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Curt von Bardeleben vs Johann Nepomuk Berger
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 13, Aug-08
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Modern Steinitz Defense (C71)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game was one of the few bright spots for Bardeleben. It was one of only two wins he mustered in the tournament, and other than his draw with Janowski was the only game against one of the top twelve finishers he did not lose.

Bardeleben was sick and out of sorts for most of Munich 1900, and his ability to prevail in an 83-move game against Berger (conqueror of Maroczy who also drew with Pillsbury and Schlechter) was an oddity given what transpired for most of the tournament (including early resignations by Bardeleben in two positions in which he was not lost).

The game itself was hardly a flawless gem, but Bardeleben for once managed to stay on top for just about the entire game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 d6

The so-called "Modern Steinitz Defense" or "Steinitz Defense Deferred." It has, from time to time, been on of the popular ways to defend against the Ruy Lopez.

5. d4

5. 0-0, 5. c3, and 5. BxN+ are the most popular selections in this position. But the text is also fine, as is 5. c4.

5... exd4

Playable, but 5...b5 is most popular and best.

6. Nxd4 Bd7

Black's opening gives him a constricted but defensible position. 6...Nge7 preserving the Bishop for other operations is probably more accurate.

7. NxN bxB

Black should not mess up his Queen-side pawn structure without at least eliminating White's a4 Bishop. 7...BxB was therefore better.

8. 0-0

The position was now:

click for larger view

White is better, but Black has the only open file and remains very much in the game.

8... Nf6

"?"--(Tournament Book)

8...Be7 is arguably better, but I see nothing wrong with the text (which transposes into the 8...Be7 lines in many variations (as in the game). I therefore fail to see why the Tournament Book assigned the natural-looking 8...Nf6 a "?"

9. Nc3 Be7
10. Bf4 0-0

10...Ng4 is an interesting pawn sacrifice in order to fight for the initiative (10...Ng4 11. Bxc6 BxB 12. QxN) but this is too speculative for my taste and the text looks best.

11. e5!

Bardeleben, playing as if in his best form, looked here to capitalize on his increase his space advantage.

11... Ne8

This looks horrible, but the alternatives (11...Nd5 and 11...dxe5) were no great prizes either.

The position was now:

click for larger view

12. Qd3

Allowing the a1 Rook to join the party.

12... d5

One of many signs that Berger (who also lost to Halprin at Munich 1900) was reckless in playing against players at the bottom of the draw (while scoring 2.5 out of 5 against the top five finishers). 12...dxe5 was best. Alternatively, he could have tried to mix things up with the double-edged 12...g5.

13. Rae1

Loss of time (see move 15). Bardeleben here should have played either 13. Rad1 or 13. Rfd1.

13... g6
14. Bh6 Ng7
15. Rd1

Placing the Rook on the square to which it should have move three turns earlier. Having played 12. Rae1, Bardeleben should probably have stuck to his guns with either 15. Ne2 or 15. b3.

15... Re8
16. BxN

Effectively conceding that his opening edge was pretty much gone.

16... KxB

This left:

click for larger view

Berger had nearly equalized at this point, and his possession of the two Bishops must have given him reason for optimism. However, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, matters went steadily downhill for Berger from this point, and Bardeleben had a won game by about move 22 or move 23. The contest, however, still had a very long way to go.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

17. Ne2 Rb8
18. b3 Qc8

The natural (and seemingly obvious 18...Bc5 is much better).

19. c4

Since Black can hardly afford to capture or push the pawn, the text was a good way to contest the center.

19... Rd8

The position was now:

click for larger view

20. c5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

Fritz also likes the text, but I am not comfortable with giving Black a connected passed pawn. 20. Qc3 (Stockfish's move) with its obvious threat of e6+ looks much stronger.

20... Kg8

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I prefer 20...Qb7 or 20...Bg4.

21. Qc3!

Better late than never.

21... Qb7
22. a3

"!"--(Tournament Book).

Keeping Black off b4. But 22. Nd4--preparing 22. f4--looks even better.

22... Qa7
23. Rc1

The position was now:

click for larger view

Bardeleben had by this point built a superior position. Beginning with his next move, Berger appears to have lost the thread of the game and ruins his chances.

23... a5?

