Monday, November 16, 2015


When I was in England, I met up with a chess friend of mine, James Pratt. James, for his sins, is currently editor of the British Chess Magazine and mine of chess information. He showed me around his extensive chess book collection, and we talked briefly about the typical chess subject of who your favourite is. I remember James mentioning Morphy, and possibly Alekhine of the past masters, while I said Steinitz and Rubinstein. As soon as said Steinitz, James got a book for me to take home, "Steinitz move by move" by IM Craig Pritchett.

IM Craig Pritchett's "Steinitz Move By Move, Everyman Chess

I didn't really take much of a look at the book until later when I noticed a couple if things that annoyed me. First there is an index of Steinitz' opponents in the complete games, but there is no mention of any of the part games mentioned in the text. Now this wouldn't normally be too much bother, except that arguably Steinitz most famous game, versus von Bardeleben from Hastings 1895, isn't one of the complete games. To be honest I couldn't believe this, but I found the game as a note to a later Steinitz-Schlechter encounter from 1898. Pritchett says about Steinitz-von Bardeleben:

"The moves...often complete with fulsome annotations, can be sourced in innumerable books and websites and...needn't be repeated here."

I'm sorry, but that is just absolute tosh! If you are going to write a book, essentially as a tool for club level players, about the "extraordinary life and games of one of the greatest players in history" then it seems a bit of a cop out to mention his most famous game, en passant.

I suppose I should really be happy that the game gets a mention at all. The game which probably brought Steinitz to the world's attention was his brilliancy prize winning effort against Mongredien from London 1862. This one I can;t even find in the notes of any other games. This is the first game mentioned by Kasparov in the section on Steinitz from "My Great Predecessors: Part 1". Apparently, none other than Adolf Anderssen called it "the most bold and brilliant game" while Chigorn, in 1890 stated that "Games that were deemed brilliant in recent international tournaments were no match for this one."

So why leave out a such a seminal example from a collection of a player's games? To be honest, a lot of what I've looked in the book I've liked, though "move by move" isn't quite accurate, and should probably be amended to "move by move, when something interesting comes up". It's a shame because what on the whole is a pretty good effort by Pritchett to show Steinitz' chess development through his career, and to educate his readers through challenging questions about the games at various times and good tips and ideas, is spoilt for Steinitz fans because of the omissions.

So here is the moment when a young Austrian player became a name on the world stage. Steinitz as white played 16.Rxh7!? winning brilliantly after Mongredien didn't find the best defence of 18..Qe8! (Kasparov still proves that even the best defence wouldn't have held out for Mongredian, though Steinitz would have had to find some difficult moves!).

Here's the game, and you can judge for yourself whether it deserves to be in a section of games from his early years, or a book about Steinitz' life and games.

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