Behold, The Austrian Morphy!
Vienna at night.

Behold, The Austrian Morphy!

Silman
IM Silman
Jun 2, 2018, 12:00 AM |
21 | Other

This series on Wilhelm Steinitz isn’t about every detail of his life. It’s about some basics and, most important, the games. I’m writing this since whenever chess players get together and talk about the past top players, some open their mouths and spew out nonsense about the first world champion. My favorite: “If Steinitz were playing today he would not have a 2200 rating.”

Really?

From 1866 to 1894, this guy was far stronger than any other player who ever lived (with the exception of Morphy, though Morphy never played anyone as strong as Steinitz!). After 1894 through his death in 1900, he ran into several debilitating problems: old age, mental and physical illness, and new players who learned how to play proper chess by following Steinitz’s teachings.

Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz via Wikipedia.

Looking at his prime games, Steinitz was a fantastic tactician (modern high-grandmaster level), he had an amazingly creative mind, and his understanding of positional chess was, in the 1870s, light years ahead of everyone.

Steinitz (who was born in 1836) learned to play chess in 1848 (age 12). He fell in love with the game and was a good player in the 1850s. By 1861 he was the Vienna city champion and, due to his desire to attack, attack, and attack some more, he was nicknamed “the Austrian Morphy.”

Here are three games with Carl Hamppe, who was Vienna’s finest player before Steinitz became boss. First I will show you an absolutely brilliant game played by Mr. Hamppe and Mr. Meitner called the Immortal Draw:

One might think that Carl Hamppe was a chess powerhouse, but look at the next two games (Hamppe vs. Steinitz) and you’ll see a young Steinitz rip Hamppe to bits.

PUZZLE 1

PUZZLE 2

PUZZLE 3

Here is the other player (Mr. Meitner) who made the Immortal Draw come true. Steinitz eviscerates his opponent.

PUZZLE 4

PUZZLE 5

PUZZLE 6

Even the endgames have a feel of brutality!

PUZZLE 7

PUZZLE 8

For a change, let's look at a full game:

PUZZLE 9

PUZZLE 10

PUZZLE 11

White’s a pawn up but White’s king is stuck in the center and Black’s pieces are in play. The mix means that White will get rolled over.

PUZZLE 12

So far, it seems that Steinitz was an unstoppable mating monster. However sometimes the hammer strikes the “wrong” player!

Like some old cowboy movie, I can see Steinitz (without the accent) saying, “I dare you to do that again!”

In the next puzzle Steinitz beats down Deacon, and then he beats Deacon down again, and again, etc.

PUZZLE 13

PUZZLE 14

PUZZLE 15

PUZZLE 16

PUZZLE 17

THE MATCH

Adolf Anderssen vs. Wilhelm Steinitz

The match was a back-and-forth, extremely intense battle with King’s Gambits and Evans Gambits drawing blood from both sides. Interestingly, Anderssen tossed in two Sicilians and won both. After 12 games the match was tied. Realizing that Anderssen might win the match, Steinitz pushed away the crazy juice (in other words, he stopped the addiction to tactics and nothing but tactics) and decided to play a solid setup, only going after an attack after long preparations.

Due to this adjustment, he won the match. In retrospect, this was a precursor of Steinitz’s future positional change.

PUZZLE 18

PUZZLE 19

Looking at Steinitz’s matches from 1860 to 1870, he never lost a serious match. As for his tournaments during this period, he did well, but nothing spectacular. Clearly, he thrived in matches, and he held onto his “kill, kill, kill” style throughout this decade. He did indeed deserve the name of “Austrian Morphy”!

His matches in the 1860s:

  • Steinitz vs. Eduard Jeney (1860) 2-2
  • Steinitz vs. Max Lange (1860) 3-0
  • Steinitz vs. Strauss (1860) 3-0
  • Steinitz vs. Reiner (1860) 3-0
  • Steinitz vs. Serafino Dubois (1862) 5.5-3.5
  • Steinitz vs. Joseph Blackburne (1862-63) 8-2
  • Steinitz vs. Frederick Deacon (1862-63) 7.5-3.5
  • Steinitz vs. Frederick Deacon (1862-63) 5.5-1.5
  • Steinitz vs. Augustus Mongredien (1863) 7-0
  • Steinitz vs. Valentine Green (1863-64) 8-1
  • Steinitz vs. James Robey (1865) 4-1
  • Steinitz vs. Anderssen (1866) 8-6
  • Steinitz vs. Henry Bird (1866) 9.5-7.5
  • Steinitz vs. George Fraser (1867) 4-2

His tournaments in the 1860s:

  • London 1862 — Anderssen (1st), Paulsen (2nd), Owen (3rd), Dubois and MacDonnell (Tied 4th & 5th), Steinitz (6th), etc.
  • Dublin 1865 — Steinitz (1st).
  • Dundee 1867 — Newmann (1st), Steinitz (2nd), etc.
  • Paris 1867 — Kolisch (1st), Winawer (2nd), Steinitz (3rd), etc.
More from IM Silman
Steinitz: The Official World Chess Champion

Steinitz: The Official World Chess Champion

Steinitz Changes The Chess World

Steinitz Changes The Chess World