23...Bf8 was the only way to retain a defensible position.

24. Nd4!

This fine move both prepared f4 while simultaneously targeting the weak Black pawn on c6.

24... Qa6
25. f4!

Starting his assault on the King's side. In conjunction with Bardeleben's pressure on the other wing, the text allowed him to pose insoluble problems for Black.

25... Bf8

Too late!

26. f5!

This left:

click for larger view

I would not like to have to defend Berger's position. To make matters worse, Berger here erred badly with:

26... gxf5

26...Bxf5 would drop a pawn but perhaps allow Black some counterplay (e.g., 26...Bxf5 27. NxB fxN 28. Rxf5 Qe2. Black is probably dead lost here, but it is better than what should have followed the text.

27. Qf3+?

27. Rf3 was crushing. (e.g., 27...Be6 26. Rg3+ Kh8 29. Qd2 h6 30. Qf4 Qc8 [pretty much forced] 31. Rh3 [even better than the materialistic 31. Nxc6] Kh7 32. Rcc3 Rd7 33. Rcg3 and mate can not long be delayed].

27... Kh8
28. Nxf5 BxN

28...Qe2 was the best try.

29. RxB

This left:

click for larger view

Berger had some chances here thanks to Bardeleben's weak 27th move. But here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Berger erred and should have lost quickly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

29... Bg7?

Although not identified as a mistake in the Tournament Book, this blunder left Berger in a theoretically lost position from which he never recovered. That being said, I have considerable sympathy for the move (instead of the obvious 29...Rd7 which holds the f7 pawn for at least a while but makes Black a punching bag). Berger was seeking a way to obtain counterplay and a way to shift to attack. Bad as the text is, I prefer this approach to getting slowly strangled in a bad position.

30. Rxf7

Challenge accepted (and rightly so, of course).

30... Rg8

At least Black has some threats, and there is always a chance White will go wrong, as Bardeleben promptly did.

The position was now:

click for larger view

31. Re1?

"!" -- (Tournament Book)

The Tournament Book notwithstanding, the text was a mistake that gave Berger chances. The game would have been pretty much over after 31. Qe3! (and is 31...Rbe8 [31...Rbf8 is better but ultimately hopeless] 32. e6).

31... Qc8?

Missing his chance. With 31...Rbe8 Berger would have been back in the game (e.g., 31...Rbe8 32. Qf3 [32. Qc3 Re6] Rgf8 33. RxR+ BxR [33...RxR 34. Qe3] and White still has work to do).

32. Qh4?

Hard to believe. 32. Bxc6 wins in a walk.

32... Qe6
33. Qh5?

Further jeopardizing the win. 33. Rxc7 (the most obvious move on the board) was best.

33... d4

33...Rbf8 or 33...Rgf8 were perhaps theoretically better, but Berger was going for broke in what was still a lost game for Black.

34. Rxc7

Best now was 34. b4!, though the text was certainly sufficient to win.

34... d3

The d-pawn was Berger's only chance.

35. Rxc6

35. Bxc6 was perhaps more accurate.

35... d2
36. Rd1

This left:

click for larger view

Berger had lost a gaggle of pawns, but he had some counterplay and perhaps a chance to make the win difficult for Bardeleben.

36... Qd5

36...Qe7 offered better chances (36...Qxe5 37. QxQ BxQ was hopeless for Black).

37. Rd6 Qxc5+
38. Kh1 Qxe5
39. QxQ BxQ
40. Rdxd2

The following endgame was now reached:

click for larger view

This is almost certainly a win for White, but Berger has Bishops of opposite colors and thus had--at the very least--very real practical chances for a draw. However, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Berger allowed Bardeleben to negotiate a trade of Bishops and reduce the game to a double Rook ending up two pawns. Even then, however, the game was far from over.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

40... Rb7
41. Rd5 Bb2

In playing this move, Berger effectively allowed Bardeleben either to trade off the Bishops of opposite colors or to win a pawn. He had to try 41...Bc3.

42. Rxa5 Bxa3
43. Bc6

With his Rook and Bishop both attacked, Berger had to swap Bishops and thus lost the chance to try for a draw based on this feature.

