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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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  An Englishman: Good Evening: And here it is! I think this is the ultimate upset in chess history, even if it was a simul. Not only does MacCutcheon defeat the longest-reigning World Champion, not only does he crush the champ, but the chess world is so impressed they named the opening after him.
Nov-05-04  Griffin: The famous Lindsay opening, know it well.
Sep-30-05  who: A recurring theme in Steinitz's games. All the pieces back on the first rank. Every time I see that happen I root against Steinitz. It just seems wrong to win if after ten moves you have a Fischerrandom setup. This time the guy I rooted for won. Woohoo.
Dec-20-05  misguidedaggression: <Griffin>I thought It was called the John Defence!?
Feb-09-06  blingice: <who> What do you mean? All of Steinitz's pieces go out and stay out until move 24 when two pieces go back to protect the ♔. After 10 moves, Steinitz was actually better developed:

click for larger view

Black has a better pawn controlled center, but Steinitz still has MORE pieces developed. Interestingly, no pieces are on the fourth rank and there is a nearly open g-file availiable to black.

Feb-09-06  who: I was refering to games like this. In this case though I do mean after move 25 where all white's pieces are back.
Dec-09-06  ColonelCrockett: 14.c4 seems the bad move that sends steinitz down the wrong path. He opens the d-file and makes black's rooks strong. I think instead 14.Nbd4 keeps the position tight and will eventually allow an opening of the c-file that is to white's benefit. it is understandable that steinitz could faulter in this way during a simul.
Dec-09-06  ColonelCrockett: 17.b4 look interesting
Oct-07-07  RookFile: MacCutheon's bishops operated with tremendous power, in concer with the g8 rook, on white's king position.
Oct-05-09  jonico: What u think about 14.Nd6+?
Mar-05-13  Garech: The kind of game, story, dream that all club players have sitting down to take on a GM world champion at a simul.

There's a great quote from the poet Walt Whitman; contemplating the meaning of life, and what you will, which finishes with the concluding thought:

"...Answer./That you are here--that life exists and identity,/That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse..."

This game was John Lindsay McCutcheon's contribution to humanity; the beautiful verse of his fifteen minutes.

Here's to us all making our own contributions and discovering our individual short-lived fame.


Mar-06-13  cro777: At some point in the 1870's, John Lindsay McCutcheon (1857 – 1905), a lawer from Pittsburgh and a strong amateur player, started analyzing the position reached after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5, which was a commonly played variation of the French Defense at the time, and conceived the aggressive and double-edged counter-pin of White's queen's knight 4 ... Bb4.

<The kind of game, story, dream that all club players have sitting down to take on a GM world champion at a simul.>

McCutcheon played this line against Wilhelm Steinitz in a simultaneous display in New York in 1885 and defeated the World Champion in such convincing style that the variation has since then been named after him.

Mar-06-13  thomastonk: <cro777: At some point in the 1870's ...> Do you have a reliable source for this date?
Mar-06-13  cro777: <thomastonk> During the third Chessgames Team Game (Team White vs Team Black, French Defense: McCutcheon Variation) I investigated the origin of the variation. I had a reliable source, but I can't remember at the moment. Maybe later.
Mar-06-13  RookFile: I guess McCutcheon decided that one good pin deserves another.
Mar-06-13  parisattack: John Lutes in his book on the Mc says the trunk game was played in Germany, 1872, between Johannes Minckwitz and Samuel Mieses
Mar-06-13  cro777: Hartwig Cassel and Herman Helms in the American Chess Bulletin (vol. II, 1905) include a portrait of McCutcheon and remark:

"John Lindsay McCutcheon, whose name is attached to a well-known variation in the French Defense, is a Pittsburgh lawyer of means, an expert at and both lover and patron of chess, universally recognized as a prince of good fellows." McCutcheon was in his 40s when he died.

W. John Lutes in his book "French Defense: McCutcheon Variation" (Chess Enterprises, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, 1991) provides a historical introduction, not only to the McCutcheon Variation, but to the French Defence as a whole.

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.

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