Duplication of Chess Games

Edward Winter

First, a quiz question: name the naturalized American who won the following famous game:

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 Bg4 4 dxe5 Bxf3 5 Qxf3 dxe5 6 Bc4 Nf6 7 Qb3 Qe7 8 Nc3 c6 9 Bg5 b5 10 Nxb5 cxb5 11 Bxb5+ Nbd7 12 O-O-O Rd8 13 Rxd7 Rxd7 14 Rd1 Qe6 15 Bxd7+ Nxd7 16 Qb8+ Nxb8 17 Rd8 mate.

The answer is not Paul Morphy (who was a native American) but Edward Lasker. The Morphy brilliancy against Count Isouard and the Duke of Brunswick was once repeated move for move by Lasker, as he reported on page 26 of the second edition of Chess Strategy:

‘The logical sequence of the moves in this game, as pointed out in the commentaries to it, is borne out by the curious coincidence that I once had the opportunity of playing a game in exactly the same sequence of moves, against a player to whom Morphy’s “brilliancy” was unknown.’

Identical chess games or themes do occur from time to time, and here we shall look at some of the less well-known cases of repetition – and fabrication.

An apparent case of chicanery [discussed in C.N. 1532] is to be found on page 240 of the December 1916 American Chess Bulletin, which published ‘the following brilliant Evans Gambit’, as submitted by the winner:

E.B. de la Campa – S.R. Farinas
Havana, 1916
Evans Gambit Accepted

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Ba5 6 d4 exd4 7 O-O dxc3 8 Ba3 d6 9 Qb3 Nh6 l0 Nxc3 Bxc3 11 Qxc3 O-O 12 Rad1 Ng4 13 h3 Nge5 14 Nxe5 Nxe5 15 Be2 f5 16 f4 Nc6 17 Bc4+ Kh8 18 Bb2 Qe7 19 Rde1 Rf6 20 exf5 Qf8 21 Re8 Qxe8 22 Qxf6 Qe7 23 Qxg7+ Qxg7 24 f6 Qxg2+ 25 Kxg2 Bxh3+ 26 Kxh3 h5 27 Rg1 Resigns. Times: White, 65 minutes; Black, 96 minutes.

The clock times add an air of authenticity, but the American Chess Bulletin was promptly informed that this was a Morphy game (see, for example, pages 204-206 of Löwenthal’s book on the American, or page 170 of Sergeant’s first monograph). The Bulletin (February 1917, page 39) commented dryly that Mr de la Campa ‘was duly apprised of the state of affairs and since then we have received from him two letters, in neither of which he admits any intention to perpetrate a fraud upon the chess public’. Morphy’s victory was in a blindfold game against P.E. Bonford at New Orleans in 1858. [See, for example, page 350 of the biography of Morphy by David Lawson.]

Page 92 of Hugh Myers’ remarkably detailed 1986 book on 1 e4 Nc6 points out that Saulson v Phillips, Chicago, 1907 and Hartlaub v Meyer, Cologne, 1916 both went:

1 e4 Nc6 2 d4 e5 3 d5 Nce7 4 f4 d6 5 Nf3 Bg4 6 Nc3 Ng6 7 h3 Bxf3 8 Bb5+ c6 9 dxc6 Bxd1 10 cxb7+ Ke7 11 Nd5+ Ke6 12 f5 mate.

Next an example of a duplicated odds game, which was published on page 197 of the May 1903 BCM, taken from an article by Chigorin in Novoe Vremya.

N.N. – I.A. Zybin
St Petersburg Handicap Tournament, 1903?

(Remove Black’s f-pawn.)

1 e4 Nc6 2 d4 e5 3 dxe5 Nxe5 4 f4 Nf7 5 Bc4 Ngh6 6 Qd4 Be7 7 Oxg7 d5 8 Bxd5 Bf6 9 White resigns.

Thirteen years later the identical moves were played in a game at the City of London Chess Club between H. Bernstein and W. Winter, as reported on pages 394-395 of the December 1917 BCM.

There follows a specimen from correspondence chess:

P.L. Williams – H. Falconer
Correspondence game, 1946
Scotch Gambit.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 Bc5 5 Ng5 Nh6 6 Nxf7 Nxf7 7 Bxf7+ Kxf7 8 Qh5+ g6 9 Qxc5 d6 10 Qc4+ Be6 11 Qb5 Ne5 12 f4 Bc4 13 Qb4 Qh4+ 14 White resigns.

A game between Greville and Harrwitz (Paris, 1845) had been identical, except that White played 10 Qd5+.

Source: Chess World, 1 March 1947, page 55.

Shortly after the spectacular miniature J. Polgár v Angelova had been played at the 1988 Thessaloniki Olympiad, Richard Reich (Fitchburg, WI, USA) pointed out to us (see C.N. 1806) that the whole game had been given on page 44 of the 1984 book The Anti-Sicilian: 3 Bb5 (+) by Y. Razuvayev and A. Matsukevitch, where mention is made of ‘Levchenkov-Eganian, USSR, 1978’.

Sometimes a master has the opportunity to play the identical game twice:

J.H. Blackburne – Two unnamed players
Hastings and Eastbourne, 1894
French Defence

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 Bxf6 Bxf6 6 Nf3 O-O 7 Bd3 Nc6 8 e5 Be7 9 h4 f6 10 Ng5 fxg5 11 Bxh7+ Kxh7 12 hxg5+ Kg8 13 Rh8+ Kxh8 14 Qh5+ Kg8 15 g6 Rf5 16 Qh7+ Kf8 17 Qh8 mate.

On page 179 of Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess J.H.B. wrote: ‘A curious fact about this game is that move for move I played it exactly in the same way twice in one week, once at Hastings and once at Eastbourne, in the year 1894.’

