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Heinrich Wolf vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 12, Aug-07
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation (C67)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This 12th round game was the prequel to the thrilling 14th round draw between Halprin and Pillsbury, which is excellently described and discussed in the introduction to Munich 1900 by <Phony Benoni>

Going into the 12th round, Pillsbury and Maroczy trailed Schlechter by a half-point. Schlechter and Maroczy were held to draws in this round, so by winning Pillsbury moved into a tie for first.

Pillsbury--playing the Berlin Defense-- unveiled an innovation on move nine against the unusual 6. dxe5 variation. Wolf failed to find the best retort. By contrast, Halprin in Round 14 had been primed by Maroczy and was ready with a counter-innovation.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6

The Berlin Defense, a popular choice at Munich 1900.

4. 0-0 Nxe4
5. d4 Nd6

A standard positions in the Berlin Defense:

click for larger view

6. BxN as played by Kasparov in his 2000 match against Kramnik, is "normal." As Phony Benoni points out, Maroczy played 6. BxN against Pillsbury at Munich 1900 and managed to draw after Pillsbury had obtained the better game. Since Pillsbury was obviously well-prepared to meet 6. BxN, Wolf tried what Phony Benoni calls "a more complicated line."

6. dxe5

"Amusing" -- (MCO-13).

"This seeming sacrifice, in which the piece is recovered almost at once, is the idea of a German amateur L'Hermet of Magdebur...[it] gives White no tangible advantage." (Sergeant/Watts in their book on Pillsbury).

While the text is indeed cute, the more usual 6. BxN seems better. Notably, Kasparov in his 2000 match--who was trying to find a way to crack Kramnik's Berlin Defense--never once played this variation, sticking with 6. BxN.

6... NxB
7. a4

Tartakower-Du Mont in their commentary condemn 7. c4 because of 7...d6, but this line is not significantly worse than the text. The "amusing" aspect of this variation is that while Black is temporarily up a piece, his Knight on b5 is trapped.

7... d6

As Tartakower-Du Mont correctly note, neither 7...Nbd4 nor 7...Nd6 are improvements on the text. MCO-13 claims that 7...Nbd4 yields equal chances.

8. e6

"The exploits begin. Far more prosaic would be the continuation: 8. axN Nxe5 9. Re1 (9. Qd5 is a good and perhaps superior move) Be7 10. NxN dxN 11. QxQ+ KxQ 12. Rxe5 Bd6 with an even game." (Tartakower--Du Mont).

8. e6, 8. axN, and 8. Bg5 are all reasonable choices.

8... fxe6

As Tartakower-Du Mont further note, Black obtains no advantage with 8...Bxe6 9. axN Ne5 10. Nd4 Bd7 (10...Be7 may be slightly better).

9. axN

The position was now:

click for larger view

White has compensation for the lost pawn: he has castled, has an open a-file on which to operate, and Black has to decide what to do with his threatened c6 Knight.

9... Ne7?!

"This appears to be an innovation by Pillsbury; previously 9...Nb8 was played." (Phony Benoni).

The text is an improvement on 9...Nb8. The main alternative is 9...Nb4.

10. Nc3

"Calmly proceeding with his development. Another continuation could be 10. Bg5 Qd7." (Tartakower-Du Mont).

The text looks best. It is not clear that White has fully adequate compensation for the pawn after 10. Bg5 h6.

10... Ng6

"Hoffer claimed that 10...Nf5 was better and would even make the defense sound." (Sergeant-Watts)

Both the text and 10...Nf5 are decent choices. In either case, White has reasonable compensation for the pawn (10...Nf5 11. Nd4).

11. Ng5

"An expedition with far-reaching consequences. The sequel can be looked upon as a beautiful problem evolved in practical play." (Tartakower-Du Mont).

All very romantic. But 11. Qd4 looks best and seems to give White at least equal chances.

11... Be7
12. Qh5

12. f4 and 12. Qg4 were interesting and arguably better options.

12... BxN
13. BxB Qd7

This left:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, from here the fireworks began both here and in Pillsbury's 14th round game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

14. Ra3

It was here that Halprin--two rounds later--began a neat combination starting with 14. b6 that got him a draw (and Pillsbury had to play very well against that prepared variation to obtain that result).

The text is not as good. To quote Phony Benoni again: "This [i.e., 14. Ra3] allowed Black to castle safely, beat back a Kingside attack, and connect his extra pawn."

