Chess Puzzle of the Week (135): Solution

It’s well known that Howard Staunton, possibly with good reasons, ducked out of a match with Paul Morphy. But they did meet in two consultation games, played in London on 28 June 1858.

This is the first of the games: Staunton and his partner, John Owen (who would die in Twickenham in 1901) had the white pieces against Morphy and his partner Thomas Wilson Barnes (who would die in 1874 as the result of dieting and losing 9 stone 4 pounds in 10 months: there’s a moral there somewhere).

It’s one of those typically chaotic 19th century affairs: all tactics and very little strategy.

Problemists might see it as a star flight puzzle, but with an extra try. If the black king wasn’t on g7, Qg7, threatening Qh6+, would win material. So king moves come to mind. As Kf7 doesn’t allow Qg7 (and loses to Bc4+ amongst other moves), there are four star flights to choose from.

23… Kf8 fails because of a possible knight check on e6, for example 24. Ba6 (Bc4 also wins) 24… Nxa6 25. Ne6+ as the bishop on c8 is now pinned.

23… Kf6 likewise fails, this time because of a possible knight check on e4, for example 24. Ra4, threatening Rxa7 as well as Ne4+, but Rxe3 also wins.

23… Kh6 defeats the object because we want that square for the queen, but still gives Black a slight advantage.

Morphy and Barnes found, as I hope you did, the winning move: 23… Kh8!

The game continued 24. Rd1 Kg7 25. Rh4 at which point the consultants had several winning moves, for example Qe7 and Ba6, but instead they played the natural 25… Bxh4? 26. Qxb8 Ba6, giving this week’s puzzle.

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