Zukertort - Blackburne 

Johannes Zukertort   (2750)   -   Joseph Blackburne   (2695) 
 London International Chess Tournament 
 Victoria Hall, London (England); (Rd. # 6),  05.05.1883 

[A.J. Goldsby I]

From James Minchin, (one of the authors of the book on this event); to World Champion 
Wilhelm Steinitz, to the acclaimed writer, GM A. Soltis. All have agreed this is one of the 
finest games ever played on a chess board. 
(The great writer,  Irving Chernev  also highly praised this game. It was also included in the list 
  of 100 in the  outstanding  book:  "The World's Greatest Chess Games," by GM John Nunn
  GM John Emms
, and FM Graham Burgess.  1998.) 

Perhaps this is the most beautiful and profound game of the whole of the 19th century? 
Maybe. But it certainly  (easily)  belongs in the list of: 
  "The Ten Most Beautiful and Brilliant Games of The Nineteenth Century!"  

(Zukertort ran away with this event, in perhaps the most dominating tournament performance ever!!).  


Click  HERE   to see this game deeply annotated, but in (pure) text form only. 

The comments in brackets,  (<< Blah-blah-blah >>);  refer to an earlier version of this game ...   
that I did for another chess server. These comments were added to this version in November, 2004. 
--->  The variations that were added in the brackets are NOT replayable!  

1.c4!?, {Diagram?} 
An English Opening. This was unusual for those days.
(White is heading for a standard "Queen's Gambit Declined," position.) 

      [ More common is: 1.d4 ].  

White's scheme of development will block in his QB, but in those days, this was  NOT 
considered a handicap. In fact, the line of thinking by just about every master  BEFORE 
Pillsbury  was that the White (dark-squared) QB belonged on the Queen-side. 

Compare this development to the modern move order:
1. d4, d52. c4, e63. Nc3, Nf64. Bg5, "+/="  (The "Pillsbury Attack.") 
Here the QB is developed outside the pawn chain. But this mode of development did 
not become popular until well after Hastings, 1895 - the tournament where Pillsbury came 
in as a rank outsider, and walked away with first prize.

     [ 2. d4!? ].  

2...Nf63.Nf3 b6; {Diagram?} 
This is definitely a hyper-modern looking set-up.   

<< Fianchetto's were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Then for over 150 years masters moved   
away from this idea. It was not until the advent of the hyper-moderns that Masters - once more - 
began to embrace the strategic ideas of placing a Bishop on the long diagonal.   
{Reti, Nimzovich, etc.} >>  


4.Be2 Bb75.0-0 d56.d4 Bd6; ('!?')  
<< Capturing on c4 was better.  >>  


7.Nc3 0-08.b3, (hmmm)   
<< Trying to activate the QB, which is currently a very passive piece. 
(It is hard to believe that this is the piece ... on the long diagonal ... 
that will strike the decisive blow!!) >>  

   << [ Interesting was: 8.Ne5!?, grabbing the Knight outpost. ] >>  


8...Nbd79.Bb2 Qe7!?;  
Black develops quickly, but he might have done better to play ...a6 first.  (maybe dubious) 

<< Not the most accurate, Black will now lose his dark-squared Bishop. 
(Masters of that period did not value Bishops as highly as most modern players do now.) >>  

   << [ Much better and more accurate was:  >/= 9...a6; preserving the 2 Bishops. ] >>  


White's next move gains the advantage of the two Bishops.  
10.Nb5! Ne4!?;  (hmmmm)  
<< Possibly a dubious concept ... why not the simple ...P-QR3? >>  


<< White wins the minor exchange ... and then proceeds to eject the strong Knight on the e4-square. >>  
11.Nxd6 cxd6;  "~"  {Diagram?} 
A closed position that the computer says is nearly equal. 

Now White smartly prepares to rid himself of the annoying Black Knight that is on the e4-square. 
12.Nd2 Ndf613.f3 Nxd214.Qxd2 dxc415.Bxc4! d5!?; {Diagram?}
Gaining a tempo, but turning Black's QB into a rather bad piece. (Really - '?!') 

