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Karl Ernst Adolf Anderssen was born in Breslau, Prussia (now Wroclaw, Poland) on July 6, 1818. He came from a poor family.
He learned chess from his father in 1827 at the age of 9 and filled up his school books with chess diagrams. He lived with his mother and spinster sister. He never married.
In 1842 he published a book of 60 chess problems called "Aufgaben fur Schachspieler."
Around 1845 he graduated from Breslau University and became a matematics and German instructor at the Friedrichs Gymnasium in Breslau, and later a professor of Mathematics in the University of Breslau.
In 1846 he was a contributing editor of Schachzeitung (later Deutsche Schachzeitung), one of the first chess magazines in Germany.
From 1847 to 1851 Anderssen was a tutor in a private family in Pomerania.
In 1848 he drew a match with Daniel Harrwitz, winning 5 games and losing 5 games.
On July 15, 1851 Anderssen won the 1851 London International, defeating Lionel Kieseritzky (2.5-0.5), Josef Szen (4-2), Howard Staunton (4-1), and Marmaduke Wyvill (4.5-2.5). The victory earned Anderssen the unofficial world champion. This was the first International Chess Tournament. Anderssen was one of the representatives of the Berlin chess club. His first place prize was a silver cup and 183 British pounds. The total prize fund was 355 British pounds. He owed 1/3 of his winnings to Josef Szen after a private agreement that if either were to gain first prize, he would share it with the other.
The chess event was held in conjunction with the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. The chess event started on May 26, 1851 and ended July 15, 1851. 16 masters (Lowe, Wyvill, H. Kenedy, Mayet, Lowenthal, Williams, Mucklow, E. Kennedy, Anderssen, Kieseritzky, Szen, Newham, Staunton, Brodie, Bird, and Horwitz) played in a knockout tournament organized and played at the St. George Chess Club at 5 Cavendish Square, London. All the chess players had to pay their own expenses. The entrance fee was 5 British pounds. The Exhibition opened on May 1 and closed on October 15, 1851.
Anderssen never visited the Great Exhibition while he was in London. When asked why he did not go to see the Great Exhibition, Anderssen replied, "I came to London to play chess."
Anderssen defeated Kieseritsky in brilliant style in a friendly game played at the Simpson's-in-the-Strand tavern. This King's Gambit Accepted is known as the Immortal Game. Anderssen mated Kieseritsky in 23 moves. He had sacrificed a bishop, 2 rooks, and his queen before checkmating. The ending of the game was used in The Blade Runner. A chess game was played between Tyrell and Sebastian. A diagram from the game appears on the German 75 pfenning currency coupon.
In 1851 the strongest chess player in the world was A. Anderssen. In the same year, A. Anderson was the strongest checker (draughts) player in the world.
In 1852 Anderssen mated J. Dufresne in 24 moves in a Berlin tournament using an Evans Gambit. Steinitz called it the Evergreen Game, "a blossom in Anderssen's wreath of laurels."
On December 25, 1858 Anderssen went to Paris to play Paul Morphy. He lost the match of 11 games (he won 2, drew 2, lost 7) in 9 days. Anderssen had not played chess for 6 years and travelled to Paris on his vacation time, even though it had been stipulated earlier that the match was to be held in Breslau. After this offical match, the two players played 6 offhand games. Anderssen won 1 and lost 5 of these games.
The first game of the Morphy-Anderssen match began on April 12, 1859, at the Hotel Breuteuil in Paris.
At the London Chess Club in August, 1861 he defeated I. Kolisch with 4 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses. This was the first match played with a time limit. An hourglass (sandglass) gave each player 2 hours to make 24 moves (5 minutes a move). Anderssen's prize was 10 guineas.
In June, 1862 he took first place in the 1862 London International. This was the first round-robin tournament in which everyone plays everyone. 2nd through 6th were Paulsen, Owen, MacDonnell, Dubois, and Steinitz.
In 1864 he was co-editor of the Neue Berliner Schachzeitung, with Neumann.
In January 1865 Breslau University awarded Anderssen with an honorary degree, Doctor of Philosophy, for his work as a mathematics teacher and for chess.
In July, 1866 in London he lost a match with Wilhelm (William) Steinitz, winning 6 and losing 8. This was the first time mechanical clocks were used. Steinitz later claimed that this was the beginning of his world championship reign, even though there was no suggestion of any title at stake.
In 1868 Anderssen defeated Zukertort in a match with 8 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw.
In August, 1869 he won at the Hamburg Chess Congress and, later, at the Barmen Chess Congress (with a perfect score).
In August, 1870, at the age of 52, he won an international tournament in Baden-Baden ahead of Steinitz and Blackburne.
In 1871 he won at Crefeld. In April, 1871 Anderssen lost a match against Zukertort, losing 5 games, and winning 2 games, with no draws.
He won at Leipzig in 1876.
In 1877 he took 2nd at Leipzig (won by Paulsen). This tournament was organized by a group of German chess fans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Anderssen's learning the chess moves (in 1827). This is the only tournament ever organized to commemorate a competitor.
In 1878 he played in his last tournament, taking 3rd place at Frankfurt at the age of 60.
