Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (67)

7/24/2011 – Few old game-scores of lightning chess (also known as rapid transit and blitz) have survived, but the Editor of Chess Notes presents a number of specimens, most of which were played at ten seconds per move and all of them before the 1930s. The masters featured include Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Capablanca, Janowsky, Kupchik, Marshall and Tartakower, and the play contains several brilliancies.

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Chess Explorations (67)

By Edward Winter

In C.N. 2231 the subject of games played at fast limits was raised by Vladislav Tkachiev (Moscow), who, incidentally, has recently launched the website WhyChess, which specializes in blitz chess.

Over the years we have been able to give a number of game-scores, although they are relatively scarce. The first position here is from the game Charles Curt v Hermann Helms, Brooklyn, 1909 in ‘a rapid transit tournament recently played at the Brooklyn Chess Club’:


Black to play

The game went 1…Kb1 2 Rb7+ Ka1 3 Rc7 Re3+ 4 Ka4 Kb2 5 Rb7+ Ka2 6 Rc7 Re4+ 7 Ka5 Kb3 8 Rb7+ Ka3 9 Rc7 Re5+ 10 Ka6 Kb3 11 Rb7+ Ka4 12 Rc7 Re6+ 13 Ka7 Rxe7 14 Rxe7 c1(Q) 15 Rb7 Qc5+ 16 Ka8 Qc6 17 Kb8 Ka5 (‘Here the queen should have been played away from the c-file, but even then the ending is difficult to win in ten-second chess.’) 18 Ra7+ and draws. (‘Drawn by perpetual check, because if 18…Kb6 19 Ra6+ and stalemate.’)

Source: Chess Weekly, 10 April 1909, pages 156-157.


Also in the game below a move had to be made every ten seconds:

H. Laboschin – N.N.
Berlin, 1912
Giuoco Piano

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3 Nxe4 8 O-O Nxc3 9 Re1+ Ne4 10 Rxe4+ Be7 11 d5 Nb8

12 d6 cxd6 13 Qxd6 b6 14 Bxf7+ Kxf7 15 Ng5+ Bxg5 16 Bxg5 Qxg5 17 Rf4+ Ke8 18 Re1+ Kd8 19 Rc1 Qg6 20 Rf8+ Rxf8 21 Qxf8+ Qe8 22 Rxc8+ Resigns.

Source: Deutsche Schachzeitung, July 1912, page 209.


A game played at 20 seconds per move:

Frank James Marshall – Dawid Janowsky
New York, 1918
Queen’s Pawn Game

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b6 3 Bg5 Bb7 4 Nbd2 d5 5 e3 e6 6 Bd3 Be7 7 O-O Ne4 8 Bxe7 Qxe7 9 Ne5 O-O 10 f3 Nxd2 11 Qxd2 c5 12 c3 Nd7 13 Nxd7 Qxd7 14 Rad1 Qe7 15 e4 Rad8 16 Qf2 cxd4 17 cxd4 Qf6 18 e5 Qh6 19 f4 f6 20 Qe2 f5 21 Ba6 Bxa6 22 Qxa6 Rf7 23 Rc1 g5 24 Rc8 Rxc8 25 Qxc8+ Rf8 26 fxg5 Qg6 27 Qd7 f4 28 Rc1

28...Qe4 29 Qxe6+ Kh8 30 Rf1 Qe3+ 31 Kh1 Qe2 32 Kg1 Qe3+ 33 Rf2 Qe1+ 34 Rf1 Qe3+ 35 Rf2 Qe1+ Drawn.

Source: American Chess Bulletin, April 1918, page 78.


Next, the ending to a quick game Alekhine v Tartakower, Carlsbad, 8 May 1923:

1 Ba7 Kc4 2 b6 Kc3 3 b7 d2 4 b8Q d1Q+ 5 Kg2 Qd5+ 6 Kg3 Kd3 7 Qb1+ Ke2 8 Qc2+ Bd2 9 Bc5 Kf1 10 h4 Qg2 mate.

Source: Wiener Schachzeitung, July 1923, pages 135-136.

In C.N. 2152 Richard Forster (Winterthur, Switzerland) added an analytical note:

‘The initial position is clearly drawn. White’s 8 Qc2+ isn’t the most accurate, but only 9 Bc5?? loses the game. 9 Qb2 and 9 Kh2 still draw.’


Krejcik v N.N. (occasion unknown):

1 Qc1+ Qb1+ 2 Kd2 c6 3 Kd1 c5 4 Kd2 c4

5 Ke2 c3 6 Kd1 c2+ 7 Kd2 Qxc1+ 8 Kxc1 stalemate.

Source: Wiener Schachzeitung, August 1924, page 231.


