Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (19)

11/20/2007 – A further selection from Chess Notes focuses on games and positions. Why is it claimed that Rubinstein played an ending that repeated a nineteenth century composition? Did Chigorin remove one of his own pieces from the board in an endgame against Tarrasch? And what about the game which Fahrni purportedly won by moving his remaining pawn backwards? Join in the hunt for clues.

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Unsolved Chess Mysteries (19)

By Edward Winter

‘Won by Rubinstein’

In C.N. 3214 John Donaldson (Berkeley, CA, USA) asked about the position below, which was published with the heading ‘Won by Rubinstein’ on page 32 of Chess Combinations and Traps by V. Ssosin (Middletown, 1936):

White is said to have won with 1 Rh3+ gxh3 2 Kf3 g4+ 3 Kf4 g3 4 hxg3 mate.

Michael McDowell (Westcliff-on-sea, England) responded in C.N. 3222 by drawing attention to the following position by J. Márquez in Ruy López, March 1897:


Mate in four

Mr McDowell commented that the problem is number 75B in A.C. White’s book The White Rooks (Stroud, 1910). When did Rubinstein’s name first become attached to a position with the same manoeuvre?


Alekhine v Rubinstein

John Donaldson discussed another Rubinstein matter in C.N. 3607:

‘Simon Constam of Hamilton, Canada raises a very interesting question. Page 12 of The Grünfeld Defence by William Hartston (London, 1971) gives the sequence 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 e4 Nxc3 6 bxc3 c5 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 Be2 O-O 9 O-O b6 10 Be3 Bb7 11 e5 cxd4 12 cxd4 Na6 13 Qa4 Nc7, with the better game for Black, Rubinstein-Alekhine, 1924. I have seen no source on either Rubinstein or Alekhine that gives this game and could find no encounter in MegaDatabase 2005 that reached the position after 13...Nc7.’

We had mentioned this matter in C.N. 917, in the context of the strange reference ‘Rubinstein-Alekhine, match 1924’ on page 99 of Batsford Chess Openings (London, 1982). What more can be discovered?

The photograph above shows Alekhine at the board with Rubinstein (watched by Tartakower, Bogoljubow and Maróczy). It is taken from Tartakower’s book Die Hypermoderne Schachpartie, published in the mid-1920s, and the credit reads ‘Friedmann, Wien’. Can a better copy of the picture be found?


Chigorin v Tarrasch

This was the final position in a game between Chigorin and Tarrasch in the Vienna tournament on 22 July 1898. C.N. 3379 quoted from page 68 of Chess Panorama by W. Lombardy and D. Daniels (Radnor, 1975):

‘Chigorin got fed up and offered a draw. Tarrasch refused. Chigorin knew Tarrasch well, and was half expecting that; he calmly removed his bishop from the board and said, in broken German, “Go ahead. Win.” Tarrasch proceeded to reappraise the position in the light of this startling development, and then tamely agreed to a draw.’

Is this story corroborated by a contemporary source?


Krogius position

C.N. 3069 gave a position from page 129 of Chernev and Reinfeld’s The Fireside Book of Chess (New York, 1949):

The co-authors specified no opponent or occasion, merely stating that Krogius won by 1...Rxc3 2 g8(Q) Nd2+ 3 Ka1 Rc1+ 4 Rxc1 b2+ 5 Ka2 bxc1(N)+ 6 Kxa3 Nc4 mate, and they called it ‘one of the loveliest mates produced in actual play’.

We asked for further details, and Vesa Määttä (Oulu, Finland) reported in C.N. 3088 that Eero E. Böök gave the position on page 72 of the 2/1978 issue of Suomen Shakki, describing it as from a casual game in Helsinki in January 1932 between Yrjö Verho (‘an artist, later professor’) and A.R. Krogius (1903-1980). The latter was well known in Finnish chess circles during the 1920s and 1930s and won the national championship in 1932. (We are aware of no connection between him and Nikolai Krogius.) A 1930s source for the Verho v Krogius game is, together with the complete score, still being sought.