43... Rc7
44. RxB RxB

This left:

click for larger view

So now we have a double Rook ending with Bardeleben up two pawns. This should surely be a win. However, Bardeleben made heavy weather of this ending and gave Berger drawing chances.

45. Ra2

This doesn't blow the win, but 45. Ra7 was a killer. The text bespeaks a flawed plan by Bardeleben. He wants to get his a3 Rook behind the b-pawn instead of attacking the precariously placed Black King and pushing the b-pawn (e.g., 45. Ra7 h6 46. Rb7 Rc2 47. g3 [best to avoid a back-rank mate!] Rb2 48. Ra1 h5 49. b4 Rf8 50. Kg1 Kg8 51. Ra5 Rc8 52. Rg5+ Kf8 53. Rf5+ Kg8 54. Rf2 and Black is done for).

45... Rb8?

This should lead to a quick loss. 45...Rc3 or 45...Rb6 were better tries.

46. Rb2?

46. Ra7! indirectly defends the b-pawn (46...Rxb3 47. Rd8 mate) and leaves Black without any effective resource. Now, Berger sets up a blockade and makes Bardeleben's task difficult.

46... Rb4!
47. Kg1

To avoid any back-rank mating tricks.

47... Rc3
48. Rdb1

The position was now:

click for larger view

This may still be a theoretical win for White, but only after an agonizingly long and difficult effort. Given Bardeleben's illness throughout the tournament, Berger probably fancied his chances of getting a draw at this point.

48... Kg7

Berger now activates his King, which is at liberty to cause trouble thanks to Bardeleben's weak play.

49. Kf2

Can Bardeleben's King allow him to turn the corner?

49... Kf6
50. Ke2 Ke5
51. g3

Probably best. It keeps the Black King from f4 and provides protection against an effort by Berger to go after the White King-side pawns.

51... h5
52. Kf2

Shifting course in light of Berger's last move.

52... h4

"?"--(Tournament Book)

Berger should have sat tight with 52...Kf5 or 52...Kf6 rather than seeking a trade of King-side pawns.

53. Re1+ Kf5
54. Re3 hxg3+
55. hxg3

This left:

click for larger view

A new phase of the game now begins. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Bardeleben slowly made progress, thanks in part to some questionable play by Berger.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

55... Rc6

Berger must keep both pairs of Rooks on the board to have any chance of drawing.

56. Ke1

Bardeleben must get his King over to the Queen-side to release one of his Rooks from the defense of the b-pawn.

56... Rcb6

Berger must maintain the blockade and pressure on the b-pawn at all costs.

57. Rf2+

Repositioning this Rook to f3 where it can guard both White pawns.

57... Kg5
58. Rff3 Rb7

Berger must sit tight and await developments.

59. Kd2

Continuing his march to the Queen-side.

59... Rd4+
60. Kc2

The position was now:

click for larger view

Having repositioned his troops, Bardeleben now had to figure out how to make progress. The best plan seems to be to get a Rook to c4 to begin the advance of the b-pawn.

60... Rdb4

Still trying to sit tight on the b-file. But perhaps this was the time to try to disrupt White's plan with 60...Rc7+ or perhaps 60...Rb8 and then Rd6...Re6 and Re2 once the White Rook on e3 goes to the c-file.

61. Rc3

This was probably the time to go for the kill with 61. Re8 and then Rc3. 61. Rf8 followed by a plan to advance the g-pawn was another idea. The text maintains the White edge, but doesn't seem to do much to move toward any potentially winning plan. But here Berger blundered giving Bardeleben a chance to wrap up matters quickly.

The position here was:

click for larger view

61... Kg4?

A dreadful blunder which should have lost at once. Berger had to keep his Rooks on the b-file, keep White from trading off a pair of Rooks, and wait to see if Bardeleben could come up with a winning plan. The precipitous text allows White to get rid of a pair of Rooks (at the cost of the g4) and reach an easily won Rook and pawn ending.

62. Rfe3?

Missing 62. Rf4+ RxR 63. gxR Kxf4 which would leave the following easily won Rook and pawn ending with the Black King cut off:

click for larger view

With the Black King cut off, White should win in a walk. Now, after the text, Berger could have kept the game alive by either 62...Kh3 or 62...R4b5, in both cases avoiding a Rook trade. Berger did indeed avoid a trade, but played another awful move that also should have lost quickly:

62... Kg5?

