The Steinitz Knight Tour

by National Life Master Loal Davis

 Wilhelm-SteinitzWilhem Steinitz

The first World Champion came up with an incredible Knight’s Tour in the Ruy Lopez that is still used today.  In the first game he takes out “The Black Death” and in the second the “Father of Russian Chess” in a World Chess Championship.

Steinitz,William – Blackburne,Joseph Henry                            London 1876 

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3

Steinitz loved these solid approaches to the center playing White or Black. 

5…d6 6.c3

Black’s last had the implication of trading off the Lopez Bishop. This Pawn configuration was a great favorite with the first World Champion. 

6…Be7 7.h3 0–0 8.Qe2 Ne8 9.g4 b5 10.Bc2 Bb7 11.Nbd2

Steinitz, William vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry,  London,  1876.02.17,  EventRound s7

Here we go ! The first step in the Steinitz Knight Tour. This Knight will play to f1 and depending on circumstances to either g3 or e3 and then into f5 or d5. This apparent waste of time was not understood by his contemporaries. It’s important to note that long-winded sequences, especially by Knights, are generally only playable in closed or semi-closed positions. 

11…Qd7 12.Nf1 Nd8 13.Ne3 Ne6 14.Nf5 g6 15.Nxe7+

Steinitz, William vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry,  London,  1876.02.17,  EventRound s7

Trading off a Knight that has moved five times for a Bishop that has moved once. But again – This is not an open position. The telling feature here is that Black squared weaknesses have been provoked and now the removal of their primary defender. 

15…Qxe7 16.Be3 N8g7 17.0–0–0 c5 18.d4

Now opening up the position for the Bishops. 

18…exd4 19.cxd4 c4 20.d5 Nc7 21.Qd2

White has a plan for invading the dark squares. 

21…a5 22.Bd4 f6 23.Qh6

Steinitz, William vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry,  London,  1876.02.17,  EventRound s7

This is it. Black sits back in paralysis while White builds up for the cruncher. 

23…b4 24.g5 f5 25.Bf6 Qf7 26.exf5 gxf5

Steinitz, William vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry,  London,  1876.02.17,  EventRound s7White To Play. 

27.g6 Qxg6

[27…hxg6 allows 28.Ng5 and it’s mate or the loss of the Queen.] 

28.Bxg7

This nabs a piece. 

28…Qxh6+

[28…Qxg7 29.Rhg1 is curtains.] 

29.Bxh6 Rf6 30.Rhg1+ Rg6 31.Bxf5 Kf7

On an exchange off Rooks, White gets a Rook to the 7th rank and lines up the two minor pieces on the Queenside. 

32.Bxg6+ hxg6 33.Ng5+ Kg8 34.Rge1

Steinitz, William vs. Blackburne, Joseph Henry,  London,  1876.02.17,  EventRound s7

Joseph Blackburne was one of the great attackers in the post Morphy era. He had earned himself the nickname of “The Black Death”. I don’t think he understood what hit him.

1–0

 

Steinitz,William – Chigorin,Mikhail                    World Championship Havana 1892 

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.c3 g6 6.Nbd2

Steinitz, William vs. Chigorin, Mikhail,  Havana,  1892.01.01,  EventRound s23

 Here we go again. 

6…Bg7 7.Nf1 0–0 8.Ba4 Nd7 9.Ne3 Nc5 10.Bc2 Ne6 11.h4 Ne7 12.h5 d5 13.hxg6 fxg6

[13…hxg6 is better.] 

14.exd5

Steinitz, William vs. Chigorin, Mikhail,  Havana,  1892.01.01,  EventRound s23

 Now that the diagonal to Black’s King has been exposed, Steinitz opens up that very diagonal for the Lopez Bishop. 

14…Nxd5 15.Nxd5 Qxd5 16.Bb3 Qc6 17.Qe2 Bd7 18.Be3 Kh8 19.0–0–0 Rae8 20.Qf1

Steinitz, William vs. Chigorin, Mikhail,  Havana,  1892.01.01,  EventRound s23

 A superb move. White wants to play d4 to get at Black’s King, but the relationship of Rook to Queen on the e line is not good. As we will see there is another reason to have the Queen on f1. 

20…a5 21.d4 exd4 22.Nxd4 Bxd4 23.Rxd4

Preserving the Bishop for the long diagonal. 

23…Nxd4

Steinitz, William vs. Chigorin, Mikhail,  Havana,  1892.01.01,  EventRound s23White to Play. 

24.Rxh7+

Oh yes – Steinitz knew his tactics. 

24…Kxh7 25.Qh1+ Kg7 26.Bh6+ Kf6 27.Qh4+ Ke5 28.Qxd4+

Steinitz, William vs. Chigorin, Mikhail,  Havana,  1892.01.01,  EventRound s23

 It’s mate in one move. Several of Steinitz’ contemporaries “may” have had greater tactical gifts, but the strength of his strategic ideas was such that they did not get the chance to use them. 

1–0

 

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