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Wilhelm Steinitz vs John McCutcheon
Simul, 25b (1885) (exhibition), Manhattan CC, New York, NY USA, Nov-26
French Defense: McCutcheon Variation (C12)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Mar-06-13  cro777: "The true basis for the discovery of the McCutcheon Variation of the French Defense .... goes far beyond the simple moves employed on the chess board." (John Lutes)
Mar-06-13  thomastonk: <cro777> Thank you. I have done a lot of research recently on the man and his variation, but I haven't found a reference for this early date.

<parisattack> Thank you. I know Lutes' book as you know (see W John Lutes). The game is J Minckwitz vs S Mieses, 1872: it is a Winawer, and after a few moves a position is reached, which could also result from a McCutcheon. It was Rolf Schwarz in 1967 who presented it as an early McCutcheon, but it isn't a stem game of 4.. ♗b4.

<cro777, parisattack> Lutes is one of the authors who suggests that McCutcheon applied the line already "as early as the 1870s" (see p 53).

Mar-06-13  thomastonk: <cro777> Thank you again. But these quotes do not establish that McCutcheon tried his line already in the 1870s, or do they?
Mar-06-13  cro777: <thomastonk> Of course, but that was not my intention. These quotes offer some additional information. Thanks for the feedback.
Mar-06-13  thomastonk: <cro777> It wasn't my itention to criticize you or these sources. My interest is focused only to this early date, which is (to my knowledge at least) not confirmed by any contemporary source or, say, a later statement by McCutcheon himself.
Mar-06-13  parisattack: There is 'J.L.MacCutcheon: A Note' in Hardings French: MacCutcheon and Advance Lines. Interesting reading but doesn't add much to the issue at hand.

I don't remember seeing anything at all in Eades book regarding origins of the line.

Mar-06-13  cro777: <thomastonk> I understand your doubt regarding these claims. Lutes gives as his evidence, supporting an early 1870s use of the variation, a comment by Tartakover and Dumont in the book "500 Master Games of Chess" (first published 1952), but they did offer no citation to back their claim.
Mar-07-13  thomastonk: <parisattack> I have copies of Harding's and Eade's books as well, and I agree.

<cro777> Thank you again. I didn't had an opportunity to consult this book, but I knew I have to. Once I have seen it as a reference for the wrong claim that the line has been first played in the Anglo-American cable matches (it was the man who played). This wrong claim was first published in "Deutsche Schachzeitung" and "Wiener Schachzeitung" in the late 1890s. These journals are typical Tartakower sources, I think, but they are no primary sources for American Chess 20 years earlier.

Mar-07-13  cro777: <thomastonk> More I think about it I'm beginning to believe that Tartakower's comment might be the primary source (not evidence) of that claim.
Mar-07-13  thomastonk: <cro777> A simple clarification: "primary source" is a technical term used in historical research to describe original material. Information for which the writer has no personal knowledge is not "primary", but instead "secondary". So, for the origins of the McCutcheon line, Tartakower is a secondary source in this sense, and the DSZ and the WSZ, too.

Would it be possible for you to quote Tartakower's and Dumont's text here. That would be very much appreciated.

Mar-07-13  cro777: <thomastonk> Regrettably I don't have the book. Thanks for the clarification of technical terms. It seems to me that Tartakower's comment inspired other authors. I used the term "primary" in that sense.
Mar-07-13  parisattack: Tart writes in 500 to the above game -

"This counter-pin, which disdains the adverse threat of 5. P-K5, and seeks to transfer the weight of the battle to White;s QB3 is a good example of Black fighting for the initiative.

"The idea was conceived by McCutcheon in the early 'seventies and since then the greatest masters have failed to prove it unsound."

Mar-07-13  thomastonk: <parisattack: "The idea was conceived by McCutcheon in the early 'seventies ..."> Thanks a lot! I admit to be surprised: not only the seventies, but even the early seventies. I am speechless.
Mar-07-13  cro777: I was also amazed by the fact that McCutheon was 15 years old at that time.
Mar-07-13  thomastonk: <cro777> If you look at my post from Jan-28-13 at John Lindsay McCutcheon 's page, you will see that even an earlier date is possible.
Mar-07-13  cro777: <thomastonk: The "Philadelphia Evening Bulletin" from November 15, 1867 presents a Kieseritsky Gambit played in New York between Mr. Delmar and Mr. McCutcheon. This could be an early game of Eugene Delmar, but probably the second player is another McCutcheon. Does anybody have any additional information?>

Interesting. According to Neil Brennen (McCutcheon: The Man and His Moves), when and where McCutcheon learned chess is unknown.

