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
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.
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.
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...Qa5 was more enterprising, but Burn just seems to want to keep the game going.
"This move is a waste of time. 11. h3 followed by Rad1 was better." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).
Trading Bishops was theoretically better, but Burn wants to avoid exchanges and so accepts the slightly inferior game that results from the text.
12. Rad1, but the text is sufficient for equality and that is all Mason seems to want.
Now a terrible move, but 12...Qa5 immediately or 12...Nd7 were better.
13. Rab1 Qa5
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.
Burn is just marking time. If he were truly seeking some initiative he would play 14...Nh5, 14...Be6, or perhaps 14...Nd7.
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.
16. b3 Qc7
Another mark time move by Mason. 16...Nd7 was somewhat better.
The position was now:
Other options were 17. Bd3 or Rosenthal's proposed 17. f4.
18. Bd4 or 18. Na4 would be the way for Mason to fight for some advantage had he been interested in doing so.
19. Be2 c5
Creating needless weaknesses in his position. 19...Qa5 was better.
"Weak. The right move was 20. Be3 followed by Nd5 and f4." (Rosenthal).
21. Nd5 Qb7
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.