Immortal Game

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Game animation.
This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.

The Immortal Game was a chess game played on 21 June 1851 by Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky. The very bold sacrifices made by Anderssen to finally secure victory have made it one of the most famous chess games of all time. Anderssen gave up both rooks and a bishop, then his queen, checkmating his opponent with his three remaining minor pieces. It has been called an achievement "perhaps unparalleled in chess literature."[1]


[edit] General description

Checkmate of the Immortal Game

Adolf Anderssen was one of the strongest players of his time, and many consider him to have been the world's strongest player after his victory in the London 1851 chess tournament. Lionel Kieseritzky lived in France much of his life, where he gave chess lessons, and played games for five francs an hour at the Café de la Régence in Paris. Kieseritzky was well known for being able to beat lesser players despite handicapping himself — for example, by playing without his queen.

Played between the two great players at the Simpson's-in-the-Strand Divan in London, the Immortal Game was an informal one, played during a break in a formal tournament. Kieseritzky was very impressed when the game was over, and telegraphed the moves of the game to his Parisian chess club. The French chess magazine La Régence published the game in July 1851. This game was nicknamed "The Immortal Game" in 1855 by the Austrian Ernst Falkbeer.

The Immortal Game has resurfaced in many unusual guises. The town of Marostica, Italy has replayed the Immortal Game with live players, dressed as chess pieces, every year from 2 September 1923. The position after the 20th move is on a 1984 stamp from Suriname. The final part of the game was used as an inspiration for the chess game in the 1982 science fiction movie Blade Runner, though the chessboards used in the film are not arranged exactly the same as those in the immortal game (indeed, although the film's game is played remotely by two people, each with a supposedly identical board, the boards do not actually match each other). It was also the basis of a detective novel of the same name by Mark Coggins.

This game is acclaimed as an excellent demonstration of the style of chess play in the 19th century, where rapid development and attack were considered the most effective way to win, where many gambits and counter-gambits were offered (and not accepting them would be considered slightly ungentlemanly), and where material was often held in contempt. These games, with their rapid attacks and counter-attacks, are often entertaining to review, even if some of the moves would no longer be considered the best by today's standards.

In this game, Anderssen wins the game despite sacrificing a bishop on move 11, both rooks starting on move 18, and the queen on move 22 to produce checkmate. He offered both rooks to show that two active pieces are worth a dozen sleeping at home. Anderssen later demonstrated the same kind of approach in the Evergreen Game.

The game Friedrich SaemischAron Nimzowitsch, Copenhagen 1923, is often called the "Immortal Zugzwang Game" because some consider the final position to be a rare instance of zugzwang occurring in the middlegame (see Zugzwang for the position).

Some published versions of the game have errors, as described in the annotations.

[edit] Annotated moves of the game

White: Adolf Anderssen Anderssen moved first but was playing with the black pieces,[2] so is shown here as playing White to match modern chess convention.
Black: Lionel Kieseritzky
Opening: King's Gambit, C33
1. e4 e5 2. f4

This is the King's Gambit: Anderssen offers his pawn in exchange for faster development. Although this was a common opening in the nineteenth century, it is less common today, as defensive techniques have improved since Anderssen's time.

2. ... exf4

Kieseritzky accepts the gambit; this variant is thus called the King's Gambit Accepted.

3. Bc4 Qh4+?!

The Bishop's Gambit. Black's move will force White to move his king and White will not be able to castle, but this move also places Black's queen in peril, and White can eventually attack it with gain of tempo with Ng1-f3.

Image:chess zhor 26.png
Image:chess zver 26.png a8 rd b8 nd c8 bd d8 e8 kd f8 bd g8 nd h8 rd Image:chess zver 26.png
a7 pd b7 c7 pd d7 pd e7 f7 pd g7 pd h7 pd
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6
a5 b5 pd c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5
a4 b4 c4 bl d4 e4 pl f4 pd g4 h4 qd
a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 pl b2 pl c2 pl d2 pl e2 f2 g2 pl h2 pl
a1 rl b1 nl c1 bl d1 ql e1 f1 kl g1 nl h1 rl
Image:chess zhor 26.png
Position after 4. ... b5?
4. Kf1 b5?!

This is the Bryan Counter-gambit, deeply analysed by Kieseritzky, and which sometimes bears his name. It is not considered a sound move by most players today.

