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1844 Romantic Game
Every Move Explained


This game was played in 1844 at Warsaw, Poland between Alexander Hoffmann and Alexander Dimitrovich Petrov [Petroff]. The game score and some of the notes are from Soviet Chess by Nikolai Grekov (translated by Theodore Reich) and published in 1949. Grekov wrote,

Petrov (1794-1867) was the outstanding Russian player of his day. Gaining this supremacy in his teens, he held it for more than fifty years. After he moved to Warsaw in 1840, he devoted less time to chess; yet, when occasion offered, he met his challengers and confirmed his position as our best chessplayer.

How good a player was he? It is hard to tell. Few of his games have come down to us, for Petrov rarely recorded them. During his years in Warsaw, Petroff had few opponents. One of these was the teacher, A. D. Hoffmann, with whom, in the course of twenty years, he played some 200 games. [This game is from the series.] Petrov held them in high regard, comparing them to the match games between Labourdonnais and McDonnell.

In 1824, Petrov wrote one of the first Russian chess manuals.

The mid-19th century was the great romantic period of chess and this game is an example of the romantic style. Players sacrificed pieces for the sake of introducing tactical complications and took little notice of positional considerations like Pawn structure.

Next move: 1.e4 • For more about White's first move, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Initial Position.


The move 1.e4 was the overwhelming favorite of the romantic period. It threatens an immediate 2.d4, giving White a powerful center with space to develop the pieces.

Next move: 1...e5 • For more about Black's responses to 1.e4, see our tutorial Chess Openings - King's Pawn Openings.


The move 1...e5 was the overwhelming favorite as a response to 1.e4 in the romantic period. It counters White's intentions in the center and hinders d2-d4.

Next move: 2.Nf3 • For more about White's responses to 1...e5, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Open Game.


The move 2.Nf3 develops the Queen's Knight to its natural square. On that square it attacks Black's Pawn on e5 and provides support for d2-d4.

A favorite move of the romantic period was 2.f4, the Kings Gambit.

Next move: 2...Nc6 • For more about Black's responses to 2.Nf3, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Open Game 2.Nf3.


The move 2...Nc6 develops the King's Knight to its natural square. It also defends the Pawn on e5 which is attacked by the White Knight on f3.

Next move: 3.Bc4 • For more about White's responses to 2...Nc6, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Open Game 2.Nf3 Nc6


The move 3.Bc4 develops the Bishop to one of its two best squares. During the romantic period, the move was favored over 3.Bb5, which is the more popular move today. The romantics liked attacking moves, and 3.Bc4 attacks Black's weak point on f7.

White has developed the Kingside as rapidly as possible and is now ready to castle Kingside (O-O).

Next move: 3...Bc5 • For more about Black's responses to 3.Bc4, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Italian Game


The move 3...Bc5 develops the Bishop to its best square, where it eyes White's weak point on f2. A favorite of the romantics, today it is somewhat less popular than 3...Nf6, but considerably more popular than 3...Be7, The Hungarian Defense.

Next move: 4.c3 • For more about White's responses to 3...Bc5, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Giuoco Piano.


The move 4.c3 prepares d2-d4. If ...exd4, then White will be able to recapture c3xd4, maintaining a Pawn on d4. The move 4.c3 has the temporary disadvantage of preventing the Queen's Knight from developing to its best square, but White expects to carry out the plan of exchanging on d4 in a few moves, freeing the c3-square for the Knight.

Next move: 4...Nf6


With 4...Nf6, Black shifts the attention from d4 to e4, attacking White's e-Pawn. White would normally defend with Nb1-c3 or Nb1-d2, but both of these moves are impossible, because White Pawns are sitting on both squares.

Next move: 5.d4


Rather than defend the e-Pawn, White continues with the plan 5.d4, establishing a Pawn on d4. Although the Pawn on d4 is attacked by three pieces (Pawn on e5, Bishop on c5, Knight on c6), it is also defended by three pieces, and is thus adequately protected.

White's fifth move also attacks the Pawn on e5 a second time. Since the move d4xe5 is now a strong threat, Black must react.

