Episode Eight: The Evergreen Game

Greetings and welcome to Master Chess Theatre. In today’s episode, we will look at a game that never gets old. In fact, our feature game is known as The Evergreen Game in reference to plants that remain fresh (green) as this game has since it was played in 1852.

Karl Ernst Adolf Anderssen was born in Breslau, Prussia in what would now be Poland in 1818. When Anderssen was nine years old, his father taught him how to play chess. As a boy, Adolf Anderssen learned advanced chess strategy from studying William Lewis’ chess book, Fifty Games Between Labourdonnais and McDonnell, which at the time were regarded as the greatest chess games ever played. Shortly afterwards, still during his youth, Adolf Anderssen’s father died and the young Anderssen pursued a career in mathematics and was able to earn enough teaching university math courses to support his widowed mother and unmarried sister.

Anderssen’s growth as a chess player was slower than other great players, largely because he couldn’t spare the time away from his math work to focus on chess. However, during his tenure as a professor, Adolf Anderssen did find time to publish chess articles which attracted the attention of the strongest chess players in Berlin, Germany. After impressing the players in Berlin with his creative attacking style, he was appointed as the editor of the first German chess magazine, Schachzeitung der Berliner Schachgesellschaft. Soon the humble mathematics professor was playing chess matches against the Baron von der Lasa, Daniel Harrwitz and other great chess masters of the time. This in turn, earned him an invitation to represent Germany at the first international chess tournament held in London in 1851. 

Adolf Anderssen worked diligently to prepare for the 1851 London International Tournament and the extra study and practice against first rate opponents had a dramatic effect of his ability. At the tournament, Anderssen triumphed over the best chess players in Europe and was awarded a large sum of money for his first place finish. With his newly earned wealth, Adolf Anderssen continued to dominate the chess scene for several years until Paul Morphy arrived. 

In December of 1858, Anderssen traveled to Paris to challenge Paul Morphy in match play. When Adolf Anderssen arrives, he was surprised to see that Paul Morphy was gravely ill. Paul Morphy was confined to his hotel room suffering from a severe case of influenza. The doctors were treating him with leeches and blood-letting which further weakened Morphy. At first, Anderssen wanted to call the match off but the gravely ill Morphy insisted that the match should take place. So, despite  Morphy being too weak to stand from his bed, the two strongest chess players in the world decided to play a chess match as this encounter would likely be their only opportunity to determine who was the best chess player in the world. No money was at stake, only honor. Adolf Anderssen outplayed the American early on but ended up losing the match by a score of 8-3. While most chess scholars, agree that Morphy was the stronger player, one has to wonder if the kind hearted Anderssen was able to play his best against an opponent whom he feared may die. Regardless, Morphy won the match, regained his health, returned to America and retired from chess so Adolf Andersen was again considered to be the strongest chess player alive until Wilhelm Steinitz defeated him in their famous 1866 match.

Jean Dufresne was a wealthy student of Adolf Anderssen who lived and died in Berlin, Germany. Dufresne who won notable victories over Carl Mayet and Daniel Harrwitz, authored Kleines Lehrbuch des Schachspiels which was the go to chess book for countless generations of German speaking chess students. However, arguably his most famous contribution to chess was an 1852 loss to his mentor Adolf Anderssen known as The Evergreen Game. 

To see the notes & notation for this game go to the blog post for:

My Favorite #Chess Games: The Evergreen Game

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