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David Janowski vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 10, Jun-05
Four Knights Game: Janowski Variation (C49)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-08-05  Whitehat1963: A sudden ending.
Premium Chessgames Member
  DiceToThat: I think the longest white can hold on is:

46: Kb2 Nxc3 47: bxc3 Re2 48: Bc2 Qb4 49: Kc1 Re1 50: Bd1 Qc3 51: Kb1 Rxc1#

White's king can never retreat to a3 because of the constant threat of Qb4#. He got no respect. No respect at all, I tell ya.

Apr-08-05  Kenkaku: A beautiful finish is 46. Kb2 Nd2+ 47. Kc1 Nc3+ 48. Kb2 Qb1+ 49. Kxc2 Qa1+ 50. Kd2 Qe1#
Nov-19-05  Kenkaku: Corrections to the errors in the line I gave: 46...Nd1+, 49. Kxc3.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game, despite its seemingly prosaic opening, turns out to be the tactical war everyone probably expected. Janowski's insistence in playing to win at all costs proved fatal against his talented opponent. Janowski's reckless play gave Pillsbury what looked like a winning position on move 24, but an inaccuracy by Pillsbury let Janowski back in the game. Janowski could probably have forced a draw on move 30, but he spurned the chance, got into trouble again, was lost by move 32, and then was demolished by Pillsbury's brutal attack. After move 32, Pillsbury missed a few chances to close out the game faster, but he never let Janowski back in the game.

Pillsbury's closing mating combination was a thing of beauty.

Going into this game, Pillsbury and Janowski were vying for first place with Lasker and Marshall. After his loss in this game, Janowski lost his next two games and four of his next five. He never recovered in this tournament from his loss here.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Pillsbury offers to play a Petroff, an opening in which he had beaten Lasker and many others.

3. Nc3

Janowski prefers a Four Knights Game. This is often a prelude to a listless draw. But not with these two hyper-aggressive players.

3... Nc6
4. Bb5 Bb4
5. 0-0 0-0
6. d3 BxN
7. bxB d6
8. Re1

"This move is usually a prelude to d4, but Janowski does not appear to aim at that in this game." (Sergeant-Watts in their book on Pillsbury).

8. Bg5 is more usual here, but Janowski delays this Bishop sortie for a few moves in order to place his Rooks where he thinks they will be able to contribute most to the attack he is planning.

8... Bd7

"A very new and very clever move." (Marco).

The beginning of a plan by Pillsbury to break the pins he sees developing on his Knights. More usual and perhaps most solid was 8...Re8. But Pillsbury, like Janowski, is playing to win and is seeking more than a simple, solid, defensible position.

9. Rb1

9. d4 seems indicated. But Janowski, as noted by Sergeant/Watts, has a very different idea here.

9... Re8
10. Bg5 h6
11. Bh4 a6
12. Ba4 Rb8
13. Kh1

13. Bb3 was better. Janowski, however, envisions a King-side storm and no doubt viewed this as the first step.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Pillsbury now sees a pretty way to break the pin on his f6 Knight.

13... Ne7!
14. Bb3

If now 14. BxN Black would get much the better game with 14...BxB. Probably 14. BxB was best here, but Janowski, true to form, does not want to part with his beloved two Bishops.

14... Ng6
15. Bg3 Bg4
16. h3 Bh5
17. Re3

This proves to be a waste of time.

17... Nf4

Pillsbury is now doubt aware this could lead to loss of a pawn after the exchange of minor pieces on f4, but he is playing for bigger game.

18. Bxf4

Janowski bites, and trades off one of his Bishops. But this is a mistake. He should have played 18. a4.

18... exB
19. Re1 Qd7

19...Nh7 was probably even better.

20. Kh2

Planning to post a Rook on h1 with an attack on Black's King to follow. But Pillsbury has no intention of being on the receiving end of a king-side assault here.

20... Kh8

The position was now:

click for larger view

The battle-lines are now drawn. The exciting continuation will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Through 20...Kh8 the players were primarily arranging their armies for battle, but little blood had yet been shed. All that was now to change, as Pillsbury massed for a King-side assault and Janowski pondered whether to play to snatch the Black pawn on f4.

21. Qd2

"Somewhat risky, but White has an uncomfortable position, and this seems the only way to free himself." (Teichmann).

Teichmann's analysis notwithstanding, the text seems logical enough. White plays to cut down Pillsbury's attacking prospects by winning the f4 pawn. An alternative plan was to play 21. a4.

21... BxN
22. gxB Re5

22...Nh5 defending the f pawn, though awkward, seems the best way for Black to try to play for a win.

