W. Steinitz - C. von Bardeleben  

Wilhelm Steinitz (2700)  - Curt Von Bardeleben (2635) 
The International Chess Congress/Tournament
  Hastings, England (Rd. #10), 17.08.1895  


(Ratings are only rough guesses {approximations} as to what these players may have been rated if they were alive today.)

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Easily one of the most beautiful and brilliant games that Steinitz ever played. 

This game also has to be one of the ... 
  "Ten Most Brilliant Games of The Nineteenth (19th) Century."  

When asked which game was the most brilliant or was the one game that had influenced him the most, (The famous Russian Historian, Issak Linder's - third question.) {former} World Champion Mikhail Tal picked this one game!!!!! 

This game has appeared - literally dozens of times - in lists of games that various persons have picked as "The All-Time Best." Irving Chernev himself once said this game has to be in the list of the Top 100 games ever played! 

A personal favorite. I have been very enamored of this game since a chap at chess club showed me this game, probably in the late 1960's. {A.J.G.}


One of the myth's being circulated on chess servers and the Internet today is that Steinitz was a boring player and could not play tactics ... or combinational chess. 

Of course  NOTHING  could be further from the truth!! 

In his youth, Steinitz was such an explosive tactical player that he earned the nickname .........    "The Austrian Morphy."  

The simple fact is that some of Wilhelm Steinitz's combinations' are some of the best and grandest in all of the annals of the chess. (This game is a case in point!) 


Another fairly little-known fact about this game was that Bardeleben WAS   LEADING   THE TOURNAMENT, (clear first, & undefeated! - 7.5 out of 9); when this game was played!! He had - thus far - played some of the best chess (overall) of the tournament. [But the poor Count von Bardeleben, who got his title from marriage. It seems he never recovered from this loss, and basically collapsed after this game was played. But even though he never got back to the form he had demonstrated in the first part of the tournament, he still finished well, tying for 7-8th places with Teichmann. (11.5 points.)  BUT! ... he finished ahead of perhaps many better known names.  Names like:  Schlechter, Blackburne, Walbrodt, Burn, Janowski, (!) Mason, Bird, Gunsberg, Albin, ... (+ 5 more.), etc.] 


1. e4 e52. Nf3 Nc63. Bc4 Bc54. c3 Nf6;  

5. d4!?(Probably - '!') 
The most energetic. 

It is also the move most in keeping with the sacred rules of the opening. 
(CONTROL the Center!!) 

   [ 5.d3!? ]. 

5...exd46. cxd4 Bb4+7. Nc3!?,  (Maybe - '!')   
This is the most thematic, and the most energetic. It is also the move which 
most closely follows opening principle. Yet this move requires White to 
play a gambit. 

I very much like this move ... yet theory probably slightly favors Black.

GM's Nunn and Huebner condemn this move. (Nunn said all such gambits are
basically unsound.).  But Nunn is also a hypocrite. He gave countryman GM 
Mike Adams
an exclam for his 'revival' of the King's Gambit in the early 90's. 

   [ Theory, instead recommends the rather limp-wristed: 
     7.Bd2 Bxd2+; 8.Nbxd2 d5; 9.exd5 Nxd5; 10.Qb3!? Nce7; "~" 
       (10...Na5!?)   ].  


7...d5!?; (Maybe - '!')   
According to  'PURE'  opening principle, (CONTROL THE CENTER!!); 
this move is easily the most thematic. 

I have also tested this move on dozens of computer programs. Most S.C.C.P.'s 
chose the move ...d5; here ... especially when their opening book is turned off. 
 (This includes the super-program,  Deep Blue II.  !!!!) 

Yet this move has been roundly condemned by many annotators. 
They recommend instead, the rather greedy pawn snatch, 
the move 7... Nxe4!?

7... d5; is DUBIOUS according to GM A. Soltis. (7...d5?! - Soltis.) 
(Also, '?' - GM John Nunn.)

GM Robert Huebner calls the move, ....d5;  "A very ugly move," 
and ... "really just a blunder." 

