Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Game and a Puzzle

Several years ago, I came across this nifty miniature:

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?


  • At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dennis - your intuition about Blackburne's play in the game you present and the fact that 9...Ng4 would have been more accurate is right on. I think your source got the moves of the game wrong. Here's what I have in my files (I have changed the moves from descriptive to algebraic):

    Amateur - Blackburne [C50]
    London, 1885
    Brooklyn Chess Chronicle
    J.B. and E.M. Munoz
    Vol. III, August 15, 1885
    p. 169

    [Played some months ago in London between Mr. Blackburne and an Amateur] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 [In the American edition of Cook's synopsis 6...Ke6 is given as the best defence, but Mr. Blackburne's ingenious counter sacrifice in the present skirmish would seem to show that the text is at least as good.] 7.Qxe5 d6 8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.0-0 [He should have attempted to free his pieces by 9.d4 before castling.] 9...Nf6 10.c3 [The only hope he had was 10.Qd8, thus preventing the deadly move of 10...Ng4] 10...Ng4 11.h3 Bxf2+ 12.Kh1 Bf5 13.Qxa8 Qxh3+ [A charming termination, and quite in the Blackburnian style] 14.gxh3 Bxe4# 0-1

    You can see from the notes by Munoz & Munoz above that the move 10.Qd8 was suggested pretty early, but obviously didn't get a lot of exposure.

    The line gets some analysis by Geoff Chandler and Todor Dimitrov on the former's hilarious website, Chandler Cornered

    It goes like this. (Notes by Chandler.)

    10.Qd8 Bh3 Threatening simply Qg4 and Qg2 mate. 11.Qxc7+ Kf8 This is best. [In my Game v Todd he played the natural 11...Kg8 which allows a check on b3 12.Qxb7 Qg4 13.Qb3+ Kg7 14.Qxh3] 12.gxh3 forced [If 12.Qxb7 Qg4 13.Qxa8+ Kf7 (13...Kg7 14.e5 d5 15.exf6+ Kxf6 16.Qxd5) 14.e5 d5 15.e6+ (15.Qb7+ Be7 16.e6+ Kg7 17.Qxe7+ Kh6 18.d4+ Kh5) 15...Kg7 16.Qb7+ Kh6 17.d4+ Kh5 and Black mates on g2] 12...Qxh3 This appears to be the best. It keeps the attack rolling and keeps the draw in hand. Remember we are seeing if 10.Qd8 beats the Blackburne line. 13.Qxb7 Ng4 [Or 13...Qg4+ and ...Qf3+ drawing.] 14.Qxa8+ Kg7 15.Qb7+ Kg8 16.Qc8+ Kg7 17.Qd7+ Kg8 18.Qe8+ Kg7 19.Qe7+ Kg8 Black has to allow the draw else 18.Qe8+ Kg7 19.Qf7+ kh6 10.d4+ wins. So it appears 10.Qd8 draws.

    Note in the above that the conclusion is that the game is drawn -- the same conclusion as you came to, although the particular line you give (12.Qxb7 instead of Chandler and Dimitrov's 12.gxh3) seems to tilt toward White.

    Rest assured, Blackburne had the right idea - 6...g6! - but after 7.Qxe5 he might have shied away from Whistler's Defense - 7...Qe7! - played by Lt. G.N. Whistler in a series of correspondence games against THE Alonzo Wheeler Jerome in 1876 (and again lost to antiquity), since the exchange of Queens leads to a prosaic win for Black, not a smashing, delightful conclusion.

    This line received attention in detail last year by Tyrin Price and Brian Wall at the Chess Improvement Yahoo Group.

    Someday - perhaps soon, perhaps not - Stefan Bucker will publish his Kaissiber magazine again; and in one of the forthcoming issues will by my historical, hysterical article on the Jerome Gambit!

  • At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Look at the game I have just put on my site 'Chandler Cornered.'
    It's won by Black (Janny?).
    I won't say no more. look at the


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