Remembering the Wine-Dark Sea

It snowed from the north/
rime bound the fields/
hail fell on earth/
the coldest of seeds – Anonymous, 9th century

But nowadays when we read this there is an added poetry. There is the poetry of a nameless Saxon having written those lines by the North Sea—in Northumberland, I think; and of those lines coming to us so straightforward, so plain, and so pathetic through the centuries. – Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse.

After reading this, I considered how the rolling on of years impacts our creations. We all know that refined masterpieces can be stricken with bathos in their twilight. What about those chess games whose luster suddenly seizes hold, years after the fact? As we grow, and not to say shrink as older minds do in pivotal ways, we experience different forms of understanding; the world looks very different when we’re moving away from it. Very old games feature a world of color, but you need the right instrumentation to see them, a spectroscope. Shut your Shredder, hide your Houdini, and remove your Rybka. Schlecter and Marshall, Paris, 1900.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 {Here we have the Albin Countergambit
tabiya. Modern theory favors Nbd2 but g3 has always been another favorite. If
black isn’t careful the g2 bishop can become simply absurd.} 5. g3 {I’m
surprised Marshall didn’t play 5…f6 here. It’s a true gambit and suits his
style. White’s queenside pawn strike strikes with force though.} Bc5 {I like
this move. Marshall chooses simple development. He will work on the e-pawn
while developing naturally.} 6. a3 a5 {Cannot allow b4 from white} 7. Bg2 Nge7
8. Nbd2 Bg4 {Indirectly pins the d2 knight. White’s pawn on e5 can’t be held
unless the knights continually support one another.} 9. O-O O-O 10. h3 Bxf3 11.
Nxf3 Ng6 {The position is rather balanced. It’s difficult for black to know
whether to open the game or not. He’s being pulled in two different directions.
This opening is for the resolute!} 12. e6 {The pawn was dead. White gets
something for it.} fxe6 13. Ng5 Re8 14. Qb3 Ra6 15. Qb5 a4 16. Bd2 d3 {Black
has been planning to use the lever since the opening.} 17. Qxc5 dxe2 18. Bc3
exf1=Q+ 19. Rxf1 Nce5 20. f4 Nd7 21. Qe3 Nf6 22. Qf3 {Every great chess game
passes through the = point.} Rd6 23. f5 exf5 24. Qxf5 c6 25. Ne4 Rde6 {The
pawn isn’t really free. Can you see the thematic idea for black?} 26. Bxf6 gxf6
27. Nxf6+ Rxf6 28. Qxf6 Qxf6 29. Rxf6 Re2 30. Rf2 Re3 31. Rf3 Re1+ 32. Rf1 Re2
33. Rf2 Re3 34. Rf3 Re1+ 35. Rf1 Re2 36. Rf2 1/2-1/2



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