Petrosian claimed the title in the 5th USSR Junior Championship, Leningrad 1946, with an unbeaten 14/15. In the 1947 Armenian Championship, Petrosian shared 2nd-4th places, with 8½/11, behind Igor Bondarevsky, who played hors concours. In the 1948 Championship of Caucasian Republics, Petrosian came 2nd with 9/12, behind winner Vladimir Makogonov. In the 8th Armenian Championship of 1948, Petrosian shared the title on 12½/13 with Genrikh Kasparian.


Despite growing up and starting his chess career in Georgia, Petrosian was regarded by his Soviet teammates as Armenian. For example when Bobby Fischer said he intended to beat "all the Russians" at the Bled 1961 tournament, Paul Keres told him that there were no Russians in the tournament: Mikhail Tal was a Latvian, Petrosian an Armenian, Efim Geller a Ukrainian, and Keres himself was an Estonian. Western publications described Petrosian as an Armenian.



Petrosian (seated right) plays Fischer during

the USSR v Rest of the World match in 1970.


A significant step for Petrosian was moving to Moscow in 1949, where he began to play and win many tournaments. Moscow, along with Leningrad and Kiev, were the three major Soviet chess cities. He won the 1951 tournament in Moscow, and began to show steady progress. By 1952 Petrosian became a Soviet and international Grandmaster in chess. Prior to taking up chess full time though, Petrosian was a caretaker and a road sweeper. In 1952, he married Rona Yakovlevna Avinezar, a translator who was active in chess circles.


In the 1963 World Championship cycle, he won the Candidates tournament at Curaçao in 1962, then in 1963 he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik 12½–9½ to become World Chess Champion. His patient, defensive style frustrated Botvinnik, who only needed to make one risky move for Petrosian to punish him. Petrosian is the only player to go through the Interzonal and the Candidates process undefeated on the way to the world championship match. Petrosian shared first place with Paul Keres at the Piatigorsky Cup, Los Angeles 1963, his first tournament after winning the championship.


Petrosian defended his title in 1966 by defeating Boris Spassky 12½–11½. He was the first World Champion to win a title match while champion since Alekhine beat Bogoljubov in 1934. In 1968, he was granted a PhD from Yerevan State University for his thesis, "Chess Logic". In 1969 Spassky got his revenge, winning by 12½–10½ and taking the title.


He was the only player to win a game against Bobby Fischer during the latter's 1971 Candidates matches, finally bringing an end to Fischer's amazing streak of twenty consecutive wins (seven to finish the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, six against Taimanov, six against Larsen, and the first game in their match). Nevertheless Petrosian lost the match.


Some of his late successes included victories at Lone Pine 1976 and in the 1979 Paul Keres Memorial tournament in Tallinn (12/16 without a loss, ahead of Tal, Bronstein and others), shared first place (with Portisch and Huebner) in the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal the same year, and second place in Tilburg in 1981, half a point behind the winner Beliavsky. It was here that he played his last famous victory, a miraculous escape against the young Garry Kasparov.


Petrosian died of stomach cancer in 1984 in Moscow. He is buried in Vagankovo Cemetery and in 1987 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov unveiled a memorial in the cemetery at Petrosian's grave which depicts the laurel wreath of world champion and an image contained within a crown of the sun shining above the twin peaks of Mount Ararat - the national symbol of his native Armenia.




^ top ^

2100 Petrosian games in PGN                            

Vasily Smyslov



Vasily Vasiliyevich Smyslov (Russian: Васи́лий Васильевич Смысло́в) (March 24, 1921 - March 27 2010) was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958.



He was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions (1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1983, and 1985). Smyslov was twice Soviet Champion (1949, 1955), and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won is an all-time record. In five European Team Championships, Smyslov won ten gold medals.


In 1938, at age 17, he won the USSR Junior Championship. That same year, he tied for 1st-2nd place in the Moscow City Championship, with 12½/17. However, Smyslov's first attempt at adult competition outside his own city fell short; he placed 12th-13th in the Leningrad-Moscow International tournament of 1939 with 8/17 in an exceptionally strong field. In the Moscow Championship of 1939-40 Smyslov scored 9/13.


In his first Soviet final, the 1940 USSR Championship (Moscow, URS-ch12), he performed exceptionally well for 3rd place with 13/19, finishing ahead of the reigning champion Mikhail Botvinnik. This tournament was the strongest Soviet final up to that time, as it included several players, such as Paul Keres and Vladas Mikėnas, from countries annexed by the USSR, as part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.


The Soviet Federation held a further tournament of the top six from the 1940 event, and this was called the 1941 Absolute Championship of the USSR, one of the strongest tournaments ever organized. The format saw each player meet his opponents four times. The players were Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov, Isaac Boleslavsky, Igor Bondarevsky, and Andor Lilienthal. Smyslov scored 10/20 for third place, behind Botvinnik and Keres. This proved that he was of genuine world-class Grandmaster strength at age 20, a very rare achievement at that time.


The Second World War forced a halt to most international chess. But several tournaments involving Soviet players only were still organized. Smyslov won the 1942 Moscow Championship outright with a powerful 12/15 and he emerged as champion from the 1944-45 Moscow Championship with 13/16.


As the war ended, organized chess picked up again. But Smyslov's form hit a serious slump in the immediate post-war period. In the 1945 USSR Championship at Moscow (URS-ch14), Smyslov was in the middle of the very powerful field with 8.5/17; the winner was Botvinnik, with Boleslavsky and the new star David Bronstein occupying second and third places.


Smyslov played in the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament to determine who should succeed the late Alexander Alekhine as champion, finishing second behind Mikhail Botvinnik, with a score of 11/20. With this second-place Smyslov entered the 1950 Budapest Candidates' tournament. He scored 10/18 for third place, behind Bronstein and Boleslavsky, who tied for first place. He was awarded the International Grandmaster title in 1950 by FIDE on its inaugural list.


After winning the Candidates Tournament in Zurich 1953, with 18/28, two points ahead of Keres, Bronstein, and Samuel Reshevsky, Smyslov played a match with Botvinnik for the title the following year. Sited at Moscow, the match ended in a draw, after 24 games (seven wins each and ten draws), meaning that Botvinnik retained his title.


Smyslov had again won the Candidates' Tournament at Amsterdam in 1956, which led to another world championship match against Botvinnik in 1957. Assisted by trainers Vladimir Makogonov and Vladimir Simagin, Smyslov won by the score 12.5-9.5. The following year, Botvinnik exercised his right to a rematch, and won the title back with a final score of 12.5-10.5. Smyslov later said his health suffered during the return match, as he came down with pneumonia, but he also acknowledged that Botvinnik had prepared very thoroughly.


Smyslov didn't qualify for another World Championship, but continued to play in World Championship qualifying events. In 1959, he was a Candidate, but finished fourth in the qualifying tournament held in Yugoslavia, which was won by the rising superstar Mikhail Tal. He missed out in 1962, but was back in 1964, following a first-place tie at the Amsterdam Interzonal, with 17/23. But he lost his first-round match to Efim Geller.





In 1983, at the age of 62, he went through to the Candidates' Final (the match to determine who plays the champion, in that case Anatoly Karpov), losing 8.5 - 4.5 at Vilnius 1984 to Garry Kasparov, who was ¼ his age, and who went on to beat Karpov to become world champion in 1985.


Smyslov won two Soviet championships. He tied for first and second places in the 1949 Soviet Championship (URS-ch17) at Moscow, with David Bronstein. At Venice 1950, he finished second with 12/15. He tied for first place with Efim Geller at Moscow 1955 in the URS-22ch, but lost the playoff match. He won at Mar del Plata 1966.