Next move: 5...exd4


Black eliminates the threat against the e5-Pawn in the most direct way, by exchanging it on d4.

Next move: 6.e5


White removes the e-Pawn from danger and attacks Black's Knight. The move is now considered unusual.

More usual is 6.cxd4. After 6...Bb4+, White will be forced to respond to the check, which will give Black the time to capture the e-Pawn by ...Nxe4. Although it may look like White will have simply lost a Pawn, White has compensation in a space advantage and play against Black's uncoordinated pieces. As is sometimes said during the post-mortem analysis, that would be another game.

Black has several alternatives on the next move. One idea is 6...d5, when Black counters the attack on the Knight by attacking the White Bishop (7.exf6 dxc4). White could also play 7.Bb5 or 7.b4.

Another possibility is 6...Ng4. White could play the obvious 7.cxd4, or the less obvious 7.Bxf7+, leading to the forced variation 7...Kxf7 8.Ng5+ Ke8 9.Qxg4, and now 9...Nxe5 10.Qe4 Qe7 11.O-O keeps the game tactically complicated.

Next move: 6...Ne4


With the move 6...Ne4, which removes the Knight from the attack of the e-Pawn, the game is starting to become complicated. From its new square, the Knight attacks f2, which is also under pressure from the Bishop on c5.

Now White could play 7.cxd4 Bb4+, followed by something like 8.Bd2 Bxd2+ 9.Nbxd2 d5 10.Bd3 f5. White chose another path.

Next move: 7.Bd5


White played 7.Bd5, attacking the Knight on e4, preventing Black from consolidating the center with ...d5, and inviting the following tactical complications.

A possibility next move is 7...f5 8.cxd4 Bb4+.

Next move: 7...Nxf2


With 7...Nxf2, Black forks the Queen and Rook. White has an adequate reply and will not lose either piece. It will be clear in a few moves that Black's move is really a sacrifice of the Knight for three Pawns.

Next move: 8.Kxf2


The move 8.Kxf2 is forced, else White loses the Queen or the Rook, which are forked. A count of the pieces on the board establishes that White has one more Knight than Black, while Black has two more pawns than White. Since a Knight is worth three Pawns, hasn't Black lost material somewhere?

Next move: 8...dxc3+


With the discovered check 8...dxc3+, Black recovers the third Pawn to establish material equality. White must now move the King to escape the check. Which square is best?

Next move: 9.Kg3


Of the four squares available to the King, White chooses the square that least interferes with the future development of the Rook on h1. The White King might look exposed on g3, but Black has no immediate way to attack it.

Next move: 9...cxb2


The obvious capture 9...cxb2 establishes rough material equality of three Pawns for the sacrificed Knight. Since Black's move forks the Rook and Bishop, threatening to promote the b2-Pawn to a Queen, White's next move is forced.

Next move: 10.Bxb2


Any White move other than 10.Bxb2 is suicide.

This is the first position in several moves where the best move has not been obvious. Black undoubtedly thought for some time here, considering the mutual advantages and disadvantages, and deciding how to continue.

The first point to notice is the tactical threat 11.Bxf7+ Kxf7 12.Qd5+, when the White Queen forks the Black King and Bishop. This would give White an advantage in material and prevent Black from castling into safety.

A normal reaction to this threat would be 10...O-O, which many players would play instinctively. A closer look at the resulting position shows that the Black King on g8 is exposed to pressure by the White Bishops on adjacent a2-g8 and a1-h8 diagonals. Black would have trouble preparing the development of the Queen's Bishop by ...d6, because White could respond e5xd6, opening the a1-h8 diagonal for the dark squared Bishop.

Another problem with ...O-O is that White gets easy pressure against the Pawn on h7. The Queen can attack it once by Qd1-c2, gaining time by attacking the Bishop on c5, and a second attack follows with Nb1-c3-e4-g5 (or Nf3-g5). Black can always defend with ...g6 or ...h6, but both moves allow White to continue h2-h4, bringing the h-Pawn and the Rook into the attack. It should also be noted that the Black point g6 is not as solid as it appears, because the protecting Pawn on f7 is pinned by the Bishop.