      [  Much better was:  >= 15...Rac8!; 16.e4 d5!; "="  {Diagram?} 
          with good play for Black. ].  

16.Bd3 Rfc8!?; {Diagram?} 
Black grabs the file. (Natch) 

<< White has only a slight edge in this position. >>   

      [ 16...Rac8!? ].  


17.Rae1!(Probably - '!!')  {Diagram?} 
A very deep move, preparing a big central thrust. 

"Typical  Zukertort,"  says  Andy Soltis  in admiration. 

 '!!'  - Irving Chernev.  '!' - IM Andy Soltis.   '!' - Nunn, Emms, and Burgess.  

<< White ignores the c-file ... in favor of a powerful central Pawn advance. 
      The strategical implications of this play are enormous ... and cannot be overstated. >>     

          [ The move 17.Rac1, {D?}  will probably only result in mass exchanges, ... 
         - and a draw. (- GM A. Soltis.) ].  


Black prepares to double (dominate) on the open c-file. 

      [ Maybe the subtle move of: 17...a5!?; might be slightly better. ].  

18.e4 Rac819.e5 Ne8!?
<< Black prepares a defense/block on the f5-square, but it might have   
      been slightly better to play the Knight to the d7square here. >>  

      [ (>/=)  19...Nd7!? ]


White now begins a menacing  "Pawn Storm"  against the Black King. 
20.f4!? g6!?21.Re3!, {Diagram?} 
A very cunning (potent!) Rook luft. (Heading for h3.) 

      [  Maybe 21.Rc1!?, {Diagram?} with a slight advantage. ("+/=") 

         Or maybe White could play: 21.Kh1!?, {Diagram?} with the idea of g4 and f5. ].  


(Now Black tries to block the King-side.) 
21...f5!?; {Diagram?} 
Several sources say this is forced - to prevent White from playing f5. 

<< Some authors have stated that this was forced ... but it allows White to open a lot of lines. >>  


Now - White naturally opens lines. 
22.exf6 Nxf623.f5! Ne4;   
According to some authors, this is nearly forced for Black. 

24.Bxe4 dxe425.fxg6!!,   
An ultra-brilliant move ... as stated by many writers and sources. 
(White initially offers a piece ... then a whole lot more.) 

 << An extremely bold and brilliant idea. (One of the most brilliant OTB strokes for over a 100-year period!!!)   

      {In my opinion, this is even more brilliant than the Q-to-b4 sacrifice!} >>  

      [ Fritz (greatly) prefers the move of:  25.f6!?,  {Diagram?}  
         which is OK, but not nearly as effective as the play chosen by Zukertort.  ].  


At first blush, this appears winning. 

<< "Doesn't this move win a piece?" (The question that ALL my students always ask in this position.)  
       [Was the continuation of: (>/=) 25...h5; 26.Re2, '' a better defense for Blackburne?] >>  


26.gxh7+ Kh8[]; (Poor Blackburne!)   {Diagram?} 
This is forced. (Any other move loses horribly.) 

Now the long diagonal magically opens. 
27.d5+ e5; (Seemingly the obvious move?!?)  {Box? Diagram?} 
This is probably forced as well.  

  28.Qb4!!      (Maybe - '!!!')   {Diagram?} 
One of the most shocking and profound moves ever played. 

James Minchin - in the official book of the tournament - says this is easily one of the 
most beautiful moves ever executed on a chess board. 

Wilhelm Steinitz  called it a master's stroke. 


<< Yet another stunning play ... and the one that the spectators really appreciated the most. >>  

      [ Probably poor Blackburne only expected  {the inferior}  28.d6!?, {Diag?}  
        when ...Qg5; might give Black play. ]  


28...R8c5; {Diagram?} 
<< The great Joeseph Henry Blackburne felt that this was forced ... and many people later agreed with him. 
      [ According to several computer programs, ...Re8; might be a slightly better play here. ] >>   


       [  Black is mated if he grabs the free Queen. </= 28...Qxb4?; 29.Bxe5+ Kxh7; 30.Rh3+ Kg6;  
           31.Rf6+ Kg5; 32.Rg3+ Kh5; 33.Rf5+ Kh6; 34.Bf4+ Kh7; 35.Rh5#.  {Diagram?} 
           An amazing concept, Black's pieces just stand idly by. 

