Saturday, June 9, 2007

Prolixity


In his book of the London 1851 International Tournament, which of course was a knockout event, Howard Staunton had this to say about the second-round combatants Elijah Williams and James Mucklow:

"In some respects these players were well paired, not for equality of force, indeed, Mr Williams being by far the stronger, but because each, in his degree, exhibits the same want of depth and inventive power in his combinations, and the same tiresome prolixity in manoeuvring his men. It need hardly be said that the games, from first to last, are remarkable only for their unvarying and unexampled dullness."

A typically biting assessment from the self-styled leader of English chess, but is it an accurate one? I think not. Have a look at the fourth match game:

Mucklow,J - Williams,E [C02]
London knockout London (2.4), 1851

1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Qb6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.0-0 cxd4 8.Nxd4 c5 9.Nb3 f6 10.Re1 f5 11.a4 a5 12.c3 Rb8 13.N3d2 Nh6 14.h3 Nf7 15.Nf3 Be7 16.Na3 Bd7 17.Nc2
(diagram)
17...g5 18.Ne3 h5 19.Kf1 g4 20.hxg4 hxg4 21.Ng1 Bc8 22.g3 Ba6+ 23.Kg2 d4 24.cxd4 cxd4 25.Nc2 d3 26.Ne3 Qc6+ 27.f3 Nxe5 28.Nxf5 Nxf3 29.Nxf3 gxf3+ 0-1

I think any modern master would have been quite satisfied with Black's play in this game.

Staunton's disdain toward Williams is perhaps best explained by the final tournament standings: 1. Adolf Anderssen 2. Marmaduke Wyvill 3. Elijah Williams 4. Howard Staunton.

1 comment:

Ryan Emmett said...

I'm sure you're right to say that Staunton's derision for Williams' style of play was driven by the result of the tournament! :)

I had to look up 'prolixity'! In many respects I would say Staunton was the Nigel Short of his day!

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.