Smyslov represented the Soviet Union a total of nine times at chess Olympiads, from 1952 to 1972 inclusive, excepting only 1962 and 1966. He contributed mightily to team gold medal wins on each occasion he played, winning a total of eight individual medals. His total of 17 Olympiad medals won, including team and individual medals, is an all-time Olympiad record.


He was known for his positional style, and, in particular, his precise handling of the endgame, but many of his games featured spectacular tactical shots as well. He made enormous contributions to chess opening theory in many openings, including the English Opening, Grunfeld Defence, and the Sicilian Defence.


Perhaps in tribute to his probing intellect, Stanley Kubrick named a character after him in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Smyslov was a fine baritone singer, who only positively decided upon a chess career after a failed audition with the Bolshoi Theatre in 1950. He once said, "I have always lived between chess and music." On the occasion of a game against Botvinnik, he sang to an audience of thousands. He occasionally gave recitals during chess tournaments, often accompanied by fellow Grandmaster and concert pianist Mark Taimanov. Smyslov once wrote that he tried to achieve harmony on the chess board, with each piece assisting the others (Smyslov's Selected Games, by Vasily Smyslov, 1995, London, Everyman Chess, introduction).



^ top ^

2749 Smyslov games in PGN

Mikhail Botvinnik

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik (Russian: Михаи́л Моисе́евич Ботви́нник) (August 17 1911 – May 5, 1995) was the first world-class player to develop within the Soviet Union, putting him under political pressure but also giving him considerable influence within Soviet chess. From time to time he was accused of using that influence to his own advantage.



He also played a major role in the organization of chess, making a significant contribution to the design of the World Chess Championship system after World War II and becoming a leading member of the coaching system that enabled the Soviet Union to dominate top-class chess during that time. One of his famous pupils was Garry Kasparov.


He first came to the notice of the chess world at the age of 14, when he defeated the world champion, José Raúl Capablanca, in a simultaneous exhibition. He had started playing only two years earlier. His progress was fairly rapid, mostly under the training of Soviet Master and coach Abram Model, in Leningrad. He qualified for his first USSR Championship final stage in 1927 as the youngest player ever at that time, tied for 5th place and won the title of National Master.


He won the Leningrad Masters' tournament in 1930 with 6½/8. He followed this up the next year by winning the Championship of Leningrad by 2½ points over former Soviet champion Peter Romanovsky.


At the age of 20 Botvinnik won his first Soviet Championship at Moscow 1931, with 13½/17. In the spring of that year, he graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, and stayed on there as a post-graduate student. In 1933, he repeated his Soviet Championship win, this time in his home city of Leningrad, with 14/19.



Botvinnik would go on to win a total of six Soviet Championships, adding further titles in 1939, 1944, 1945, and 1952 (in 1952 he tied with Mark Taimanov and won the play-off match). This is tied for the most ever with Mikhail Tal. His 1945 win was with an utterly dominant score of 16/18, one of the top tournament performances of all time.


The year 1938 brought the famous AVRO tournament in the Netherlands, which featured the world's top eight players, and may have been the strongest tournament yet seen – some chess historians believe that it is the strongest ever held. The winner was supposed to get a title match with the World Champion Alexander Alekhine. Botvinnik placed third (behind Paul Keres and Reuben Fine. Alekhine accepted a challenge from Botvinnik, but the arrival of World War II prevented a World Championship match.


In 1941, Botvinnik won a match-tournament designating him the title of "Absolute Champion of the U.S.S.R". Botvinnik defeated Paul Keres and future world champion Vasily Smyslov, amongst other strong Soviet grandmasters such as Isaac Boleslavsky, Igor Bondarevsky, and Andor Lilienthal, to win the title. Chess historians debate whether this constitutes an official Soviet Championship title.


When the Second World War ended, Botvinnik won the first really strong post-war tournament, at Groningen 1946, with 14½/19, half a point ahead of former World Champion Max Euwe; this was Botvinnik's first non-shared first place in a tournament outside the Soviet Union, and Smyslov was a strong third. Botvinnik also won the very strong Mikhail Chigorin Memorial tournament held at Moscow 1947.


Botvinnik strongly influenced the design of the system which would be used for World Championship competition from 1948 to 1963. Viktor Baturinsky wrote, in his introduction to Botvinnik's own book Botvinnik's Best Games 1947–1970 (page 2), "Now came Botvinnik's turn to defend his title in accordance with the new qualifying system which he himself had outlined in 1946."



Tal v Botvinnik, Moscow 1960


Botvinnik then held the title, with two brief interruptions, for the next fifteen years, during which he played seven world championship matches. In 1951, he drew with David Bronstein over 24 games in Moscow, +5 =14 -5, keeping the world title; but it was a struggle for Botvinnik, who won the second-last game and drew the last in order to tie the match. In 1954, he drew with Vasily Smyslov over 24 games at Moscow, +7 =10 -7, again keeping the title. In 1957 he lost to Smyslov by 9½–12½ in Moscow, but the rules allowed him a rematch without having to go through the Candidates' Tournament, and in 1958 he won the rematch in Moscow; Smyslov said his health was poor during the return match.


In 1960 Botvinnik was convincingly beaten by the 23-year old Mikhail Tal, by 8½-12½ at Moscow; but again he exercised his right to a rematch in 1961, and won by 13–8 in Moscow. Commentators agreed that Tal's play was weaker in the rematch, probably due to his health, but also that Botvinnik's play was better than in the 1960 match, largely due to thorough preparation; and Botvinnik changed his style, avoiding the tactical complications in which Tal excelled and aiming for endgames, where Tal's technique was not outstanding. Finally, in 1963, he lost the title to Tigran Petrosian, by 9½-12½ in Moscow. FIDE had by then altered the rules, and he was not allowed a rematch. The rematch rule was nicknamed the 'Botvinnik rule', because he twice benefited from it.



Botvinnik gained a doctorate in engineering in 1951. As an electrical engineer, he was one of the very few famous chess players who achieved distinction in another career while playing top-class competitive chess.


Botvinnik won the 1952 Soviet Championship (tied with Taimanov in the tournament, won the play-off match). He included several wins from that tournament over the 1952 Soviet team members in his book Botvinnik's Best Games 1947–1970, writing "these games had a definite significance for me". In 1956 he tied for first place with Smyslov in the 1956 Alexander Alekhine Memorial in Moscow.


Botvinnik was selected for the Soviet Olympiad team from 1954 to 1964 inclusively, and helped his team to gold medal finishes each of those six times. At Amsterdam 1954 he was on board one and won the gold medal with 8⅓/11. Then at home for Moscow 1956, he was again board one, and scored 9⅓/13 for the bronze medal. For Munich 1958, he scored 9/12 for the silver medal on board one. At Leipzig 1960, he played board two behind Mikhail Tal, having lost his title to Tal earlier that year; But he won the board two gold medal with 10⅓/13. He was back on board one for Varna 1962, scored 8/12, but failed to win a medal for the only time at an Olympiad. His final Olympiad was Tel Aviv 1964, where he won the bronze with 9/12, playing board 2 as he had lost his title to Petrosian. Overall, in six Olympiads, he scored 54½/73 for an outstanding 74.0 per cent.


Botvinnik also played twice for the USSR in the European Team Championship. At Oberhausen 1961, he scored 6/9 for the gold medal on board one. But at Hamburg 1965, he struggled on board two with only 3½/8. Both times the Soviet Union won the team gold medals. Botvinnik played one of the final events of his career at the Russia (USSR) vs Rest of the World match in Belgrade 1970, scoring 2½/4 against Milan Matulovic, as the USSR narrowly triumphed.


