A Game and a Puzzle
NN-Blackburne, London 1880
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qxe5 d6 8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.O-O Nf6 10.c3 Bf5 11.Qxa8 Ng4 12.h3 Bxf2+ 13.Kh1 Qxh3+ 14.gxh3 Bxe4#
White's play in the game was, shall we say, cooperative, starting with the terrible Jerome Gambit (4.Bxf7+??), continuing with the over-optimistic 10.c3 and concluding with the natural but bad 11.Qxa8 (11.Qxf6+! Qxf6 12.exf5 leaves White worse but far from lost; however, Black could avoided this with the more accurate 10...Ng4 [eliminating the Qxf6+ possibility] 11.h3 Bxf2+ 12.Kh1 and only now 12...Bf5, when 13.Qxa8 transposes to the game).
Black's play was stronger and certainly very creative - as we would expect from a player who was then one of the strongest in the world - but not quite perfect either. There's the inaccuracy mentioned in the previous paragraph, and before that, Black could have played the simple 6...Kf8 7.Qxe5 d6, when White would have nowhere near enough compensation for the sacrificed piece. Of course, I'm sure Blackburne saw and understood this, but I suspect he felt himself honor-bound to respond in kind to his opponent's opening: as the stronger player, he, not his opponent, ought to be the one offering gambits! (See also my post on responding to junk openings.)
But now, here's the puzzle. After 9...Nf6, Black has a substantial lead in development and several well-placed pieces ready to commence a feeding frenzy on the White kingside, yet had White found 10.Qd8, pinning the Black Nf6 to the queen on h4, it would have been Black needing to fight for his life! The following might be best play for both sides: 10.Qd8! Bh3 11.Qxc7+ (11.Qxa8? Qg4 12.g3 Qf3 forces mate) Kf8! (11...Kg8? 12.Qxb7 Qg4 13.Qb3+ and 14.Qxh3) 12.Qxb7 Qg4 13.Qxa8+ Kf7 14.Qb7+ Kf8 14.Qa8+ with a draw by perpetual check.
When I first saw this game and was told about 10.Qd8, it seemed to me that Black just had to have something, but neither I nor my silicon friends have succeeded in proving a win or even an advantage for Black. Can any of my readers find something better for Black?