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Samuel Rosenthal vs Wilhelm Steinitz
"Withered Rose" (game of the day Jun-02-2022)
Vienna (1873), Vienna AUH, rd 5, Aug-04
Three Knights Opening: Steinitz Defense (C46)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Aug-10-12  maelith: Is it amusing that the start of Steiniz 25 straight wins in professional chess is also the start of modern bishop pair use..
Aug-26-12  Tigranny: Awesome use of the bishops by Steinitz.
Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: Instead of 33.Qg3, which may be the losing move, perhaps White can hold with 33.Qxa7 (prevents ...Qxa2). Now if 33...Rxf2 34.Rxf2 Qxc1 35.Rf1 Qe3+ 36.Kh1 and White may draw. White threatens Qxb6 and the position is starting to look equal.
Aug-16-13  ciastekx: @wwall: <Instead of 33.Qg3, which may be the losing move, perhaps White can hold with 33.Qxa7 (prevents ...Qxa2)>. If 33.♕xa7? then 33...♖xf2 34.♖xf2 ♕xc1+ . Rosenthal had to reduce the load on the f1 rook by protecting the knight at f2 with another piece, that is why he moved 33.♕g3.
Aug-16-13  ciastekx: @wwall: <ciastekx: @wwall: <Instead of 33.Qg3, which may be the losing move, perhaps White can hold with 33.Qxa7 (prevents ...Qxa2)>. If 33.♕xa7? then 33...♖xf2 34.♖xf2 ♕xc1+ . Rosenthal had to reduce the load on the f1 rook by protecting the knight at f2 with another piece, that is why he moved 33.♕g3>

Sent too early. I see that you are basically giving the same variation, but evaluating the position differently. I do not think Rosenthal's rook would be a match for two bishops, and the pawns would need time to become dangerous. Does White have that time? Personally, I prefer Black here.

May-26-18  sycophante: Never been a GOTD yet? Such a famous game... I propose "Early Synod"
Jul-02-18  pawnpro: just bringing the game back if you miss it
Jul-02-18  sudoplatov: Lest we think Rosenthal was a pushover; Steinitz Tied with Rosenthal 3-3-3.

EDO Ratings 1873

Steinitz 2780 #1
Rosenthal 2571 #8

Jul-02-18  Joshka: <maelith> <25 straight games won> yea, well, of course the best player was not playing any more, so Steinitz lucked out.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Where do we start?

<" Awesome use of the bishops by Steinitz.">

It is an awful example of the two Bishops and it by far the worst game in that otherwise excellent book 'The Most Instructive Games Ever Played'

(Chernev misses out some moves leaving the poor reader in this position.

click for larger view

Saying White resigned EH? Now I get it but back in the day I was puzzled and wanted to see the 100% win.)

Look again at the diagram The g7 Bishop makes one move, then blocks itself with a pawn on f6.

Chernev probably included it based on a Reti fawning gush claiming this game:

<"This is perhaps the oldest game in which we find the practical application of the theory created by Steinitz to demonstrate the advantage of the combined bishops" (Reti in Masters of the Chessboard)>

That's a load of codswallop!

Off the top of my head. Run through Staunton vs Saint Amant, 1843 tpstar regarding the two Bishops: "this game is a textbook example of their superiority."

Saint Amant plays a wee trick resulting RBB V RR. Now we know this usually favours the 2B's But at that time there were so few examples, both players was pioneering.

My point being from all the perfect examples of the Bishop Pair dominating a game up to 1965 when MIGEP was written, Chernev chose this one. It is a terrible choice. (good game but it's a not a 2B's game.)

The give away that Chernev followed Reti is that Reti too ends the game after Black played 33...Qxa2 adding 'And Black won.'

< Never been a GOTD yet? Such a famous game... I propose "Early Synod">

It's pun less and un GOTD'd - let us leave it that way.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally Simpson>

<It is an awful example of the two Bishops and it by far the worst game in that otherwise excellent book 'The Most Instructive Games Ever Played'>

<Off the top of my head. Run through Staunton vs Saint Amant, 1843 tpstar regarding the two Bishops: "this game is a textbook example of their superiority."