Another game played at ten seconds per move:

Efim Bogoljubow – Horst Leede
New York, 1924
French Defence

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Nxf6+ Nxf6 7 Ne5 Be7 8 Bd3 O-O 9 O-O c5 10 dxc5 Bxc5 11 Bg5 h6 12 Bh4 Be7 13 Qe2 Nd5

14 Qe4 f5 15 Bxe7 fxe4 16 Bxd8 exd3 17 Bh4 dxc2 18 Rac1 b6 19 Rxc2 Ba6 20 Re1 Rac8 21 Rd2 Rc7 22 Nf3 Bc8 23 h3 g5 24 Bg3 Nf4 25 Ne5 Rf5 26 Rd8+ Kg7 27 Bxf4 Rxf4 28 Rd6 Rf5 29 Ng4 Rd5 30 Rd1 Rxd6 31 Rxd6 Rc2 32 a3 Rxb2 33 Rc6 Ba6 34 Rc7+ Kg6 35 Rxa7 Be2 36 Ne5+ Kf5 37 Nc6

37...Kf6 38 Rh7 h5 39 Rh6+ Kf5 40 f3 Ra2 41 Kh1 Bf1 42 g3 Bg2+ 43 Kg1 Bxf3 44 Nd4+ Ke4 45 Nxe6 Rg2+ 46 Kf1 Rxg3 47 Rg6 Kf5 48 Rh6 Rxh3 49 Kf2 g4 50 Ng7+ Kf4 51 Rf6+ Kg5 52 Rxb6 Rh2+ 53 Kf1 g3 54 Rb5+ Kg6 55 White resigns.

Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 June 1924, page 4A.


The same time-limit applied in the next game.

William Albert Fairhurst – Edmund Spencer
Southport, 16 August 1924
Ruy López

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 O-O Nxe4 5 d4 Be7 6 Qe2 Nd6 7 Bxc6 bxc6 8 dxe5 Nb7 9 Nc3 O-O 10 Re1 Nc5 11 Nd4 Re8 12 Nf5 Bf8 13 Qg4 Kh8 14 Bg5 f6 15 exf6 Rxe1+ 16 Rxe1 gxf6

17 Re8 Resigns.

Sources: BCM, September 1924, page 356 and the Chess Amateur, February 1925, page 129.


Finally, we turn to Capablanca. Four specimens of speed chess are available, and the earliest comes from a tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club (20 seconds per move):

José Raúl Capablanca – Leonard B. Meyer
New York, 5 March 1908
Ruy López

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 d4 Nxe4 6 d5 Ne7 7 Nxe5 b5 8 Bb3 Bb7 9 d6 Nxd6 10 Qxd6

‘Meyer, who was Black, resigned here, overlooking the fact that he still had a fighting chance by playing 10...Nd5, intercepting the bishop and disclosing on the queen. In this case Capablanca either would have had to play 11 Qxd7+ and return the piece or exchange his queen for three pieces.’

Source: American Chess Bulletin, June 1908, page 117.


From a rapid-transit match (ten seconds per move):

José Raúl Capablanca – Jacob C. Rosenthal
New York, 31 March 1909
Ruy López

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 O-O Be7 5 d3 d6 6 Re1 O-O 7 Nbd2 Bg4 8 c3 Kh8 9 Nf1 Nh5 10 h3 Bxf3 11 Qxf3 Nf6 12 g4 a6 13 Ba4 b5 14 Bc2 d5 15 Ng3 dxe4 16 dxe4 Qc8 17 Nf5 Bc5

18 Nxg7 Kxg7 19 Bh6+ Kg6 20 g5 Nh5 21 Qf5+ Qxf5 22 exf5 mate.

Source: Chess Weekly, 10 April 1909, page 157.


Abraham Kupchik – José Raúl Capablanca
New York, 7 December 1918 (?)
Caro-Kann Defence

1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6 6 Nf3 Bd6 7 Bd3 O-O 8 O-O Nd7 9 c3 Re8 10 Qc2 Nf8 11 Bf5 Qc7 12 Be3 g6 13 Bxc8 Raxc8 14 Rfe1 Nd7 15 Re2 f5 16 Rae1 Nf6 17 Bc1 Rxe2 18 Rxe2 Qa5 19 a3 b5 20 Ne5 c5 21 Qd3 Ne4 22 Bh6 cxd4

23 f3 Bxe5 24 fxe4 dxc3 25 bxc3 Rxc3 26 Qd5 Qb6+ 27 Kf1 Qe6 28 Qd8+ Resigns.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, 29 June 1919.


Morris A. Schapiro – José Raúl Capablanca
New York, 11 March 1924

Queen’s Gambit Declined

1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 Nc3 c6 5 e3 Nbd7 6 Bd3 b6 7 O-O Bb7 8 e4 dxe4 9 Nxe4 c5 10 Qe2 cxd4 11 Nxd4 Bc5 12 Nb3 O-O 13 Bg5 Be7 14 Rad1 Nxe4 15 Bxe7 Qxe7 16 Bxe4 Bxe4 17 Qxe4 Nf6 18 Qh4 Rac8 19 Rd4 a5 20 Rfd1 a4 21 Nd2 e5 22 Rd3 Qb4 23 b3 axb3 24 axb3 Rfd8 25 Ne4 Rxd3

26 Nxf6+ gxf6 27 White resigns.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, 15 June 1924.

Further details (historical and bibliographical) about a number of the above games, as well as general information on the topic and additional games, are available in our article Fast Chess.


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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter


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, over 7,160 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). In 2011 a paperback edition was issued.

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. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.


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