- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The world title match between Norwegian champion Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin, set for New York City in November, will almost certainly be more subtle, more sophisticated, more finely balanced than the world title match that was played 150 years ago this month in London.

It’s unlikely to be as fun — or as bloodthirsty.

The 14-game match between veteran German star Adolf Anderssen and Austrian challenger Wilhelm Steinitz featured not a single draw, with Steinitz claiming the prize only by winning the final two games for an 8-6 edge. Both players posted four-game winning streaks during the affair, and 12 of the 14 games opened with either the Evans or the King’s Gambit.

Although not universally considered a world championship match (American Paul Morphy was just beginning what turned out to be a permanent withdrawal from international play), the match marked the first in a nearly 30-year unbeaten match string for Steinitz, the acknowledged world champ when he finally relinquished his crown in 1894 to young German challenger Emanuel Lasker.

Best known now for his “scientific” defensive approach to the game, Steinitz was a Romantic brawler against the great Anderssen. The take-no-prisoners approach of both players was on display in Game 5, when Anderssen’s Evans Gambit just missed the mark in a back-and-forth cage match.

By 15. Nxe4 Nxd5 16. Neg5, Black is up two pawns, but Anderssen has set up a beautiful attacking array, with bishops, knights and a queen all pointed at Steinitz’s underdefended king. The pressure pays off on 18. Rxe6 Qd7!? (on 18Nf6, White has 19. Rxd6!? Qxd6 20. Bh7+, but that may be a better way to lose the queen for the defender) 19. Rg6 Nf4 (Nf6? 20. Qxh6 is winning) 20. Rxg7+ Qxg7 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. Nh4 Nxd3 23. Qxd3 Rf6 — the smoke clears and Black’s imposing queenside pawns are balanced by the defensive headaches he has finding shelter for his king.

White passes up several chances for a perpetual check, signaling with 28. g4! that he’s playing for a win.

But the pawn advances open up the White king to danger as well, and Anderssen proves less able to negotiate the defensive shoals in the game’s critical phase: 35. Ng7 Ne3+?! (see diagram; Black has to mix things up before his opponent can consolidate) 36. Kg1?! (the intrepid 36. Kf3! looks like a winner here, as there’s no mate after 36d3 37. fxe3 R6xe3+ 38. Kf4 Bc7+ 39. Kf5 Re5+ 40. Kg6) Re4! 37. f3 d3 38. fxe4 Nxg4+ 39. Rf2 (Kh1?? Rh2 mate) Bxf2+, and even now 40. Kg2! Bxh4+ 41. Kh3 leaves Black’s attack gasping for fresh fuel.

Instead, Anderssen’s king is driven to a fatal square and the insolent Balck d-pawn decides the game after the forced sequence 40. Kh1?? Re1+ 41. Kg2 Rg1+ 42. Kf3 Ne5+ 43. Kxf2 Nxf7 44. Kxg1 d2. The pawn must queen and White resigned.

Anderssen-Steinitz, Game 5, London Match, July 1866

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Bc5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O d6 8. cxd4 Bb6 9. d5 Na5 10. Bb2 Ne7 11. Bd3 O-O 12. Nc3 c6 13. Qd2 f5 14. Rae1 fxe4 15. Nxe4 Nxd5 16. Neg5 h6 17. Ne6 Bxe6 18. Rxe6 Qd7 19. Rg6 Nf4 20. Rxg7+ Qxg7 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 2. Nh4 Nxd3 23. Qxd3 Rf6 24. Nf5+ Kf8 25. Qh3 Re8 26. Qg4 Ree6 27. Qg7+ Ke8 28. g4 d5 29. Kg2 Nc4 30. Qxb7 Re2 31. Qg7 Rfe6 32. h4 d4 33. Qg8+ Kd7 34. Qf7+ Kc8 35. Ng7 Ne3+ 36. Kg1 Re4 37. f3 d3 38. fxe4 Nxg4+ 39. Rf2 Bxf2+ 40. Kh1 Re1+ 41. Kg2 Rg1+ 42. Kf3 Ne5+ 43. Kxf2 Nxf7 44. Kxg1 d2 White resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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