Romantic chess was the style of chess prevalent down to the 1880s. It was characterized by swashbuckling attacks, clever combinations, brash piece sacrifices and dynamic games. Winning was secondary to winning with style. These games were focused more on artistic expression, rather than technical mastery or long-term planning. The Romantic era of play was followed by the Scientific, Hypermodern, and New Dynamism eras. It was considered unsporting to decline a gambit (the sacrifice of a pawn or piece to obtain an attack). It is no coincidence that the most popular openings played by the Romantics were the King's Gambit Accepted and the Evans Gambit Accepted. Some of the major players of the Romantic era were Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Henry Blackburne. A famous game of this time is the Immortal Game between Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky. The Romantic style was effectively ended on the highest level by Wilhelm Steinitz, who, with his more positional approach, crushed all of his contemporaries. This domination ushered in a new age of chess known as the "Modern", or Classical school.
The Romantic Era in the Arts (notably classical music and poetry) was roughly analogous to the chess world. Existing as time contemporaries with each other, the arts were focused on emotional expression more than technical mastery. This would come to an end towards the end of the 19th century as evolution in the arts (Impressionist music and Symbolist poetry) aligned closely time-wise with Steinitz' emergence as the new stylistic force in the chess world. Some notable chess masters have argued that chess is an art form in addition to a science.
- David Shenk (2007). The Immortal Game: A History of Chess. Knopf Doubleday. p. 99.
- Spielman, Rudolph The Art of Sacrifice in Chess Dover Chess 2011 ISBN 0486284492
- Landsberger, Kurt William Steinitz, Chess Champion McFarland & Company 1992 ISBN 0899507581
- CHESS AS AN ART FORM Brit J Aesthetics (1993) 33(1): 59-66
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