Saint Amant plays a wee trick resulting RBB V RR. Now we know this usually favours the 2B's But at that time there were so few examples, both players was pioneering.>

Truly amazing that you managed to come up with a much worse example than Rosenthal-Steinitz, Sally. Maybe you need to stop consulting the top of your head.

Chernev was trying to illustrate the superiority of two bishops v. bishop and knight. There was no need to illustrate the superiority of two bishops v. rook, not in 1843 and certainly not when Chernev was writing. So in addition to being a wretched game (after a cover-your-eyes opening, Black commits a losing blunder on move 16), Staunton vs Saint Amant, 1843 was useless to Chernev.

There <are> better examples of two bishops v. bishop and knight. But it's not nearly as bad a choice as you make out. See Honza's comment from 16 years ago:

<Main advantage of bishop pair against bishop and knight in semi-open game is that it allows pretty safe advance of pawns to restrict opponent's knight since the bishops combine to prevent invasion along the resulting weaknesses. The same technique does not in general work in the case of single bishop vs. knight because single bishop cannot defend adequately weak points resulting from pawn advances. Steinitz demonstrated that in this game perfectly - see 16...c5; 20...f6; 21...h5. He also restricted effectiveness of opponent's single bishop by forming a pawn chain - see also 16...c5 and 17...b6.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi K.P.

The Staunton game must have made an impression as it was the one pre-Steinitz game I recalled right away.

I could not recall the exact position or the move order. But both Bishops out dancing a Rook kind of stuck...

click for larger view

...which is what, to me anyway, an Instructive Game is all about...making an impression, something sticks.

The sticking point in this game on this page was the poor choice which was my main point. ( I do not know why you re-posted Honza's post, I am not disagreeing with him - just the choice of this game.)

"Chernev was trying to illustrate the superiority of two bishops v. bishop and knight."

I think this game is a poor example, the main tactical theme was the Q & R battery on the 7th. Add in the fact the last moves are missing from both books showing how Rosenthal drops a piece to a pin v an unprotected Queen and you are left with an untidy shoddy game which to me, again in the eye of the beholder, shows very little about as you say: 'superiority of two bishops v. bishop and knight.'

Chernev lifted it straight from Reti in a moment of laziness even down to missing out the last few moves.

O Wuelfing vs M Lange, 1862 played 11 years before this game. A wonderful position showing just what 2 B's v B&N can do.

click for larger view

In a minor piece ending you cannot pin that e2 Knight with a Bishop and cover the two pin breaking squares. e1 and f2 with Knight. It has to be another Bishop. (it's a pattern worth storing.)

The real joy here is Black can merrily march his King up to f3 to just win the pinned Knight.

White cannot play Be1, Black will chop the minor pieces and pick up the e-pawn.

So White defends the e-pawn with Bf4 and is reduced to pawns moves. They run out. White will have to go Bh2-g1-f2 to break the pin. By then the e5 pawn falls, Black then chops all the minor pieces and wins - which is what happened.

Aug-15-18  WorstPlayerEver: Rosenthal simply blundered; 24. Ne4=
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally S.> After I called you on Staunton-St. Amant you came up with a much better example. I take full credit. :-) But you know, Chernev probably had no idea that Wuelfing-Lange existed. Life was hard for the old authors.

<I do not know why you re-posted Honza's post, I am not disagreeing with him>

Of course you are. You think this is a terrible example of 2B v. B+N. Honza thinks it's a good one.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TerryMills: Was Black's dark squared bishop all that useful?
Jan-12-20  Baby Hawk: This is the first game in "Bishop v Knight the verdict" by Steve Mayer.
Aug-26-20  Ulhumbrus: With the moves ...c5 and ...f6 Steinitz obstructs White's bishop as well as his own.

If the obstruction of Steinitz's own king's bishop brings about a won game as if by magic, it seems worthwhile to ask what the magic consists of.

To begin with, after placing his pawns on black squares Steinitz plays on the white squares with a powerful bishop against the knight.