The same game may even occur between the same players in the same event. For instance, the third and fifth games of the Portisch v Nunn match (played in Budapest in 1987) were:

1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 d4 Bg7 4 g3 O-O 5 Bg2 c6 6 Nc3 d5 7 cxd5 cxd5 8 Ne5 e6 9 O-O Nfd7 10 Nxd7 Bxd7 11 e3 Nc6 12 b3 Qe7 13 Bb2 Rfc8 Drawn.

The individual phases of chess also give rise to bizarre repetition, an example being the opening moves of two games played on adjacent boards in the fifth round of the Hastings, 1922-23 tournament (30 December 1922):

1) Rubinstein v Condé: 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 e6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bd3 Bd6 5 O-O Nbd7 6 Nbd2 O-O 7 e4 dxe4 8 Nxe4 Nxe4 9 Bxe4 Nf6 10 Bd3 b6 11 Bg5 Bb7 12 Qe2 Be7 13 Rad1.

2) Yates v P.W. Sergeant: 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nd7 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6 Bd3 Nxe4 7 Bxe4 Nf6 8 Bd3 Be7 9 O-O O-O 10 Qe2

Two distinct openings have led to identical positions one after 13 moves but the other after 12.

[Another case, mentioned in C.N. 2100, is on page 154 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves.]

Middle-game combinations can also be the subject of duplication, but here too one must be wary, since chess chroniclers often write n’importe quoi. On page 39 of the March 1992 Europe Echecs, Sylvain Zinser asserted that the following position had occurred in ‘Blackburne v Gifford, England 1874’.


The finish is given as 1 Qxc6+ Kxc6 2 Ne5+ Kc5 3 Nd3+ Kd4 4 Kd2, and mate next move by 5 c3 is unavoidable. But this position bears an uncanny resemblance to the following, widely published in chess literature:


Kasparyan v Manvelyan, simultaneous display, USSR, 1936

White won with 1 Rxc6 Bxc6 2 Qc4+ Kb7 3 Qxc6+ Kxc6 4 Ne5+ Kc5 5 Nd3+ Kd4 6 Kd2 Qe6 7 c3 mate.

[For further information on the above pair of positions, see C.N.s 5155, 5156, 5163, 5180, 5193 and 8127.]

Few combinations are unique, and there are often ‘variations on a theme’. A strange example is the so-called ‘Game of the Century’ won by the 13-year-old Fischer against Donald Byrne in the 1956 Rosenwald Trophy Tournament. It was a Grünfeld Defence, the climax to which came when Black ignored the attack on his queen by the white queen’s bishop and played ...Be6, with overwhelming threats to the white king at f1. Yet all that is exactly what also happened in the following game, played the year before Fischer was born:

H.R. Russner – Carl Walcker
Cracow-Warsaw match, Warsaw, 28 June 1942
Grünfeld Defence

[Note: the above details contain corrections based on the subsequent C.N. items 7926, 7930, 8085, 8265 and 9427.]

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 c4 Bg7 4 Nc3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 e4 Nxc3 7 bxc3 c5 8 Bc4 O-O 9 h3 cxd4 10 cxd4 Nc6 11 Be3 Qa5+ 12 Bd2 Qa3 13 Rb1 Nxd4 14 Bb4 Nxf3+ 15 Kf1


15...Be6 16 Be2 Qxa2 17 Bxf3 Rfd8 18 Qe1 Rac8 19 g4 b6 20 Bxe7 Bc3 21 Qc1 Rd2 22 Bh4 Bd4 23 Qe1 Rcc2 24 Rh2 Bc4+ 25 Kg1 Rxf2 26 Rxf2 Rxf2 27 Bxf2 Bxf2+ 28 Qxf2 Qxb1+ 29 Kh2 Qa2 30 Qxa2 Bxa2 31 White resigns.

(CHESS, 1992)

An addition on page 202 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves

An earlier case was 18…Be6 in the game E. Polyak v D. Bronstein, Kiev, 1938. See pages 71-73 of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Bronstein and Fürstenberg.

Regarding the Morphy v Bonford game, below is the text of C.N. 1662:

M. Eguiluz – Andrés Clemente Vázquez
Muzio Gambit

1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 Bc4 g4 5 O-O gxf3 6 Qxf3 Qf6 7 e5 Qxe5 8 d3 Bh6 9 Nc3 Ne7 10 Bd2 c6 11 Rae1 Qc5+ 12 Kh1 d5 13 Qh5 Qd6 14 Nxd5 cxd5 15 Bxd5 O-O 16 Rxe7 Qxe7 17 Qxh6 Kh8 18 Re1 Qd8 19 Bc3+ f6 20 Re8 Qxe8 21 Qxf6+ Resigns.

Our source is pages 45-46 of Un poco de ajedrez by Manuel Márquez Sterling (Mexico, 1883). The author comments: ‘This game places Señor Eguiluz on the same level as the Morphys and Anderssens.’

There are similarities between this finish and Morphy’s blindfold victory over P.E. Bonford (New Orleans, 24 March 1858 – see Lawson’s book, page 350). The Morphy v Bonford game is on page 76 of Chess Explorations.

From page 272 of Chess Explorations:

On page 242 of the June 1979 CHESS we published Emanuel Lasker v Powell, simultaneous exhibition, Liverpool, 1895, a game which saw play similar to Botvinnik’s against Capablanca [AVRO, 1938]. Lasker too offered the sacrifice Bb2-a3 with the aim of diverting the enemy queen, which was blocking a white passed pawn at e6.

Afterword (12 June 2022): Our 1992 article in CHESS was included on pages 198-202 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves. Since then, databases have naturally made it possible to find innumerable examples of duplication at the touch of a button.

Latest update: 13 June 2022.

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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.