One of the key moments of the game had arrived, the position now being:

click for larger view

Janowski here had to decide whether to play the seemingly obvious 23. Qxf4 winning a pawn. The "problem" with that move was that it would probably lead to a draw after 23. Qxf4 Rh5 24. Qg3 (24. h4 would probably also have led to equality after 24...b5 or 24...Qe7 or 24...Rf8) Rg5 (24...Re5 could lead to trouble after 25. f4) 25. Qf4 Rh5 leaving White the option to repeat moves beginning with 26. Qg3 or play 26. h4 which leads to equality with best play, i.e., 26...Qe7 27. Kg2 (not 27. Kh1 Nd5 winning) g5 28. hxg5 Rxg5+ 29. Kf1 Nh5 30. Qe3 (Black gets--if anything--the better chances after 30. Qxf7 QxQ 31. BxQ Nf4--Marco's line).

Pillsbury, according to the commentary by Sergeant and Watts, was willing to settle for a draw since draws were replayed at Paris 1900 [and he would have White in the replay]. Janowski apparently did not find this prospect to his liking, and therefore played for complications--which did not work out well for him.

23. Rh1?!

"The scheme to obtain an attack by playing both Rooks over to the King-side fails on account of the great weakness of the two pawns at h3 and f3. It seems, therefore, that 23. Qxf4 would have been better; White perhaps discarded that move because Black could then have obtained a draw by 23...Rh5." (Teichmann_.

23... Rh5

23...Nh5 was perhaps theoretically better, but Pillsbury knew his opponent, and the text goads him into a wild but unsound attacking line.

24. Kg2?!

No second measures for Janowski, who ignores his best chance to play for a draw (24. h4!--giving up the h-pawn for the chance of equalizing exchanges).

24... Rh4
25. Rbg1 Nh7
26. Kf1 Ng5?

Mistiming his attack. 26...h5 was best. The text gives Janowski a moment's breathing room to save himself.

27. Rg4!

"The only line of play which looks promising. The h-pawn is lost anyway and White's last move forces Black to keep his Knight for a long time guarding the f-pawn." (Sergeant-Watts in their book on Pillsbury).

The position was now:

click for larger view

27... Rxh3

27...Nxf3 looks superficially appealing, but--as Sergeant and Watts have pointed out, the move leads to a powerful initiative for White after 28. Qxf4. Pillsbury's move was therefore best.

28. RxR NxR
29. Rh4 g5

"This move gives Black the advantage." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

Rosenthal's analysis notwithstanding (he gives 29...g5 a "!", 29...Re8 was better for Black here.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Could Janowski have simply have played 30...Rxh6+ here, or would that move had led to inevitable material loss? I will address that in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

After 29...g5, Janowski could indeed have just played 30. Rxh6+. At first glance, it looks as if that loses the exchange after 30. Rxh6+ Kg7 31. Kh5 Kg6. But White can then play 32. Bxf7+ QxB [of course 32...KxB loses to 33. Rh7=] 33. RxN, and after 33...Qxa2 White would be fine and--if anything--have slightly better chances. But this line seemed likely to lead to a draw, so Janowski tried something else.

30. Rh5

There is nothing much wrong with this move, except that it gets White nothing more than about equal chances.

30... g4
31. Rxh6+

Marco, in his generally excellent commentary on this game, correctly states that 31. Rf5? would be bad for White, but his follow up analysis is badly flawed. After 31. Rf5, Black wins with 31...Rg8! Marco's suggested move here, 31...gxf3 works for him because he only considers the disastrous 32. Bxf7? which does indeed get crushed by Marco's pretty 32...Rg8!! {of course not 32...QxB 33. RxQ Rg8 34. Rf8! ending all off Black's mating threats]and if 33. BxR (33. Bg6 only delays the end by one move) 33...Qg7!! Sorry to throw a cold shower on this lovely variation by Marco, but 32. Qd1! puts a stop to all of Marco's ideas and allows White to escape with a perfectly playable--and nearly equal--game.

Putting aside all of Marco's lovely (but alas flawed) variations, Janowski's 31. Rxh6+ (or perhaps 31. Qd1) are best for White here.

31... Kg7

The position was now:

click for larger view

32. Rh5?

Incredibly enough, this natural looking move loses the game for Janowski. In fairness, however, it is hard in over the board play to see the brilliant conception that Pillsbury has hatched and to see that 32. Rh4 (allowing immediate access to g4) is essential. Unfortunately for Janowski, he was playing one of the few players to be able to thread his way through the myriad of complications and spot the winning plan for Black here.

32... gxf3
33. Rf5

Janowski probably expected that this move would give him good winning chances. Pillsbury's next move must have brought Janowski back to Earth.

33... f6!

On 33...Rg8! (the move Janowski probably expected), White wins after 34. Qd1! But now, as Teichmann notes, White's position is (suddenly) hopeless.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Rarely have tripled pawns been such an asset!

34. c4

On 34. Qd1 (probably White's best try) Black would have played 34...Ng5 (Teichmann's move, which is much better than 34...Rh8 as suggested by Sergeant Watts which allows White to escape loss after 35. Qxf3. After 34...Rh8! 35. Rxf4 loses immediately to Rh8 (or perhaps better still 35...Qh3+).