          Black could also try: 28...Qg7!?; {Diagram?} Several programs seem to think this is forced.
          But White is still probably winning after Rg3. ].   


<< White now founds an astounding Rook sacrifice ... all for the sake of a single tempo, (and to decoy the   
      Black Queen from the defense of the Black foot-soldier on e5). >>   
      Yet another stunner of a move. 

      [ White could play: 29.Qxe4!?, {Diag?}  Or 29.Rf2!?, {D?}  Or even 29.Ba1!? ].    


This is completely forced according to several sources. 

      [  Black loses horribly after: 29...Qxf8!?; 30.Bxe5+ Kxh7; 31.Qxe4+;  ("+/-") {Diagram?}
         with a mating attack for White.  ].  

30.Qxe4+ Kg7;   {See the diagram - just below.}   
<< Black is just managing to hold on. >>  

zuker-black_diag01.gif, 19 KB

     << The position is interesting ... and well worth a diagram here. >>  


A beautiful move, given an exclam by dozens of writers and in many books.  

'!' - Andy Soltis. 

<< Seemingly the best move ... and most books or authors do not even offer a comment at this point in this   
      historic contest. (However, most books give this move an exclam in this position.) But did White miss a   
      much better move in this position?  

      '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.  [ See the book, "The Great Chess Tournaments & Their Stories."] >>  


      [ Maybe better was: >= 31.Rg8+!!, {Diagram?} Definitely unexpected. 
         Now White wins after the continuation:  31...Kxg8[]32.Qg6+! Qg7[]33.Qe8+! Qf8
Kh7[]35.Qh5+!? Qh636.Qf7+ Kh837.Rg8#  {Diagram?} 
This is my discovery, as far as I know - no one before had ever even considered this. {A.J.G.}
         (White can also win with 35.Qg6+, Kh836.Bxe5+, and mate next move.)  ].  


<< White now finishes off sharply. >> 
      This looks forced.

           [ After the continuation: 31...Qxe5?!; 32.Qxe5+, ("+/-") {Diagram?} 
              White mates in four. ].  


32.Bg7+!, {Diagram?} 
The most forceful execution. 

      [ 32.Qf3+!? ].  


32...Kg833.Qxe7{Diagram?}  ("+/-") 
Black Resigns. 1-0. 

One of the most attractive combinations ever played!!!

One of the most brilliant games ever played!!!   

<< One of the great brilliancies of that period ... perhaps Zukertort's best and greatest game?   
      (Even Steinitz called this, "one of the prettiest and most brilliant games on record.") >>  


Bibliography:  (As well as the books mentioned in the intro!)

  1. The book:  "The Great Chess Tournaments and Their Stories."  ( 1975) 
    By  IM Andy Soltis.  (This book was published before Andy got the GM title!) 

  2. The most excellent volume, << Johannes ZUKERTORT, "Artist of The Chessboard." >> 
    By Jimmy Adams, published in 1989.  (Caissa Editions.) 

         (I also have a {complete} photo-copy of the original book of the tournament.) 


  1 - 0  

 Game posted {here} on my web-site: Saturday / August 10th, 2002. 
  (Last updated on: Sunday - 05/15/2006 .)  


This game is a GREATLY shortened version of the game as I originally did it in my "cb" files. This is because that version, (the long one) - with a diagram after every move, and plenty of analysis diagrams to boot - runs more than thirty pages. 

I plan (perhaps) on later adding a complete TEXT-SCORE of this game. That way, if you are interested, you can see how detailed the notes are, and maybe better appreciate just what a fantastic game this really is. 

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   Copyright   A.J. Goldsby I;   A.J. Goldsby;  2000 - 2004.
  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2005.  All rights reserved.