 (I am sure this is both overly wrong and far, far, too extreme.) 

   [ Modern opening theory prefers: 7...Nxe4!?; 8.0-0 Bxc3 (8...Nxc3!?); 
, This is the dreaded "Moeller Attack," which breathed new life into 
     this variation.  ( 9.bxc3 d5!; "=/+"  C. Devide states that Bardeleben avoided 
      this line because he was afraid of 10. Ba3. He also says that Lasker has 
      since shown Black has nothing to fear in this variation. )   Now  9...Bf6!
; 11.Rxe4 d612.Bg5!, "/\"  and White maintains a very 
     powerful initiative. He also has an advantage in space and a big lead in 
     development. Yet this is what opening theory considers to be the very best. 
     (As Monsieur Ripley would say, BELIEVE IT ... OR NOT!!) ]. 


8. exd5 (!) 8...Nxd5;  9. 0-0!,  
This is definitely the best ... and earns an exclam from GM A. Soltis

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 9.Bxd5!? Qxd5; 10.0-0, "~" ]. 


9...Be6!, (Best.)  
Once again this move is probably the most accurate ... and also earns an 
exclam from GM A. Soltis

   [ Black should not play:  9...Nxc3!?; 10.bxc3 Bxc3?!; 11.Bxf7+ Kxf7
Be6; 13.Qxc3; "--->" when White will develop a considerable 
     initiative against the exposed Black King. ]. 


White continues to play very sharply, ... and with great energy. 
10. Bg5! Be7('!?')  11. Bxd5!, (Nice.) {Diagram?}
Again the most forceful ... and once again this move earns an exclam 
from GM A. Soltis

   [ Not: 11.Re1?? Nxc3; 12.bxc3 Bxc4; "-/+"  
  White gets little from: 11.Nxd5 Bxd5!; 12.Bxd5 Qxd5; 13.Re1 f6
0-0-0!; "=" ].  


11...Bxd512. Nxd5!?, (Maybe - '!')   
Probably the most energetic. 

   [ 12.Bxe7!? Nxe7; 13.Re1, "/\" - Soviet Master, (GM?) Igor Zaitzev
(13.Nxd5!?)  ].  


12...Qxd513. Bxe7 Nxe714. Re1 (Maybe -!')   {Diagram?} 
More than likely, this is the most accurate move here. (And it really deserves 
an exclam. It does gets one on the book of the tournament!) 

"The object of the foregoing exchanges now becomes clear. By this excellent 
move, the first player obtains full command of the board. He prevents Black 
from Castling, and also initiates a most powerful attack against the hostile King."
- W. Steinitz and/or C. Devide. 

   [ White could have also played 14. Qe2!?,  or even  14.Rc1!? ]


14...f6;  15. Qe2!?, (Maybe - '!')  
Is this the most aggressive here? 

Kasparov questions this ... but his analysis is based on old analysis that was 
done by Igor Zaitzev. (But I have punched holes in that work.) 

   [ Interesting is: 15.Qa4+!?, "+/="  - Soviet Master, Igor Zaitzev. ]. 


15...Qd716. Rac1!, (Nice.)   
This is very sharp and very aggressive. 
(GM Razuvaev felt this was best.).  

Yet White may have had an even better move here. 
(But after 20 years of analysis, I am no longer convinced that the 
other move is clearly superior to this one.) 

   [ According to all the people who have annotated this game, better is: 
     16. Rad1!!, {Diagram?} - Soviet Master, (GM?) Igor Zaitzev.  
; This could be forced. (But it is not the only move here.)  