At the very least after 26...Qxd5 Black's queen's bishop supports an attack by Black's queen on f3 and g2 and White seems unable to keep his f5 pawn. White's knight does nothing as useful.

This suggests that the magic or at least a part of it consists of the superiority of Black's queen's bishop over White's knight.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Samuel Rosenthal - Wilhelm Steinitz, Vienna 1873

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6

As far as I know this move was used for the first time by Steinitz in his game against Louis Paulsen in Baden-Baden 1870. Later in the same year Anderssen repeated it in a game of his match against the same opponent, and Samuel Rosenthal faced it in his match with John Wisker in the end of 1870. And so this game was a theoretical opening duel of its kind.


Rosenthal's move is principal continuation here. Paulsen tried 4.Bc4 against Steinitz and 4.Nd5 against Anderssen.

4...exd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3

In the third game of his match against Wisker Rosenthal continued with 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 but it is not much challenging for black. 6.Be3 is definitely better move and it is the main line here today.


The position after 6.Be3 was new then, and after this game Steinitz never repeated 6...Nge7 playing always 6...Nf6 instead of that. 6...Nge7 looks natural but it has some drawbacks as we know today from opening theory.


This is not a bad move for sure but the main problem for 6...Nge7 is 7.Qd2 with a plan to play 8.0-0-0 and launch quick Kingside attack h2-h4-h5, if black dares to castle Kingside.


More precise it would have been to play 7...0-0, as then 8.Qd2 can be replied by 8...Ne5! 9.Bb3 c5 10.Ndb5 c4 11.f4 (11.Ba4? a6 loses a piece) 11...cxb3 12.fxe5 bxc2 and black can be very satisfied with outcome of the opening.


Again 8.Qd2 could have been more unpleasant for black, though the game move is not bad.

8...O-O 9.f4 Na5

Immediate 9...d5 was more accurate. Now white could have played 10.Be2! with idea 10...d5?! 11.f5! ±.

10.Bd3 d5 11.exd5

With white Bishop on d3 11.f5 is not dangerous for black due to 11...dxe4 12.f6 Bxf6 13.Rxf6 exd3 14.Qxd3 c5 etc.

11...Nxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.c3 Rd8 14.Qc2 Nc4 15.Bxc4

Instead of that white could preserve his Bishop pair with 15.Bf2. But anyway black already completely equalized the game from the opening.

15...Qxc4 16.Qf2

More active 16.Qb3!? with idea 16...Qxb3 17.axb3! was a better chance for white to keep balance in the position, where black Bishop pair starts to play key positional role.


As I have written here twenty years ago, Steinitz starts to push white pieces back by advancing of his Pawns using his Bishop pair as an instrument for eliminating weaknesses created in the process.

17.Nf3 b6 18.Ne5 Qe6 19.Qf3 Ba6 20.Rfe1 f6 21.Ng4 h5 22.Nf2 Qf7

White minor pieces were effectively blocked and pushed back by subtle play of Steinitz who reached clearly better position. Here he could play also 22...Qd5 not allowing 23.f5.


Objectively this is the best practical chance of white, who tries to liberate a bit his cramped position.

23...g5 24.Rad1?

But this is a mistake. Only 24.Ne4 Bb7 25.Bf2 could help white to stay in the game. Still black should keep advantage after 25...Rd7 26.Rad1 Rad8 27.Rxd7 Rxd7, for example 28.h4 Re7 29.hxg5 fxg5 30.Nxg5 Rxe1+ 31.Bxe1 Bxf3 32.Nxf7 Kxf7 33.gxf3 c4 34.Bh4 b5 with clearly better Bishop ending for black despite of white extra Pawn.

24...Bb7 25.Qg3 Rd5(?)

This is an inaccuracy from Steinitz's part. After 25...Rxd1! 26.Nxd1 (26.Rxd1 Re8 27.Bc1 h4 28.Qd3 c4 29.Qd4 Qc7 30.Ng4 c6 31.Qf2 h3 -+) 26...h4 27.Qd6 Qxa2 28.Bf2 Qd5 29.Qxd5+ Bxd5 30.Ne3 Bc6 31.Rd1 Bf8 32.c4 Re8 black has decisive advantage.


