Thursday, February 15, 2007

Not Some Boy Off the Street

Having discovered I am a near neighbour of Gunsberg's old house (we're separated by two hundred yards and one hundred years), I've been doing a bit of thinking about the total omission of his match with Steinitz from Kasparov's My Great Predecessors

Looking him up in Tartakower and Du Mont’s classic 500 Master Games of Chess, I found just five of his games – and that includes two that only make it so far as notes to the games of other players.

The games, all defeats, are:-

(71) Yates 1-0 Gunsberg, Chester 1914
(167) Gunsberg 0-1 Weiss, New York 1899
(409) Pillsbury 1-0 Gunsberg, Hastings 1895
[this is the game that led to the ending mentioned by Justin in the comments to the original post]

From the notes of other games there's:-

(497) Bird/Dobell 0-1 Gunsberg/Locock, consultation game Hastings 1892
(30) Gunsberg 1-0 Steinitz, World Championship Match New York, 1891
[This is the game at the top.]

It’s remarkably few given that Gunsberg is one of just five men to have played a match for the World Title prior to the 20th century.

T and D M allocate Chigorin 17 of their main games with 3 others in the notes while Tarrasch (one spanking by Lasker) gets 40 and Blackburne (no World Championship matches and beaten by Gunsberg 8-5 in Bradford, 1887) gets 17 all told.

To put all this in perspective, Gunsberg gets the same attention as one Reverend G. Atwood. Who the hell is he? He doesn't even have a wikipedia entry!

Perhaps Gunsberg was seen as slightly dull or just didn’t play that many publishable games? Certainly, having played through some of the Steinitz match, it seems Gunsberg's style was what might charitably be called "very steady". True, he played the Evans Gambit four times (+2 = 1 - 1) but that was only from game 12 onwards when he was already two points down in a 20 game match. His choice of that opening was 'punt and hope' more than taste I would think.

Which brings us back to the game at the top, which is game 16 of the match. At the end Steinitz chucked in the towel because after

21 ... Qe3
White has
22. Bf1

catching the Queen mid-board and it's Good Night Charlie (or Wilhelm in this case).

Finally, there's the consulstation game from Hastings 1892. It's a total hack and not in the least like Gunsberg's usual style but still ...

Not remembered much today perhaps, but Gunsberg was certainly not just some boy off the street.


ejh said...

I think I mentioned this before but I played an internet game (I had Black) which went 1.f4 e5 2.fe5 d6 3.ed6 Bd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.h3 Bg3#. Not a masterpiece but not much worse than Gunsberg's effort in the same line...

Tom Chivers said...

Gunsberg was black in that game no Justin? Both good efforts I'd say - it's fun bashing the Bird. I remember being phenomenally proud as a junior of a game I won that began 1. f4 e5 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6 4. Nf3 g5 5. g3 g4 6. Nh4 Ne7 7. Bg2 Ng6 8. Nxg6 hxg6 9. O-O Rxh2 10. Kxh2 Qh4+ 11. Kg1 Bxg3, and 0-1 eight or so moves later.

I wonder Gunsberg the least famous chess player to ever have played in a World Championship?!

Anonymous said...

I was going to punt Janowski as a potential challenger to Gunsberg's 'Least Famous' title. However, after a sophisticated and lengthy analysis of the literature (i.e. looking him up in the Index of 500 Master Games of Chess) I see that Janowski is at over 4 times as famous as Gunsberg with 13 main games and one contained in the notes of others.

My own preference to counter 1. f4 is the somewhat less thrilling 1. ... d5 and 2. ... Nf6 with 3. ... e6 or perhaps 3. ... Bg4 if I'm feeling frisky.

You will perhaps not be surprised to learn I've not won any publishable miniature's with this line.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the rogue apostrophe in my last post.

I am ashamed and am heading to berate myself (and the system of Comprehensive education I 'enjoyed') at length.


Tom Chivers said...

You're punctuation looks fine from where I'm sat.

Robert Pearson said...

I believe that Gunsberg's relative obscurity is partly because he didn't write any famous books and (apparently) he wasn't 'colorful' like Janowski (gambling, bombast).

His Wikipedia bio does have this colorful bit:

In 1916 he sued the Evening News for libel when they said that his chess column contained "blunders". He won the suit after the British High Court accepted a submission that in chess matters, eight oversights did not make a "blunder".

That's pretty funny!

Tom Chivers said...

That is good wahreit.

Btw, according to his chessmetric stuff, he also was once the strongest player in the world. I wonder if he's also the least famous statistically strongest player in the world - since records began?

ejh said...

Oh I dunno. Who was Serafino Dubios?