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The Immortal Game was a game of chess, played in 1851 by Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky. It was played while the London 1851 chess tournament was in progress, an event in which both players participated. However, the Immortal Game was itself a casual game, not played as part of the tournament. Anderssen won the game by allowing a double rook sacrifice, a major loss of material, while also developing a mating attack with his remaining minor pieces. Despite losing the game, Kieseritzky was impressed with Anderssen's performance. Shortly after it was played, Kieseritzky published the game in La Régence, a French chess journal which he helped to edit. In 1855, Ernst Falkbeer published an analysis of the game, describing it for the first time with its namesake "immortal".
The Immortal Game is among the most famous chess games ever played. As a miniature game, it is frequently reproduced in chess literature to teach simple themes of gameplay. Although Kieseritzsky himself indicated that the game ended before checkmate, the Immortal Game is frequently reproduced with a brief continuation involving a queen sacrifice—a further loss of material—leading to checkmate. This continuation is commonly presented as part of the complete game, as if the final moves were actually played as part of the real historical game. Some authors also permute certain moves, deviating from Kieseritzky's report, although such permutations typically give rise to a transposition in which a distinct line of play eventually returns to the moves and positions reported by Kieseritzky.
Although both players made moves which are regarded as unsound by modern players, the game is appreciated as an example of the romantic school of chess, a style of play which prized bold attacks and sacrifices over deep strategy. The game—especially its mating continuation—is also appreciated for its aesthetic value, as a plausible example of how a player with a significant material deficit can give mate, provided that an advantageous position exists. The continuation's mating position is a model mate, a strong form of pure mate in which all of the attacker's remaining pieces contribute to the checkmate, while the mated king is prevented from moving to any other square for exactly one reason per square. In 1996, Bill Hartston called the game an achievement "perhaps unparalleled in chess literature".
Anderssen was one of the strongest players of his time, and many consider him to have been the world's strongest player after his victory in the London 1851 chess tournament. Kieseritzky lived in France much of his life, where he gave chess lessons and played games for five francs an hour at the Café de la Régence in Paris. His strength was shown most favourably when giving substantial odds to weak players; against masters, he was less convincing.
The Immortal Game was an informal one, played during a break in a formal tournament in London; the exact venue is uncertain. Kieseritzky was very impressed with Anderssen's performance; after the game was over, Kieseritzky telegraphed the moves of the game to his Parisian chess club. The French chess magazine La Régence published the game in July 1851. The Austrian Ernst Falkbeer nicknamed it "The Immortal Game" in 1855.
This game is acclaimed as an exemplar of the 19th-century romantic style of chess, where rapid development and attack were considered the most effective way to win, many gambits and countergambits were offered (and not accepting them would be considered slightly ungentlemanly), and material was often held in contempt. These games, with their rapid attacks and counterattacks, are often entertaining to review, even if some of the moves are no longer considered optimal.
In this game, Anderssen won despite sacrificing a bishop (on move 11), both rooks (starting on move 18), and the queen (on move 22) to produce checkmate against Kieseritzky, who lost only three pawns. Anderssen later demonstrated the same kind of approach in the Evergreen Game.
Some published versions of the game have errors, as described in the annotations below.
Shortly after the game was played, Kieseritzky is believed to have telegraphed a report of the game to La Régence, a French chess journal which he helped to edit. The game was reported in an 1851 issue of the journal, with the piece attributed to Kieseritzky himself. La Régence used an "obscure" and prototypical form of algebraic notation to record chess games. Pawns were denoted using lower-case letters indicating their starting files (a-h), while pieces were denoted using upper case letters to indicate same (A-H). Squares were described beginning with their rank, then file, e.g. the square "e4" was instead described as "45".
The game has been republished many times, often with inconsistencies about the order of moves.
White: Adolf Anderssen Black: Lionel Kieseritzky Opening: Bishop's Gambit (ECO C33)
1. e4 e5 2. f4
- This is the King's Gambit: Anderssen offers his pawn in exchange for faster development. This was one of the most popular openings of the 19th century and is still occasionally seen, though defensive techniques have improved since Anderssen's time.