Endgame study

In C.N. 2086 Richard Forster (Zurich) gave the following position, which had appeared in Informator 49 with annotations by Nikolai Krogius:


‘Belik-Igonin, USSR, 1990’

It was stated by the Informator that White won with 1 Nb4 c4+ 2 Ka3 d3 3 Bxc4 bxc4 4 Na2+ Kd1 5 Nc3+ Kc1 6 Ka2 d2 7 Ka1 d1(Q) 8 Na2 mate. Following information provided by John Roycroft (London) C.N. 2107 was able to report that the position was a mirror image of a study by V. Pachman(n) published on page 72 of the April-May 1935 issue of Československý Šach:

What more is known about the alleged 1990 game between Belik and Igonin?


Buckle or Buckley?

C.N. 3249 asked whether the game 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Nc3 e5 4 Bc4 Nc6 5 d3 Nge7 6 Bg5 Bg4 7 Nd5 Nd4 8 Nxe5 Bxd1 9 Nf6+ gxf6 10 Bxf7 mate was played by H.T. Buckle (in 1840) or by R.J. Buckley (many decades later). For example, it was ascribed to Buckley on pages 35-36 of Social Chess by James Mason (London, 1900). Does any reader know when the apparent confusion between the names Buckle and Buckley arose?


Pawn-ending dupery

What is the provenance of the familiar anecdote about a master who, in a lost pawn ending, scored a trick win by moving his remaining pawn backwards?

C.N. 4967 presented this passage from page 350 of Schach-Echo, 23 November 1961:

We mentioned too an account in English on page 59 of the March 1962 Chess Life:

How much further back can the Fahrni story be traced?

Submit information or suggestions on chess mysteries


Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then around 5,000 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989).

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center.


Articles by Edward Winter

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (1)
    14.02.2007 – Since Chess Notes began, over 25 years ago, hundreds of mysteries and puzzles have been discussed, with many of them being settled satisfactorily, often thanks to readers. Some matters, though, have remained stubbornly unsolvable – at least so far – and a selection of these is presented here. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (2)
    12.03.2007 – We bring you a further selection of intriguing chess mysteries from Chess Notes, including the origins of the Marshall Gambit, a game ascribed to both Steinitz and Pillsbury and the bizarre affair of an alleged blunder by Capablanca in Chess Fundamentals. Once again our readers are invited to join the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (3)
    27.03.2007 – Recently-discovered photographs from one of Alekhine’s last tournaments, in Spain in 1945, are proving baffling. Do they show that a 15-move brilliancy commonly attributed to Alekhine is spurious? And do they disprove claims that another of his opponents was an 11-year-old boy? Chess Notes investigates, and once again our readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (4)
    10.04.2007 – What would have happened if the score of the 1927 Capablanca v Alekhine match had reached 5-5? Would the contest have been declared drawn? The affair has been examined in depth in Chess Notes. Here chess historian Edward Winter sifts and summarizes the key evidence. There is also the strange case of a fake photograph of the two masters. Join the investigation.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (5)
    30.04.2007 – We bring you a further selection of mysteries from Edward Winter’s Chess Notes, including an alleged game by Stalin, some unexplained words attributed to Morphy, a chess magazine of which no copy can be found, a US champion whose complete name is uncertain, and another champion who has vanished without trace. Our readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (6)
    19.05.2007 – A further miscellany of mysteries from Chess Notes is presented by the chess historian Edward Winter. They include an alleged tournament game in which Black was mated at move three, the unclear circumstances of a master’s suicide, a chess figure who was apparently unaware of his year of birth, the book allegedly found beside Alekhine’s body in 1946, and the chess notes of the poet Rupert Brooke. Join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (7)
    02.06.2007 – The chess historian Edward Winter presents another selection of mysteries from Chess Notes. They include an alleged game by Albert Einstein, the origin of the Trompowsky Opening, the termination of the 1984-85 world championship match, and the Marshall brilliancy which supposedly prompted a shower of gold coins. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (8)
    In this further selection from Chess Notes historian Edward Winter examines some unauthenticated quotes, the Breyer Defence to the Ruy López, the origins of the Dragon Variation, the contradictory evidence about a nineteenth century brilliancy, and the alleged 1,000-board exhibition by an unknown player. Can our readers help to solve these new chess mysteries?

