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Handicap Tournament

London's active chess scene in the 1870s offered plenty of material for The Field's chess column, a magazine which styled itself "The Country Gentleman's Newspaper." Steinitz edited the chess column, presenting a steady stream of chess problems, news and games with first class annotations.

The following game is from the final section of the London Chess Club Handicap Tournament of 1874. Depending on the difference in strength between the two opponents, the better player might have to start the chess game (for example) without his Queen's Knight - see the second game here. In the game below the only "odds" involved are that Zukertort had to play Black, but that was enough for De Vere to take down his famous opponent. Note the excellent concluding combination!

De Vere vs. Zukertort

[Event "Handicap Tournament (f)"] [Site "London"] [Date "1874.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "De Vere, Cecil Valentine"] [Black "Zukertort, Johannes"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C77"] [Annotator "Steinitz, W."] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2005.04.09"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 b5 6. Bb3 Bb7 ({Preferable to} 6... Bc5 {at once, for in that case White would advantageously reply with} 7. a4 {and force open a file for the Queen's Rook, as Black would have nothing better than to protect the b-pawn by 7...Rb8, e.g.} b4 ({instead of} 7... Rb8) 8. Bxf7+ Kxf7 9. Qc4+ {recovering the piece with much the superior game.}) 7. d3 Bc5 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 Nd4 ({So far the play on both sides is identical with the opening moves adopted by Blackburne and Steinitz in the first game of the match for the final tie at the Vienna Tournament, in which Steinitz played} 10... Be7 {at this point. Herr Zukertort's deviation from this line of play certainly deserves consideration, although we do not approve of the way in which he continued it, as shown below.}) 11. Nxd4 exd4 12. Nb1 Be7 ({We believe that Black might have gained the advantage in position by playing} 12... d5 {at once, e.g.} 13. e5 Qc8 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Qh5 ({or} 15. f4 Qf5 16. Rf1 Rae8 17. g4 Qg6 18. Nd2 fxe5 19. fxe5 Qg7 20. Nf3 Bd6 {and Black wins a pawn with a fine game}) 15... fxe5 16. Qxh6 Qf5 {with much the better game.}) 13. O-O d5 14. Bxf6 Bxf6 15. e5 Be7 16. f4 c5 17. a3 Qd7 ({Why not} 17... c4 {at once?}) 18. Nd2 Rae8 19. Qh5 f6 20. Nf3 fxe5 {[An error of judgment. There seems to have been no necessity for this exchange of pawns, which allows the hostile Knight to occupy a commanding position.]} 21. Nxe5 { [%csl Ge5]} Qd6 22. Rae1 c4 23. dxc4 dxc4 24. Nxc4 {[This is one of those instances where not so much blame attaches to the loser as praise to the winner. The conception of this sacrifice is so beautiful the Herr Zukertort may be pardoned for not having seen it, while it reflects the highest credit upon Mr. De Vere's ingenuity.]} bxc4 25. Bxc4+ Kh7 26. Re6 Qc5 27. Rxh6+ (27. Rxh6+ {Splendid. Black must take the Rook with the pawn} gxh6 {and then White, by checking with the Bishop at} 28. Bd3+ {either forces the mate in two more moves or wins both Rooks.}) 1-0

The largest assembly of the first World Chess Champion's games is available at ChessCentral, along with his own notes and much more. Click here to see The Collected Works of Wilhelm Steinitz.