He retired from competitive play in 1970 aged 59, preferring instead to occupy himself with the development of computer chess programs and to assist with the training of younger Soviet players, earning him the nickname of "Patriarch of the Soviet Chess School".


Botvinnik sent an effusive telegram of thanks to Stalin after his victory at the great tournament in Nottingham in 1936. Many years later he said that it had been written in Moscow and that KGB agents told him to sign it.


Since Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik in the 1948 World Championship tournament, suspicions are sometimes raised that Keres was forced to "throw" games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship. Chess historian Taylor Kingston investigated all the available evidence and arguments, and concluded that: Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship; Botvinnik only discovered this about half-way through the tournament and protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials.


Bronstein insinuated that Soviet officials pressured him to lose in the 1951 world championship match so that Botvinnik would keep the title. But comments by Botvinnik's second Salo Flohr and Botvinnik's own annotations about the critical 23rd game indicate that Botvinnik knew of no such plot.


While there is no doubt that Botvinnik sincerely believed in Communism, he by no means followed the party line submissively. For example in 1948 he publicly supported the founding of the state of Israel – although he later made a distinction between the "hard-working Jews and Arabs living in this wonderful country" and "the Arab petrol tycoons and the wealthy American Jews". In 1954 he wrote an article about inciting socialist revolution in western countries, aiming to spread Communism without a third world war. And in 1960 Botvinnik wrote a letter to the Soviet Government proposing economic reforms that were contrary to party policy.


In 1976 Soviet grandmasters were asked to sign a letter condemning Viktor Korchnoi as a "traitor" after Korchnoi defected. Botvinnik evaded this "request" by saying that he wanted to write his own letter denouncing Korchnoi. But by this time his importance had waned and officials would not give him this "privilege", so Botvinnik's name did not appear on the group letter – an outcome Botvinnik may have foreseen. David Bronstein and Boris Spassky openly refused to sign the letter.



^ top ^

980 Botvinnik games in PGN.

Max Euwe



Machgielis (Max) Euwe (May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981) was a Dutch chess Grandmaster, Mathematician, and author. He was the fifth player to become World Chess Champion (1935–1937).



Euwe was born in Watergraafsmeer, near Amsterdam. He studied mathematics at the University of Amsterdam, earning his doctorate in 1926, and taught mathematics, first in Rotterdam, and later at a girls' Lyceum in Amsterdam. He published a mathematical analysis of the game of chess from an intuitionistic point of view, in which he showed, using the Thue-Morse sequence, that the then current official rules did not exclude the possibility of infinite games.


Euwe won every Dutch chess championship that he participated in from 1921 until 1952, and additionally won the title in 1955 - his 12 titles are still a record. The only other winners during this period were Salo Landau in 1936, when Euwe, then world champion, did not compete, and Jan Hein Donner in 1954. He became the world amateur chess champion in 1928, at The Hague, with a score of 12/15.


At Zürich 1934, Euwe finished second, behind only World Champion Alexander Alekhine, and he defeated Alekhine in their game. Alekhine was in an eight-year stretch, from 1927-35, where he lost only six games in tournament play.


On December 15, 1935 after 30 games played in 13 different cities around The Netherlands over a period of 80 days, Euwe defeated Alekhine, by 15½-14½, becoming the fifth World Chess Champion. Alekhine quickly went two games ahead, but from game 13 onwards Euwe won twice as many games as Alekhine. His title gave a huge boost to chess in The Netherlands. This was also the first world championship match in which the players had seconds to help them with analysis during adjournments.


Euwe's performances in the great tournaments of Nottingham 1936 and the 1938 AVRO tournament indicate he was a worthy champion, even if he was not as dominant as the earlier champions but lost the title to Alekhine in a rematch in 1937, also played in The Netherlands, by a rather one-sided margin of 15½-9½.


He played a match with Paul Keres in The Netherlands in 1939-40, losing 6½-7½.


After Alekhine's death in 1946, Euwe was considered by some to have a moral right to the position of world champion, based at least partially on his clear second place finish in the great tournament at Groningen in 1946, behind Mikhail Botvinnik. But Euwe consented to participate in a five-player tournament to select the new champion, the World Chess Championship 1948. However at 47, Euwe was significantly older than the other players, and well past his best, and he finished last.


He played for The Netherlands in a total of seven chess Olympiads, from 1927 to 1962, a 35-year-span, always on first board. He scored 10½/15 at London 1927, 9½/13 at Stockholm 1937 for a bronze medal, 8/12 at Dubrovnik 1950, 7½/13 at Amsterdam 1954, 8½/11 at Munich 1958 for a silver medal at age 57, 6½/16 at Leipzig 1960, and finally 4/7 at Varna 1962. His aggregate was 54½/87 for 62.6 per cent.


From 1970 (when he was 69 years old) until 1978, he was president of the FIDE. As president Euwe usually did what he considered morally right rather than what was politically expedient. On several occasions this brought him into conflict with the Soviet Chess Federation, which thought it had the right to call the shots because it contributed a very large share of FIDE's budget.


Euwe lost some of the battles with the Soviets. For example in 1973 he accepted the Soviets' demand that Bent Larsen and Robert Hübner, the two strongest non-Soviet contenders (Fischer was now champion), should play in the Leningrad Interzonal tournament rather than the weaker one in Petropolis. Unsurprisingly Larsen and Hübner were eliminated from the competition for the World Championship because Korchnoi and Karpov took the first 2 places at Leningrad. Some commentators have also questioned whether Euwe did as much as he could have to prevent Fischer from forfeiting his world title in 1975.


He died in 1981, age 80, of a heart attack. Revered around the chess world for his many contributions, he had travelled extensively while FIDE President, bringing many new members into the organization.



^ top ^

1400 Euwe games in PGN.

Alexander Alekhine 



Alexander Alekhine (1892 - 1946) was born in Moscow. He was the son of wealthy parents. At the age of eleven his mother taught him to play chess and he soon developed a great passion for the game. His first chess achievement was when, at the age of seventeen, he won the All-Russian Amateur Tournament in St. Petersburg (+12 -2 =2). He was awarded a national master title for this performance. The tournament was held concurrently with the more famous international event won by Emanuel Lasker and Akiba Rubinstein. Meanwhile, in the United States, later that year a 23 year old Cuban called José Raúl Capablanca shocked American chess players by easily beating Frank Marshall in a match.



In 1914, after Alekhine finished 3rd behind Lasker and Capablanca in a tournament in St Petersburg, Tsar Nicholas II named him as one of the five original grandmasters. Alekhine also served in World War 1, and was wounded. He then lived in many countries, speaking Russian, French, German, and English.


Following the Russian Revolution, in 1919 he was suspected of espionage, arrested and imprisoned in Odessa, though he was eventually freed. He won the 1st USSR Championship in 1920. In 1921 Alekhine left Soviet Russia never to return, moving to France, where four years later he became a French citizen and entered the Sorbonne Faculty of Law. Although his thesis on the Chinese prison system went uncompleted, he nevertheless claimed the title of "Dr Alekhine". From 1921 to 1927, Alekhine amassed an excellent tournament record, winning or sharing 12 out of 20 first prizes in the tournaments he played.


