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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Geza Maroczy
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 6, May-28
French Defense: Tarrasch. Pawn Center Variation (C05)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  kingfu: I enjoy chess games where one can move the King for mate.

This game reminds me of the movie, "Excalibur," although it is another example of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune of The French Defense.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Okay, guys, you asked for it...

... here's the second part of the verruca socks episode.

But first a word of explanation. A verruca is indeed also known as a plantars wart - a nasty little growth on the foot that thrives in wet conditions. Often transmitted at swimming pools.

And because of this my son's school insists that any child with a verruca must wear a verruca sock - a sort of stretchy bootee thing made out of the same latex stuff that they make bathing caps out of. Think of it as a condom for your feet and you are not far off.

Anyhoo, we left the action at the counter of JJB Sports in the company of a bewitching but befuddled teenage shop assistant. It turned out that this shop did sell verruca socks, but only in adult sizes - L, XL and XXL. And if you combine that thought with the idea of a condom for your feet you get a very odd picture indeed.

So I then scour Guildford for another sports shop. And twenty hot and sweaty minutes later I find myself in what you would call a mall and a shop called Sports Direct.

Now this looked promising. It was one of those pile-em high, sell 'em cheap emporiums with just about every piece of sports equipment that you could think of. Training shoes by the thousands. Manchester United branded shirts. Manchester United branded jackets. Manchester United branded pool cues.

But nothing to do with swimming. So I found myself standing in front of a male teenage shop assistant at the counter.

"Excuse me, do you sell childrens' verruca socks please?"


"Verruca socks. For swimming. Children. Feet. Like condoms. For your feet."

"Never heard of them. Sam, do we have any vuvuzela socks?"

Sam, obviously the manager, had attained the giddy heights of his mid twenties and clearly knew a thing or two about sports equipment. "On the shelf behind you."

And indeed, there they were. I had found the holy grail of scholastic sporting goods.

"What size do you want?" he asked

"Size three," I replied eagerly, my quest nearly at an end.

He produces two child sized rubber feet condoms. "Sorry, we haven't got a three."

Aaagh! So I asked what sizes he had. And - guess what? He had one in size 12-2 and one in 4-8. But not size three. So I bought both, giving my boy the choice of squeezing into a smallish one, or bulking up to fill one that was a little bit too big.

So in the rare chance that you have been in Guildford in the past week and tried to buy childrens' verruca socks, I have an apology to make. There aren't any. I bought them all.

Happy Valentines day to you all. May all your socks fit snugly, on whatever part of your anatomy they are designed for.

Feb-14-11  Lennonfan: Even rook c1 works...but yes,very easy nonetheless
Premium Chessgames Member
  wals: Yippie, a Queen sac and a win.

Rybka 4 x 64

42...Rc2, =0.00.
d 23 : 5 min :

1. = (0.00): 43.Rg8+ Kxg8 44.Qg5+ Kf7 45.Qf6+[] Ke8[] 46.Qh8+[] Kf7 47.Qf6+ Ke8[] 48.Qh8+[] Kf7 49.Qf6+ Ke8[] 50.Qh8+[] Kf7 51.Qf6+ Ke8[] 52.Qh8+[] Kf7 53.Qf6+ Ke8[] 54.Qh8+[] Kf7 55.Qf6+ Ke8[] 56.Qh8+[] Kf7 57.Qf6+ Ke8[] 58.Qh8+[]

2. = (0.00): 43.Rg5 Rc3+ 44.Rg3[]

43.Rh1, -1.21. 43...Rc8, +#5.

1. (#5): 44.Qh6 Qg2+ 45.Rxg2 Rc3+ 46.Kh2 Rh3+ 47.Kxh3[] d4 48.Qf8#

2. (#5): 44.Qh4 Qg2+ 45.Kxg2 Rc2+ 46.Kh3[] Rh2+ 47.Rxh2 Be8 48.Qf6#

Feb-14-11  mrvocab: So let me see. For the puzzle of the day on Valentine's Day, we have a game featuring Harry Pillsbury, who's life was cut short by syphilis. You have a strange sense of humor, Chessgames.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <mrvocab>

Q: What do you give the man who has everything?

