backrank: The final combination is so spectacular that the fine preparation moves enabling the combination are frequently overlooked.
Réti annotates this game in 'Modern Ideas in Chess.'
On White's 4th move (d3), he writes:
'One sees here at once the difference between Morphy and Steinitz. The former was always anxious to press on at the earliest possible moment with d2-d4. Steinitz on the other hand does not want to break through the center, but is more concerned with building up for himself a strong position, to enable him subequently to prepare an attack on the kingside.'
On 5. c3, Réti comments:
'The position of the pawns on c3 and e4, which makes the forcing of the center by the black pieces impossible, runs with regularity through the Steinitz games whereever they are opened with e4."
And on 6. Nbd2:
'With the intention of moving the knight (by way of d2 and f1) to e3 or g3 to carry out the attack. This maneuver, so much in favor today, originates from Steinitz. As a fact we find very often in Steinitz's games these extended knight maneuvers.
With Morphy, who always brought about an open game, that kind of maneuver was impossible, as he dared not permit himself in open positions to lose so much time. Noteworthy and typical of Steinitz is the delay in castling: so that the possibility of castling on the queenside remained open to him.'
On 8. Ba4:
'In order to have this bishop ready for the attack. These are all far-reaching and preparatory maneuvers for which in open positions after d2-d4 there would be no time.'
On 8. ... Nd7:
'With the idea of making the game an open one if possible by means of ... Nc5 and ... d6-d5.'
On 11. h4:
'Now at this early stage the attack on the king's wing commences and indeed, clearly contrary to Morphy's principles, from an undeveloped position. But the essential point is that Black's counterplay against White's center does not lend itself to a successful result on account of the latter's assured position.
Equally remarkable is that the move h4 is not to be found in analogous games of Morphy, the reason being that Morphy unlike Steinitz always castled early in the game.'
On 13. ... fxg6:
'Perhaps 13. ... hxg6 was better. Steinitz would have continued with 14. Qe2 in order to avoid the exchange of queens, as one will find happens in similar positions with other players; at the same time the strong pawn structure formed by the pawns at e4 and c3 would have been maintained and Black would have gained little by the opening of the d-file, as no points of attack are to be found thereon. After the weakening of the diagonal a2-g8 through ... fxg6, Steinitz opens the diagonal completely by the exchange on d5.'
On 20. Qf1:
'Apparently a defensive move to provide against ... Nd4. In reality preparation for the decision of the contest.'
On 21. d4:
'This ultimately brings the other bishop on the right diagonal a1-h8 for the decisive mating attack.'
On 24. Rxh7+:
'After the deep and quiet preparation the end is brought about magnificently, inasmuch as the whole of the pent-up energy becomes active.'
What do we have to admire more: Steinitz's play or Réti's wonderful commentary?