Most likely, Johannes Zukertort would have not exchanged his kingdom for a horse, but would have given his life in exchange for a combination on the chessboard. That was, in his opinion , the secret key of happiness.
This Polish, a full-blown romantic who was a disciple of the legendary Adolf Anderssen, represented an insuperable power to all players of his time, with the exception of that irascible Wilhelm Steinitz who beat him in the first official match for the world crown, held in New Orleans in 1886.(Actually, Zukertort was overwhelmed by the defensive capacity of the bearded man of Prague, and in an effort to achieve victory through relentless attack and elegance of tactical blows ; he never understood that the accumulation of small advantages was a great resource to ensure the point).
Zukertort had plenty of talent. It is said that he studied chemistry and physiology; he had a medical degree and was a music critic, newspaper editor, amazing polyglot, seasoned fencer; he fought in three wars and was an expert in the use of firearms. His memory was a wonder, and he thoroughly exploited it playing blind matches .
By 1883, the creative abilities of the Polish had touched the sky, and thus he reached the major triumph of his career when beating every one (even Steinitz) in the very strong tournament of London. And right there, at the expense of the powerful Joseph Blackburne, he signed the piece that opened him space in all chess art anthologies.
Zukertort, Johannes – Blackburne, Joseph
Queen’s Indian Defense, London, 1883
- c4 e6 2.e3 Nf6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Be2 [In 1883 it was not given great importance to the opening, the fight did not start until the middle game .] 4…Bb7 5.0-0 d5 6.d4 Bd6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.b3 Nbd7 9.Bb2 Qe7?! [If this position would be placed today, Black pieces would play 9…Ne4, or Zukertort´s suggestion, 9…c5, o more likely 9…a6!, avoiding the following move of the white pieces.] 10. Nb5 Ne4 11.Nxd6 cxd6 12.Nd2 Ndf6
Zukertort said it was better 12 … f5, but white pieces would have advantage with 13.cxd5 Bxd5 14.f3 followed by e4; but more than a century ago it is considered as best 12 … Nxd2! for the reason that we shall see later.
13. f3 [natural and reasonable move, but the best was 13.Nb1!, to later play f3, then Nc3 and e4, preventing black pieces to get rid of its “superfluous piece, and it would not be worth 13 … e5? 14. f3 Ng5 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Ba3, winning the game.] 13 …Nxd2 14.Qxd2 dxc4?! [He could consider 14 … a6!? If 14 … Rac8 it would continue 15.cxd5 Bxd5 16.e4! Leaving white pieces with a game far superior ] 15.Bxc4 d516.Bd3 Rfc8 [Zukertort said: “Apparently, Blackburne underestimated the strength of the attack that follows. It would have been more prudent to leave this rook in its place and occupy the open column with the other rook. “But this assertion is debatable; to 16 … Rac8 could follow 17.a4!] 17. Rae1!
Steinitz: “An excellent move. White pieces have nothing to fear in the queenside and continue with their attacking plan in the middle. “
17 …Rc7?! [A routinely play, doubling the rooks on the open column will be insufficient, the best was 17 … a5! with idea of exchanging the passive bishop, and if 18.Qe2, create counter play with a4.] 18. e4 Rac8 19.e5 Ne8 [According to Steinitz is better 19 … Nd7 to continue with Nf8 and from there to defend the weak point of h7.] 20. f4 g6 ? [ Zukertort himself criticized this move, it was better 20 … f5! and if 21.exf6 Nxf6, Blackburne would have counter play with appropriate Ne4.] 21.Re3 f5 22.exf6!
” The beginning of a wonderful combination,” Yusupov noted.
22 … Nxf6 [Black pieces are planning to create counter play with Ne4, and invade the white field through the box c2. The position is about to come to a critical point. However, it is clear that the static white pieces do not look better than the black ones, as both have three pawn islands, and perhaps the black weakness in e6 is compensated by the isolated white pawn in d4.] 23. f5 [“The beginning of a large-scale combinative operation , “Steinitz wrote. ] 23… Ne4 24.Bxe4 dxe4 25.fxg6!
This unexpected move, which allows black pieces to penetrate with its rook in c2, threatening to win a piece, had to be inevitably planned long before by Zukertort. “The essence of the idea on which this extraordinary combination is based, is far from obvious.”( Romanovsky) What Zukertort applies, in addition to a formidable calculation capacity, is the beginning of time. If Blackburne tries to win the bishop in b2, the consequences will be irreparable, as the attack on the white king would be very advanced to attempt a defense.
25…Rc2 [If 25…hxg6 26.Rg3 Qg7 (are not enough defense 26…Kh7 27.d5 e5 28.d6 Rd7 29.Rh3+ Kg8 30.dxe7 Rxd2 31.Bxe5, winning; neither 26…Qh7 27.Rf6 Rg7 28.Rh3, etc.; nor 26…Qe8 27.Qh6 Rg7 28.Rh3; or 26…Kg7 27.d5+ e5 28.d6) 27.d5 Rc2 28.Qxc2 Rxc2 29.Bxg7 Kxg7 30.dxe6, winning.] 26.gxh7+ Kh8 [If 26…Kxh7 27.Rh3+ Kg8 28.Qh6, and in case of 26…Qxh7? 27.Rg3+ Kh8 28.d5+ with forced checkmate] 27.d5+ e5 28.Qb4!!
This spectacular move has an Essentials tactical foundation: deviating the enemy queen in its defence of e5.] 28…R8c5 [The queen is immune, if 28…Qxb4 29.Bxe5+ Kxh7 30.Rh3+ Kg6 31.Rg3+ Kh6 (31…Kh7 32.Rf7+ Kh6 33.Bf4+ Kh5 34.Rh7#) 32.Rf6+ Kh5 (32…Kh7 33.Rf7+ Kh6 34.Bf4+ Kh5 35.Rh7#) 33.Rf5+ Kh6 34.Bf4+ Kh7 35.Rh5++; against 28…Qg7, or 28…Qg5, he decides 29.Rg3; and if 28…Re8 the it would follow the amazing move 29.Rf8+! Qxf8 (29…Rxf8 30.Qxe7; 29…Kxh7 30.Qxe4+ Kg7 31.Rxe8, etc.) 30. Bxe5+ Kxh7 31.Qxe4+ Kh6 (31…Kg8 32.Qg6+) 32.Qh4+! Kg6 33.Rg3+ Kf5 34.Rg5++.
Steinitz st ate s here: “In conjunction with the previous game of white pieces, this move is one of the most beautiful combinations ever conceived on the board. There are no words to describe our admiration for the high skill with which Zukertort played this game “.
29…Kxh7 [If 29…Qxf8 it follows 30.Bxe5+ Kxh7 31.Qxe4+ Kh6 (31…Kg8 32.Qg6+) 32.Rh3+, and checkmate in few moves.] 30. Qxe4+ Kg7 31.Bxe5+ [31.Rg8+! it was another way, 31…Kxg8 32.Qg6+ Qg7 33.Qe8+ Qf8 (33…Kh7 34.Rh3+ Qh6 35.Qf7+ Kh8 36.Bxe5++) 34.Rg3+ Kh7 35.Qg6+ Kh8 36.Rh3+ Qh6 37.Bxe5++.] 31… Kxf8 [If 31…Kh6 32.Rh3+ followed by mate] 32.Bg7+ Kg8 33.Qxe7 1-0
THE PHRASE: “C hess could kill me or not, but I must be prepared to die without warning “. Johannes Zukertort.