5. Bxb5 Nf6 6. Nf3

This is a common developing move, but the knight now attacks Black's queen, forcing Black to protect it instead of developing his own side.

6. ... Qh6 7. d3

With this move, White now has solidified control over the critical center of the board. German grandmaster Robert Hübner recommends 7. Nc3 instead.

7. ... Nh5

This move threatens Ng3+, and it protects the pawn at f4, but it also sidelines the knight to a poor position at the edge of the board, where knights are the least powerful.

8. Nh4 Qg5

Better was 8. ... g6, according to Kieseritzky.

9. Nf5 c6

This simultaneously unpins the queen pawn and attacks the bishop. However, some have suggested 9. ... g6 would be better, to deal with a very troublesome knight. Notice how the players in those days developed one or two pieces, then moved them again and again.

Image:chess zhor 26.png
Image:chess zver 26.png a8 rd b8 nd c8 bd d8 e8 kd f8 bd g8 h8 rd Image:chess zver 26.png
a7 pd b7 c7 d7 pd e7 f7 pd g7 pd h7 pd
a6 b6 c6 pd d6 e6 f6 nd g6 h6
a5 b5 bl c5 d5 e5 f5 nl g5 qd h5
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 pl f4 pd g4 pl h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 pl e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 pl b2 pl c2 pl d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 pl
a1 rl b1 nl c1 bl d1 ql e1 f1 kl g1 rl h1
Image:chess zhor 26.png
Position after 11. Rg1!
10. g4 Nf6 11. Rg1!

This is an advantageous passive piece sacrifice. If Black accepts, his queen will be moved away from the action, giving White a lead in development.

11. ... cxb5?

Hübner believes this was Black's critical mistake; this gains material, but loses in development, at a point where White's strong development is able to quickly mount an offensive. Hübner recommends 11. ... h5 instead.

12. h4!

White's knight at f5 protects the pawn, which is attacking Black's queen.

12. ... Qg6 13. h5 Qg5 14. Qf3

White (Anderssen) now has two threats:

  • Bxf4, which will trap Black's queen (the queen has no safe place to go),
  • e5, which would attack Black's knight at f6 while simultaneously exposing an attack by White's queen on the unprotected black rook at a8.
14. ... Ng8

This deals with the threats, but undevelops Black even further — now the only Black piece not on its starting square is the queen, which is about to be put on the run, while White has control over a great deal of the board.

15. Bxf4 Qf6 16. Nc3 Bc5

An ordinary developing move by Black, which also attacks the rook at g1.

17. Nd5!?

White responds to the attack with a counter-attack. This move threatens Nc7, which would fork the king and rook. Richard Réti recommends 17. d4 ... 18. Nd5, which results in an advantage for White.

Image:chess zhor 26.png
Image:chess zver 26.png a8 rd b8 nd c8 bd d8 e8 kd f8 g8 nd h8 rd Image:chess zver 26.png
a7 pd b7 c7 d7 pd e7 f7 pd g7 pd h7 pd
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6
a5 b5 pd c5 bd d5 nl e5 f5 nl g5 h5 pl
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 pl f4 bl g4 pl h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 pl e3 f3 ql g3 h3
a2 pl b2 qd c2 pl d2 e2 f2 g2 h2
a1 rl b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 kl g1 rl h1
Image:chess zhor 26.png
Position after 17... Qxb2
17. ... Qxb2

Black gains a pawn, and threatens to gain the rook at a1 with check.

18. Bd6!

With this move White offers to sacrifice both his rooks. Hübner comments that, from this position, there are actually many ways to win, and he believes there are at least three better moves than 18. Bd6: 18. d4, 18. Be3, or 18. Re1, which lead to strong positions or checkmate without needing to sacrifice so much material. The commercial version of the chess-playing computer program Junior recommends 18. Nc7+, followed by Re1. The Chessmaster computer program annotation says "the main point [of this move] is to divert the Black Queen from the a1-h8 diagonal. Now Black cannot play 18. ... Bxd6? 19. Nxd6+ Kd8 20. Nxf7+ Ke8 21. Nd6+ Kd8 22. Qf8++." Garry Kasparov has pointed out that the world of chess would have lost one of its "crown jewels" if the game had continued in such an unspectacular fashion. The Bd6 move is unusual, because White is willing to give up so much material.