A: Penicillin.

Feb-14-11  David2009: <patzer2: <Ghuzultyy> Good analysis> (of Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900). I agree. Three blunders in successive moves must be something of a record - perhaps the time control was a factor. Here's the position after the first blunder (42...Rc2? instead of 42 Rxg3+):

click for larger view

Pillsbury vs Maroczy 1900, 43? It's a double puzzle: (a) White to play and draw; (b) work out how Black can win after 43 Rh1?

<<Ghuzultyy>>'s post gives the solution or, if you prefer, you can use the following Crafty End Game Trainer link to explore the variations interactively. You are white, drag and drop the move you want to make.

Feb-14-11  WhiteRook48: I got it, this theme is way too familiar
Feb-14-11  MaczynskiPratten: <Once>; that joke sounds like it comes from the days when WE were too young to chat up the shop assistant in JJB!
Feb-14-11  Dionysius: I think the idea that Maroczy can't have seen the mate coming or he would have resigned might be wrong. In the days of romantic chess, opponents were more likely to play on to allow the pleasing mating ideas to be expressed over the board.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Dionysius: I think the idea that Maroczy can't have seen the mate coming or he would have resigned might be wrong. In the days of romantic chess, opponents were more likely to play on to allow the pleasing mating ideas to be expressed over the board.>

Putting 1900 in the Romantic Era might be stretching things a bit. There are a couple of other important factors:

1) Maroczy was in time pressure, according to Nick Pope's collection of Pillsbury games (quoting from Sergeant & Watts; collection). There was a time control at move 45, which could account for the ragged play just before that point.

2) The last two moves probably didn't happen. The score given in Pope's collection has Maroczy resigning after 44.Qh6, as does a contemporary publication, the <Wiener Schachzeitung> for June, 1900, p. 128-129.

This isn't unusual. When a checkmate is spelled out in a note following resignation, this final analysis is sometimes mistakenly assumed to be the actual end of the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: By the way, if you're interested in games where the king discovers check, look at the finish of this one:

Dorfman vs Tseshkovsky, 1978

(Note that the result is incorrect; it should be 0-1.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  M.Hassan: <Phony Benoni>: What an incredible and unforgetable game of <Ed Lasker vs Thomas>. Thank you for bringing it here.
Feb-15-11  Cardinal Fang: Sacrificing the Queen so that the King can give mate. What a lovely Valentine's Day puzzle... if you're single and bitter.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <A pretty ending for Pillsbury. Too bad he wasn't born after the discovery of antibiotics.>

Too bad he didn't listen to God.
Proverbs 4:10 Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <Phony Benoni> The tournament book, "Paris 1900", by Jimmy Adams, confirms the time control was 2 hours for the first 30 moves, and 15 moves per hour thereafter.

In the Weiner Schachzeitung, Marco indicated near the end of the game, that Maroczy was in severe time trouble. The tournament book, included Marco's comment at move 43...Rc8?, <"Maroczy, who hadn't a second left on the clock, throws away the victory. Correct was 43...Bb5!!">

Marco's comment in the Weiner Schachzeitung reads: <"Maroczy, der keine Secunde Bedenkzeit uebrig hatte, gibt hier den Seig aus der Hand. Richtig war 43...Bb5!!">

Pillsbury too may have been in time trouble, as he missed a draw with 43.Rh1?. Correct was 43.Rg8+ Kxg8 44.Qg5+, with a perpetual check.

Mar-26-11  Dionysius: Thanks <Phony Benoni>. I appreciate the extra perspective. For a bit of fun I looked up Wikipedia, that debatable source of information, which suggests the romantic period of chess was ended with Steinitz in top form because players in the romantic style got routinely crushed by his modern style, And he died in 1900. So I take your point. Didn't know about analysis leeching into the published score like that, though I have heard that Alekhine did occasionally change the moves of games he won to even prettier moves that weren't played
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: The stories from <Once> and <MaczynskiPratten> are hilarious.

