The Chess Apostle
Review by Michael McGuerty
Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard, by Jimmy Adams, New In Chess 2014, Paperback, Figurine Algebraic Notation, 528pp. $39.95 (ChessCafe.com Price $34.12)
Johannes Hermann Zukertort (1842-1888) was one of the top players during the late 1800s, and one of the most successful tournament players of his time. MacDonnell referred to Zukertort as “the ‘Chess Apostle’” and Golombek called him “one of the chess immortals.” The high-point of Zukertort’s career was his triumph at the 1883 London International Tournament in which he won twenty-two games and lost only one. He contested and lost two matches to Wilhelm Steinitz, in 1872 and 1886. The latter is generally regarded as the first world chess championship match. Zukertort enjoyed an early lead after five games (4-1), but the length of the match and Zukertort’s ill health contributed to Steinitz’s eventual victory (10-5).
Jimmy Adams compiled and edited this collection of Zukertort’s best games, which was first published by Caissa Editions in 1989. The present publisher alludes to this original volume, but does not give credit to Caissa Editions. As noted in the introduction,
“The present volume is an attempt to bring to the notice of today’s chess world these chess masterpieces and re-establish Zukertort to his rightful place in chess history as an important link between the old combinational style and modern positional tendencies. At heart, Zukertort remained an artist of the chess board, following in the Romantic traditions of his teacher Adolf Anderssen and the legendary Paul Morphy. However, because of the increase in chess knowledge and refinement of technique, Zukertort was obliged to ally his enormous tactical ability to modern methods.
“Zukertort was a most diligent, profound and accurate analyst, with a tremendous amount of opening theory stored in his astonishing memory. His dash and brilliance, combined with soundness in building up an attack and precision in calculating variations, made him a very dangerous opponent and resulted in the production of a great many elegant games. He was also an excellent endgame player.”
The content is divided into two parts. Part One is a collection of articles about Zukertort from contemporary sources and various authors, including Golombek, MacDonnell, Mieses, Neishtadt, Reinfeld, and Steinitz. Adams also contributes two pieces to this section. These all serve to provide biographical details and a fuller picture of Zukertort’s life and work, with about ten games and positions included.
Adams provides the following credits:
“The introductory comments under ‘Zukertort’ are taken from Harry Golombek’s ‘Chess: A History’ and Fred Reinfeld’s ‘The Human Side of Chess.’ The ‘Zukertort in Germany’ essay has been adapted from a long narrative in Deutsches Wochenschach 1913. The eye-witness account of Zukertort and Anderssen has been translated from Von Gottschall’s German book on Anderssen. The warm tribute ‘The Chess Apostle’ comes from the Westminster Papers, while the Rev. G.A.MacDonnell’s witty, but wonderfully human portrait of Zukertort is in fact a chapter from his Knights and Kings of Chess. Hoffer gives us a first-hand report of his friend and co-worker’s last hours in an obituary taken from Chess Monthly. The German appreciation by Von Gottschall, giving personal details not found else where, is a contribution from the Deutsche Schachzeitung, while the English appreciation by Cunningham, and the assessment by Steinitz, are extracted from the International Chess Magazine. A modern evaluation of Zukertort, particularly in relation to Steinitz, is provided by the eminent Soviet chess historian, Neishtadt, from his Russian book The First World Champion. Furthermore, Mieses’ reliable and objective ‘Commemoration of J.H.Zukertort’ which appeared in the British Chess Magazine in 1942 as a centenary memorial article of Zukertort’s birth, is reproduced courtesy of former editor Bernard Cafferty.”
Part Two presents a collection of 319 games, many annotated by Zukertort himself, or when annotated by others it is indicated in the heading of each game (though the introduction will tell you otherwise). The games represent Zukertort’s casual, odds, simultaneous, blindfold, consultation, match and tournament efforts, but it is not a complete collection of every game. For instance, only one game from the 1872 match with Steinitz is included and four from the 1886 match. This section is prefaced with Zukertort’s tournament and match records, though there are no crosstables for individual events. There are many photos and drawings interspersed among the pages, and the diagrams are plentiful.
Zukertort’s sparkling combinational win against Blackburne is still recognized as one of the greatest games of all time. It was also included in The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games by John Nunn, John Emms, and Graham Burgess. It is given below with select notes:
242 Queen’s Indian Defence
London tournament, 5 May 1883
Notes by Zukertort, Steinitz and Minchin
Minchin: I have else where stated my opinion that this is not only by far the finest game played in this tournament, but probably within the memory of the existing generation of chess-players. It may be fairly classed with the great game won by Anderssen of Kieseritsky more than thirty years ago.
1…e6 2.e3 Nf6 3.Nf3 b64.Be2
Zukertort: The development of the king’s bishop has been discussed by various analysts on every possible occasion. Here again I cannot propose a hard and fast rule, but I may state that whenever the queen’s fianchetto is adopted before playing the d-pawn two squares, the opponent’s king’s bishop ought to be posted at e2; if, on the other hand, both players have advanced the d-pawn, the bishop may then be played at once to d3.
4…Bb7 5.0-0 d5 6.d4 Bd6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.b3 Nbd7 9.Bb2 Qe7? 10.Nb5 Ne4 11.Nxd6 cxd6 12.Nd212…Ndf6?
Zukertort: The loss of time occasioned by this continuation gives to the opponent the first opportunity to prepare the following attack.