      a.)   16...Kf7?!; 17.Qc4+ Kf8 (17...Nd5!?; 18.Ne5+!! fxe5; 19.dxe5, "+/" 
           ("Maybe "+/-") )  18.d5, "+/=" {Diagram?} 
             White is CLEARLY better here.  
      b.)   16...Rd8;  This is almost forced. Good for White is: 17.Qc4!, {Diagram} 
             The best, according to Soltis.  (Also very good for White is: 
c6!?; 18.d5! cxd5; 19.Rxd5!, "+/"  (Maybe "+/-") with a  
               great game for White.)    17...Kf8; {Box?} This could be forced. 
               (17...c6; 18.Rd3!?, "+/=" 18...Kf8; 19.Ng5 fxg5; 20.Rf3+ Nf5
Kg8; 22.Rxf5, "+/"  18.Qb4 c6; 19.d5! cxd5; 20.Nd4 Kf7;  
              21.Ne6 Rde8; 22.Qg4 Nf5; {Forced?} Soltis says this is forced. 
               (Possibly better was:  22...Reg8; 23.Ng5+ Ke8; 24.Qxd7+ Kxd7;  
                 25.Nf7, "+/" 
Maybe "+/-" )     23.Nxg7!, "+/" (Maybe "+/-") 
              - Soviet Master, Igor Zaitzev. 
      c.)    16...Kf8; (Maybe - '!')  {Analysis Diagram?} This could be the best 
              defense for Black. 17.d5! Nxd5; 18.Ng5! Re8 (Not 18...fxg5?! 
                19.Qf3+ Qf7; 20.Qxd5 Qxd5; 21.Rxd5 Kf7; 22.Rd7+ Kf6;  
                23.Rxc7, "+/="
)    19.Qf3 c6; {Box?}  Is this forced?  
      ---->  ( Possibly better was: 19...Rxe1+; 20.Rxe1 g6!?; "~"   
              20.Qa3+ Kg8; 21.Ne4 b6; 22.b4 g6; 23.Qb3, {Diagram?} The best? 
               ( 23.Rxd5? Rxe4!; "/+"  23...Kg7; 24.b5, "=/+" {Diagram?} 
              GM A. Soltis  indicates this is winning for Black, but I am not 
              so sure. (Black could be slightly better.)   

     17.Qe3, "+/="  White is probably a little better here, 
     but 16...Kf8; could be Black's best defense ... and may deserve a 
     closer examination. ]


16...c6!?; (Maybe dubious?)  {Diagram?}
A very logical looking defense, and it may even be forced. 

Yet this move has been roundly condemned by the pundits. 
(GM Huebner bashes this move ... but fails to provide a reasonable alternative.) 

GM Andy Soltis gives this move a question mark, but ALSO fails to give a 
reasonable or playable alternative. (As does Nunn.)

  I should also point out that ...c6;  is the first choice of many strong commercial 
  computer programs. (S.C.C.P.'s) 

   [ Burgess claims that the move: 16...Kf7!?, {Diagram?} is better ... BUT 
     his analysis is VERY unconvincing. (Devide also likes this move.) 
     (To be honest, the move ...Kf7;  is at least just a little better than the 
      move ...c6; as was actually played in the game.) ].  


Now White begins one of the most remarkable combinations in all of 
the annals of chess. 
  17. d5!!, {Diagram?} 
A remarkable clearance (vacating) sacrifice. 
(White needs the d4-square for his Knight.) 

'!!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 17.Rc2!? ]. 

17...cxd5;  (Hmmm.)  {Diagram?}
Is this forced? The computers seem to think so. 

   [Instead, Charles Devide recommends ...Kf7!?; here.]  


18. Nd4!,   
The best, ... continuing with his plan. 

"The beginning of a very grand combination."
- Charles Devide

   [ 18.Rc3!? ]. 


18...Kf7; {Box?}    
This is forced here. 

   [ 18...Rc8??; 19.Rxc8+ Qxc8; 20.Qxe7# ].  


19. Ne6!, {Actual Diagram, in the original ChessBase doc.} 
Steinitz referred to this Knight, as ... 
"A bone stuck in poor, old Bardeleben's throat!" 

   [ 19.Qh5+!? ].  

19...Rhc820. Qg4!, (Maybe - '!!') {Diagram?} 
The best. White now has about a dozen threats, including to win Black's 
Queen with a discovered check.  (White also threatens mate in 2!) 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 20.Nc5!? ].  

