In this lesson we're going to introduce you to some of the greatest players in the history of chess.

But, more than that, we're going to give you the chance to see if you can play as well as them.

Step on board!

André Philidor (1726-95) was the greatest player of the 18th century, and the author of perhaps the most influential chess book ever written.

Although chess as we know it has been played since about 1475 it was Philidor who first made chess really popular, and was the first to explain chess STRATEGY.


When he wasn't playing chess he was a composer of operas and other music, some of which is still played today.

In this position Philidor, playing White, gave his opponent a Rook start. He must act fast before Black gets his King into safety. What move should be play?

The winning move is a SACRIFICE: Re1xe7+. Well done if you got it right!

Now Black can avoid mate with Ke8-f8, but after Qd1-d6 he's still losing.

Instead Black took the Rook and the game finished 18.Qd1-d6+ Ke7-e8 19.Qd6xc6+ Ke8-e7 20.Bc7-d6+ Ke7-d8 21.Qc6-c7+ Kd8-e8 22.Qc7-e7#

As a result of Philidor's book chess became very popular in both England and France.

In 1834 the leading French player Louis de la Bourdonnais (1795-1840), travelled to London to play a series of matches against Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835), the best player in England.

The Frenchman (seen in the picture) came out on top, winning it total 45 games, drawing 13 and losing 27.

In this position Bourdonnais' Queen is under attack. What should he do about it?

The answer is that he should ignore the threat and play f6-f7+ - a DISCOVERED CHECK.

Whether Black takes the Queen or moves his Rook back to g7 White's reply is the same:

f7-f8=Q+ followed by Rf2xf8#.

It's always nice to lose two queens in two moves - and still win!!

In 1843 another match was held between the top players of England and France.

This time Howard Staunton (1810-74) and Pierre Saint-Amant (1800-72) were the contestants.

The Englishman, Staunton, came out ahead and was considered the best player in the world.

The design of the chess pieces we use today is called 'Staunton Pattern' and was designed for Staunton by a man called Nathaniel Cook. So every time you play chess you should be thinking of Howard Staunton.

Tell me, how did Staunton, playing Black, score a quick win in this position?

An easy question for you that time.

After the forced Rf1xg1, Nh3-f2 is a neat CHECKMATE.

I hope you found it!

In 1851 Howard Staunton organized the world's first international chess tournament in London.

Players from all over Europe came to take part.

The winner was Adolf Anderssen (1818-79), a German mathematics teacher, who went on to play some of the most brilliant games of all time.

There's an example coming up now.

It's White to play - this is the hardest question you've had so far this lesson, so see how far you can look ahead!

Well, the first move is a QUEEN SACRIFICE - Qh6xh7+ and Black has to take. Now what?

White's second move is f5-f6+ a DISCOVERED CHECK and also a BISHOP SACRIFICE. Now if Qd6xd3 White plays Rg3-h3+ followed by Rh3-h8#. So Black played Kh7-g8 instead. It's your move again.

Now everything becomes clear.

White needs to gain time so SACRIFICES the Bishop again - Bd3xh7+.

Black now has no choice: he has to take. And then White's Rook will deliver CHECKMATE on h8 in two moves' time.

Quite a difficult combination - did you find all the moves?

In 1858 a brilliant young American player called Paul Morphy (1837-84) travelled to England.

He scored crushing victories over Anderssen and many of the other European masters and was hailed as the strongest player in the world.

But when he returned to America he gave up serious chess.

Even now Morphy is considered one of the most brilliant chess players of all time.

In this position Morphy scored a quick victory. Can you do as well? It's White's move.

The first move, Rd1xd7+ is not too hard. Clearly, if Nf6xd7 then Qa4xd7 is CHECKMATE. So Black tried Kd8-c8 instead. It's your move again.

The winning move is another QUEEN SACRIFICE - Qa4-c6+ - and if b7xc6 then Bc4-a6 is a rather neat CHECKMATE.

If you come across any games played by Paul Morphy, they're always well worth playing through.

He was the first player who really understood the principle of rapid development, as well as someone who won many games with stunning attacks.

Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) was the first official World Chess Champion.

He was born in Prague but moved to London as a young man, and, later still, to America.

By about 1872 he was clearly the strongest player in the world.