I must confess that, till now, I did not know what a vuvuzela is, so turned to good ol' trusty Wikipedia.

On opening that page, the article's heading states that it 'appears to contradict itself', a qualifier I have never seen in four years as an editor.

Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: Amusing finish.
Jan-24-16  cunctatorg: Imho Harry Nelson Pillsbury is the very first (and only) attacking player (and what an attacker!!...) among the first generation of the positional players! His contribution to the development of the game -and particularly to the development and diversification of the styles of positional play- can not overestimated!!

Pillsbury's blindfold simultaneous exhibitions captured the imagination became the inspiration for such future players as both Capablanca and Alekhine!! By the way, the next great positional player with awesome attacking style (that even surpassed Pillsbury's achievements) was the very Alekhine from 1920 and beyond, that is after fifteen or twenty years after Pillsbury's loss...

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: The incredible time-trouble ending of this game has been well covered by others on this site. I have little to add to what has been set forth about this, and will therefore devote most of my analysis to what preceded the last few moves.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nd2 Nf6

3...c5 has a better reputation, but the text is a well-known and fine alternative.

4. e5 Nfd7
5. f4

A hyper-aggressive plan that is not as good as the more usually played 5. Bd3 or 5. c3.

5... c5

"Black must play energetically if he is to obtain counterplay against this set-up." (Gligoric)(who goes on to call 5...b6 "too slow"). Pillsbury's plan with 5. f4 may or may not be best, but it does pack poison if Black plays passively.

6. c3 Nc6
7. Ngf3

The text has come in for some serious criticism from Gligoric in his book on the French Defense and from patzer2 on this site. The recommended move here is the ugly-looking 7. Ndf3. The idea is apparently to respond to 7...Qb6 with 8. Qb3 or 8. Ne2. But is that really good for White? The text seems most natural and I--recognizing I am alone on this--think it is best.

7... Be7

Another unfairly maligned move. The text is flexible and better than 7...Qb6 (as recommended by Marco); better than 7...cxd4 (as played by Petrosian and recommended by Gligoric); and better than 7...f6 as played by Tahl and supported by patzer2 on this site).

The only problem with 7...Be7 is that noted by patzer2, i.e., that Maroczy did not follow it up properly.

8. Bd3 Qb6
9. dxc5 Nxc5
10. Nb3 NxN

I fail to understand why Maroczy did not play the seemingly obvious 10...NxB+. Why oh why didn't Maroczy eliminate White's best-placed piece (the d3 Bishop) and instead allow Pillsbury to get an open file for his a1 Rook? All of the contemporary commentators (Marco and Sergeant/Watts found 10...NxB+ best, and I see no reason to disagree. The only explanation of any sort I have read for the text move is by Sergeant/Watts, i.e., that it sets up Be3 for White. But this at most forces Black to lose one move with his Queen, while the text leaves Pillsbury's menacing Bishop at large and provides the possibility for play by Pillsbury on the a-file.

11. axN

Far better than 11. QxB`. The text gives White much the better game.

11... Bd7

notyetagm makes the interesting observation that this Bishop never moves again in the game and "...just sat there behind its own pawns for the whole game." I would note that, in some of the variations (especially those arising from the suggested 40. Rad1) this Bishop plays a key role. In actual play, however, Bishop does indeed just sit idle for the rest of the game. Thus, 11...Bd7 is fine, but Maroczy was following a faulty plan--and soon comes to what should have been a losing position.

12. b4!

a la Karpov. As sevenseaman as aptly noted on this site, 12. b4 contains Black's action.

12... Rc8

Misguided. The Rook will indeed later have important play on the c-file, but the immediate 12...a6 or 12...f6 were correct. The text is the second mis-step by Maroczy (the first being 10...NxN0 on his way to a lost game after only 15 moves.

13. Qe2 a6
14. Ne3!

Taking advantage of the now exposed position of Black's Queen. Maroczy is already in trouble.

14... Qc7
15. Qf2 Nb8?