In 1927 he won the World chess championship against Capablanca, to the surprise of almost all the chess world. After that, if Capablanca was invited to tournaments, Alekhine would insist on greater money; otherwise he would refuse to play. Although Capablanca was clearly the leading challenger, Alekhine carefully avoided granting a rematch, although a right to a rematch was part of the agreement. Instead, he played matches with Efim Bogoljubow in 1929 and 1934, winning easily both times. After defeating Capablanca, Alekhine dominated chess for some time. He lost only 7 out of 238 games in tournament play from 1927 - 1935.


In 1935 he carelessly lost the title to Max Euwe. The loss is largely attributed to Alekhine's alcoholism and lack of preparation. At the great Nottingham tournament in 1936 he also lost his game against Capablanca who went on to win the tournament (tied with Mikhail Botvinnik). Alekhine gave up alcohol and regained the title from Euwe in 1937 by a large margin. He played no more title matches, so he held the title until his death. While planning for a World championship match against Botvinnik, he died in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. His death, the circumstances of which are still disputed, is thought to have been caused either by his choking on a piece of meat or by a heart attack. His burial was sponsored by FIDE, and the remains were transferred to the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France in 1956.



^ top ^

2079 Alekhine games in PGN.

Richard Réti 



Richard Réti (28 May 1889, Pezinok (now Slovakia) - 6 June 1929, Prague) was a Czechoslovakian chess player, although he was born in Pezinok which at the time was in Hungary. He studied mathematics and physics at Vienna, where he found the time to hone his chess skills, and shortly before the First World War became a chess professional.



He earned his living partly by writing chess columns and giving displays; in particular he was expert at blindfold chess. He was one of the top players in the world during the 1910s and 1920s and began his career as a fiercely combinative classical player, favouring openings such as the King's Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4).


However, after the end of the First World War, his playing style underwent a radical change, and he became one of the principal proponents of hypermoderism, along with Aron Nimzowitsch and others. Indeed, with the notable exception of Nimzowitsch's acclaimed book My System, he is considered to be the movement's foremost literary contributor. The Réti Opening (1. Nf3 d5 2. c4), with which he famously defeated the world champion José Raúl Capablanca in New York in 1924 - Capablanca's first defeat for eight years and the first since becoming World Champion - is named after him. He was also a notable composer of endgame studies creating simple and natural-looking positions that would appeal to the majority of players. In 1925 Réti set the world record for blindfold chess with twenty-nine games played simultaneously. He won twenty-one of these, drew six and only lost two! His writings have also become 'classics' in the chess world. 'New Ideas in Chess' from 1922 and 'Masters of the Chessboard' from 1930 published after his death, are still studied today.


As a cultured and educated man, Réti regarded chess as an art, and his books, in the eyes of many chess enthusiasts, reveal the hand of an artist. However, lacking adequate sources Réti was unaware that some positional ideas were known earlier than he supposed, and he failed to mention the contributions made by Staunton, Paulsen and Chigorin. He died on June 6, 1929 in Prague of scarlet fever aged just 40.


698 Réti games in PGN.

José Raúl Capablanca



José Raúl Capablanca (November 19, 1888 - March 8, 1942). Referred to by many chess historians as the Mozart of chess, Capablanca was a chess prodigy whose brilliance was noted at an early age. In 1901, at the age of 12, he defeated Cuban national champion Juan Corzo by the score of 4 wins, 3 losses, and 6 draws.



In 1909, at the age of 20, Capablanca won a match against US champion Frank Marshall. In 1911, Capablanca challenged Emanuel Lasker for the world championship. Lasker accepted his challenge but proposed seventeen conditions for the match. Capablanca disapproved of some of the conditions and the match did not take place.


In 1914 he beat Bernstein in Moscow in a game listed in many anthologies as a brilliancy for the winning move ...Qb2!! and for the new strategy with hanging pawns, and defeated Nimzowitsch in an elegant opposite-coloured bishop endgame. At the great 1914 tournament in St. Petersburg, with most of the world's leading players, Capablanca met Lasker across the chessboard for the first time in normal tournament play (Capablanca had won a knock-out lightning chess final game in 1906, leading to a famous joint endgame composition). Capablanca took the large lead of one and a half points in the preliminary rounds, and made Lasker fight hard to draw. He again won the first brilliancy prize against Bernstein and had some highly regarded wins against David Janowsky, Nimzowitsch and Alekhine. Capablanca finished second to Lasker with a score of 13 points to Lasker's 13½, but ahead of third-placed Alexander Alekhine.


In 1920, Lasker saw that Capablanca was becoming too strong, and resigned the title to him, saying, "You have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery." The new world champion dominated the field at London, 1922. There were an increasing number of strong chess players and it was felt that the world champion should not be able to evade challenges to his title, as had been done in the past. Capablanca was second behind Lasker in New York 1924, and again ahead of third-placed Alekhine. He was third behind Efim Bogoljubov and Lasker in Moscow 1925. But he dominated the 6-player match tournament in New York 1927, not losing a game and 2½ points ahead of Alekhine.


Capablanca had overwhelming success in New York 1927, a quadruple-round robin with six of the world's top players. He was undefeated and 2½ points ahead of the second-placed Alekhine. Capablanca also defeated Alekhine in their first game, won the first brilliancy prize against Rudolf Spielmann and won fine two games against Aron Nimzowitsch.


This made him the prohibitive favourite for his match with Alekhine, who had never defeated him, later that year. However, the challenger had prepared well, and played with patience and solidity, and the marathon match proved to be Capablanca's undoing. Capablanca lost the first game in very lacklustre fashion, then took a narrow lead by winning games 3 and 7 - attacking games more in the style of Alekhine - but then lost games 11 and 12. He tried to get Alekhine to annul the match when both players were locked in a series of draws. Alekhine refused, and eventually prevailed +6 -3 =25.


In 1934, Capablanca resumed serious play. He had begun dating Olga Chagodayev, whom he married in 1938, and she inspired him to play again. In 1935, Alekhine, plagued by problems with alcohol, lost his title to Euwe. Capablanca had renewed hopes of regaining his title, and he won Moscow 1936, ahead of Botvinnik and Lasker. Then he tied with Botvinnik in the super-tournament of Nottingham 1936, ahead of Euwe, Lasker, Alekhine, and the leading young players Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky (avenging a defeat here) and Salo Flohr.


This was Capablanca's first game with Alekhine since their great match, and the Cuban did not miss his chance to avenge that defeat. He had the worse position, but caught Alekhine in such a deep trap, allowing him to win the exchange, that none of the other players could work out where Alekhine went wrong, except Lasker who immediately saw the mistake.


Capablanca's health took a turn for the worse. He suffered a small stroke during the AVRO tournament of 1938, and had the worst result of his career, 7th out of 8. But even at this stage of his career he was capable of producing strong results. In the 1939 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, he made the best score on top board for Cuba, ahead of Alekhine and Paul Keres.


On 7 March 1942, he was happily kibitzing a skittles game at Manhattan Chess Club in New York when he collapsed from a stroke. He was taken to Mount Sinai hospital, where he died the next morning.



^ top ^

1195 Capablanca games in PGN.

Aron Nimzowitsch 


Aron Nimzowitsch (November 9, 1886, Riga - March 16, 1935, Denmark) was a grandmaster of considerable strength and a very influential chess writer. He was the foremost figure amongst the hypermoderns.



Nimzowitsch came from a wealthy Jewish family and learned chess from his father. He travelled to Germany in 1904 to study philosophy, but began a career as a professional chess player that same year. After tumultuous years during and after World War I, Nimzowitsch moved to Copenhagen in 1922 (some sources say 1920) and lived there until his death. He is buried in Bispebjerg Cemetery in Copenhagen.