In 1883 he finished second to a man called Johannes Zukertort in a tournament in London. As a result of this, the two men played a match for the World Championship in 1886, in which Steinitz was successful.

How did Steinitz, White, finish off his opponent from this position?

The first move is a ROOK SACRIFICE - Rf3-f8+. Black takes back with the Bishop, and it's your turn again.

Not so hard, I think. Another DISCOVERED CHECK - leading to another TWO BISHOP checkmate.

As a young man Steinitz was famous for his attacking play, but as he grew older he became a renownded defensive player.

He also developed many ideas of POSITIONAL PLAY - notably the idea of accumulating small advantages.

In 1894 a young German player, Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) travelled to America to challenge Steinitz successfully for the World Chess Championship.

Lasker remained at the top of world chess for 30 years, although on a couple of occasions he gave up chess for a few years to work on other activities.

Most experts consider Emanual Lasker one of the greatest players of all time.

In this position Lasker found a brilliant way for White to win quickly. Can you do as well? The first move may not be too easy to spot.

If you found the first move you're doing really well! Re1-e7 boldly places the Rook where it can be taken by either the Queen or the Bishop. If the Bishop takes the White Queen mates on h7, so Black took with the Queen instead. Now what?

The problem with taking with the Queen was that the Bishop's defense of f8 was cut off. The Black Queen is now OVERWORKED so White can SACRIFICE a second Rook with Rf1-f8+, and, when Black takes, he can play Qh6xh7#.

Lasker excelled at all aspects of the game. He was perhaps the first player to play psychologically, playing the sort of moves his opponents would like least.

In the second decade of the 20th century a young Cuban player, José Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) took the chess world by storm.

His challenge for the World Championship was delayed due to the First World War, but when he finally played a match against Lasker, in 1921, he won easily.

Capablanca had White in this position. Any idea how he dealt with the attack on his Queen?

DOUBLE CHECKS are often very strong, and here Nf7xh6+ destroys Black's position. DOUBLE CHECKS always force a King move, and Black only has one: Kg8-h8. Over to you.

It shouldn't have been too hard to find this QUEEN SACRIFICE. Black has to take the Queen with his Knight when Nh6-f7 is CHECKMATE.

Capablanca was, at his best, almost unbeatable. During a period of ten years, between 1914 and 1924, he lost only one game.

Capablanca was famous for his positional skills and endgame play. If you want to learn how to play ENDINGS well start off by studying Capablanca's endings.

Capablanca only remained World Champion for six years. In 1927 he was unexpectedly beaten by Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946), a Russian then living in France.

Alekhine, who is Garry Kasparov's chess hero, was famous for his brilliant attacks and sacrifices. His books in which he discussed his best games are still read today.

The move Alekhine (White) came up with in this position is truly amazing. It won't be easy for you to find it.

Alekhine played the extraordinary Qd6-g6, threatening mate on g7. Now if h7xg6 the Rook mates on h3, and if Rf8-g8 White's quickest win is Qg6xh7+ (another QUEEN SACRIFICE) so Black tried f7xg6. It's your move.

Correct (I hope) - Alekhine now SACRIFICED a Knight - Ne7xg6+ - to force open the h-file and allow the Rook to mate. A remarkable combination - did you find it?

If you enjoy watching brilliant attacking chess like this, take a look at some of Alekhine's games, and perhaps you'll learn to play as well as he did.

Alekhine himself suffered an unexpected defeat at the hands of Dutchman Max Euwe (1901-81) in 1935, but regained his title in a return match two years later, and was still World Champion when he died in 1946.

Euwe was - unlike the other 20th Century World Champions, an amateur chess player, like Adolf Anderssen a mathematics teacher.

Can you work how Euwe, Black, forced his opponent to resign in this position?

The winning move was Rc8-c1, threatening mate on f1. In fact Black resigned here, but, for an easy final question in this lesson, tell me what Euwe had in mind if White had taken the Rook.

A gift point to finish with, I think. Black has DECOYED the White Rook to the other side of the board, so that Qd8-d1 is CHECK and White will have to take.

Max Euwe was also a prolific author of chess books and later became President of the International Chess Federation.


You have now completed the CHESS HISTORY (1) assignment.