ON Tuesday 28 September a blue plaque will be unveiled in honour of Howard Staunton at 117 Lansdowne Road, London W11 at 11.30 a.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. The blue plaque has been sanc- tioned by English Heritage but has come about as a result of the efforts of the Staunton Society, founded in 1993 by Barry Martin, the official match artist for the Short—Kasparov World Championship match, and Brian Clivaz, formerly of Simpson's-in-the-Strand (where Staunton played chess) and now of Home House, the new London club.
Staunton was a great chess player and a polymath, whose pursuits included publish- ing and editing an edition of Shakespeare's works, a treatise on the public-school sys- tem in England and, in the realm of chess, overthrowing the European masters St Amant, Horwitz and Harrwitz to become the recognised champion of his day. As is well known, the Staunton pattern pieces, in use for all major tournaments and competi- tions, were christened in his honour. This week I give two samples of his prowess against practitioners of European stature.
Staunton–St Amant, game 8: Paris 1843; Sicilian Defence 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 The Sicilian Defence was popular in the mid-19th century, but black players often handled it eccen- trically by modern standards. Common mistakes were to weaken the dark squares in the black position or to try premature counter-attacks based on . f5. 5 N13 This retreat is too passive. We now know that 5 Nc3 or 5 Nb5 are more to the point. 5 ... Bc5 6 Bd3 Nge7 7 Nc3 a6 8 0-0 Ng6 9 Khl f6 Up to here, Black's play can hardly be criticised, but this weakening move is utterly unnecessary. After the alternatives 9 ... Qc7 or 9
b5, Black's position would be quite impressive.
10 Nel At first sight this appears to be an ano- dyne retreat, much in line with his fifth move. In fact, though, appearances are deceptive and Staunton now plans the crude but effective manoeuvre f4, to be followed by Rf3 — h3 and then Qh5, with the intention of dynamiting his way through Black's kingside fortress. It is noticeable that this kind of neolithic attack is common and effective in modern chess, even with an extra 150 years of defensive experience. 10 —0-0 11 f4 Nce7 Over the next few moves, Black defends in unwieldy fashion, and his pieces start to fall over each other in a clumsy attempt at defence. 12 Rf3 d6 13 Rh3 f5 14 exf5 NxfS 15 Qh5 This blunt attack forces Black's next rather pitiful flight with his king for if 15 ...Bd7 16 Qxh7+ Kf7 17 Rh6 Nxh6 18 Bxg6+ Ke7 19 Qxg7+ Nf7 20 f5 with a winning attack. 15 ...Kf7 16 Nf3 Rh8 17 g4 Nfe7 18 f5 With a couple of vig- orous thrusts White has forced a decisive materi- al gain 18 ...exf5 19 gxf5 Kf8
The swiftest execution would now have been 20 Bg5 Ne5 21 Nxe5 dxe5 22 f6, but Staunton's more materialistic approach is quite enough to win. Indeed, Black's position is so desperate, that he could easily have spared himself the remaining moves. 20 fxg6 Bxh3 21 Qxh3 Qc8 22 Qh4 Qe6 23 Ng5 Qe5 24 Bf4 Nf5 25 Bxe5 Nxh4 26 Rfl+ Ke8 27 Bxg7 Kd7 28 Bxh8 Rxh8 29 Rf7+ Kc6 30 Be4+ d5 31 Bxd5 + Kd6 32 g7 Re8 33 Rfl Bd4 34 g8Q Rxg8 35 BxgS h6 36 Nge4+ Black resigns Staunton–Horwitz: London 1846; Philidor's Defence
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bel 6 Bet 0-0 7 f4 c5 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 0-0 Bg4 10 Be3 a6 Black's opening, although seemingly passive, might generate some counterplay against White's centre. Black seems to be steering for the advance ... b5 but, unaccountably, fails to carry this out. 11 a3 Bxf3 12 Bxf3 Rc8 13 Ne2 Qc7 14 Ng3 Rfe8 15 c3 Rcd8 16 Qc2 MS 17 Radi b6 18 b4 Na7 19 c4 cxb4 20 axb4 d5 Desperate for counterplay, Black overlooks a neat switch of fronts by the white queen. 21 Qf2 Nc8 The only move to avoid loss of material though Black might have been better advised to throw caution to the winds with 21 ... dxe4. After the text, White establishes a mighty pawn centre. 22 cxd5 Bxh4 23 e5 Nd7 24 d6 Qb8 25 Bch If now 25 Nxd6 White can win with 26 exd6 Rxe3 27 Qxe3 Bc5 28 Rd4 Nf6 29 Rfdl Rxd6 30 Nf5 Bxd4 31 Rxd4. 25 ... g6 26 Ne4 Re6 27 Qh4 Na7 28 Bxd7 Rxd7 29 Ng5 h5 30 Nxe6 fxe6 31 15 This move contains a nasty sideways swipe from the white queen against Black's exposed bishop and, therefore, guarantees even further material gains. 31 ... a5 32 fxe6 Rg7 33 e7 Black resigns To join the Staunton Society, contact Barry Martin, 98 Cole Park Road, Twickenham TW1 1JA. Apart from being instrumental in organising the blue plaque, the Staunton Society has also been the driving force behind refurbishing Staunton's grave at London's Kensal Green cemetery and in organising regular lectures and dinners in Staunton's honour.