The problem with this move is that it made it easy for White to get his b-pawn going with 63. Rc4 and then 64. Rec3 and 65. b4.

63. Rc5+

This is almost as good as 63. Rc4 and should have allowed Bardeleben to wrap up the game in short order.

63... Kg6

This left:

click for larger view

From here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Bardeleben failed to find the most pressing lines and allowed Berger to extend the game and hope for a niracle.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

64. Ra5

64. Rc4 was one good way to make progress. Alternatively, and perhaps best of all, White could have prepared a winning Rook trade with 64. Rec3 (e.g., 64. Rec3 Rg4 65. R5c4 Rg5 and now White can win with 66. Rc6+ Kg7 67. Rc7+ and after 67...RxR 68. RxR+ Black's King is cut off leaving White an easily won Rook and pawn ending.

64... Kf6

Very weak. Black's best chance lay in 64...R4b6 or 64...Rb8.

65. Ra4

Perhaps both players were fatigued. 65. Rf3+ Ke7 66. Ra4 R4b5 (Black can not afford to trade Rooks) 67. Re4+ Kd6 68. Rd3+ Kc6 69. Re6+ forces Black to submit to a Rook trade.

65... R4b5

65...R4b6 was the only slim hope (other than Bardeleben continuing to find a winning line).

66. Kb2

66. Rc4 was once again one way to make progress. 66. Rc3 and 66. Rf4+ were also better than the text.

66... Kg6
67. Ka3

Planning to force the advance of the b-pawn.

67... Kf5
68. b4

The position was now:

click for larger view

68... Kg4

This is fatal. Though lost, Berger should have tried 68...R5b6 or 68...Kf6.

69. Rb3!

Now Bardeleben had the game in hand.

69... Rf7

Hopeless, but the "better" 69...Re7 or 69...Rd7 did not hold out much hope either.

70. Ra5! Rb8
71. b5!

Finally on track, the position now being:

click for larger view

71... Rf3?

Tantamount to resignation. Berger wins a pawn, but the resulting Rook and pawn ending is a childishly easy win for White.

72. RxR KxR
73. Kb4 Kxg3

This left:

click for larger view

With the Black King essentially on planet Mars, it can easily be cut off and Bardeleben can obtain a Lucena winning position with no difficulty. The balance of the game requires no comment.

74. Ra7 Kf4
75. Re7 Kf5
76. Kc5 Kf6
77. Re1 Kf7
78. Kc6 Kf6
79. b6 Rc8+
80. Kb7 Rc2
81. Kb8 Rb2
82. b7 Rc2
83. Ra1


Apr-12-19  spingo: I love these annotations, KEG, and I thank you very much for them.

I think you should leave out the frequent "as I will discuss in my next post on this game" comments, and leave out the "the position now was" comments.

Once again, I am really enjoying them.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <spingo> So glad you find my posts of interest.

I take your point about my often stilted and unnecessary language. My reasons for methodology are:

1) I say "the position now was" or "this left" to distinguish a diagram depicting the position in the game from one showing an un-played variation; and

2) I refer to what will be coming in upcoming posts to make sure I remember what I was thinking (since my work schedule often means there can be days between individual posts on a game). In addition, this means any readers who see a post prior to the completion of my annotations on a game will have an idea of my thoughts on what came next.

Having said all that, your points are well-taken and I will try to minimize the repetitions in future posts.

Apr-15-19  spingo: OMG <KEG>, I hope I didn't upset you!

Once again - I love your posts. My kvetches were really minor.

When your posts are sequential they read like a very good book <except> for the "as I will say in the next post" parts.

Which chess book has a comment, "As we will discover on the next page"?

Anyway - you have got the idea, I won't harp on about it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <spingo>I think your constructive suggestions make a lot of sense and I have tried to incorporate them in my most recent posts. These latest posts do indeed seem to read better without my prior needless verbiage. I had forgotten that when read sequentially my "as I will say in my next post" seems silly.

Thank you for your comments which I think will improve my future contributions on this site.

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Featured in the Following Game Collection[what is this?]
Round 13 (Wednesday, August 8)
from Munich 1900 by Phony Benoni

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