White misses his last chance to complicate things for black by 26.h4! g4 27.c4! Rxd1 28.Rxd1, and now black cannot play 28...Qxc4 for 29.Rd7! turning the table in white's favour. After 28...Re8 29.b3 or 28...Qe7 29.Bf4 white consolidates his position with solid chances not to lose the game.

26...Qxd5 -+ 27.Rd1 Qxf5

After loss of this Pawn the game is practically over.


Desperate attempt for counterplay just shortens white's misery here.

28...Bd5 29.b3 Re8 30.c4 Bf7

It was possible to play also 30...Bxg2 31.Rd8 (31.Kxg2 Rxe3) 31...Bc6! but 30...Bf7 is good enough.

31.Bc1 Re2 32. Rf1 Qc2 33.Qg3

Black was threatening with 33...Rxf2 34.Rxf2 Qxc1+.

33...Qxa2 34.Qb8+ Kh7 35.Qg3 Bg6 36.h4 g4 37.Nd3

Instead of that it was better to resign. Of course, the game was hopeless anyway, so another blunder changes nothing.

37...Qxb3 38.Qc7 Qxd3 and white resigned.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Teyss: <Honza Cervenka> Thanks for your instructive comments about this interesting game (<Sally Simpson> sorry to disagree with you for once, albeit just on that last part).

There seems to be a contradiction re. the Bishop pair between Honza's and other kibitzers' notes on the one hand and Sally's on the other, but it is not so. Honza mentions the B pair as a <defensive> device to push the Kside Pawns safely so as to cramp White's position. Sally rightfully mentions it is not an <offensive> setting as in O Wuelfing vs M Lange, 1862 : here the Q+R battery wins the game together with the aforementioned Pawns. It's not because we see 2Bs vs B+N that we can automatically jump on our chair shouting "Of course the Bishop pair wins." There's more than one way to skin a Kside.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Teyss,

'sorry to disagree with you for once...'

No need to apologise, I'm use to people disagreeing with me, I'm vocal and very opinionated when it comes to what I like and don't like in chess. It would be pretty boring is everyone agreed with each other.

I said all I wanted say about this game four years ago, S Rosenthal vs Steinitz, 1873 (kibitz #16) and I still stand by it. IMO it's an OK game but as an example for the student to see what two Bishops can do...Nah! By coincidence I am using this two Bishops cartoon on my next blog. (I finished smoothing it out on Monday just gone.)

Jun-02-22  spingo: Steinitz and Lasker were both innovators at chess. But when they played two matches the result was that Lasker out-calculated Steinitz. There was no <struggle between two schools>.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Steinitz was also spotting his opponent 32 years in those title bouts.
Feb-08-23  generror: <Sally> is right, this probably isn't the best example of a bishop-pair game: even though Réti, Tartakower, Pachman and Chernev keep stressing this point, Steinitz' dark-squared bishop indeed plays a purely defensive part for most of the game. However, this game *is*, as far as I know, the first, and also a really great, example for Steinitz' more general theory of how to handle the light pieces.

I loved playing through this game the first time, and realizing how Steinitz, like a clockwork, seemingly without effort, collected one positional advantage after the other, while at the same time preventing his opponent to have any. I'm more or less doing games in chronological order, and this indeed was my first game of truly post-Romantic, positionally grounded chess, and as I'm not the biggest fan of flashy Romantic play, it was very satisfying to witness some decent chess. (I'll have to check out Hannah vs Paulsen, 1862, which apparently was won using the same method, and as that game was played at Steinitz' international debut, I'll bet my dead grandmothers that he studied it very closely and that game indeed inspired him.)