Mar-07-13  thomastonk: <cro777> I know Brennen's article, too. But let me talk about this game from 1867. Imagine for a moment that Delmar's opponent is a 10 year old boy from Pittsburgh, who plays in New York. And - I did not mention this in the earlier post - this boy wins the game in style and he even announces a mate in 4. Then, I am sure, the fact that a prodigy won this game would have been known. But instead the winner is simply called "Mr. McCutcheon".
Mar-07-13  cro777: <thomastonk> According to <Wild Bill> it was Mr. Mkrtchian. (Just kidding)

<Wild Bill: MacCutcheon was actually Armenian. His real name was John Lindsay Mkrtchian.>

Mar-07-13  parisattack: <thomastonk: <parisattack: "The idea was conceived by McCutcheon in the early 'seventies ..."> Thanks a lot! I admit to be surprised: not only the seventies, but even the early seventies. I am speechless.>

Tartakower was known more for his writing being interesting than accurate. :)

It is often difficult to find or even decide on a trunk or stem game for a variation. Criteria vary. If it is the first reasonably well known player to use it then (for example) the Sveshnikov Sicilian would be the Larsen Sicilian as he played it against Olafsson in 1958.

But based on this game I am comfortable that this is indeed the McCutcheon variation.

Mar-08-13  thomastonk: <parisattack> I have read a lot Tartakower ("Die Hypermoderne Schachpartie", "Glanzpartien 1905-1930" and many of his articles in WSZ), and fortunately he doesn't wrote like a historian. My impression on his inaccurancies was always that he new the details, but he didn't want to bore the reader mentioning all the details. This case seems to be different.

I don't consider this early date as a stem game problem, because I expect that an earlier game would be mentioned anyway.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <thomastonk: The "Philadelphia Evening Bulletin" from November 15, 1867 presents a Kieseritsky Gambit played in New York between Mr. Delmar and Mr. McCutcheon. This could be an early game of Eugene Delmar, but probably the second player is another McCutcheon. Does anybody have any additional information?>

E. McCutcheon of New York?

Sep-05-13  thomastonk: <jnpope> Thank you for the hint and also for your great work at!

Meanwhile I know that the "Mr McCutcheon" from 1867 is not J.L.McCutcheon, which was my main interest back then. I have no proof that "Mr McCutcheon" is E.McCutcheon, but I have found at least half a dozen games of the latter against strong opponents, all played between 1871 and 1874.

E.McCutcheon appears also here:, but so far haven't seen why van Winsen claims that E.McCutcheon played the Clipper tournament and no other McCutcheon.

If anybody is interested in chess-playing McCutcheons, then please feel free to drop me a note in my forum (or send an email).

Dec-19-19  SymphonicKnight: 13.Bxf5! would have been an amazing move, as Stockfish indicates, because IF 13...exf5? then 14.Nxd5!!, which is very instructive in these types of French positions. No matter where the Q moves, the N will either pick up the exchange, the Q, or pin the B with a R, winning the B.

Instead, 13.Nb5? allows black to equalize.

The way that MacCutcheon, finding the best moves (except for Ka7), then outplays Steinitz is fascinating.

Jan-08-22  Z truth 000000001: OK, I briefly read the thread above, and there is some legit concern about the sourcing of this game, and the possibility of two McCutcheon's overlapping...

Too bad <thomastonk> isn't active anymore, but here's some potentially useful info:

1. This game is sourced here:

<Brooklyn Chess Chronicle v4 (1886) G-356 p41>

Black is simply labelled McCutcheon, allowing for some ambiguity.

2. But on p34 the ambiguity is removed:

<- Mr. Steinitz gave an exhibition of simultaneous play on the 26th ult., at the rooms of the Manhattan Chess Club, encountering twenty-five opponents. The champion won 22, lost to <<Mr. McCutcheon, of the Pittsburgh Chess Club>>, and drew 2 with Messrs. Hanhain and Steinhardt.>

Jan-08-22  Z truth 000000001: (Of course, note should also be made that J.L. McCutcheon was the stronger player)
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