At the height of his career, Nimzowitsch was the third best player in the world, immediately behind Alekhine and Capablanca. His most notable successes were first place finishes at Copenhagen 1928, the Carlsbad tournaments of 1929 and second place behind Alekhine at San Remo in 1930. Nimzowitsch never developed a knack for match play though; his best match success was a draw with Alekhine (though this match was only three games long and was in 1914, 13 years before Alekhine became world champion). Although Nimzowitsch did not win a single game against Capablanca, he fared better against Alekhine.


He wrote three books on chess strategy: Mein System (My System) (1925), Die Praxis meines System (The Practice of my System) (commonly known as Chess Praxis), and Die Blockade (The Blockade). The last of these is hard to find in English, however, and much that is in it is covered again in Mein System. It is said that 99 out of 100 chess masters have read Mein System; consequently, most consider My System to be Nimzowitsch's greatest contribution to chess. It sets out Nimzowitsch's most important ideas while his second most influential work, Chess Praxis, elaborates upon these ideas, adds a few new ones, and has immense value as a stimulating collection of Nimzowitsch's own games even when these games are more entertaining than instructive.


Nimzowitsch's chess theories flew in the face of pre-existing convention. While there were those like Alekhine, Lasker, and even Capablanca who did not live by Tarrasch's rigid teachings, the acceptance of Tarrasch's ideas, all simplifications of the more profound Steinitz, was nearly universal. That the centre had to be controlled by pawns and that development had to happen in support of this control — the core ideas of Tarrasch's chess philosophy—were things every beginner thought to be irrefutable laws of nature like gravity.


Nimzowitsch shattered these assumptions. He discovered such concepts as overprotection (the least important of his ideas from a modern standpoint though still interesting and sometimes applicable), control of the center by pieces instead of pawns, blockade, prophylaxis — playing to prevent the opponent's plans — and the fianchetto (in the case of the fianchetto, one could argue that it was a rediscovery, but Nimzowitsch certainly refined its use). He also formalised strategies using open files, outposts and invasion of the seventh rank, all of which are widely accepted today.


Many chess openings and variations are named after him, the most famous being the Nimzo-Indian Defence (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) and the less often played Nimzowitsch Defence (1.e4 Nc6). Both of these exemplify Nimzowitsch's ideas about controlling the center with pieces instead of pawns. He was also vital in the development of two French Defense systems, the Winawer Variation (in some places called the Nimzowitsch Variation; its moves are 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4) and the Advance Variation (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5).


There are numerous entertaining anecdotes regarding Nimzowitch - some more savoury than others. For example, he once missed the first prize by losing to Sämisch; immediately upon learning this, Nimzowitsch got up on a table and shouted, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”



^ top ^

556 Nimzowitsch games in PGN.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury 



Harry Nelson Pillsbury (December 5, 1872 - June 17, 1906) was United States Chess Champion from 1897 until his death in 1906. Pillsbury was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, moved to New York City in 1894 and then again to Philadelphia in 1898.



By 1890, having only played chess for two years he beat noted chess expert H. N. Stone. In April 1892, Pillsbury played a match against World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, (giving Pillsbury a pawn advantage). Pillsbury won 2 - 1. His rise was meteoric, and there was soon no one to challenge him in the New York chess scene.


The Brooklyn chess club sponsored his journey to Europe to play in the Hastings 1895 chess tournament, in which all the greatest players of the time participated. The 22-year-old Pillsbury became a celebrity in the United States and abroad by winning the tournament, finishing ahead of reigning world champion Lasker and former world champion Steinitz and his recent challenger Mikhail Chigorin who was second. The dynamic style that Pillsbury exhibited during the tournament also helped to popularize the Queen's Gambit during the 1890s, including a famous win over the powerful Siegbert Tarrasch in Hastings 1895.


His next big tournament was in St. Petersburg the same year, where he appears to have contracted syphilis prior to the start of the event. Although he was in the lead after the first half of the tournament, he was affected by severe headaches in the second, and lost no less than six games, ultimately finishing third.


Pillsbury had an even record against Lasker (+5-5=4). He even beat Lasker with black pieces at St Petersburg in 1895 and at Augsburg in 1900. Pillsbury also had an even score against Steinitz (+5-5=3) and Tarrasch (+5-5=2), but a slight minus against Chigorin (+7-8=6) and surprisingly against Joseph Henry Blackburne (+3-5=4), while he beat David Janowski (+6-4=2) and Geza Maroczy (+4-3=7) and crushed Carl Schlechter (+8-2=9).




Lasker with Pillsbury,

Hastings 1895


Pillsbury was a very strong blindfold chess player, and could play checkers and chess simultaneously while playing a hand of whist, and reciting a list of long words. His maximum was 22 simultaneous blindfold games at Moscow 1902. However, his greatest feat was 21 simultaneous games against the players in the Hannover Hauptturnier of 1902—the winner of the Hauptturnier would be recognized as a master, yet Pillsbury scored +3-7=11. As a teenager, Edward Lasker played Pillsbury in a blindfold exhibition in Breslau, against the wishes of his mother, and recalled in ‘Chess Secrets I learned from the Masters’,


But it soon became evident that I would have lost my game even if I had been in the calmest of moods. Pillsbury gave a marvellous performance, winning 13 of the 16 blindfold games, drawing two, and losing only one. He played strong chess and made no mistakes [presumably in recalling the position]. The picture of Pillsbury sitting calmly in an armchair, with his back to the players, smoking one cigar after another, and replying to his opponents' moves after brief consideration in a clear, unhesitating manner, came back to my mind 30 years later, when I refereed Alekhine's world record performance at the Chicago World's Fair, where he played 32 blindfold games simultaneously. It was quite an astounding demonstration, but Alekhine made quite a number of mistakes, and his performance did not impress me half as much as Pillsbury's in Breslau.


Poor health would prevent him from realizing his full potential throughout the rest of his life. In spite of this, Pillsbury beat American champion Jackson Showalter in 1897 to win the U.S. Chess Championship, a title he held until he succumbed to syphilis in 1906. The stigma surrounding the disease makes it unlikely that he sought medical treatment. Some said that Pillsbury ruined his health by all his blindfold displays, but those critics were evidently unaware of the fatal organic illness.


Along with Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer, Pillsbury ranks as one of the USA's greatest-ever chess players. Unfortunately, like the former, Pillsbury too had a short career.



^ top ^

425 Pillsbury games in PGN.

Emanuel Lasker



Emanuel Lasker (December 24, 1868 - January 11, 1941) was a German chess player and mathematician, born at Berlinchen in Brandenburg (now Barlinek in Poland).



In 1894 he became the second World Chess Champion by defeating Steinitz with 10 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. He maintained this title for 27 years, the longest unbroken tenure of any officially recognized World Champion of chess. His great tournament wins include London (1899), St Petersburg (1896 and 1914), New York (1924).


In 1921, he lost the title to Capablanca. He had already offered to resign to him a year before, but Capablanca wanted to beat Lasker in a match.


In 1933, the Jewish Lasker and his wife Martha Kohn had to leave Germany because of the Nazis. They went to England, and, after a subsequent short stay in the USSR, they settled in New York.


Lasker is noted for his "psychological" method of play in which he considered the subjective qualities of his opponent in addition to the objective requirements of his position on the board. Richard Reti even speculated that Lasker would sometimes knowingly choose inferior moves if he knew they would make his opponent uncomfortable, although Lasker himself denied this. But, for example, in one famous game against Capablanca (St. Petersburg 1914) which he needed to win at all costs, Lasker chose an opening that is considered to be relatively harmless -- but only if the opponent is prepared to mix things up in his own turn. Capablanca, inclined by the tournament situation to play it safe, failed to take active measures and so justified Lasker's strategy. Lasker won the game.


