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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Ignatz von Popiel
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 6, Jul-30
Caro-Kann Defense: Classical Variation (B18)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Morning: After all, all, *all* these years, finally solved one of these insane puzzles. But got here too late. Perhaps in another ten years...
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Morning: Forgot to mention the solution. The Pillsbury Dough Boy (Henry Nelson) was White vs. Iggy Pop (Ignatz von Popiel).
Premium Chessgames Member
  sleepyirv: While I knew it was a Pillsbury game, I foolishly looked at Iggy Pop's real name to find his competitor. Oh well, congrats to <Chizoad>!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: And I knew all about Iggy Pop, and Jimmy Osterberg, thus Ig von Popiel ... but had no idea about that Pillsbury Doughboy.
Dec-11-16  Chizoad: I also went down that path of Iggy Pop's real name but Osterberg never played Pillsbury. First one I've ever solved in time! I have to admit it was pretty thrilling to see that little banner down there saying "congrats"...
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: The book on Pillsbury's games by Sergeant and Watts provides commentary on most of Pillsbury's games at Munich 1900. This ragged effort by Pillsbury, who gave von Popiel several chances to get back into the game, not surprisingly does not appear in Sergeant/Watts' book.

The one notable feature of the game is the long endgame in which Pillsbury prevails a Bishop vs. Knight ending but then (after winning Popiel's Knight)has to slug through a not very difficult but agonizingly long Bishop and pawn against three pawns ending.

It is always instructive to observe Pillsbury's excellent endgame technique, but this is an ending which--despite its length--required only care over the course of almost thirty moves.

The portion of the game that preceded the ending is forgettable and hardly a model of Pillsbury's undisputed talents.

1. e4 c6

von Popiel decided to try to hold off Pillsbury with a Caro-Kann. Pillsbury does not shine in this opening.

2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxd4 Bf5
5. Ng3 Bg6
6. Nf3

6. h4 is often played here, but the text is logical and fine.

6... e6

6...Nd7 is often given as "book" here, but the text or 6...Nf6 look better.

The position now was:

click for larger view

7. Ne5

Pillsbury played to trade off von Popiel's g6 Bishop and thus obtain the advantage of the two Bishops. 7. h4 is most usual. 7. Bd3 looks best.

7... Bd6

7...Nd7 was better.

8. NxB hxN
9. Ne4 Nf6

9...Be7 to preserve his d6 Bishop looks best.

10. Bd3

It is hard to understand, after seeking to get the two Bishops, why Pillsbury did not simply play 10. NxB+ here.

10... NxN

von Popiel didn't give Pillsbury another chance to trade Knight for Bishop.

11. BxN

This left:

click for larger view

The dust has settled and Pillsbury has obtained no advantage from the opening.

Note that von Popiel's "threat" to win the h2 pawn is illusory because if 11...Bxh2 12. Bf4! and if 11...Rxh2 12. RxR BxR 13. g3

11... Nd7

11...f5 was another good option.

12. g3

Ending the threat to the h2 pawn.

12... Qe7

12...Nf6; 12...Qb6; and 12...Qa5+ were all better.

13. Qe2

One might have expected Pillsbury to have tried 13. h4 here. The text was definitely unambitious. 13. Bg2 or 13. 0-0 were better ways to play "solid" chess if that was what Pillsbury was up to.

13... Nf6

He might have tried 13...f5 or 13...0-0-0

The position now was:

click for larger view

Thanks to von Popiel's last move, Pillsbury has a small edge here. From this point, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, things went downhill for von Popiel until he had a lost game by move 18, an advantage Pillsbury later nearly blew.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Picking up the game after 13...Nf6:

14. Bg5

14. Bg2 (or perhaps 14. Bf3) were more accurate.

14... Qc7
15. Bg2 0-0-0

von Popiel could have gotten nearly equal chances with 15...Qa5+ (forcing either 16. Bd2 or 16. Qd2).

16. a3

A needless precaution in preparation for a poor plan involving 0-0-0. 16. h4 or 16. h4 were the beginning of two better potential plans for Pillsbury.

16... e5

The Tournament Book gave this move a "!", but it was in fact a mistake that allows Pillsbury to turn the game in his favor. 16...Qa5+ 17. Bd2 Qa4 would have given von Popiel about level chances.

17. 0-0-0

Now, thanks to von Popiel's last move, Queen-side castling suddenly looks quite good.

17... exd4
18. Rxd4

The position was now:

click for larger view

18... Rhe8?

von Popiel's game was not great, but this lemon put Pillsbury back in his attacking element. 18...Qe7 or 18...Bc5 were both much better.

19. Qc4 Be5
20. RxR+ RxR

This left:

click for larger view

21. Re1!

"Threatening 22. Bh3+ Kb8 23. RxB" (Tournament Book).

