Classic Combinations: The Good Old Days

Classic Combinations: The Good Old Days

| 22 | Tactics

This series is all about attacking chess and combinations and fun. And all of them are in puzzle form (some easy, some difficult) so you can see how your tactical IQ stands up to the old, sometimes forgotten greats. And, if you learn a tiny bit about chess history as we go along, you’ll be all the better for it.

You may ask, “How can chess history help me?”

Well, if you think checkers is deeper than chess, have a velvet Elvis hanging proudly in your living room, and think baked road-kill of any kind is a delicacy, then I doubt chess history is your thing.

However, if you are a thoughtful person who is curious about what came before us, if you revel in immersing yourself in cultures that no longer exist, if the idea of funky old chess cafes sends a thrill down your spine, if you want to know everything and anything about the old legendary chess masters, and if you want to see, step-by-step, how chess itself has changed technically and philosophically, then chess history is the siren call that you’ve been waiting for.

Though I just dabble in chess history, is extremely fortunate to have two magnificent chess historians. To get the full frame picture that I’m unable to give, start reading Batgirl’s wonderful articles.

Also check out Spektrowski’s excellent work.

Finally, after you try to solve a puzzle, don’t forget to look at the notes!

Puzzle 1:

White’s a pawn ahead, his queen is threatening both of Black’s minor pieces, and the e4-pawn is hanging. Sounds bad for Black, but it’s White that’s on the ropes!

Looks bad for Black, but it’s actually very bad for White

Puzzle 2:

The Lesson: Don’t forget to castle!

Puzzle 3:

In the days where names were long, there appeared a young man (Paul Rudolf von Bilguer) who loved openings and put together the greatest opening tome ever seen at that time, the Handbook of Chess. Sadly, he died before the book was quite done, so his good friend Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa finished it. Von der Lasa insisted that the first edition have Bilguer as the lone author, but future editions had both players as co-authors. Bilguer and von der Lasa were members of a group of chess masters named the Berlin Pleiades -– chess clubs in those days were a lot more fun and intense than they are now!

First published in 1843, the Handbook of Chess (Handbuch des Schachspiels), had eight editions with various famous players contributing to each one (Emil Schallopp and Louis Paulsen being two notable chess legends). Carl Schlechter’s eighth and final edition was thought to be particularly good, especially since Rudolf Spielmann, Siegbert Tarrasch, Richard Teichmann contributed to the massive 1,040 page tome.

Death by light-squares

Puzzle 4:

Mastering the knight

Puzzle 5:

When will people learn not to leave their king in the center of the board?

Puzzle 6:

This is a long, nonstop attack

Puzzle 7:

Another insane position. In fact, in most of these puzzles the kings are hysterically running around the board like chickens without a head. Philidor must have been turning in his grave! Where is the subtle pawn play? Where is the quiet buildup? Instead, after a few developing moves, it’s “drop every bomb you have and see what happens!”

A lesson in building a mating net

Puzzle 8:

We’ll finish with something a little different. I’ll give you two diagrams, one of which actually occurred, and the other was possible in a variation. If you have any experience in chess at all, you’ll look at both positions and ask, “How in the world can either of these positions be possible?”

Your goal, if you choose to accept it, is to create the position in the first diagram!

Paul von Bilguer died one year after this game, at the age of 25.

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