He died in Breslau on March 13, 1879 of a heart attack. His obituary ran 19 pages in the May, 1879 issue of "Deutsche Schachzeitung." He took part in 12 tournaments between 1851 and 1878 and won the first place prize in 7 of these events (London 1851, London 1862, Hamburg 1869, Barmen 1869, Baden 1870, Crefeld 1871, Leipzig 1876). He appeared on the prize list of all 12 tournaments he entered.
Here are some of Anderssen's shortest games.
- C. Mayet - Anderssen, Berlin 1851 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.O-O Bg4 7.h3 h5 8.hxg4 hxg4 9.Nxe5 g3 10.d4 Nxe4 11.Qg4 Bxd4 12.Qxe4 Bxf2+ (13.Rxf2 Qd1+) 0-1
- Anderssen - Schallopp, Berlin 1864 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Nxe5 Bd6 5.Bc4 Bxe5 6.fxe5 Qd4 7.Qe2 Qxe5 8.d4 Qxd4 9.Nc3 Nf6 10.Be3 Qd8 11.O-O h6 12.Bc5 Nbd7 13.Qxe4+! (13...Nxe4 14.Bxf7 mate) 1-0
- Anderssen - L. Eichborn, Breslau 1854 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 f5 4.Qe2 fxe4 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Nxe4 Nxe4 7.Bd5 c6 8.Bxe4 Qe7 9.c4 g6 10.d4 Bh6 11.c5 Kd8 12.Bd2 b6 13.Nf3 Ba6 0-1
- G. Neumann - Anderssen, Berlin 1865 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.O-O dxc3 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.e5 Qg6 10.Nxc3 Bxc3 11.Qxc3 Nd8 12.Ba3 Nh6 13.Rfe1 b6 14.Bd5 Bb7 15.e6 (15...fxe5 16.Ne5, threatening 17.Qxc7; 15...dxe6 16.Qxc7 mates) 1-0
- Anderssen - D. Rosenthal, Vienna 1873 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.O-O d3 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.Re1 Nge7 10.Bg5 Qg6 11.Bxe7 Kxe7 12.e5 Kf8 13.Nbd2 Bb6 14.Ne4 Nd8 15.Qa3+ Ke8 16.Nf6+ (16...gxf6 17.exf6+ mates) 1-0
- Riemann - Anderssen, Breslau 1876 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d5 5.Bxd5 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.e5 Bxc3 8.exf6 Bxf6 9.Nf3 Qh5 10.Qe2+ Kd8 11.Qc4 Re8 12.Bxf7 Qxf3+ 13.gxf3 Bh3+ 14.Kf2 Bh4+ 15.Kg1 Re1+ 16.Qf1 Rxf1 mate 0-1
- D. Harrwitz - Anderssen, Breslau 1848 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Bc5 5.d4 Bb6 6.Nf3 Qe7 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.e5 Nh5 9.Nd5 Qd8 10.g4 fxg3 11.Bg5 f6 12.exf6 gxf6 13.Ne5 O-O 14.Qxh5 fxg5+ 15.Nf6+ Kg7 16.Qxh7+ Kxf6 17.Ng4 mate 1-0
- Paul Morphy - Anderssen, Paris 1858 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Ke3 f5 8.N1c3 f4 9.Nd5 fxe3 10.Nbc7+ Kf7 11.Qf3+ Nf6 12.Bc4 Nd4 13.Nxf6+ d5 14.Bxd5+ Kg6 15.Qh5+ Kxf6 16.fxe3 Nxc2+ 17.Ke2 (17...Qxc7 18.Raf1 Ke7 19.Rf7+) 1-0
- J. Zukertort - Anderssen, Breslau 1865 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O Qe7 6.Nc3 gxf3 7.d4 d6 8.Nd5 Qd7 9.Qxf3 Nc6 10.Qxf4 Nd8 11.Qg3 c6 12.Qxg8 Rxg8 13.Nf6+ Ke7 14.Nxg8+ Ke8 15.Nf6+ Ke7 16.Nxd7 Bxd7 17.Bg5+ 1-0
- J. Zukertort - Anderssen, Breslau 1865 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O Qe7 6.Nc3 gxf3 7.d4 d6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Qxf3 Nc6 10.Qxf4 Be6 11.Nxc7+ Qxc7 12.Bxe6 Bh6 13.Bxf7+ Kf8 14.Qh4 Bxc1 15.Raxc1 Nd8 16.Bh5+ Kg7 17.Qg5 mate 1-0
- Anderssen - Mayet, Berlin 1855 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5 d5 6.exd5 h6 7.Bb5+ c6 8.dxc6 bxc6 9.Nxf7 Kxf7 10.Bc4+ Kg7 11.Qe2 Nf6 12.d3 Bb4+ 13.Kd1 Bd6 14.Nc3 g3 15.Qf1 Bg4+ 16.Kd2 Qb6 17.Nd1 Re8 0-1
- J. Zukertort - Anderssen, Breslau 1865 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.Kf1 f3 7.d4 Nf6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.Bxf7+ Kd8 10.Bb3 Nxe5 11.dxe5 fxg2+ 12.Kxg2 Qh3+ 13.Kf2 Bc5+ 14.Ke1 Qh4+ 15.Kd2 Nh5 16.Rf1 Qxh2+ 17.Qe2 Ng3 0-1