Saturday 3 June 2017

That's a paddlin'

Fischer famously destroyed both Taimanov and Larsen 6-0 in the Candidates Matches leading up to his 1972 World Championship title. At the time this was considered extraordinary, as it was assumed that a strong GM could at least take half a point of an opponent, if necessary. It turns out there have been some historical precedents for this feat, including one I found very surprising.
In 1876 Wilhelm Steinitz and Henry Blackburne played a match in London, for the stakes of 60GBP. The match was open ended, with the winner being the first player to score 7 wins. The time control was 30 moves in 2 hours, followed by 15 moves in an hour, although a player had to exceed this by 5 minutes before they were forfeited. There was also a draw by repetition rule, although it was based on one player repeating a move (or sequence of moves) six times.
Despite the fact that both players were already considered the strongest in the world, the match was totally one sided, with Steinitz winning all 7 games. It might be easy to think that this was due to Blackburne being unable to cope with Steinitz's more positional play, but the first game of the match showed that Steintz knew how to play a slashing attack. The loss may have put Blackburne back on his heels, as for the rest of the match Steinitz seemed to have the upper hand, playing a number of fine games, and condemning Blackburne to an ignominious defeat.

Steinitz,William - Blackburne,Joseph Henry [C77]
London m1 London (1), 17.02.1876

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