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The post-Christmas period is traditionally the time of the Hastings Chess Congress, one of the longest established in the world. The first was held in 1895 when all the world’s top players took part. It was won by the rank outsider, Harry Pillsbury, barely known in his own country (the US) let alone the wider chess community. However, Hastings did not become an annual event until after WWI when it found its present niche in the chess calendar. All the world champions have played there, with the exceptions of Fischer and Kasparov.

It has to be said that the playing strength of the Hastings Premier has declined in recent decades due to the worldwide proliferation of other events with greater financial backing to attract the top players. Yet the glories of the past are recorded for all time, as with this game from the 1895 tournament that won the event’s Brilliancy Prize. Notes based on those by Tarrasch from the tournament book.

White: W. Steinitz. Black: Curt Von Bardeleben.

Italian Game [C54]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 Be6 If 9…Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bxc3 White gets a dangerous attack by 11.Bxf7+ Kxf7 12.Qb3+. 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxd5 Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.Re1! The point of all the exchanges as White now obtains command of the board, prevents Black from castling and initiates a powerful attack on the king. 14…f6 This keeps out the knight for the time being but at the cost of weakening his pawns which proves costly later. Better was 14…Kf8. 15.Qe2 Qd7 16.Rac1 c6? It would have been preferable to play 16…Kf7 as White then has nothing better than  17.Qxe7+ Qxe7 18.Rxe7+ Kxe7 19.Rxc7+ Kd6 20.Rxb7 and Black has drawing prospects. 17.d5 A pawn sacrifice, breaking up Black’s position and making way for the knight to strengthen the attack. 17…cxd5 18.Nd4 Kf7 19.Ne6 Threatening both Rc7 and Qg4. Rhc8 20.Qg4 g6 21.Ng5+ Ke8 To protect his queen. This is the position that appears in numerous chess problem books challenging the reader to find the best move. 22.Rxe7+!! and this is the move that won Steinitz the Brilliancy Price. Note how every White piece is en pris and yet Steinitz pursues his prey without flinching. 22…Kf8 If 22…Kxe7 23.Re1+ Kd6 24.Qb4+ Kc7 25.Ne6+ Kb8 26.Qf4+ and wins. 23.Rf7+ Kg8 24.Rg7+ Kh8 25.Rxh7+ 1-0 At this point Bardelben didn’t resign but simply left the tournament hall and didn’t return. He had probably seen what was in store. 25…Kg8 26.Rg7+ Kh8 27.Qh4+ Kxg7 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qg7+ Ke8 31.Qg8+ Ke7 32.Qf7+ Kd8 33.Qf8+ Qe8 34.Nf7+ Kd7 35.Qd6#.

Steinitz eventually came 5th, receiving £40 for his month’s work and an extra £5 for this timeless creation.

Last week’s 3-mover was solved by

1.Ne5! If 1…Kc7 2.Qc6+ and the queen will mate on the 7th rank. If 1…Ke7 2.Qd7+ Kf6 3.Ng4 mate.

Here is a third original 3-mover by Dave Howard. White to play.

White to mate in 3