Sergeant/Watts suggest that this move was the way for Maroczy to keep his Queen from being driven out of play, but had Pillsbury followed the line recommended on this site by tamar on move 17, Maroczy would have been toast after 15...Nb8. He had to try 15...Qb8 or 15...0-0, unappealing though these moves may be.

After 15...Nb8, the position was as follows:

click for larger view

Who would fancy Maroczy's chances of holding this position against Pillsbury?

As I will show in my next post on this game, Pillsbury (after 15...Nb8?) held a winning position until his poor 20th and 22nd moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Maroczy had a strategically lost game after 15...Nb8. But the game was far from over.

16. Bb6 Qc6
17. 0-0

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book correctly criticizes this move, but his suggested alternative, 17. Nd2, is even worse (Rosenthal apparently overlooked the force of 17...Ba4!! after 17. Nd2)

The only commentator to discern the best play for Pillsbury here is Tamar on this site, who gives the (best play) line of 17. Ba5! b5 18. Qa7 ("The point is that Black has to play 18...d4 just to create an escape square in case of Nd4)." Excellent analysis. Bravo Tamar.

My one disagreement with Tamar is the claim that Pillsbury "let Maroczy off the hook" with 17. 0-0. In fact, and while Tamar's line is far better, Pillsbury still had a winning game even after his inferior 17. 0-0.

17... 0-0

18. Ra5 f5

Needlessly compromising his King's side. Rosenthal's proposed 18...f6 was no better for the text...could and should have been answered by 19. exf6.

Best for Black here, though still leaving him with a bad game, was 18...Rfe8.

19. Kh1?

"White wisely gets out of the way of check." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book). But the text misses the chance for 19. exf6 e.p.

19... Rce8

"This move is forced since White threatened 20. b5 winning." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

In fact, the text is not forced. Best was 19...Be8 and if then 20. b5 Black simply plays 20...axb5 and if 21. Bxb5 then 21...Bc5! After the text, however, Pillsbury could and should have played 20. b5.

20. Bc5?

A very weak move that has escaped the notice of commentators. Best was 20. b5! for if then 20...axb5 21. Bxb5 since 21...Bc5 no longer works for Black.

20... Qc7

Much better was the simple 20...BxB.

21. BxB

Here is where Pillsbury begins to let Maroczy off the hook. He should have played 21. Be3 or 21. Ba7

21... BxB
22. g4?

This move has received an ! from both Rosenthal in the Tournament Book and from Sergeant/Watts in their book on Pillsbury, but in fact the move is a major mistake and weakening which forfeits all of Pillsbury's edge. Correct was 22. Qh4 with chances for White.

22... Nc6!

"Well played. If 22...fxg4 23. Qh4 followed by Qe7 or Qxh7+ wins" (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

23. Raa1 fxg4
24. Qh4!

As patzer2 has noted on this site, Black cannot take the offered Knight in light of 25. Qxh7+!!

24... g6

Maroczy sees and avoids Pillsbury's little trap.

25. Qxg4 Rg7
26. h4

Pillsbury correctly goes for a King's side attack, but this is the wrong way to do so. Correct was 26. Ng5

26... Ne7

Missing his chance. Maroczy could have gotten the (slightly) better game with 26...d4

27. Nd4 Nf5

Having fought his way back from the dead, Maroczy begins to dig another hole for himself. Best was 27...Nc6

28. BxN gxB
29. Qh5 Qd8

Another mistake. The Queen is needed on the c-file in some variations. Best was 29...Kh8 with a defensible game.

30. Rg1

Pillsbury's menacing intentions are clear as can be.

30... Rff2

Maroczy is now in serious trouble. Best was 30...Qe7

31. Qh6 Qe7
32. Nf3

A mistake. 32. Rg5 was the right way to continue the attack.

32... Kh8?

With this lemon (32...RxR+ was best), Maroczy was probably lost.