Steinitz' opening is amazingly postmodern; he essentially plays a Pirc. I like the Pirc; Stockfish doesn't -- but tellingly, for each of Steinitz' moves Stockfish sees as dubious (<3...g6?!>, <6...Nge7?!>, annd <7...d6?!>), White's typically old-school responses are equally dubious. So, Steinitz' opening was actually spot on for his time and situation, and after <9.f4?!> (D) the position is pretty equal -- yep, that good ole trusty Romantic KB4 again; trusty, but only to ruin your position.

click for larger view

Sure, White's center does *look* impressive, but after <10.Bd3?> (<10.Be2>), Steinitz begins to systematically deconstruct it, beginning with a perfectly timed <10...d5!>. He is helped a bit by further inaccuracies by Rosenthal -- understandably, as he was completely unprepared for Steinitz' groundbreaking and new positional insight. <15.Bxc4?!> needlessly gives up the bishop pair, and <16.Qf2?!> finally (instead of <16.Qb3!>) allows <16...c5!>, which completes the first phase of the game -- winning the center.

Feb-08-23  generror: Steinitz goes on to neutralize the white counterplay. <16...b6> takes care of the bishop (shouldn't have played KB4, dude, I told ya!), and while Rosenthal does his best, <20...f6> and <21...h5> do the same for his knight.

(I initially thought <20...f6> was a mistake, but I realized that, while this move does reduce the black DSB to purely defensive duties, this was more than offset by completely neutralizing the white knight. But this is mainly why this isn't the best example for the Power of the Bishop Pair.)

In a similar vein, <23.f5> was seen as mistake by all commenters, seeing the f-pawn as weak; but Stockfish, that old iconoclast, proves that 1) White actually can defend it, and 2) it is essential to stop Black's kingside phalanx.

The real mistake is actually <24.Rad1?>, and it's only now that Steinitz gets a definitive advantage. What was required instead was <24.h4!>, and now White would have completes immobilizing Black's kingside pawns, would been able to defend the f-pawn via the sweet <Nh1-g3> manoeuvre, and would have given its pieces some activity (Black is forced to play <...g4>).

<h4> is also the reason why Steinitz' <25...Rd5?> actually is a big mistake; after <26.h4! g4 27.Bf4 Rxd1 28.Rxd1 Re8 29.Qd3 Bf8 30.c4 Bc6 31.b3> (D), Black's advantage -- if any -- is only very slight.

click for larger view

But as both players miss that crucial move, <27...Qxf5> converts Steinitz' its positional advantage into a material one, and the game now enters the final phase: converting the material advantage into a win.

Feb-08-23  generror: Here Rosenthal, probably out of frustration and desperation, helps Steinitz greatly with the ungrounded and pointless aggression of <28.Qc7?> where, once again, <28.h4> would have been best, although it now wouldn't have saved White.

Chernev calls the perfectly fine <31.Bc1> "deplorable" and recommends the absurd line <31.Re1?! Rxe3?? 32.Rxe3?? Qb1+> instead.

Oh boy.

First, <31.Re1?!> actually just loses a pawn after <31...Qc2>.

Second, <31...Rxe3??> actually blunders the *win* because <32.Qd8+! Re8 (32...Kh7? 33.Rxe3 ±) 33.Rxe8+ Bxe8 34.Qxe8+ Bf8 35.Qxh5> (D) results in a dead, dead draw.

click for larger view

And third, <32.Rxe3??> blunders that draw and loses.

Stockfish has proven many annotations to be not really accurate, but Chernev's line is truly deplorable :)

No, actually, Rosenthal's play deserves big respect, he really held up well to Steinitz' new chess. He does lose a second pawn after <33.Qxa2>, and now both Réti and Tartakower end the score by simply stating that Black won (Chernev says that White resigned, but he isn't the most trustworthy source), so I'm not sure if move 34 onwards (which are only given by Pachman) were actually played.

If so, he did eventually and much belatedly play <36.h4>, but followed it with two gross patzers, first blundering a pawn and then a piece. I feel that Réti and Tartakower were just too much a gentleman to give this continuation, while Chernev just took the shortened score and added the resignation bit by himself. (I do like his books, but I found he doesn't care much for historical accuracy.)

Whatever, this was yet another fascinating game that is not just historically important, but also extremely instructive, at least to a patzer like me. Pachman is right in saying that "Steinitz' task was made easy by weak moves"; but this was the first time the "new", rational Steinitzian chess was applied in practice, and I don't think any other old-school player of its time would have fared much better. Plus, the mistakes make the game only more instructive.

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