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (9)
    Why did Reuben Fine withdraw from the 1948 world championship? Did Capablanca lose an 11-move game to Mary Bain? Was Staunton criticized by Morphy for playing ‘some devilish bad games’? Did Alekhine play Najdorf blindfold? Was Tartakower a parachutist? These and other mysteries from Chess Notes are discussed by Edward Winter. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (10)
    15.07.2007 – Did Tsar Nicholas II award the ‘grandmaster’ title to the five finalists of St Petersburg, 1914? What connection exists between the Morphy family and Murphy beer? Can the full score of one of Pillsbury’s most famous brilliancies be found? Did a 1940s game repeat a position composed 1,000 years previously? Edward Winter, the Editor of Chess Notes, presents new mysteries for us to solve.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (11)
    01.08.2007 – Did Alekhine attempt suicide in 1922? Why is 1 b4 often called the Hunt Opening? What are the origins of the chess proverb about the gnat and the elephant? Who was the unidentified figure wrongly labelled Capablanca by a chess magazine? Does Gone with the Wind include music composed by a chess theoretician? These and other mysteries from Chess Notes are discussed by the historian Edward Winter. Readers are invited to join the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (12)
    12.08.2007 – This new selection from Chess Notes focuses on José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942). The chess historian Edward Winter, who wrote a book about the Cuban genius in the 1980s (published by McFarland), discusses a miscellany of unresolved matters about him, including games, quotes, stories and photographs. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (13)
    26.08.2007 – In a 1937 game did Alekhine play two moves in succession? Can the full score of a Nimzowitsch brilliancy be found? Who was Colonel Moreau? Why was it claimed that Morphy killed himself? Who were the first masters to be filmed? What happened in the famous Ed. Lasker v Thomas game? Is a portrait of the young Philidor genuine? From Chess Notes comes a new selection of mysteries to solve.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (14)
    The latest selection from Chess Notes consists of ten positions, including fragments from games ascribed to Capablanca and Nimzowitsch. Was an alleged Bernstein victory a composition? What is known about a position in which Black resigned despite having an immediate win? Can more be discovered about the classic Fahrni pawn ending? Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (15)
    Chess books repackaged as camouflage in Nazi Germany. Numerous contradictions regarding a four-move game. The chess encyclopaedia that never was. Quotes strangely attributed to Spielmann and Capablanca. These and other mysteries are discussed in the latest selection from Chess Notes. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (16)
    Did Lasker invent a tank? Why did Mieses complain to FIDE about Bogoljubow? What merchandising carried Flohr’s name? Who coined the term ‘grandmaster draw’? What did Hans Frank write about Alekhine? Did Tom Thumb play chess? These are just some of the questions discussed in the latest selection from Chess Notes. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (17)
    This further selection from Chess Notes examines some gross examples of fraud and plagiarism in chess literature. A number of books, for instance, have been published in Canada and India under the names of Brian Drew, Frank Eagan, Thomas E. Kean and Philip Robar, but did any of those individuals even exist? Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (18)
    An apparent missed mate in one at the 1936 Munich Olympiad; an enigma regarding two Fox brilliancies; the origins of the Swiss System; an untraceable painting of Staunton; the strange case of the prodigy Birdie Reeve. These and other mysteries are discussed in a further selection from Chess Notes. Readers are invited to join in the hunt for clues.

  • Edward Winter presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (19)
    18.11.2007 – A further selection from Chess Notes focuses on games and positions. Why is it claimed that Rubinstein played an ending that repeated a nineteenth-century composition? Did Chigorin remove one of his own pieces from the board in an endgame against Tarrasch? And what about the game which Fahrni purportedly won by moving his remaining pawn backwards? Join in the hunt for clues.

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