Adolf Anderssen, Mr. Slice And Dice!
Adolf Anderssen was deadly on the chessboard.

Adolf Anderssen, Mr. Slice And Dice!

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Adolf Anderssen (born 1818) was born in the German Empire (Breslau, which is now Wroclaw, Poland). He learned how to play chess at the age of nine, and learned much of his chess understanding by going over all the games of the legendary Labourdonnais vs. McDonnell match. I’ll add that the book De la Bourbonnais versus McDonnell, written in 2005 by Cary Utterberg (published by McFarland, hardcover, 404 pages) is fantastic.

A professor of mathematics, he was known as a very kind man who lived most of his life with his mother and his sister.

Adolf Anderssen

Adolf Anderssen via Wikipedia.

Steinitz wrote: “Anderssen was honest and honorable to the core. Without fear or favor he straightforwardly gave his opinion, and his sincere disinterestedness became so patent....that his word alone was usually sufficient to quell disputes...for he had often given his decision in favor of a rival…”

Here’s an early game:


And here’s another early game that looked more like Capablanca than Anderssen:

Pushing aside the previous positional game, Anderssen, who was a living example of the romantic style, played in many tournaments and matches, but he always had to carefully ponder whether or not to travel to a chess event since, though his position in the university allowed him to be financially solvent, leaving for other countries would only be worthwhile if he managed to win a prize.

Fortunately, he did very well. This gave him confidence, and in the 1850s and 1860s he was widely viewed as the best player in the world.

His first international tournament was the London International in 1851. He was invited but wasn’t sure he should go due to the expenses such a trip would incur. Fortunately, the main organizer of this tournament was none other than Howard Staunton, and he guaranteed the money for Anderssen (I always thought Staunton was a curmudgeon, but I might have to change my view due to Staunton’s kindness.). The event was based on mini-matches and Anderssen dominated the event, even crushing Staunton 4-to-1 (no draws).

Here are some typical eviscerations:



This well-known game, which was played for fun during a rest period of the actual tournament, is one of the most famous games of all time. After the game, Kieseritzky was so impressed that he immediately telegraphed the moves to his Parisian chess club. I’ll show it as a puzzle, to see if you remember how Anderssen blew the spectators away



A year later Anderssen pulled another rabbit out of his hat. I like this more than the “Immortal Game” since both sides were trying to mate the other at the same time!


One of Anderssen’s “endless” match opponents was Carl Mayet, who wasn’t close to Adolf’s skillset. Here are some of their games:



I must say something about Anderssen being the best player in the world during the 1850s and 1860s. It just so happened that there was a rather large “blip” on the “best player” comment. That “blip” is named Paul Morphy!

I’m sure that Anderssen thought he could beat Morphy, and I even think that Anderssen was slightly superior than Morphy in raw tactics. The problem was that Morphy (also a romantic), who was obviously ahead of his time, didn’t take foolish risks and only went for blood when it was sound to do so.

Anderssen was quite different in that he was often in trouble in his quest to smash his opponents in brutal ways and was only saved by relying on his incredible tactical skills. In other words, they were both tactical geniuses, but Morphy had a sound foundation while Anderssen, like most of the players in his day, would charge wildly into battle.

paul morphy

Paul Morphy

Here’s what three world champions said about Morphy’s style:

Emanuel Lasker: “Morphy discovered that the brilliant move of a master is essentially conditional not on a sudden and inexplicable realization, but on the placing of the pieces on the board.”

Capablanca: “He did not look for complicated combinations, but he also did not avoid them, which really is the correct way to playing. His main strength lay not in his combinative gift, but in his positional play and general style.”

Smyslov: “Morphy’s play was captivated by freshness of thought and inexhaustible energy. His harmonious positional understanding and deep intuition would have made Morphy a highly dangerous opponent even for any player of our times.”

Anyway, the match was arranged and Anderssen met Morphy in Paris. Anderssen claimed that he was badly out of practice while Morphy got the flu. Typically for that time, Morphy was treated with leeches, which in turn created a serious loss of blood. When the actual chess began, Anderssen was badly beaten by the score of two wins, two draws, and seven defeats. When asked about his defeat, Anderssen admitted that Morphy was 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 De La Bourbonnais.

The two games that Anderssen won were very well played. Here is one of them:

Though Anderssen had no gripe about Morphy, he was extremely upset by Morphy’s fans, as shown in his following words: “It was impossible for Morphy to express an opinion on this subject, as I did not go to Paris to get a certificate of ability. Those who surrounded the American, however, seemed to think that they flattered me most when they said, ‘How high an opinion Morphy had of your play, and that he considered you the strongest of all opponents he had met till now.’ But to be reckoned stronger than a Lowenthal, I consider next door to nothing.”


I’ll finish with a couple games from one of the longest matches I’ve ever heard of:  Adolf Anderssen vs. Berthold Suhle in a mindblowing, knock-down, drag-out fight. The final score was 27 wins for Anderssen, 13 losses, and eight draws.


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