In all of these considerations, White is attacking. Black might have thought, 'Since the White King is exposed on g3, shouldn't I be the player attacking?', and rejected the defensive ...O-O.

Next move: 10...Ne7


Black's move 10...Ne7 performs two important functions. First, it eliminates the threat of 11.Bxf7+ by taking the d5-square away from the White Queen. Second, it threatens to start checking the White King with ...Nf5, when the King is prevented from moving to f2 by the Bishop on c5.

Next move: 11.Ng5


White attacks Black's weak square on f7. Although 11.Ng5 looks good at first, it has a flaw and merits a '?'. The tactical point that White has in mind will be refuted by a stronger tactical blow from Black.

11.Bxf7+ would have been a more obvious mistake. After 11...Kxf7, how does White continue?

The right move was 11.Qc2, keeping the Knight off f5 and attacking the Bishop on c5. A logical continuation would then be 11...d6 12.Be4 Ng6 when the game is still a fight.

Next move: 11...Nxd5


With 11...Nxd5, Black steers into the surprising idea that will refute White's continuation. If this resource had not been available, Black might have continued 11...Nf5+ 12.Kf4 Be3+ 13.Kxf5 Qxg5+ 14.Ke4, with plenty of play against White's centralized King. This shows why Kings are not supposed to advance into the game too early.

Next move: 12.Nxf7


After 12.Nxf7, forking the Black Queen and Rook, White expects 12...Kxf7 13.Qxd5+ Ke8 14.Qxc5, recovering the piece with an acceptable game.

The move played is similar to Black's 7...Nxf2, when White captured the invading Knight. On the 12th move, the position is significantly different, and Black is not forced to capture.

Another resource available to Black is 12...Qe7. This works because the Knight is trapped on f7 after 13.Qxd5 Rf8. If then 14.Rf1 Rxf7 15.Qxf7+ Qxf7 16.Rxf7 Kxf7, Black wins with the two extra Pawns. After 12...Qe7, the move 13.Nxh8 fails to 13...Qg5+ 14.Qg4 Bf2+ 15.Kxf2 Qxg4.

Next move: 12...O-O


Black plays the surprising 12...O-O, saving the Rook and sacrificing the Queen instead. Note that Black could castle even though the Rook was under attack before the move. If White declines to take the Queen, playing 13.Qxd5 instead, then 13...Rxf7 14.Qxc5 Qg5+ 15.Kh3 d6+ leads to checkmate.

Next move: 13.Nxd8


White has no choice but to take the Queen with 13.Nxd8. All other moves lead to immediate loss of the Knight on f7.

After White's 13th move, we can take stock of the material balance. In addition to the two Rooks and three minor pieces on each side, White has an extra Queen. If Black recaptures the Knight by 13...Rxd8, White plays 14.Qxd5+ followed by 15.Qxc5+, with an easy win. Understanding this position requires more than counting up the pieces on both sides.

  • First, the Black King that looked so safe after 9.Kg3, is now menaced by a Black Rook, Bishop, and Knight. The other Bishop on c8 will join the attack after ...d6.

  • Second, the White pieces are not in a position to support their King. The two Rooks are sitting on their original squares, while the Bishop on b2 and Knight on b1 are far away from the Kingside. That makes four pieces out of play. The defense is left to the Queen and to the Knight on d8.

Black's compensation for the missing Queen is the combined activity of the Black forces against the White Queen. World Champion Emanuel Lasker, in his 'Manual of Chess', called this The Advantage of an Attack against an Unprotected King: 'If the King is exposed to continual checks and cannot find protection behind its own pieces, it is hopelessly lost.'

Next move: 13...Bf2+


Black starts the final attack by bringing one Bishop into the area near the King, forcing it onto a square where it will be attacked by the other Bishop. In addition to checking the King, 13...Bf2+ also takes the square h4 away from the monarch. The Black Rook on f8 not only protects the Bishop, it also prevents the White King from crossing the f-file to seek safety elsewhere.

