Kindred’s Special: England’s Czar of Chess

In my column, Am I a Chess Player, I wrote about Fischer’s listing of 10 greatest chess players of all time that appeared in the lst issue of Chessworld that went belly up after 3-issues. This is the final act in the hectic career of Howard Staunton.

We take up the match between Staunton and St. Amant at game 15 which was the final game that Capt. Wilson attended and historically recorded the individual times used by both sides. His second had to leave and return to England because of ill health and this departure may well have been a reason why Staunton was unable to win another game until the 21st duel that is published below. Not only was Wilson ill but Staunton was also ill, able only to draw or lose until the final battle in the 21st game.

               St. Amant  (White)  vs  Howard Staunton  (Black)

                                      Queen’s Gambit Refused*

*This has since been termed Queen’s Gambit Declined.

1.d4  d5  2.c4  e6  3.e3  c5  4.Nc3  Nf6  5.Nf3  Be7  6.Bd3  b6  7.0-0  0-0  8.b3  Bb7.

A word here. Fischer stated that the England-France match created many modern style games where many in the chess world at the time was more enthused by wild gambits and sharp attacks. It prompted many of that day to criticize the quality of the games. However, as I noted, the conditions were rather deplorable to conduct play and it is amazing that these two giants of chess were able to achieve the quality they did. They both embraced the more modern positional concepts as well as skill in carrying out attacking and defensive operations.

9.cxd5  exd5  10.Qc2  Nc6  11.a3  a6  12.Rd1  cxd4.

This capture closes the diagonal a1-h8, isolates the d-pawn and opens the c-file and e-file where Rooks do their best. Both sides have identical 3 pawn islands.

13. exd4  h6  14.b4  Bd6.

Improves the scope of the Bishop and pressures the dark sq. diagonal, all in keeping with my square count theory.

15.Re1  b5  16.h3.

Like h6 previously, both act defensively in sqct to guard g-file squares g4/g5.  Such moves can prove weakening if either side can conjure up an assault against the King position.

16…Rc8  17.Qb3  Qc7.

Now 18.Nxd5? would be disastrous. Do you see why?

18.Bd2  Qb6  19.Be3.

Perhaps it is this jockeying for position that many who saw the printed games felt suggested weak and inert play. In reality it was cunning on the part of both to out maneuver the other without really giving away anything in terms of chances.

19…Ne7  20.Rac1  Nh5.

While this looks to be a mistake, it lures the Q to its home square which is really an excellent move by St. Amant. Besides it was always possible that g3?! might be played further weakening the K-side. It also has a psychological effect on the thinking of St. Amant, see move 22.

21.Qd1  Nf6  22.Nh4.

A Knight on the rim looks dim unless used as a jump off richoche to attack into the enemy territory; in this case it is f5.

22…  Rc7!  23.Qd2  Nh7.

Hoping for 24.Bxh6  gxh6  25.Qxh6?? Bh2+! winning the Queen!

24.Qc2  Nf6  25.Kh1.

White removes the King from a possible Bh2 check.

25…Ne8  26.Nf5  Nxf5  27.Bxf5   a5!

Staunton’s plan is to play both sides of the board where he can transfer easier than his opponent heavy units in the battle to come.

28.Qb3  axb4  29.axb4

The game was adjourned as play had taken several hours to this point and to give players and onlookers a rest.

29… Rc4!

A star move but as much for the shock as for the quality of the concept.

30.Na2  Nf6  31.Bd3  Qc6!

A Fischer type move!  Naturally if 32.Bxc4 dxc4 wins major material.

32.Qb2  Qd7  33.Kg1  Nh5  34.Qd2  f5  35.f4  Ng3  36.Bxc4  dxc4  37.Qb2.

St. Amant aims to redeploy his Knight so protects the b-pawn.

37…Rf6  38.Nc3  Ne4  39.Re2  Rg6  40.Rd1  Nxc3  41.Qxc3  Bf3.

Possible only because of the pin on the g-pawn but most effective.

42.Rde1  Bxe2  43.Rxe2  Qe7  44.Qb2  Re6.

Creating a battering-ram of pressure on this important e-file.

45.Kf2  Re4  46.Qa2  Kf7  47.g3  Qb7.

Eying a future penetration along this diagonal to h1 once the Rook vacates e4.

48.Qa3  Re8  49.Qc3  Qh1  50.h4  g5

Forcing open lines by pawn exchanges.

51.Qe1  Qh2+  52.Kf1  Qh3+  53.Kg1  Qg4  54.hxg5  Bxf4!  55.Bxf4  Qxe2  56.Qxe2  Rxe2.

Staunton eliminates any Queen counterplay by this exchange and the win is just a matter of techique now.

57.gxh6  c3  58.Kf1  Re4  59.Bc1  Kg6  60.d5  c2  61.Bd2  Rxb4 62.d6  Rd4  63.Ke2  Rxd6  64.Ke3  Kxh6  65.Ke2+ Kg6  66.Ke1  b4  White resigns. (0-1).

Thus the match ends: 11 wins, 6 losses, 4 draws in favor of Howard Staunton.  St. Amant issued a challenge for a return match since while losing in the early games had managed to recover somewhat and post some wins in his own column. However, the match was never to take place because of the decline in Staunton’s health and his very active role in drama theatre and his chess column.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 in England was ripe for inclusion of a great invitational tournament of which Howard Staunton was its Secretary.  His efforts created the lst International Tournament. I will do a future column on this great event someday.

Hope you enjoy the columns. I try to write one every day so readers can view my posts regularly.

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