2... exf4 3. Bc4
- The Bishop's Gambit; this line allows 3...Qh4+, depriving White of the right to castle, and is less popular than 3.Nf3. This check, however, also exposes Black's queen to attack with a gain of tempo on the eventual Ng1–f3.
3... Qh4+ 4. Kf1 b5?! (diagram)
- This is the Bryan Countergambit, deeply analysed by Kieseritzky, and which sometimes bears his name. It is not considered a sound move by most players today.
5. Bxb5 Nf6 6. Nf3
- This is a common developing move, but in addition the knight attacks Black's queen, forcing Black to move it instead of developing his own side.
6... Qh6 7. d3
- With this move, White solidifies control of the critical centre of the board. German grandmaster Robert Hübner recommends 7.Nc3 instead.
- This move threatens ...Ng3+, and protects the pawn at f4, but also sidelines the knight to a poor position at the edge of the board, where knights are the least powerful, and does not develop a piece.
8. Nh4 Qg5
- Better was 8...g6, according to Kieseritzky.
9. Nf5 c6
- This simultaneously unpins the queen pawn and attacks the bishop. Modern chess engines suggest 9...g6 would be better, to deal with a very troublesome knight.
10. g4? Nf6 11. Rg1! (diagram)
- This is an advantageous passive piece sacrifice. If Black accepts, his queen will be boxed in, giving White a lead in development.
- Hübner believes this was Black's critical mistake; this gains material, but loses in development, at a point where White's strong development is able to quickly mount an offensive. Hübner recommends 11...h5 instead.
- White's knight at f5 protects the pawn, which attacks Black's queen.
12... Qg6 13. h5 Qg5 14. Qf3
- White (Anderssen) now has two threats:
- Bxf4, trapping Black's queen (the queen having no safe place to go);
- e5, attacking Black's knight at f6 while simultaneously exposing an attack by White's queen on the unprotected black rook at a8.
- This deals with the threats, but undevelops Black even further—now the only black piece not on its starting square is the queen, which is about to be put on the run, while White has control over a great deal of the board.
15. Bxf4 Qf6 16. Nc3 Bc5
- An ordinary developing move by Black, which also attacks the rook at g1.
- White responds to the attack with a counterattack. This move threatens the black queen and also Nc7+, forking the king and rook. Richard Réti recommends 17.d4 followed by 18.Nd5, with advantage to White, although if 17.d4 Bf8 then 18.Be5 would be a stronger move.
17... Qxb2 (diagram)
- Black gains a pawn, and threatens to gain the rook at a1 with check.
- With this move White offers to sacrifice both his rooks. Hübner comments that, from this position, there are actually many ways to win, and he believes there are at least three better moves than 18.Bd6: 18.d4, 18.Be3, or 18.Re1, which lead to strong positions or checkmate without needing to sacrifice so much material. The Chessmaster computer program annotation says "the main point [of 18. Bd6] is to divert the black queen from the a1–h8 diagonal. Now Black cannot play 18...Bxd6? 19.Nxd6+ Kd8 20.Nxf7+ Ke8 21.Nd6+ Kd8 22.Qf8#." Garry Kasparov comments that the world of chess would have lost one of its "crown jewels" if the game had continued in such an unspectacular fashion. The Bd6 move is surprising, because White is willing to give up so much material.
- Wilhelm Steinitz suggested in 1879 that a better move would be 18...Qxa1+; likely moves to follow are 19.Ke2 Qb2 20.Kd2 Bxg1. However, this continuation is still winning for white, despite having many complications. The variation continues 21.e5! Ba6 22.Bb4! Qxe5 (22...Be3+ 23.Qxe3 +/-) (22...Nh6 23.Nd6+ Kf8 24. g5 +-) 23. Nd6+ Qxd6 24. Bxd6 +/-.
