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Mason Sacrifices Two Rooks In Unforgettable Finish - Best Of The pre-1900s - Mason vs. Winawer, 1882

Mason Sacrifices Two Rooks In Unforgettable Finish - Best Of The pre-1900s - Mason vs. Winawer, 1882

SamCopeland
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James Mason was an Irish-born chess player who emigrated to the United States in 1861, not a great year to first set foot on American soil as the Civil War began in this year. Many Irish men made the journey to the United States in these years. Particularly in the preceding decade and a half, many had to leave Ireland during the Potato Famine.

Mason succeeded in the United States, becoming a journalist for the New York Herald and eventually becoming one of the strongest chess players in the United States and indeed, the entire world.

ChessMetrics ranks Mason as the #1 strongest player in the world in 1877 and 1878, and while I personally doubt the validity of this statistical analysis based on relatively few games, it's clear he was quite a force. Chess.com's own analysis looking at the accuracy of his play in his games on record estimates his strength as peaking at third in the world, behind Steinitz and Zukertort.

The following game is Mason's uncontested masterpiece. He focuses on what is now a classic plan, exchanging bishops on e3 to accept doubled pawns but open the f-file. Then he applies pressure on the f-file until he produces light-square weaknesses. Coupled with a break in the center and some exquisite combinations in the end of the game, the general effect is to produce one of the most significant and complete masterpieces of the 1800s.

Top 10 Games from before 1900

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