Karl Ernst Adolf Anderssen was born on the 6th of July 1818 in Breslau now known as Wrocław, Poland. He lived here for the majority of his life with his widowed mother and spinster sister. At the age of 9, Anderssen was taught how to play chess by his father. He learned his strategy from William Lewis’ book, Fifty Games between Labourdonnais and McDonnell.
His Rise to the Top of Chess
Anderssen had an extreme passion for chess. He even published his own book of 60 chess problems in 1942. This publication brought him considerable fame in the chess world. Anderssen stated that his career was teaching mathematics, but his passion and hobby was chess.
In 1846 he became the editor of a chess magazine, Schachzeitung der Berliner Schachgesellschaft, after its owner had died. He remained the editor until 1865.
After drawing a match (5 wins, 5 losses) to Daniel Harrwitz, a professional player, Anderssen was invited to play in the 1851 London International Tournament, the first of its kind. He was hesistant to enter due to the travel costs. However, the tournament organizer, Howard Staunton, offered to pay the travel costs himself if Anderssen failed to win a prize. Anderssen accepted and the rest is history.
Preparation was key for Anderssen. He played over 100 matches in early 1851 against top players. When it came to the tournament, he beat all his competitors including Staunton! This win earned him the title of unofficial world champion.
Opportunities to compete in tournaments were scarce for Anderssen due to the travel costs. In 1858, he played against Paul Morphy. Morphy was considered one of the world’s best players. They competed in Paris. The outcome was a loss for Anderssen. He won two games, drew one and lossed seven. Anderssen was solidly defeated. However, in 1859, Morphy announced his retirement from professional chess with the intention of focusing on his law career. As a result, Anderssen retained the title of the world’s strongest active player.
Anderssen won the London 1862 chess tournament winning 12 out of 13 games, thus confirming his place at the top of the chess world.
In 1866, Anderssen narrowly lost a match against Wilhelm Steinitz. Anderssen won 6, lost 8, drew 0. Many see this as the point where Steinitz surpassed Anderssen as the world’s best active player.
After these losses to Morphy and Steinitz, Anderssen put effort in to studying endgames and posotional play. The result was that Anderssen was playing some of his finest chess in his fifties. He won the Baden-Baden 1870 chess tournament, considered to be one of the top 20 strongest chess tournaments of all time.
His dominance came to an end in 1871, but he continued to compete in high profile tournaments for a few years until his death in 1879.
The Immortal Game
On 21 June 1851, Anderssen played a game against Lionel Kieseritzky which would go down in the history books as one of the greatest games of all time. It was played during a break at the 1851 London International Tournament. The game is unique in the way Anderssen went about sacrificing his main pieces in order to checkmate his opponent.
Anderssen lost his bishop, both rooks and then his queen. In comparison, Kieseritzky only lost three pawns. However Anderssen produced checkmate and won the game.
After the game, Kieseritzky telegraphed the moves to the Parisian chess club as he was so impressed. Soon after, the game was published in the chess magazine La Régence and was termed, “The Immortal Game” because it would be talked about forever.
The Evergreen Game
The Evergreen Game is another one of the most famous chess games of all time. It was played in 1852 between Adolf Anderssen and Jean Dufresne. It is well known for Anderssen’s brilliant 19th move, 19.Rad1. The game received it’s name through an annotation by fellow chess player Wilhelm Steinitz after Anderssen’s death. Of the 19th move, he wrote, “An evergreen in the laurel crown of the departed chess hero“.
In the 1858 match against Morphy, Anderssen opened with a3 in three of the games. He won one, drew one and lost the other. From there on, the move was called Anderssen’s Opening and is unpopular with modern chess players.
On March 13, 1879, Anderssen suffered a heart-attack and died in his hometown. He received tributes from fellow chess greats and from the Deutsche Schachzeitung. His grave was damaged during the WW2 bomb raids, however, in 1957, he was re-buried.