14. Qf3 would have been good enough for near equality, despite White's pawn minus.

Interesting was 14. Nd5 [the point of 14. b6 by Halprin included Nd5 on the next move]. After 14. Nd5, Black is much better after 14...0-0. But if Black carelessly plays 14....exN White has a decent chance after 15. Kf5 16. Ra3 Qf7 (if 16...Ne5 17. RxN! dxR 18. Rf3+ Kg8 19. Bh6! Qe7 [not 19...gxB 20. Rg3+ and White wins!] 20. Bxg7! KxB 21. Rg3+ Bg4 [if 21. ..Kf8 22. Rf3+ repeats the position] 22. RxB+ Kf8 23. Qh6+ Ke8 24. Rg7 Qd6 25. Qh5+ Kd8 26. Qg5+ Kc8 27. Qg4+ and draws (not 27...Kb8 28. Rg8+ Qf8 29. RxQ+ RxR 30. Qg7 and White should win).

To return to the actual game, after 14. Ra3 Wolf's attack was too slow--and he WAS still a pawn dow.

14... 0-0
15. Ne4

Probably the best chance. Other seemingly reasonable tries were 15. Qe2 and 15. Be3.

The position was now:

click for larger view

15... Nf4


15...Rf5 was also good.

16. BxN

The alternative, 16. Qf3, would leave White searching for compensation for his pawn minus. Wolf, as the following moves suggest, hoped that this trade of minor pieces would facilitate his King-side attack.

16... RxB
17. Rh3

This haymaker had little chance of success against a player of Pillsbury's caliber. 17. Re1, 17. Re3, or perhaps 17. Qe2 were better tries.

17... h6

17...g6 was also sufficient, but the text was even better.

18. Re1 Qf7

As is apparent from a glance at the position, Wolf's attack was winding down:

click for larger view

19. Qe2

The alternative was 19. QxQ+, but this would leave an endgame in which White would have scant compensation for his pawn. The text was therefore probably the best practical chance.

"White is already at a disadvantage and is having to cast about for moves--the first sign of disintegration. Black, on the other hand, can see that his Queen-side will win and therefore proceeds to build up a strong position on the other side to keep White busy." (Sergeant-Watts).

19... b6

19...a5 looks simpler (e.g., 20. b6 d5 followed by cxb6).

20. Ra3

Wolf here shifted gears and decided to load up on the a-file. As will be seen, however, Pillsbury had seen further and recognized the flaw in Wolf's plan.

20... Bb7
21. Nb3

21. Nc3 or 21. Nd2 were more accurate.

21... e5!

This left:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, from the diagrammed position Wolf continued with his plan of doubling Rooks on the a-file and going after Pillsbury's pawn on a7 and quickly came to grief when Pillsbury sprang a combination that quickly wiped out all of Wolf's pieces except his Queen.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

22. Rea1

Continuing with his (doomed) plan to pile up on the a-file. Better chances were offered by 22. Rd1 or 22. f3, though Wolf would still be down a pawn and struggling for a way to retain some form of compensation.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Pillsbury's winning procedure from here was simple yet elegant.

22... Qd5!

Threatening mate, so Wolf could not take the a-pawn yet.

23. f3

If 23. Qf1 Pillsbury would have doubtless played 23...Raf8!

23... Qd4+

This fork refutes Wolf's Queen-side attack and wins the house.

24. Qf2

If 24. Kh1 Qxb2 and if then 25. Rxa7 (25. Qd3 is "better" but Pillsbury would then win with 25...Qb4) QxR+ 26. RxQ RxR+ 27. Nf1 and now 27...e4! is murder).

24... Qxb2

"Excellent judgment, especially with the third piece [i.e., the Knight Pillsbury will soon pick up along with both of Wolf's Rooks] in prospect." (Sergeant-Watts).

This left:

click for larger view

Two pawns down, Wolf proceeded with his plan to go for Black's a7 pawn. While this was an immediate loser as Pillsbury immediately demonstrated, to play something such as 25. h3 or 25. Qf1 would not have held any real chances for White,

25. Rxa7 QxR+!
26. RxQ RxR+
27. Nf1 Bd5!

The hopelessness of Wolf's position was now apparent:

click for larger view

White's f1 Knight is clearly doomed.

28. Qe3

28. h3 Bc4 is no better.

28... Bc4
29. h3

29. Kf2 RxN+ 30. Kg3 Bxb5 is also no fun for White.

29... RxN+
30. Kh2 h5

Weaving a mating net. The game is over:

click for larger view

31. Qa3 h4
32. Qa8+ Kh7
33. Qe8 Bf7
34. Qe7 Bh5
35. Qg5

This set up Pillsbury's neat finale:

click for larger view

35... Bxf3!

"Forcing the win." (Sergeant-Watts)

36. gxB R1xf3
37. Qh5+ Kg8
38. Qe8+ Rf8
39. Qe6+ Kh7
40. Qc4 Rf2+


"In the final position, the checks being exhausted, White can only avoid mate by giving up the Queen for the Rooks, and the Pawns win." (Sergeant-Watts)

click for larger view

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