13.f3 Nxd2 14.Qxd2 dxc4 15.Bxc4 d5 16.Bd3 Rfc8
Zukertort: Mr. Blackburne underrated, I think, the power of the coming attack. It would have been more prudent to leave the king’s rook on the king’s side, and to occupy the open file with the queen’s rook.
17.Rae1! Rc7 18.e4 Rac8 19.e5 Ne8 20.f4 g6
Zukertort: Of course Black had to stop the further advance of the f-pawn. Considering, however, that the text move weakens his king’s position – especially the h-pawn – with out gaining any equivalent, I would suggest instead of it 20…f5 at once.21.Re3
Minchin: When Zukertort made this move, he had in his mind’s eye the whole combination that follows, down to Black’s 28th move. It may seem singular that his opponent should have played the next seven moves exactly as anticipated, but it must be remembered that Mr. Blackburne doubled his rooks, with the intention of playing to c2 as soon as he had got rid of the white king’s bishop, and played for that purpose, expecting to win a piece. The real beauty of Zukertort’s play is that he led his opponent into this trap, correctly calculating its real results.
Steinitz: A very strong move under any circumstances. It threatens, for instance, Rg3 or Rh3 followed by f5 and Qh6. It has, however, been suggested that Zukertort had already at this point in his mind’s eye the whole combination as it occurred up to White’s 28th move, including the subsequent offer of the sacrifice of the queen and the mating combination six moves deep which would have followed if the sacrifice had been accepted; or, in fact, that Zukertort laid a most ingenious trap 13 moves deep to his opponent at this juncture. To this assertion we have to remark in the first place, that there is not the least internal evidence in the progress of the game for the necessity of such a lone calculation, and it would have been simply the height of folly for any experienced, first-class master when playing under time limit to waste one moment on such a combination, considering all the possibilities of the defence that were at Black’s disposal, such as the combinations arising from …Ng7, or …Kf8, or from 22…Qxf6. There is nothing so very extraordinary in reckoning so far ahead, and positions do some times occur, especially in the ending where it is absolutely necessary to look forward to a many moves as is alleged that Zukertort had in his mind. Moreover, such a process of reasoning is often more easy, especially when the moves on one or both sides are forced, than to look clear in all directions only three moves deep when there are many complications and sub-variations. But it is anyhow more meritorious to adopt such a move as the one in the text, which is a powerful one, no matter what Black may answer, as a result of intuitive position judgement, than to lay a trap for one particular line of play which was very improbable to occur and moreover was quite faulty, for more than one reason, as will be seen. It is in reality a depreciation of this fine game to assume that its chief feature was a mere trap.
21…f5 22.exf6 Nxf6
Zukertort: He should retake with the queen, although he would have even then a difficult game, e.g. 22…Qxf6 23.Qe1 Ng7 24.g4 and White would have unlimited time to force a probably irresistible attack.
23.f5! Ne4 24.Bxe4 dxe425.fxg6!
Steinitz: Undoubtedly of the highest order of play as he was bound to calculate the sequence accurately from this point. But how bad Black’s defence was on principle, and how little it could have been anticipated by any real master four moves ago, may be seen from the fact that White could also win here easily though not so elegantly by 25.d5, threatening Qd4, when the game might have proceeded 25…Rc2 (if 25…e5 26.d6 Qd7 27.fxg6 and wins) 26.Qd4 e5 27.Qxe4 with an irresistible attack.
Minchin: The excited spectators naturally thought that Zukertort had here lost a piece and the game, but one confident believer in his skill at this point bet a shilling that he would win the game, not having the slightest conception of the manner in which he could escape from the apparently impending loss.
26.gxh7+ Kh8 27.d5+ e5 28.Qb4!!
Steinitz: Really a glorious move.
Minchin: This move literally electrified the lookers-on, who were absorbed in this contest. I was playing a game in the Vizayanagaram tournament at the time, when a friend whispered in my ear, ‘The fiend has offered his queen, and it cannot be taken without suffering mate!’
25…R8c529.Rf8+! Kxh7 30.Qxe4+ Kg7 31.Bxe5+ Kxf8 32.Bg7+!
Steinitz: A worthy finish to one of the most brilliant games on record. Our final verdict on this game is, however, that it stands superior to the celebrated game between Morphy and Paulsen, for the reason, in the first place, that the present one was played under time limit, which makes the exactitude of Zukertort’s combination all the more meritorious. In the next place, it is certain that Zukertort never at any point of this game had the worst position, and this cannot be said of Morphy’s game against Paulsen. We may mention by the way, without entertaining the least doubt, that in both these games the sacrificing player had fully calculated the result of this combination, that anyhow, both Morphy and Zukertort had an obvious and easy draw to fall back upon in case they detected any flaw in their reckonings. But, we think that it is altogether an exaggeration to place this game on a par as has been attempted, with the well-known ‘immortal game’ between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in which occurs almost a continuity of brilliancies, every one of which bears the stamp of intuitive genius, that could have been little assisted by calculations, as the combination point arises only at the very end of the game with a final sacrifice of the queen after Anderssen had already given up two rooks and a bishop.
It is unclear whether this is a straight reprint of the 1989 edition or whether new material has been added. Nonetheless, Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard is a terrific collection of games; many of which are still not even in database collections such as the ChessBase MegaBase. The average player can learn much from playing over these romantic examples; even more than from modern games. All in all, a very worthy effort that is deserving of your time and attention!
My assessment of this book:
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