One of Lasker's most famous games is Lasker - Bauer, Amsterdam, 1889, in which he sacrificed both bishops in a maneuver later repeated in a number of games. Some opening variations are named after him, for example Lasker's Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 h6 7.Bh4 Ne4) to the Queen's Gambit. In 1895, he introduced a line that effectively ended the popular Evans Gambit in tournament play (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 d6 7.0-0 Bb6 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6). Lasker's line curbs White's aggressive intentions, and according to Reuben Fine, the resulting simplified position "is psychologically depressing for the gambit player."


Lasker was also a distinguished mathematician. He performed his doctoral studies at Erlangen from 1900 to 1902 under David Hilbert. His doctoral thesis, Über Reihen auf der Convergenzgrenze, was published in Philosophical Transactions in 1901.


Lasker introduced the concept of a primary ideal, which extends the notion of a power of a prime number to algebraic geometry. He is most famous for his 1905 paper Zur Theorie der Moduln und Ideale, which appeared in Mathematische Annalen. In this paper, he established what is now known as the Lasker-Noether theorem for the special case of ideals in polynomial rings.


He was also a philosopher, and a good friend of Albert Einstein. Later in life he became an ardent humanitarian, and wrote passionately about the need for inspiring and structured education for the stabilization and security of mankind. He also took up bridge and became a master at it, in addition to studying Go.


He invented Lasca, a draughts-like game, where instead of removing captured pieces from the board, they are stacked underneath the capturer.


The poet Else Lasker-Schüler was his sister-in-law. He was also related to the chess-player Edward Lasker.



^ top ^

1085 Lasker games in PGN.

Siegbert Tarrasch 


Siegbert Tarrasch (March 5, 1862 - February 17, 1934) was one of the strongest chess players of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Tarrasch was Jewish, and a patriotic German who lost a son in World War I, but lived to suffer under the early stages of Nazism.



Tarrasch was a medical doctor by profession who also may have been the best player in the world in the early 1890s. He scored heavily against the aging Steinitz in tournaments, (+3-0=1), but refused an opportunity to challenge for the world title because of the demands of his medical practice. Soon afterwards, Tarrasch drew a hard-fought match against his challenger Mikhail Chigorin in 1893 (+9-9=4). Tarrasch also won four major tournaments in succession: Breslau 1889, Manchester 1890, Dresden 1892 and Leipzig 1894.


However, after Emanuel Lasker became world chess champion in 1894, Tarrasch could not match him. Thereafter Tarrasch always played the second fiddle. When Lasker finally agreed to a title match in 1908, he beat Tarrasch convincingly +8-3=5. However, Tarrasch was still very

powerful during Lasker's reign, demolishing Frank Marshall in a match in 1905 (+8-1=8), and becoming one of the five original grandmasters by becoming one of the five finalists at the very strong St. Petersburg tournament of 1914. This was probably his swan song, because his chess career was not very successful after this, although he still played some highly regarded games. Tarrasch was a well-known chess writer, and was called Praeceptor Germaniae meaning "Teacher of Germany". He wrote several books, including Die moderne Schachpartie and Three hundred chess games. But until recently, his books had not been translated into English although his ideas became famous.


He took Wilhelm Steinitz's ideas (control of the centre, bishop pair, space advantage) to a higher level of refinement. He emphasized piece mobility much more than Steinitz did, and disliked cramped positions, saying that they "had the germ of defeat". Tarrasch stated what is known as the Tarrasch rule that rooks should be placed behind passed pawns — either yours or your opponent's. A number of chess openings are named after Tarrasch, with the most notable being: The Tarrasch Defense, Tarrasch's favorite line against the Queen's Gambit. The Tarrasch Variation of the French Defense (3.Nd2), which Tarrasch considered refuted by 3...c5.



^ top ^

772 Tarrasch games in PGN.

Mikhail Chigorin


Mikhail Chigorin (12 November 1850 - 25 January 1908) was a leading Russian chess player and the first grandmaster from Russia. He served as a major source of inspiration for the "Soviet school of chess," which dominated the chess world in the latter part of the 20th century. He played two matches against Wilhelm Steinitz for the World Chess Championship; the first in 1889 he lost 10½–6½; the second in 1892 he lost 12½–10½. His overall record against Steinitz was respectable: +24-27=8.


He drew a match with Siegbert Tarrasch in Saint Petersburg in 1893 (+9-9=4). He had a narrow lifetime plus score of +14-13=8.


Chigorin started serious chess rather late in life, and his first international tournament was Berlin 1881, where he was 3rd=.


He came second, ahead of reigning world champion Lasker and former world champion Steinitz, in the Hastings 1895 chess tournament, in which all the greatest players of the time participated. The winner, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, lost their individual game and had great respect for Chigorin's ability. Chigorin maintained a narrow lifetime plus score against him (+8-7=6).


He was 2nd= in Budapest 1896, and beat Rudolf Charousek +3-1 in the playoff. He was skilled at gambits, and won the Vienna King's Gambit Tournament in 1903. He also beat Lasker +2-1=3 in a sponsored Rice Gambit tournament in Brighton, where he took black in every game; neither player took the result as reflecting chess strength as opposed to the weakness of the gambit.


Chigorin has several chess openings named after him, most notably the Chigorin Variation of the Ruy Lopez (in algebraic notation, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Na5). There is also the Chigorin Defense to the Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6).


Although Chigorin had a heavily negative record against Lasker (+1-8=4), he beat Lasker with the black pieces in their first game at Hastings in 1895. It resulted in a classic two knights v two bishops ending, where Lasker's bishops were better but he underestimated Chigorin's strategy.


Chigorin had the measure of Richard Teichmann (+8-3=1) but couldn't handle David Janowski (+4-17=4).


A famous Chigorin's match played against Wilhelm Steinitz in 1892 is used as the base for the plot of The Squares of the City, a 1978 science-fiction novel by John Brunner.



^ top ^

770 Chigorin games in PGN.

Amos Burn 



Amos Burn (1848 - 1925) was one of the world's top ten players at the end of the 19th century. Born in Hull, he learned chess aged 16, came to London at the age of 21, and rapidly established himself as a leading English player. He was a member of the Liverpool Chess club from 1867 until his death, serving as its president for many years. For a time he also lived in Hoylake, Wirral.



A pupil of Steinitz, he developed a similar style; both he and his master were among the world's best six defensive players, according to Nimzovitsch. Not wishing to become yet another impoverished professional, Burn decided to put his work (first a cotton broker then a sugar broker) before his chess, and he remained an amateur. He made several long visits to America, and was often out of practice when he played serious chess. Until his thirty-eighth year he played infrequently and only in national events, always taking first or second prize. From 1886 to 1889 he played more often. In 1886 he drew matches with Bird (+9 -9) and Mackenzie (+4=2-4); at London 1887 he achieved his best tournament result up to this time, first prize (+8- 1) equal with Gunsberg (a play-off was drawn + 1 =3- 1); and at Breslau 1889 he took second place after Tarrasch ahead of Gunsberg. After an isolated appearance at Hastings 1895 he entered another spell of chess activity, 1897-1901. The best achievement of his career was at Cologne 1898, first prize (+ 9 = 5 - 1) ahead of Charousek, Chigorin, Steinitz, Schlechter, and Janowski. At Munich 1900 he came fourth (+9=3-3). His last seven international tournaments began with Ostend 1905 and ended with Breslau 1912.