20...g6; {Box?} 
This is 100% forced now, according to all the computers. 

   [ 20...Rxc1??; 21.Qxg7+ Ke8; 22.Qf8# ].  


21. Ng5+!, (Maybe - '!')   
This is best. 

And many annotators have missed the fact that White had 
a very playable alternative. 

   [ A story that one player, (He was an expatriated Russian.);  told me at 
     the World Open, is that a young Karpov was given this position to analyze. 
     He {supposedly} found:  21.Rxc8!? Rxc8; 22.Ng5+ Ke8; 23.Nxh7 Qxg4;  
     24.Nxf6+ Kf7; 25.Nxg4, "+/="  White is up a pawn, and he also has the 
     better over-all structure. ]. 


21...Ke8; {Box.}  
Black had to protect his Queen. 

   [ 21...Kf8??; 22.Qxd7, ("+/-") ].  


  22. Rxe7+!!,  (Maybe - '!!!')  {Actual Diagram.} 
One of the most brilliant moves ever played. Note that White has everything 
hanging,  and now he will be constantly threatened with a back-rank mate. 

"There were many critics of Steinitz, who said he played penny-pinching chess. 
But if that were true, he would have played 22. NxP!, which wins a Pawn ... 
and probably the endgame. But he has more." 
- GM Andrew Soltis.  

 << Asked which game of the past made a particularly strong impression on 
Mikhail Tal cited this one game. In particular he praised, "The beautiful 
 and picturesque stroll of the unprotected White Rook along the seventh rank." >> 

 - From Page # 464. (Of the Landsberger book.) 

After this move there was virtual pandemonium in the audience and in the 
gallery ... one woman even fainted. (She may have been dating Von Bardeleben ... 
who was also leading the tournament at this point.) 

   [ White could have probably won with the rather simple: 22.Nxh7!, "+/-" 
      with advantage. ].  


22...Kf8!; {Diagram?} 
Forced, and even a little sneaky. 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

If White grabs the Black Queen, he will mated on his first row. 

   [ Not 22...Qxe7?; 23.Rxc8+ Rxc8; 24.Qxc8+ Qd8; 25.Qxd8+, etc. 
     White wins easily with his extra piece. ("+/-");  

     Or 22...Kxe7?!; 23.Re1+ Kd6
      ( 23...Kd8; 24.Ne6+ Ke7; 25.Nc5+, etc. ("+/-") ) 
     24.Qb4+ Rc5; Forced.  ( 24...Kc7?; 25.Ne6+ Qxe6;   ( 25...Kb8  
        26.Qf4+ Rc7; 27.Nxc7, "+/-" ).   26.Rxe6, "+/-"   
     Now the move, 25.Ne6, wins easily for White. ("+/-") ].  


23. Rf7+!, (Maybe - '!!')  
The very best way to continue. 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 23.Rxc8+!?, "+/=" ].  


23...Kg8; {Box} 
This is forced. 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 23...Qxf7?; 24.Rxc8+ Rxc8; 25.Qxc8+ Qe8
( 25...Kg7??; 26.Nxf7, "+/-" ).   26.Nxh7+! Ke7; 27.Qxe8+ Kxe8
Kf7; 29.Nxd5, "+/-" ].  


24. Rg7+!,  (Maybe - '!!')  
Again, the very best move.  

Most annotators don't even notice that White could possibly play the 
move Rf8+!? here and also win. 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ Very interesting was the continuation: 
      24.Rf8+!? Kxf8; 25.Nxh7+ Ke7; 26.Re1+ Kd8; 27.Qb4, "+/-" ].  


24...Kh8; {Box}  
Taking the Rook leads to an instant death. 

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ 24...Kxg7??; 25.Qxd7+, etc. 
     This is a ridiculously easy win for White. ("+/-");  

     Or 24...Qxg7?; 25.Rxc8+ Rxc8; 26.Qxc8+ Qf8; 27.Qe6+ Kh8
Kg7; 29.Nd6, "+/-" ].  