The position was now as follows (after 32...Kh8):

click for larger view

As good as Pillsbury's position is here, he once again lost his way and ultimately gave Maroczy a chance to win as I will discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

After 32...Kh8 (see final diagram in my previous post) Maroczy was once again in dire straits in this game. But once again Pillsbury played with less than his usual attacking precision and gave his wily opponent chances.

33. Kh2

As both Sergeant/Watts in their book on Pillsbury and Marco in his commentary on this game note, this move by Pillsbury was inferior to 33. Ng5. If then 33...Rf8 (best) 35. Rg3 would eventually allow Pillsbury to double Rooks on the g-file with a powerful and probably winning attack.

Sergeant/Watts and Marco, however, suggest the inferior 34. h5 as the continuation. Then, after 34...d4, Marco gives 35. Rg3 (instead of the far better 35. Kh2) and then after 35...dxc3 36. bxc3 only considers the weak 36...Rc8 (instead of the much better 36...Bc6+) and then has White play 37. Rag1 (instead of the stronger 37. Kh2) which might have let Black off the hook after 37...Bc6+.

The above analysis, of course, is just a "might-have-been" since Pillsbury played 33. Kh2. Sergeant/Watts claim that the text--though it wins Pillsbury the exchange, gives him an inferior game. I believe the analysis below shows that Pillsbury still had a much better--and potentially winning--position even after 33. Kh2.

33... Rf8
34. h5?

Another surprising misstep by Pillsbury, who still had good winning chances after 34. Ng5. But now...

34... Rg4!

I second Rosenthal's giving this move an exclamation point. It nicely punishes Pillsbury for failing to block the g-file with 34. Ng5

35. Ng5

One move too late!

35... Rxf4!

I do not share eainca's claim on this site that this move was "the start of the end for Maroczy." Rather, I share Rosenthal's view that the move warrants an exclamation point. The sacrifice of the exchange is completely justified and should have allowed Maroczy to save the game. If instead 35...Qg7 Maroczy would have to play carefully to stave off defeat after 36. QxQ+ KxQ 37. Kh3 and now 37...RxR+ (better but still leaving Maroczy a tough defensive task was 37...h6 or 37...Rg8) 38. RxR Kh6 39. Kh4 seems to win.

36. Nf7+ QxN
37. QxR Qxh5+

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

Maroc states that "White has admittedly won the exchange, but lost two pawns, and in addition Black obtains a good attacking position." I don't think much of Maroczy's attacking chances here, but agree that he is very much back in the game now.

38. Kg3 Qe2
39. Kh4

Pillsbury has now lost any edge he had. Better was 39. Rae1.

39... Rc8
40. Rae1

This is far inferior to Marco's suggested 40. Rad1 or to 40. Kh3.

Pillsbury now has to play very well to avoid disaster.

40... Qxb2
41. Kh3

As Marco correctly notes, 41. Kg5 would lead to trouble after 41...Rc4!

41... Rxc3+
42. Rg3 Rc2

I agree with several contributors on this site that 42...RxR+ was much better, but I do not see this as Maroczy's "decisive mistake," nor do I think that Pillsbury would have been lost after 42...RxR+.

The position after 42...Rc2 was:

click for larger view

Pillsbury has a draw here with 43. Rg8+ as was pointed out by Marco long ago. 43. Rg5 also seems to allow Pillsbury to escape with a draw. But.

43. Rh1?

The errors at the end of this game were apparently the result of severe time-pressure. Maroczy now has a win with 43...Bb5 as pointed out by all the commentators and by many contributors on this site. But having no time on his clock, Maroczy fell into a gorgeous mating net with...

43... Rc8
44. Qh6!

The game may well have ended here, but the finish as reported in the Tournament Book is so pretty I give the moves:

44... Qxe5

This stops one mate, but allows:

45. Qxh7+ KxQ
46. Kg2 mate

Just once in my life, I would like to checkmate my opponent by moving my King!

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG....Just once in my life, I would like to checkmate my opponent by moving my King!>

Never happened for me, either, though once I castled on the Black side of a Classical KGA at move 21 or so and my opponent resigned on the spot.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: I've never had that pleasure either, but it sounds great!
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