A comparative success, in view of his age, was his fourth prize shared with Bernstein and Teichmann after Schlechter, Maroczy, and Rubinstein at Ostend 1906; 36 players competed in this five-stage event, 30 games in all for those who completed the course. Retired from both business and play he made his home in London and edited the chess column of The Field from 1913 until his death. A shy and retiring man, a loyal companion to those who came to know him, he freely gave advice to young and aspiring players.


Burn had a plus record against Alekhine, beating him in Karlsbad 1911. Burn is the eponym of the Burn Variation of the French Defence (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4). He was not the first to play the line (according to Forster's biography, he first adopted it against Charles D. Locock at Bradford 1888, which postdates Anderssen-Clerc, Paris 1878, for example), but he was the first prominent player to do so with any frequency.


Read more about Burn and others at the Museum of Liverpool Life



^ top ^

411 Burn games in PGN

Joseph Henry Blackburne



Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841–1924), nicknamed "Black Death", dominated the British chess world during the latter part of the 19th century. He learnt the game at the relatively late age of 18 but quickly went on to develop a chess career that spanned over 50 years. At one point he was number two in the world with a string of tournament victories behind him but he really enjoyed popularising chess by giving simultaneous and blindfold displays around the country.


Blackburne was born in Manchester in December of 1841. He first learnt how to play draughts as a child and it wasn't until he heard about Paul Morphy's exploits around Europe that he switched to playing chess. He joined the Manchester Chess Club around 1860 and learned a lot about endgame theory from Bernhard Horwitz, who had been appointed the resident chess professional in 1857.


For the next 20 years Blackburne toured the globe playing the greats of world chess. He was regularly in the top 5 of the world rankings and performed well in many international tournaments. He was 1st= with Wilhelm Steinitz in Vienna, 1873, although he lost the playoff (-2); 1st in London, 1876; 1st with Berthold Englisch and Adolf Schwarz in Wiesbaden, 1880; 1st in Berlin, 1881, where he finished 3 points ahead of his great rival Johannes Zukertort; 1st= with James Mason in Belfast, 1892 and 1st at the London tournament of 1893.


His results were decidedly mixed when he turned his talents to matchplay though and he found it tough going against the very best in the world. He lost two matches to Steinitz in 1862 (+1, -7, =2) and 1876 (+0, -7, =0) and lost a match to Emanuel Lasker in 1892 (+0, -6, =4). He did better against Zukertort; after losing a first match in 1881 (+2, -7, =5) he managed to win the second in 1887 (+5, -1, =7) and he performed similarly against Isidor Gunsberg in the same years - winning in 1881 (+7, -4, =3) but losing the return in 1887 (+2, -5, =6).


The 1876 match against Wilhelm Steinitz was held at the West-end Chess Club in London and it was considered at the time to be an unofficial world championship match. The stakes were £60 a side with the winner taking all. This was a considerable sum of money in Victorian times - £60 in those days would be roughly equivalent to £4,000 in today's money.


Blackburne made most of his money from touring the country giving simultaneous exhibitions and blindfold displays. Indeed he even visited the North-east of England in 1889 to help promote the newly formed Teesside Chess Association. Blackburne visited the area for two simultaneous displays and a blindfold event. He charged 1/- for a simultaneous game or 2/6d to play him blindfold and he proved to be virtually unbeatable, winning 29, drawing 2 and losing only one of the simultaneous games. In the blindfold he won 7 and drew 1 with 0 losses.


His fondness for drinking whisky at the board once led him to down an opponent's glass. Shortly afterwards, the opponent resigned, leading him to quip, "My opponent left a glass of whisky en prise and I took it en passant". Blackburne held that drinking whisky cleared his brain and improved his chessplay, and he tried to prove this theory as often as possible.


The dubious chess opening the Blackburne Shilling Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4?!) has been named for Blackburne because he purportedly used it to win quickly against amateurs, thus winning the shilling wagered on the game. This has been questioned by Bill Wall, who says that the phrase seems to have originated in the second (1992) edition of Hooper and Whyld's The Oxford Companion to Chess, and that there is no record of any games Blackburne played with this opening.


By the 1890s Blackburne was reputedly playing over 2,000 games a year in simuls and he had even travelled abroad to countries like the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand to give exhibitions. However he still had time to marry twice and with his second wife, Mary Fox, he had a son. In addition he played top board for the British team in 11 of the Anglo-American cable matches which commenced in 1896 and in the first six matches he recorded a score of 3½-2½ against the top American, Harry Pillsbury.


In 1914 he tied for the British Championship with F.D. Yates but at the age of 72 his best days were behind him and ill health prevented him from contesting the play-off for the title. Earlier in the same year he had competed in his last major international tournament in St Petersburg, where he beat the up-and-coming Aaron Nimzowitsch, but by now he was concentrating on writing his chess column for The Field, a position he held up until his death in 1924 at the age of 82.


Joseph Henry Blackburne is an icon of Romantic chess because of his wide open and highly tactical style of play. His large black beard together with his aggressive attacking style earned him the nickname of 'der Schwarze Tod' (the Black Death, referencing the plague of the same name) after his performance in the 1873 Vienna tournament. In 1881, according to one retroactive rating calculation (see www.chessmetrics.com), he was the second highest-ranked player in the world. He was especially strong at endgames and had a great combinative ability which enabled him to win many brilliancy prizes but he will be best remembered for his popular simultaneous and lightning displays which captured the imagination of the general public who flocked to watch him.



^ top ^

871 Blackburne games in PGN

Paul Morphy



Paul Charles Morphy (June 22, 1837 - July 10, 1884), "The Pride and Sorrow of Chess," was an American chess player. He is considered to have been the greatest chess master of his time, and was unofficial World Chess Champion.



Morphy was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to a wealthy and distinguished family. His father, Alonzo Michael Morphy, was a lawyer, state legislator, state attorney general, and state Supreme Court Justice of Louisiana. Alonzo was of Portuguese, Irish, and Spanish ancestry. Morphy's mother, Louise Therese Felicite Thelcide Le Carpentier, was the musically talented daughter of a prominent French Creole family. Morphy grew up in an atmosphere of genteel civility and culture where chess and music were the typical highlights of a Sunday home gathering.


In 1850, the strong professional Hungarian chess master Johann Löwenthal visited New Orleans, and could do no better than the amateur General Scott could. Morphy was 12 when he encountered Löwenthal. Löwenthal, who had played young talented players before and expected to easily overcome Morphy, considered the informal match a waste of time but accepted the offer as a courtesy to the well-to-do Judge. When Löwenthal met him, he patted him on the head in a patronizing manner. He expected no more from Morphy than the usual talented young players he had played before.


After 1850, Morphy did not play much chess for a long time. Studying diligently, he graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama in 1854. He then stayed on an extra year, studying mathematics and philosophy. He was awarded a degree with the highest honours.


Seeking new opponents and now aware that Staunton had no real desire to play, Morphy then crossed the English Channel and visited France. There he went to the Café de la Regence in Paris, which was the centre of chess in France. He played a match against Daniel Harrwitz, the resident chess professional, and soundly defeated him.


In Paris he suffered from a bout of intestinal influenza and came down with a high fever. Despite his illness Morphy insisted on going ahead with a match against the visiting German champion Adolf Anderssen and triumphed easily, winning seven while losing two, with two draws in 1858. When asked about his defeat, Anderssen claimed to be out of practice, but also admitted that Morphy was in any event the stronger player and that he was fairly beaten. Anderssen also attested that in his opinion, Morphy was the strongest player ever to play the game, even stronger than the famous French champion Bourdonnais.


