In the present game Steinitz gives a wonderful demonstration of how to exploit the domination of the penultimate crossbar. The combination made by White to conquer this area of ??the chessboard is one of the most brilliant that chess history recalls.
Steinitz – Bardeleben (Hastings, 1895)
Italian Match, Greek variant
1 e4, e5; 2 Cf3, Cc6; 3 Ac4, Ac5; 4 c3, Cf6; 5 d4, e: d4; 6 c: d4, Ab4; 7 Cc3, d5?!;
Black’s move is doubtful and in any case grants White a robust initiative. In this position the best is 7 ?, C: e4, destroying the center of Pedoni del Bianco ?
8 e: d5, C: d5; 9 O-O !, Ae6;
White fastly knocks to bring his Tower on the column, and Black prevents the plan by closing that column with its own Campochiaro Bishop. It does not go instead 9 ?, C: c3; 10 b: c3, A: c3 ?? because of 11 Db3 !!, A: a1; 12 A: f7, Rf8; 13 Aa3, Ce7; 14 Ah5 !, g6; 15 Cg5! and White wins. For example: 15 ?, Rg7 (De8; 16 Te1 and wins); 16 Df7, Rh6; 17 Ac1 !, Df8; 18 Ce6, R: h5; 19 Cf4, Rg4; 20 f3, Rg5; 21 Ce6!, Rh5; 22 g4, Rh4; 23 Ag5, Rh3; 24 Cf4 #. Now Steinitz fights to open the position before the opposing King has time to castle:
10 Ag5 !, Ae7; 11 A: d5, A: d5; 12 C: d5, D: d5; 13 A: e7, C: e7; 14 Te1, ?
Position after 14 Te1 Position after the move 14 Tf1-e1
Here is the result of Steinitz’s strategy: Black can not capture and secure the King because the Horse is under the White Tower’s throw. Making a virtue of necessity, Bardeleben then decided to open a gate for his monarch in order to remove the nailing of Te1 on the black horse:
14 ?, f6; 15 De2 (threatens both 16 D: e7 # and 16 Db5), Dd7; 16 Tac1 ?! (better is 16 De4!), c6 ?;
It was necessary to play immediately 16 ?, Rf7; 17 Dc4, Cd5! with a confused position. The move chosen by Bardeleben intends to prevent the Pd4-d5 thrust and seems relatively solid. It seems ?
17 d5 !!, ?
Steinitz makes an unexpected sacrifice by Pedone to obtain an open column for the TC1 and the free house for his Horse ?
17 ?, c: d5; 18 Cd4, Rf7; 19 Ce6, Thc8 (Cc6 ?; 20 Cc5 !, Dc7?; 21 Dh5, g6; 22 D: d5, Rg7; 23 Ce6 and wins); 20 Dg4 !, g6; 21 Cg5, Re8;
Position after 21 ?, Re8 Position after move 21 ?, Rf7-e8
In this position, what should the White do? The white woman is in the grip, as well as the white horse! How to save both pieces? Bardeleben here had almost certainly calculated only continuations such as 22 D: d7, R: d7; 23 C: h7 ?, trusting in this case to respond with the strong move 23 ?, Cg8 !. But Steinitz had something else in mind:
22 T: e7 !!, ?
Another unexpected sacrifice! Bardeleben had to immerse himself in long reflections. Now it’s not good 22 ?, D: e7 ?? for the obvious 23 T: c8, T: c8; 24 D: c8, Dd8; 25 D: d8, R: d8; 26 Cf3! (C: h7 ??, Re7!) And White remains with an extra Horse. Not even good 22 ?, Re7 ?? because of 23 Te1, Rd6 (Rd8; 24 Ce6 !, Re7; 25 Cc5); 24 Db4 !, Rc7 (Tc5; 25 Te6!); 25 Ce6, Rb8; 26 Df4, Tc7; 27 Tc1! and White wins. Bardeleben realized, however, that he could exploit a tactic to save his woman:
22 ?, Rf8 !;
Obviously Steinitz immediately saw that 23 T: d7 ?? it was a very serious mistake because of 23 ?, Tc1; 24 Dd1, T: d1 #. In order to win he would have to capture the opposing Woman at the same time giving a check, so that Black did not have time to go down on the first cross giving the madman the white king. But how to do it? Steinitz found the solution:
23 Tf7 !, Rg8 (Re8 ??; 24 D: d7 #); 24 Tg7!, Rh8 (D: g7 ?; 25 T: c1! Or 24 ?, Rf8?; 25 C: h7!, R: g7; 26 D: d7); 25 T: h7 !!, abandons. 1-0
In fact, for example, it follows 25 ?, Rg8; 26 Tg7, Rh8; 27 Dh4, R: g7; 28 Dh7, Rf8; 29 Dh8, Re7; 30 Dg7, Re8; 31 Dg8, Re7; 32 Df7, Rd8; 33 Df8, De8; 34 Cf7, Rd7; 35 Dd6 #. Not bad, right?