After 13...Bf2+, White has only two legal moves. Since 14.Kg4 walks into a forced mate after 14...Rf4+, White's next move is forced.

Next move: 14.Kh3


The move 14.Kh3 is forced if White wants to avoid an immediate checkmate. The White King is now exposed to discovered check by the Bishop on c8, but hopes to block the check with g2-g4.

Black now has two ways to continue the attack: 14...d6+, discovering check, or 14...Nf4+, giving direct check. The sequence 14...Nf4+ 15.Kg4 (forced) allows the White King to escape immediate mate by crossing the f-file, so Black chooses the other move. Both moves should, however, win.

Next move: 14...d6+


After Black plays the discovered check 14...d6+, White is once again faced with the problem how to avoid immediate mate. For example, 15.g4 loses to 15...Nf4#. After 15.Qg4, Black should not capture the Queen, but should play the same 15...Nf4#.

Of White's four legal moves, only one allows further resistance.

Next move: 15.e6


With 15.e6, White blocks the discovered check with the e-Pawn. Black would like to play 15...Bxe6+, but the Pawn is protected by the Knight which plays an active role for the first time since capturing the Queen on d8. How does Black continue the attack?

Next move: 15...Nf4+


It turns out that 15...Nf4+, forking the King and e-Pawn, is the only move to continue attacking. After the further ...Nxe6, the deadly diagonal for Black's light squared Bishop will reopen.

Next move: 16.Kg4


The move 16.Kg4, the only move that gets out of check, is forced.

Next move: 16...Nxe6


Once again, Black has only one move to continue the attack: 16...Nxe6. The move is strong not because it captures the Pawn, which is an unimportant detail; it is strong because it clears the diagonal for the second Bishop to participate in the attack.

The move 16...Nxe6 does double duty by extending the scope of the Rook on the f-file, thereby preventing the King from escaping via f3. If that isn't enough, it also creates a new mate threat: 17...Rf4+ 18.Kh5 Rh4#.

Behind the position in the diagram lies a small problem often seen in the records old chess games. Different sources give different continuations. Our Grekov source gives the finish as 17.g3 Nd4+ and mates on the 23rd move. This is nice enough, but a little work shows that 17...Nxd8+ checkmates even faster.

The White King is trapped in a mating net. There are different defenses, and there are different ways of continuing the attack, but all lines lead eventually to checkmate.

Next move: 17.Nxe6


Other sources give 17.Nxe6 as the game continuation. We'll use that move here, because it leads to mate by the shortest path.

Next move: 17...Bxe6+


After 17...Bxe6+, the combined action of the Rook and two Bishops leaves few squares for the White king. White's entire army of five pieces continue to sleep at their posts, unable to defend their King.

Now both 18.Kh5 and the game continuation lead to the same result.

Next move: 18.Kg5


The White King has only two squares available to move : g5 and h5. All of the squares adjacent to those two squares are attacked by Black pieces.

For the purpose of study, it is often useful in hopeless positions (like the one shown in the diagram) to work out what might happen if the weak side were moving. For example, what would the result be if White were moving in the diagram? Would 19.Qd3 h6+ 20.Kh5 Rf5+ 21.Qxf5 Bxf5 22.g3 (or 22.g4) save the game?

Next move: 18...Rf5+


With 18...Rf5+, the Rook attacks the two squares remaining to the Queen, but releases the attack on g4, which is no longer covered by the Bishop. This is the fastest way to checkmate.

Next move: 19.Kg4


The move 19.Kg4 is forced. Black now has two ways to mate in two moves. Can you find them?

Next move: 19...h5+


After 19...h5+, Black can announce mate in one move. The other move to force mate in one was 19...Re5+

Next move: 20.Kh3


White's move is forced.

Next move: 20...Rf3#


The move 20...Rf3 is checkmate. Some people would write this move 20...Rf3++#, where '++' means double check and '#' means checkmate.

Black won: 0-1

For all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series, see
Improve Your Game.