18. ... Bxg1?

It is from this move that Black's defeat stems. Wilhelm Steinitz suggested in 1879 that a better move would be 18... Qxa1+; likely moves to follow are 19. Ke2 Qb2 20. Kd2 Bxg1.

19. e5!

This sacrifices yet another White rook. More importantly, this move blocks the Queen from participating in the defense of her king, and threatening mate in 2: 19. Nxg7+ Kd8 20. Bc7#.

19. ... Qxa1+ 20. Ke2

At this point, Black's attack has run out of power; Black has a queen and bishop on the back rank, but cannot effectively mount an immediate attack on White, while White can storm forward. According to Kieseritzky, he resigned at this point. Hübner notes that an article by Friedrich Amelung in the journal Baltische Schachblaetter, 1893, reported that Kiesertizky probably played 20. ... Na6, but Anderssen then announced the mating moves. In any case, it is suspected that the last few moves were not actually played on the board in the original game.

20. ... Na6

The Black Knight covers the c7 square as White was threatening 21. Nxg7+ Kd8 and 22. Bc7#. Another attempt to defend would be 20... Ba6 allowing the Black King to flee via Kc8 and Kb7, although White has enough with the continuation 21. Nc7+ Kd8 and 22 Nxa6 where now on 22... Qxa2 to defend f7 against Bc7+, Nd6+ and Qf7#, White can play 23. Bc7+ Ke8 24. Nb4 d5 25. Nd6+ and White wins or 22... Bb6 (preventing Bc7+) 23. Qa8 Qc3 24. Qxb8 Qc8 25. Qxc8 Kxc8 26. Bf8 h6 27. Nd6+ Kd8 28. Nxf7+ Ke8 29. Nxh8 Kxf8 with a winning endgame for White.

Image:chess zhor 26.png
Image:chess zver 26.png a8 rd b8 c8 bd d8 kd e8 f8 g8 nd h8 rd Image:chess zver 26.png
a7 pd b7 c7 d7 pd e7 f7 pd g7 nl h7 pd
a6 nd b6 c6 d6 bl e6 f6 ql g6 h6
a5 b5 pd c5 d5 nl e5 pl f5 g5 h5 pl
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 pl h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 pl e3 f3 g3 h3
a2 pl b2 c2 pl d2 e2 kl f2 g2 h2
a1 qd b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 bd h1
Image:chess zhor 26.png
Position after 22. Qf6+
21. Nxg7+ Kd8 22. Qf6+!

This beautiful Queen sacrifice forces Black to give up his defense of e7.

22. ... Nxf6 23. Be7# 1-0

At the end, Black is ahead in material by a considerable margin: a queen, two rooks and a bishop. But the material does not help Black. White has been able to use his remaining pieces - two knights and a bishop - to force mate.

Savielly Tartakower described this as "a beautiful game."

[edit] References in popular culture

  • Poul Anderson's short story, "The Immortal Game", published in the February 1954 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Blade Runner - The game is recreated by J.F. Sebastien in a remote game played with Elden Tyrell. See also: Themes in Blade Runner.
  • The 1998 album from the electronic artist Symbion Project, Immortal Game, the first and last tracks of which are titled after the first and last moves of the game for which the album is named ("Pawn to King 4", and "Bishop to King 7, Checkmate")
  • David Shenk named his 2007 book concerning the history of chess after this game, with a move-by-move description of the game appearing intermittently within the narrative.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Hartston, Bill (1996). Teach Yourself Chess. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 150. ISBN 0-340-67039-8. 
  2. ^ Kling and Horwitz: The Chess Player, July 1851

[edit] Sources

[edit] References

  • Chernev, Irving. The Chess Companion. 1968. ISBN 0-671-20104-2.
  • Eade, James. Chess for Dummies. 1996. Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ISBN 0-7645-5003-9.
  • Hübner, Robert. "The Immortal Game." American Chess Journal, 3 (1995), p. 14-35.
  • Kavalek, Lubomir. Chess (newspaper column). Washington Post. July 2003.
  • Savielly Tartakower and J. du Mont. 500 Master Games of Chess. Dover Publications, June 1, 1975, ISBN 0-486-23208-5.
  • Shenk, David (2006). The Immortal Game: A History of Chess. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-51010-1. 

[edit] External links

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