21... Qa5

This effort at counterplay only made things worse for von Popiel. He had many better moves, e.g., 21...Qd7 or 21...Re6 or 21...Bd6.

22. Bh3+ Nd7
23. c3

"!"--(Tournament Book).

23... f6!

The only chance. If 23...Bxc3 24. BxN+ (The simple 24. BxR might be even better) RxB 25. Re8+ Kc7 26. Bf4+ (Tournament Book).

24. Be3 f5
25. Bg2

25. Rd1 was even stronger.

25... Bf6
27. Rd1

27. h4! would have been much stronger.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Pillsbury's last move gave von Popiel at least a fighting chance, but--as I will attempt to show in my next post on this game--from here von Popiel completely lost the thread of the game and should have been (but was not because of a series of second-best moves by Pillsbury) defeated in short order.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

After 26. Rd1 [mistakenly given as "26. Rd1 in my last post], von Popiel could have played 26...Ne5 and had chances. But instead, he erred again, and this time it should certainly have been fatal"

26... g5?

Now Pillsbury can break through on the fatally weakened Black king-side.

27. f4

Probably good enough, but 27. Bh3 was far better. 27. h4 was another possibility.

27... gxf4
28. Bxf4

The position now was:

click for larger view

28... Nc5?

This only makes matters worse for Black. 28...Be5 (or even 28...Nf8) were better..

29. RxR+

This was good enough. 29. Bh3 was also sufficient.

29... KxR

This leftL

click for larger view

30. Bd6

This did not necessarily throw away the win, but 30. Bh3 immediately was best.

30... Na4
31. Bh3 Kd7
32. Bf4 Ke7
33. Qd3 g5?!

Desperation. 33...g6 might have allowed him to resist for at least a while. If he wanted to try desperation tactics, von Popiel might have considered 33...Nxc3?!

The position after 33...g5?! was:

click for larger view

34. Qe3+?

Pillsbury had a clear win with 34. Qd6+ Kf7 35. Qd7+ Kg6 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Bd6 Qd8 38. QxQ BxQ 39. Bxf5

Incredibly, Pillsbury--apparently he could win a pawn immediately and underestimating Black's counter-attacking chances--played the awful text move. Now, von Popiel had at least a draw in hand.

34... Kf7
35. Bxg5

Still underestimating Black's attack. Pillsbury should have played 35. Bb8

The position was now:

click for larger view

35... Qb5?

This need not lose, but 35...Qb6 was far better and would have left von Popiel with the better chances.

36. BxB

Pillsbury's best chance.

36... Qxb2+

Black's counter-attack continues.

37. Kd1 Qb3+
38. Ke1

This all left:

click for larger view

von Popiel could still have saved the game, and indeed had chances--as I will show in my next post on this game--until his final and fatal blunder on move 45.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

After 38. Kf1, von Popiel's counter-attack should have kept him in the game. But he made things needlessly difficult for himself (even before his losing blunder on move 45):

38... KxB

Better first to drive the King farther away with 38...Qb1+ 39. Kf2 Qc2+ 40. Kg1 and only then snatch the f6 Bishop.

39. Qh6+

39. Qd4+ was perhaps more accurate.

39... Ke7
40. Qg7+ Qf7

The position was now:

click for larger view

41. Qd4

Pillsbury's best chance here seems to have been to swap Queens. This would have given him the better chances in the resulting endgame after 41. QxQ+ KxQ 42. Bxf5 Nxc3, but (unlike what occurred in the actual game) von Popiel's King would be adequately placed on the King-side to give him decent chances to hold the game.

After the text, von Popiel should have been able to hold the game.

41... Qe6+

Again needlessly making things difficult for himself. 41...Nb6 would block any incursion by White's Queen on the Queen-side.

42. Kf1

Yet another inaccuracy by Pillsbury, whose mind seems to have been elsewhere until von Popiel's blunder on move 45. 42. Kf2 was plainly better.

42... Qe4!

Now, with Pillsbury's King on f1 instead of on f2 where he should have moved it, von Popiel would have an easy draw if Pillsbury had traded Queens.

The position now was:

click for larger view

43. Qg7+

Appearances notwithstanding, Pillsbury would have gotten nowhere after 43. Qxa7 (e.g., 43...Ke6 44. Qxb7 Qf3+ and Pillsbury's King can not avoid checks by the Black Queen wherever he runs.

43... Kd6

Although the text is fine, it suggests that von Popiel failed to realize that he needed to keep his King within range of the King-side in case Queens were traded. 43...Ke6 was therefore simpler (though the text would have been fine if properly followed up).

