DanQuigley: “[Staunton] played the opening in a surprising modern manner, as can be seen from the following game.” Tony Kosten (1999)
5.d3 - I am not a fan of Staunton’s unusual fifth move. Nineteenth century players often made moves that had more to do with their pre-game conceived strategy than the demands of the position. Here moves 3.d4, 3.Nf3, and even 3.e4 all point to plans for White that arise out of the position.
5…Na6 – Black makes his moves in conformance with a preconceived plan too. He wants to play …Na6-c7 to strengthen the …d5 push. However, this push is perfectly fine right now without reinforcing it. White’s long diagonal is nicely shut down after the direct 5…d5. In fact, taking the time to reinforce the already good …d5 push is a strategic error because the Knight could be doing other duties in the position than having two moves spent on it so that it can exert its massive force from the highly coveted c7 square. Black’s “theoretical novelty” here has never in history been replayed.
6.a3 – Played no doubt because Black’s …Nb4 threat was ominous.
11.Bb2 – “Against Black’s Dutch set-up White has played a very flexible double fianchetto, developing his pieces exactly as many players do today.” Kosten.
11…Bd7 – Looks passive to me. 11…dxc4 12.bxc4 e5 looks about equal.
13.e4 – Kosten gives this move an exclamation point, his only punctuation mark of the game, and says, “He now produced the thematic e4 break, the classic rebuff to Black’s light-squared scheme.”
15.e5 - This move came as a surprise to me. White shuts down the scope of his b2-Bishop. His g2-Bishop bites on b7-c6 granite. Where is White’s play going to come from now?
15…Nfe8 – This Knight might be better placed defensively on h6 via g4 rather than clogging the back rank on e8. Now Black’s Knights reinforce each other the same way the c7-Knight reinforced d5, unnecessarily. This is not a good thing.
19.Rb1 – Showing Black’s dark-squared Bishop activity to be illusory. The Bishop is now actually a target for White.
19…g6 – Black is horribly cramped and his pieces don’t coordinate. There are no patterns for Black’s activity to flow from. 19…b5 gains some space at the cost of helping White rid himself of a minor pawn weakness.
21.Ne4 – Since White’s 15.e5 Staunton has played with purpose and increased the scope and activity of all his pieces with five nice moves in a row. It’s here Staunton is showing true strength and imitating a modern (since 2005) understanding of chess.
22.Rbd1 – This move initiates exchanges, letting Black off the cramped position hook a bit. A modern player squeezes instead with 22.c5 Ba5 23.Qa4 b6 24.Nd6 and Black’s position has to collapse shortly.
22…Na6 - prevents the aforementioned c5 threat.
23…Rxd1 - 23…Nc5 is more enterprising. After 24.Rxd8 Nxe4 25.Bxe4 Bxd8 Black has successfully eased the pressure through the exchanges though White still has a considerable edge due to having more space.
25…Qc7 – I wonder if Black considered the wood-clearing move 25…Na4?
26.Qc2 – White did.
27.g4 – I share Keene’s appreciation of the Knight-limiting nature of this prophylactic move.
28.Bd4 – White takes the piece doing the least for him and improves it. Nice!
31.Qb3 – White hits the two weakest points in Black’s camp: b7 and e6. Nothing is breaking yet, but oh the pressure! This is what space gives you, the freedom to place pieces on squares they can be most effective from. It’s all about making double threats and more threats than can be met.
31…b6 – Black continues to show worthy defensive skills. He at least is trying to cure himself of one weakness.
33.Nf6 – Cowabunga! White could just maintain his grip on the position with 33.Nxc5 or even 33.Bf2. Instead, like a shark that smells blood, he decides it’s time to go after Black’s King.
33…Kh8? – No. No. No. The critical line is 33…Rxf6 34.exf6 cxd4 35.Nxd4 Ne8 and Black’s threat to f6 counterbalances White’s threat to c6. The position is dynamically equal.
38…Qf7 – Black instead needs to bring the student body left starting with 38…Nb4-Nd5.
39.Ng1 – White again seeks better prospects for his least active piece.
39…Bd8 – The Bishop is the poorest defender of a cramped position. Black’s best hope lied in 39…Rd8 followed by the …Nb4 and …Nd5 or …Nd3 maneuver.
40.g5 – Game over. White’s space advantage is now permanent and unanswerable through exchanges. White polished Black off with some brutally accurate tactics.