Mortality, that which determines how long we breathe the polluted air of this planet, is something everybody faces, and we do so in our individual ways. Omar Khayyam (well, Edward Fitzgerald, if you want to be pernickety) described it better than most, and even used a chess metaphor to do so:
When we depart for that Great Chess Board in the Sky most of us will be remembered, again in Omar's words, for about as long as snow survives "upon the desert's dusty face." Unless, of course, we leave something for posterity – something that will live on and intrigue people after we've gone.
Like a great chess game!
Let's take a look at some of the games that have survived the years and have perpetuated players' names. These well-known games are all brevities.
This game is just about as immortal as you can get—it has survived since 1560. In the swashbuckling days of the King's Gambit this was perpetrated on Giovanni Leonardo by chess pioneer Ruy Lopez. Of course few modern players, even at club level, would have allowed such a combination and Signor Leonardo doesn't appear to have been very experienced. CLICK HERE
This one is almost modern by contrast. Played 235 years later it was still in the eighteenth century. J.Wilson also had a liking for the King's Gambit but, unfortunately for him, George Atwood knew how to defend. CLICK HERE
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité was the catch-cry of the La Révolution. More in keeping with the spirit of this game, perhaps, would have been Madame Defarge knitting while the heads rolled. In this 1802 French piece Napoleon I lured Madame de Remusat's king out to d5 before Madame La Guillotine ended hostilities. CLICK HERE
Armand Blackmar had a quick win against a Mr. Farrar in this 1826 game—so quick, indeed, that he would have been justified in charging for a chess lesson. CLICK HERE
Two of the big names duked it out in this 1834 stoush. It's unusual for a player as good as Louis De Labourdonnais to be so badly outplayed in a tactical battle. Alexander McDonnell had the white pieces. CLICK HERE
In any collection of brevities there should always be room for the name, Morphy. So it is here, but this game, played in 1840 was won not by Paul but by Ernest Morphy playing the luckless Mr Ford. I doubt if Ernie's more famous namesake could have played a better game. CLICK HERE
Daniel Harrwitz inflicted this 17 move drubbing on the great Adolf Anderssen in 1848. CLICK HERE
Will the real Paul Morphy take a bow? In 1849, while Edward Hargraves was discovering gold at Bathurst, one Eugene Rousseau may have wished he had gone with him instead of staying in New Orleans to be crushed by Morphy. CLICK HERE
So there are eight games that have stood the test of time, and eight players who have been immortalised as a result.
Hang on. Eight games times two players – that's sixteen players who have been immortalised. Eight winners and eight losers. Obviously you don't need to be the conqueror in such a game to have your name endure. You could be remembered for centuries as a loser. If you succeed in accomplishing such a feat chess players yet unborn could examine your game, shake their heads, and think, "What a patzer!"
And thanks to the wonder of the Internet, we all have the opportunity to publish our games and leave them for those future generations.
Virtual immortality! It's a wonderful thing.
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