25. Rxh7+!(Maybe - '!!')   Black Resigns, 1-0.   

'!' - GM Garry Kasparov

   [ White could have also played: 25.Rxc8+!?, "+/" 

     The main line of the win ... which Steinitz gladly showed after the game, (!) 
     was: 25.Rxh7+!! Kg8;  I have repeatedly demonstrated that Black cannot 
     capture the Rook. 26.Rg7+! Kh8;  This looks to be - pretty much - forced. 
      (26...Kf8?; 27.Nh7+,  ("+/-") wins easily for White.)   27.Qh4+! Kxg7
; 29.Qh8+ Ke7; 30.Qg7+ Ke8; 31.Qg8+ Ke7; 32.Qf7+ Kd8;  
      (32...Kd6?; 33.Qxf6+ Qe6[]; 34.Qxe6#).    33.Qf8+ Qe8; 34.Nf7+ Kd7
, {Diagram?} A stunningly beautiful ... epaulette mate. ]  

A very brilliant, final parting shot. (The move, 25. Rxh7+!) 

(At this point, poor Bardeleben could not bring himself to continue, and allowed his time to expire.) 

   GM Andrew Soltis calls this game, ....  "The Pearl of Hastings." 

  Easily one of the most brilliant games of the 19th century! 


(I have seen this game in more books and magazines over the years than I can count, but below are a list of some of the better ones.) 


# 1.) "The Great Chess Tournaments & Their Stories.By GM Andrew Soltis. (Copyright, 1975; Chilton Books.)
(To see the  Amazon.com  page on this book, click  here.)  

# 2.) '[The Mammoth Book Of:]'  "The World's Greatest Chess Games," by GM John Nunn, GM J. Emms, and FM Graham Burgess
(To see the  Amazon.com  page on this book, click  here.)  

# 3.) "Hastings, 1895."  (The Grand International Chess Congress.) 
The official book of the tournament. By ALL the players, ... and Mr. H.F. Cheshire. 
(To see the  Amazon.com  page on this book, click  here.)  

# 4.) "The Games of (the immortal) Wilhelm SteinitzThe First World Chess Champion." 
Annotated by W. Steinitz. (Edited by FM Sid Pickard.) ( This book is not available on  Amazon.com. )  

# 5.) "William Steinitz, World Chess Champion." "A Biography of the Bohemian Caesar." by Kurt Landsberger
(Intro and game analysis ... by GM Andy Soltis.)
(To see the  Amazon.com  page on this book, click  here.)  

# 6.)  (Garry Kasparov on) "My Great Predecessors, Part I."
(As of this writing, I don't have the book - yet. But I did download the free sample excerpt that is available from the publisher.) 

(I also saw this game in a book on tactics many years ago, but I could not find it now. Additionally, I also consulted the book, 
"William Steinitz, Selected Chess Games,"
  by Charles Devide. But the notes in this book were  VERY  skimpy.) 

#7.) An alternative analysis of this game. (By L. Kavalek.) 

1 - 0

 Game first posted on my web site, March 28th, 2002.  

  (Last major update  ... late summer, 2013. Last edit on Thursday, February 27, 2014 12:49 PM .)  

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Get this book now ... some of the best and most careful chess analysis ever done. Kasparov is almost without peer as either a player or as an analyst.

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The original copy of this game on my hard drive contains the following: Many of the best traps of the Giuoco Piano; an  in-depth  opening survey, (with many new ideas); about 10-20 of the best games of current opening theory; - - - lightly annotated;  a very deep analysis of this game, diagrams after every move ... plus dozens of analysis diagrams; etc, etc, etc. I did a (print) PREVIEW of the possible print-out, it ran well OVER 175 pages!!!  I hope I can be forgiven for not trying to reproduce that document in its entirety here.

This game is a  much  shortened version of the game as it exists in my database. (I have shortened it for publication. Even this shortened version took around 10-14 hours of work to prepare and ready it for publication on my web page. The long version would have required days - or even weeks - to finish!!) If you would like a copy of the full, deeply annotated version of this game to study, please contact me.

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