34... Re8

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book calls this a "necessary move." While it is sufficient to win, better yet was 34...Qe8 or 34...Qf7.

35. Qb4

35. Qc3 was definitely better, but it loses to Rosenthal's 35...Re5 ans to the even stronger 35... Qf7.

Best for White here, though also likely hopeless, was 35. c5.

35... c5

A powerful move that puts to an end all of White's plans. Even better, however, was the simple 35...Qf7.

After 35...c5, the position was:

click for larger view

The manner in which Pillsbury closed out the game from this winning position will be covered in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Janowski was almost certainly lost after 35...c5, but he was far from ready to give up, and tried to launch a Queen-side assault to balance the mating net Pillsbury was weaving on the other wing. Unfortunately for Janowski, Pillsbury never gave him a ghost of a chance to recover from this point on (though Pillsbury did miss a few chances to close out the game a little faster than he did).

36. Qb6

36. Qa5 might have allowed Janowski to hold on a bit longer, but at this point he was obviously going for broke.

36... Kf7!

Clearing the way to control the g and h files and administer checkmate (mate by Rg8 and Rg1 is now threatened). Given Jabnowski's Queen-side venture, Pillsbury could probably have finished off the game with even more celerity with 36...Kg8! But Pillsbury's line likewise gives Janowski no chances for survival.

37. Rd5

Preparing for defense with 37. Qa5 was theoretically best, but merely a strategy for delaying defeat. This was hardly in Janowski's DNA.

37... Qg4!

Brutal efficiency by Pillsbury. Mate in one is threatened, and 38. Qxb7+ would lose the Queen after 38...Re7. Since mate in one is threatened, Janowski has no real choice here.

38. Ke1

The position was now:

click for larger view

38... Nxf2

"Black finishes the game in his usual energetic and brilliant style." (Teichmann).

"Pillsbury's play is now beautiful and his next move may well have taken his opponent by surprise." (Sergenat/Watts).

Pillsbury could also have won with 38...Qg1+ 39. Kd2 Qxf2+ 40. Kc3 Qg1 41. Kb2 f2. But the winning line Pillsbury selected is far more elegant.

39. Rxd6

39. If 39. KxN Pillsbury would mate in two after 39...Qg2+. Janowski's only hope to prolong the game was to play 39. Kd2, but that would have been tantamount to resignation---and would have robbed us of Pillsbury's brilliant finishing touch.

The position was now:

click for larger view

39... Rxe4!!

Fritz 15, caring nothing for artistry, announces mate in 11 beginning with 39...Nxe4. But speaking for us humans, I prefer watching Pillsbury's finishing flourish.

40. Kd2

Of course, if 40. dxR Pillsbury mates in 3 by 40...Qg1+ 41. Kd2 Nxe4+ and mate next move.

40... Re2+
41. Kc1

If 41. Kc3 Nd1 mate.

41... Re6

41...Qg1+ was faster. Now Janowski could have played on for a while, but was apparently too shell-shocked to find the way to hold on a little longer.

42. Qxb7+

42. RxR QxR 43. Qxb7+ would have enabled Janowski to prolong the game, as would 41. Rd7+. But the result would not have been in doubt. Pillsbury's attack is clearly overwhelming. Janowski's actual move, however, allows Pillsbury to end the game very quickly.

42... Re7
43. Qd5+ Kg7
44. Rd8

Playing for some kind of miracle attack. But there are no miracles for Janowski here.

44... Qe6
45. Qh5 Qe1+

With this move, Pillsbury announced mate in 5, the position now being:

click for larger view

Kenkaku on this site has explained Pillsbury's mating method.


A magnificent finish by Pillsbury!

Jan-02-19  HarryP: This beautiful and satisfying game is a bit unusual in that Pillsbury had Black. In his greatest games he was more often than not playing White.
Premium Chessgames Member
  gezafan: Hey KEG! You have the makings of a nice book here along with your other posts.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <gezafan>Thank you. Glad you liked this post.

I had never thought of writing a chess book. Sharing ideas on games on this site has been a treat for me over the course of the last 2+ years. But you have planted a seed.

A player who inflicted the only loss I suffered back in the 1967 New York City High School Championship Tournament (I went 4-1-3) and who--like me-went off to another professional career recently decided to write his first book--on the 1938 AVRO Tournament. From my initial perusal, the book seems quite good.

I guess this proves that a non-chess professional can write a fine book on chess, so perhaps I will take up your suggestion one day.

Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: Well, Janowski wiggled as best he could. People that played Pillsbury tended to wiggle a lot

Thanks <KEG> I like your posts too! You don't post excessively, but when you do, people stop and listen (or read)

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <morfishine>So glad you enjoy my analysis. And thank you for saying that my nearly daily posts are not "excessive."
Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: <KEG> Now you need to create an avatar!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <morfishine>I have submitted a photo to add as my avatar.

Thank you for the reminder. I had been intending to do this for a while.

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