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James Mason vs Amos Burn
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 15, Jun-16
Sicilian Defense: Classical Variation. General (B56)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A tedious game for the first 30 moves. By the time of this replay of a 15th round draw, Mason was having a wretched tournament and seemingly just wanted a draw. Burn was in contention with a group of six players for a minor prize and clearly wanted to win, but didn't want to take chances. For the first thirty moves, there were no blunders or gross errors but also no enterprising play of any kind. Mason sought exchanges at all costs. Burn tried to avoid exchanges but seemingly decided to avoid trouble hoping Mason would blunder.

After the time allowance for 30 moves expired, the action became fast and furious, Mason did indeed blunder (several times) and Burn, though not always playing the strongest winning moves, cleaned up quickly.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 d6
6. NxN

Mason made no effort to obtain an advantage. 6. NxN offers White only equality, but Mason may have hoped it would be the fastest route to a draw, Burn, however and as will be seen, wasn't interested in a draw.

6... bxN
7. Be2 g6
8. 0-0 Bg7

Burn could have sought sharper play with 8...Rb8 or 8...Qc7, but he was seemingly biding his time, expecting that a tired Mason (who had another replay just two days earlier) would collapse. This indeed occurred, but only much later.

9. Be3 0-0

Rb8 and Qc7 remained options.

10. Qd2

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 10. f4 was better. Mason, however, was looking to trade off Bishops, and this apparently seemed the easiest route to do so without getting into any serious trouble.

10... Re8

10...Qa5 was more enterprising, but Burn just seems to want to keep the game going.

11. Bh6

"This move is a waste of time. 11. h3 followed by Rad1 was better." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

11... Bh8

Trading Bishops was theoretically better, but Burn wants to avoid exchanges and so accepts the slightly inferior game that results from the text.

12. h3

12. Rad1, but the text is sufficient for equality and that is all Mason seems to want.

12... Rb8

Now a terrible move, but 12...Qa5 immediately or 12...Nd7 were better.

13. Rab1 Qa5
14. Be3

Proving Rosenthal right (i.e., that 11. Bh6 was a waste of time). Better was 14. b3, though the text does no terrible damage to Mason's hopes for a draw.

14... Bg7

Burn is just marking time. If he were truly seeking some initiative he would play 14...Nh5, 14...Be6, or perhaps 14...Nd7.

15. Rfd1

Mason is so intent on trading off pieces he ignores the weaknesses on his Queen-side that he could have addressed by playing 15. b3 immediately.

15... Be6
16. b3 Qc7

Another mark time move by Mason. 16...Nd7 was somewhat better.

The position was now:

click for larger view

17. Bf3

Other options were 17. Bd3 or Rosenthal's proposed 17. f4.

17... Nd7
18. Bd4

18. Bd4 or 18. Na4 would be the way for Mason to fight for some advantage had he been interested in doing so.

18... Ne5
19. Be2 c5

Creating needless weaknesses in his position. 19...Qa5 was better.

20. BxN

"Weak. The right move was 20. Be3 followed by Nd5 and f4." (Rosenthal).

20... BxB
21. Nd5 Qb7

After 21 very uninteresting moves, the position was as follows:

click for larger view

Chances here were about even. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, the lethargic play continued up through move 30, and then all hell broke loose.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Play during moves 22-30 was not exactly thrilling, but there were more points of interest than during the first phase of the game.

22. Bc4

White had various ways to take the fight to Black at this point and create a lively game: i.e., Qg5, f4, and 22. Qa5. The text, however, is not bad and allows White to maintain approximate equality without taking any real chances.

22... Kh8

22...Bd7 was better.

23. c3

Again OK, but avoiding any real chance to take the initiative with something like 23. f4 (or maybe consolidating with 23. Re1).

The position was now:

click for larger view

Here Burn made the first move of any real interest in this game:

23... f5?!

23...Bd7 or 23...Bc8 or even 23...Bg7 may all be theoretically better, but the text (that creates dangerous holes in Black's position) does join battle (at last) without any major risk.

24. f4

Mason follows suit. Probably 24. exf5 immediately was probably sounder, but the text does not seriously compromise White's position and puts the question to the Black e5 Bishop. It also sets up a nice possibility that Mason either missed or declined to try.

24... Bg7

The position was now:

click for larger view

Mason here could have maintained equality and seized some initiative with 25. Nc7!! Alternatively, he might have simply played 25. Re1. But Mason played the sound but wooden:

25. exf5 Bxf5
26. Rbc1 Bd7

26...e6 immediately was the best chance to exploit the position of the Knight.

27. Rf1

27. Ne3 was stronger.

27... e6
28. Ne3 d5

28...Qc7 was a good alternative.

29. Bd3

29. Be2 was a better option. The text gave Burn the chance to take the reins, but Burn is still just waiting for a blunder from Mason.

29... Rf8

29...e5 was much stronger.

30. Ng4 Qc7

The position was now:

click for larger view

My comments above notwithstanding, there had been no real blunders to this point and neither player had made any serious effort to press for a win. But from here all that changed, and violent play led to a quick ending in ten moves, as I will discuss in my next post on thisgame.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

As boring as this game was through the first 30 moves, there were few if any real blunders. All that changed in the final portion of the game.

31. Bb1?

An awful move. Mason had many possible plans, e.g., 31. c4, 31. Qe3, or 31. Rce1. The text gives Burn an opportunity he fails to grasp.

31... Rf7?

Why not play the obvious 31...Bb5 instead of the useless text?

32. Qe3?

White would have about even chances with 32. Ne5. After the text, Mason is probably lost, and this time Burn finds the best line.

32... Bb5!
33. Rfd1?

Mason's only chance for survival was 33. Bd3. The text allows Burn a winning shot.

33... Qxf4

Much stronger was 33...Rxf4 [34. Qxe6 Rbf8 35. Bd3 Bc6 and White's position is en prise]. The text, however, is still probably sufficient to win.

34. Qxe6?

Again giving Burn a crushing response. 34. Re1 or 34 QxQ--while leaving White in trouble--were much better choices.

The position was now:

click for larger view

34... d4?

34...re8 would have been crushing. The text could have given Mason new life.

35. cxd4?

Contrary to what Rosenthal suggests in the Tournament Book, 35. c4 was best and gave Mason at least a glimmer of hope. Rosenthal's line is badly flawed: 35. c4 Bd7 36. Qe2? {an awful suggestion by Rosenthal, best here for White is 36. Qe4) Re8 (missing the winning d3!) 37. Qf1 BxN 38. QxQ RxQ 39. haB Rxg4 and wins.

35... Bd7?

Again missing the chance to play the crushing Re8

36. Qe2?

36. Qe4 was--at least in theory--White's only chance (though Burn's follow-up almost lets Mason back in the game).

36... Bxd4+
37. Kh1 Re8

Playing Re8 when it is no longer correct. Burn should have played 37...Rbf8.

38. Qc4??

"A mistake that loses the game." (Rosenthal). This comment was correct. But Rosenthal's suggested "improvement" (38. Qd3) gets killed after 38...BxN (since 39. hxB allows 39. Qh6 mate). Mason might, however, made a fight of it with 38. Qf1.

This left:

click for larger view

This time Burn gets it right, and finishes off Mason with dispatch.

38... BxN
39. Rf1

"Of course, if 39. hxB Qh6 mate).

39... Be6
40. Qb5 Qb8


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