- This sacrifices yet another white rook. More importantly, this move blocks the queen from participating in the defense of the king, and threatens mate in two: 20.Nxg7+ Kd8 21.Bc7#.
19... Qxa1+ 20. Ke2
- At this point, Black's attack has run out of steam; Black has a queen and bishop on the back rank, but cannot effectively mount an immediate attack on White, while White can storm forward. According to Kieseritzky, he resigned at this point. Hübner notes that an article by Friedrich Amelung in the journal Baltische Schachblaetter, 1893, reported that Kiesertizky probably played 20...Na6, but Anderssen then announced the mating moves. The Oxford Companion to Chess also says that Black resigned at this point, citing an 1851 publication. In any case, it is suspected that the last few moves were not actually played on the board in the original game.
- The black knight covers c7 as White was threatening 21.Nxg7+ Kd8 and 22.Bc7#. Another attempt to defend is 20...Ba6, allowing the black king to flee via c8 and b7, although White has enough with the continuation 21.Nc7+ Kd8 and 22.Nxa6, where if now 22...Qxa2 (to defend f7 against Bc7+, Nd6+ and Qxf7#) White can play 23.Bc7+ Ke8 24.Nb4, winning; or, if 22...Bb6 (stopping Bc7+), 23.Qxa8 Qc3 24.Qxb8+ Qc8 25.Qxc8+ Kxc8 26.Bf8 h6 27.Nd6+ Kd8 28.Nxf7+ Ke8 29.Nxh8 Kxf8, with a winning endgame for White.
21. Nxg7+ Kd8 22. Qf6+! (diagram)
- This queen sacrifice forces Black to give up his defense of e7.
- At the end, Black is ahead in material by a considerable margin: a queen, two rooks, and a bishop. But the material does not help Black. White has been able to use his remaining pieces—two knights and a bishop—to force mate.
- Evergreen Game – also won by Anderssen
- List of chess games
- ^ Hartston, Bill (1996). Teach Yourself Chess. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 150. ISBN 0-340-67039-8.
- ^ Winter, Edward. "The Immortal Game (Anderssen v Kieseritzky)". www.chesshistory.com. Retrieved 17 November 2022.
- ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (2014). The Game of Chess. p. 47.
- ^ Kasparov, 22.
- ^ Hooper and Whyld, 200.
- ^ Kling and Horwitz: The Chess Player, July 1851
- ^ Anderssen was playing the black pieces but moved first, so is shown here as playing White to match modern conventions regarding White and Black.
- ^ Kasparov, 2003, My Great Predecessors, part I, p. 24
- ^ Several sources give a different move sequence: 18...Qxa1+ 19. Ke2 Bxg1 20. e5.
- ^ Hooper & Whyld (1992)
- Chernev, Irving. The Chess Companion. 1968. ISBN 0-671-20104-2.
- Eade, James. Chess for Dummies. 1996. Foster City, CA: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ISBN 0-7645-5003-9.
- Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), "Immortal Game", The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280049-3
- Hübner, Robert. "The Immortal Game." American Chess Journal, 3 (1995), p. 14-35.
- Kasparov, Garry (2003). My Great Predecessors, part I. Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-330-6.
- Kavalek, Lubomir. Chess (newspaper column). Washington Post. July 2003.
- Savielly Tartakower and J. du Mont. 500 Master Games of Chess. Dover Publications, June 1, 1975, ISBN 0-486-23208-5.
- Shenk, David (2006). The Immortal Game: A History of Chess. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-51010-1.
- Lionel Kieseritzky: La Régence, July 1851
- Kling und Horwitz: The Chess Player, July 1851
- The Immortal Game import at Lichess (a popular variation with incorrect 18...Qxa1+, not 18...Bxg1)
- Adolf Anderssen vs Lionel Adalbert Bagration Felix Kieseritzky ChessGames.com
- Anderssen's Immortal Game Analysis at IslandOfGames.com
- “The Immortal Game” by Edward Winter