44. Qf6+ Kc7

Now von Popiel must run to the Queen-side, since 44...Kd5?? would lose the Queen to 45. Bg2.

von Popiel was still fine--so long as he avoided trading Queens with his King so far from the King-side and White's dangerous pawns.

45. Qxf5

This left:

click for larger view

von Popiel still had a draw in hand with 45...Qh1+ 46. Kf2 (forced since 46. Ke2 would allow 46...Nxc3+) Qxh2+. But--incredibly--von Popiel here played:

45... QxQ+ ??

Instead of an easy draw, von Popiel gets a clearly lost endgame:

46. BxQ Nxc3

The resulting position was:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Pillsbury now has a clear win, albeit one that required patience and another 28 moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

With two passed pawns on the King-side, Black's Queen out of play on c7, and a powerful Bishop that can both support the advance of his g and h pawns while simultaneously keeping an eye on any effort by Black to advance his c-pawn (whereas Black's Knight cannot play both offense and defense), this is a clear win for White (Pillsbury).

Quick trick question: Which pawn did Pillsbury plan to Queen.

Answer: All three!

Pillsbury's winning plan was simple (though tediously lengthy):

Step I: Advance his two King-side pawns and force von Popiel to give up his Knight to capture them.

Step II: Win the endgame with Bishop and a-pawn against von Popiel's three Queen-side pawns.

Note that von Popiel would have a clear draw here if Pillsbury's Bishop were on the dark squares, since Bishop of the wrong color and Rook pawn cannot win (assuming the opponent's King is within range of the Queening square).

While none of this is all that difficult, as always it is delightful to see Pillsbury's endgame technique in action:

47. h4!

The winning pawn march begins. The text is much better than 47. g4 (which probably still wins but allows Black's King more time).

47... Kd6

The Black Knight cannot halt Pillsbury's pawns without assistance.

48. h5!

No respite for von Popiel. This is much better than 48. g4.

48... Ke5

The position now was:

click for larger view

49. h6! Kf6

Taking the Bishop would of course be immediately fatal.

50. g4!

Relentless accuracy by Pillsbury!

50... Nd5

Black's Knight must get involved if Black wants to stop Pillsbury's pawns.

51. g5+

The position was now:

click for larger view

Black has no way to handle the pawns other then to sacrifice his Knight.

51... Kf7

51...KxB and 51...Kxg5 both would allow the h-pawn to Queen.

52. g6+

52. Kf2 or 52. Ke2 bringing the King into the action would also have won.

52... Kf6

von Popiel had nothing better.

53. g7

This left:

click for larger view

53... Ne7

Again forced. 53...Kf7 loses to 54. Be6+

54. g8(Q)

Pillsbury Queens his pawn.

54... NxQ
55. h7! Kg7

Also forced!

56. hxN(Q)+

Pillsbury Queens a second pawn.

56... KxQ

This left the following ending:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Pillsbury has a clear (but lengthy) win. But it required time and patience, since he (obviously) could not afford to allow Black to trade off the White a-pawn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

Oops. My last diagram was flawed. The position after 56...KxQ was:

click for larger view

The winning procedure here is not all that difficult, but as always it is instructive to watch Pillsbury in the endgame.

57. Bc8 b6
58. Bb7

The position was now:

click for larger view

von Popiel here played:

58... Kf7

The Tournament Book provides a fine analysis of play in the event of 58...c5:

59. Ke2 Kf7
60. Kd3 Ke6
61. Ke4 Kd6

If 61...b5 62. Ba6 b4 63. Bc4+ Kd6 64. a4

62. Ba6 Kc6
63. a4 Kd6
64. Bc4 Kc6
65. Ke5 Kb7
66. Kd6 a6
67. Bd5+ Ka7
68. Kc6 b5
69. a5 c4
70. Kc7 c3
71. Bb3 b4
72. Ba4 Ka8
73. Kb6

73. Bd1 also wins here.

Back to the actual game after 58...Kf7 (von Popiel realizing that bringing his King into play and trying to trade pawns was his only tiny chance--the loss of the c-pawn being of little importance.

59. Bxc6 Ke6
60. Ke2 Kd6
61. Be8 Kc5
62. Kd3 b5

This left

click for larger view

von Popiel was hoping against hope that he could find a way to trade pawns. Pillsbury, of course, never gave him a chance.

63. Bd7


63... a5
64. Be6 Kd6
65. Bg8 Kc5
66. Bf7


66... b4
67. a4

Ending von Popiel's hopes for a pawn trade.

67... Kd6

Now von Popiel's King is driven back and the game is over.

68. Kc4 Kc6
69. Bh5


69... Kb6
70. Bd1

Game over, the position being:

click for larger view

70... Kc6
71. Bb3 Kb6
72. Kd5 Kb7
73. Bd5


The final position was:

click for larger view

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