14 July 2019

Gifford -- Ter Haar 1873

This game came to my attention during a search for examples of smother mate. In early July, I put together a worksheet for my students that featured smother checkmate threats, some of which could be prevented. Some of the source games offered additional interest.

The game was played in the first ever Dutch Championship, which was won after tiebreaks by Henry William Birkmyre Gifford. Little is known today about Gifford, although ChessBase has 39 of his games in their database. Even less is known about his opponent whose only games in the database are from this event.

Gifford,HWB -- Ter Haar,TC [B01]
DCA Congress 1st The Hague (1), 1873

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 d5

Rare move

More common is 3...exd4 4.Nxd4 then several branches.

4.exd5 Qxd5 5.c4 Qe4+ 6.Be3

6.Be2 seems sensible to me.


The pinned bishop is attacked.

White to move


This game is the only one with this move. 7.Nxd4 was necessary.

7...Qe7 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.0-0 Ne6 10.Nc3

Black to move

Does White have compensation for the  knight? His pieces are better placed and Black's king is in the center, but it is not so easy to mount an attack. Still, one gets the sense from the game as it subsequently developed that Gifford foresaw this position and estimated the loss of the knight to be a worthwhile sacrifice to bring it about.

10...c6 11.Re1 Bd7 12.Bf4 Nf6 13.Bg3 g6 14.f4 Bg7

White to move


Gifford surely saw 15.f5 Qc5+ 16.Kh1 gxf5.

15...Nh5 16.Ne4 Nxg3+ 17.Nxg3 0-0-0

The g-file will open.

White to move

18.f5 gxf5 19.Nxf5 Qf6 20.Nd6+ Kb8 21.Rf1 Nf4

21...Qe7 22.Nxf7

22.c5 Qg5 23.Qd2

Black to move

The pinned knight is attacked.


23...Qxg2+ 24.Qxg2 Nxg2 25.Kxg2 Rdf8;
23...Ne6 24.Qb4 Bc8


Black is fine even yet.


24...Ka8? 25.Qb4 Rb8 26.Be4 Qh5;
24...Be5 25.Qe3 Bd4 26.Qf3

White to move

This position was on my worksheet.

25.Ne8+ Ka8

Black can delay checkmate two moves longer with 25...Be5 26.Qxe5+ Qd6 27.Qxd6+ Ka8 28.Nc7+ Kb8 29.Na6+ Ka8 30.Qb8+ Rxb8 31.Nc7#.

26.Nc7+ Kb8 27.Na6+ Ka8 28.Qb8+ Rxb8 29.Nc7# 1-0

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