It was while he was in Paris in 1858 that Morphy played a well-known game at the Italian Opera House in Paris, against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard.


Shortly after, Morphy started the long trip home, taking a ship back to New York. At the University of the City of New York, on May 29, 1859, John Van Buren, son of President Van Buren, ended a testimonial presentation by proclaiming, "Paul Morphy, Chess Champion of the World".


Morphy reportedly declared that he would play no more matches with anyone unless he was giving odds of pawn and move. After returning to his home, he declared himself retired from the game, and with a few exceptions, he gave up the public playing of the game for good.


Morphy's final years were tragic. Depressed, he spent his last years wandering around the French Quarter of New Orleans, talking to people no one else could see, and having feelings of persecution. He was found dead in his bath on the afternoon of July 10, 1884 by his mother. The doctor said he had suffered congestion of the brain (stroke), brought on by entering cold water after being very warm from his long mid-day walk. He died at the age of only forty-seven.



^ top ^

353 Morphy games in PGN.

Wilhelm Steinitz 



Wilhelm (later William) Steinitz (May 17, 1836, Prague - August 12, 1900, New York) was an Austrian-American chess player and the first official world chess champion. Known for his original contributions to chess strategy such as his ideas on positional play, his theories were held in high regard by such disparate chess players as Aron Nimzowitsch, Siegbert Tarrasch, and Emanuel Lasker.



Born in Prague (today Czech Republic, then Austrian Empire), Steinitz was regarded the best player in the world ever since his victory over Adolf Anderssen in their 1866 match. His 1886 match victory over Johannes Zuckertort is considered by most as the first World Chess Championship.


Steinitz defended his title from 1886 to 1894, retaining it in four matches against Zuckertort, Mikhail Chigorin (two times) and Isidor Gunsberg. He lost two matches against Lasker, in 1894 and 1896, who became his successor as world champion. Steinitz adopted a scientific approach to his study of the game. He would formulate his theories in scientific terms and "laws".


After losing the world title, Steinitz developed severe mental health problems and spent his last years in a number of institutions in New York, making a series of increasingly bizarre claims (including his having won - at pawn odds!—a game of chess with God conducted via an invisible telephone line). His chess activities had not yielded any great financial rewards, and he died a pauper in his adopted home city in 1900. Steinitz is buried in Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York.


Emanuel Lasker, who took the championship from Steinitz, once said, "I who defeated Steinitz shall do justice to his theories, and I shall avenge the wrongs he suffered." Steinitz's fate, and Lasker's keenness to avoid a similar situation of financial ruin, have been cited among the reasons Lasker fought so hard to keep the world championship title.


Steinitz began to play professional chess at the age of 26 in England. His play at this time was no different than that of his contemporaries: sharp, aggressive, and full of sacrificial play. In 1873 however, his play suddenly changed. He gave immense concern to what we now call the positional elements in chess: pawn structure, space, outposts for knights, etc. Slowly he perfected his new method of play that helped form him into the first Chess World Champion.


What Steinitz gave to chess could be compared to what Newton gave to Physics: he made it a true science. By isolating a number of positional features on the board, Steinitz came to realize that all brilliant attacks resulted from a weakness in the opponent's defence. By studying and developing the ideas of these positional features, he perfected a new art of defence that sharply elevated the current level of play. Furthermore, he outlined the idea of an attack in chess formed off of what we now know as "Accumulation Theory", the slow addition of many small advantages.


Though it was not immediately evident, Steinitz had just given the chess world its greatest gift. Though tactics were, and still are, the most basic element to strong play, his new theory gave greater opportunity to both defend and use the brilliant combinations the era was renowned for.


When he fought for the first World Championship in 1886 against Johann Hermann Zukertort, it became evident that Steinitz was playing on another level. Though he suffered a series of defeats at the beginning of the match, it becomes evident when watching the games who understood the game better (for example, in the third game he was strategically superior but failed to pull it together at the end). Over time however, Steinitz's level of play continued to improve and finished with a solid victory (+10 -5 =5).


Perhaps the evaluation of Steinitz's impact on chess can best be evaluated by a fellow master of strategy, Tigran Petrosian: "The significance of Steinitz's teaching is that he showed that in principle chess has a strictly defined, logical nature."



^ top ^

694 Steinitz games in PGN.

Howard Staunton 



Howard Staunton (April 1810 - June 22, 1874) was a chess master and unofficial World Chess Champion. He was also a newspaper chess columnist, chess book author, and minor Shakespearean scholar. His name is remembered most today for the style of chess figures he endorsed, the "Staunton" pattern.



Little is known about the life of Staunton before his appearance on the chess scene. He said he was born in Westmorland and his father's name was William. He was poor and had no official education when he was young. It is known that in 1836, Staunton was in London, and he made a subscription to William Walker's book Games at Chess, actually played in London, by the late Alexander McDonnell Esq.


From the age of 26 or so, he began a serious pursuit of the game. In 1838 he played many games with Captain William Evans, inventor of the Evans Gambit. He also played a match against the German chess writer Aaron Alexandre and lost.


In 1840 he began writing, doing a chess column for the New Court Gazette from May to the end of the year. He had improved sufficiently by 1840 to play and win a match with the German master Popert, which he won by a single game. He also began writing for British Miscellany which in 1841 led to his founding the chess magazine known as the Chess Player's Chronicle. Staunton edited the magazine until 1854, when he was succeeded by Robert Barnett Brien.


In 1842 he played hundreds of games with John Cochrane. Cochrane was a strong player, and Staunton had a good warm-up for what was to be his greatest chess achievement the following year. In 1843, Staunton played a short match with France's champion, Pierre St. Amant, who was visiting London. Staunton lost the match, 3½-2½, but later arrangements where made for a second match, to be held in Paris. Staunton went to Paris, where from November 14 to December 20, 1843, he played a match at the Cafe de la Regence against St. Amant, beating him decisively, 13-8. After St. Amant's defeat, no other Frenchmen arose to continue the tradition of French chess supremacy started with Philidor, and London became the chess capital of the world. Staunton was unofficially recognised as the best player of the world from 1843 to 1851.


In 1847 Staunton wrote his most famous work, The Chess-Player's Handbook, which didn't go out of print until 1993. Another book, The Chess-Player's Companion followed in 1849.


In May 1851, London held host to the Great Exhibition, and London's thriving chess community, the world's most active, felt obliged to do something similar for chess. Staunton then took it upon himself to organise the world's first chess tournament, to be held in London along with the World Industrial Great Exhibition. The idea was to invite the world's leading masters to compete, and showcase chess the way the Great Exhibition was showcasing the world's technology and culture. He persuaded some of the chess amateurs in London and raised funds of £500 - a large sum of money at that time - to help to host the event.


Birmingham 1858 was to be Staunton's last public chess competition. Staunton refused to play Paul Morphy in public during the latter's visit to England in 1858, saying he was too busy working on his Shakespeare annotations. True to his word, he now concentrated on writing on Shakespeare and chess. By 1860 his edition of Shakespeare had been published. Staunton considered it a great work, but modern day critics do not agree, and Staunton is an obscure name in modern Shakespearean scholarship. Staunton also published a book in 1860 titled Chess Praxis, which to take advantage of the public's desire for Morphy material had over 168 pages of the American's games annotated by Staunton.


A memorial plaque now hangs at his old residence of 117 Lansdowne Road, London W11. In 1997 a memorial stone bearing an engraving of a chess knight was raised to mark his grave at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Prior to this his grave had been unmarked.



^ top ^

284 Staunton games in PGN.


 © SC 2015


Copyright © 2015 Spirit of Atticus

back to top ^^