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Lucien Didier vs Jackson Whipps Showalter
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 3, May-21
Four Knights Game: Spanish. Symmetrical Variation (C49)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-03-16  psmith: 34... Ra2! gives back the rook to stop Qh7+ and set up an unstoppable attack.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Didier's penchant for wild attacking themes sometimes made for exciting chess, but it led to disaster here against the wily veteran Showalter.

Didier's handling of the Four Knights opening here was not inspired (I am no fan of 7. Ne2 though the move appears in opening manuals) but after the first twelve moves he had an approximately equal game 13. d4, however, was unsound, and Showalter took prompt advantage with 13...Bg4. Contrary to the Tournament Book (which champions the awful 14. Be3), Didier's 14. h3 was best, and after Showalter's questionable 15...exd4 (instead of 14...d5) Didier was back in the game. The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

With 16. cxd4, Didier, though still somewhat worse, would have had a highly playable game. This, though, was not Didier's style, so he played the wild 16. Nf5?!. He no doubt had combinations with Nxh6 in mind.

Showalter, however, didn't give Didier the chance to get a strong king-side attack, and instead began chasing Didier's Queen with 16...Ne5 and then after 17. Qg3 with 17...Nh5 18. Qh2 (if 18. Nxh6+ Kh7 wins as Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book). Showalter then won a pawn with 19...Nc4 19. Bc1 dxc3. Had he responded to 20. cxd3 with 20...Bc7, Showalter would have had the game in hand.

When Showalter erred slightly with 20...d5, Didier might have had a fighting chance with the simple 21. exd5. But, once again, Didier's hyper-aggressive style led him astray again here. His 21. Bd1 was an effort to go for broke on the King's side. After 21...Bc7 (better late than never!) 22. f4, Showalter could have stopped Didier in his tracks with 22...Nf6. (In the Tournament Book, Rosenthal states that 22...Nf6 would have allowed Didier to achieve equality after 23. Qg3 g6 24. e5, but after 24...Ne4 it sure looks to me as if Didier's goose would have been cooked).

Showlater played 22... g6 (not the best, Rosenthal notwithstanding) and now Didier could again have had some chances with 23. BxN or 23. e5. But Didier went off the deep end here, as I will show in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After Showalter's questionable 22...g6, the position was as follows:

click for larger view

Didier once again went for an all-out attack here with 23. Nxh6+. Now, after 23...Kh7 he was in trouble. His 24. Nf5 did not improve matters for White (perhaps 24. g4 was the best chance). Had Showalter played 24...Bb6+ or 24...dxe4, Didier's chances would have been close to kaput. Showalter's 24...gxf5, though sufficient to win, allowed Didier a glimmer of hope after 25. BxN fxe4.

But instead of the sensible 26. Qg3, Didier played the wild 26. g4. He apparently overlooked the fact that Showalter had a dangerous passed e-pawn and thus attacking prospects of his own--in this case a winning attack.

After Didier's 26. g4?! Showalter took control with 26...Qh4. Now not even Magnus Carlsen could have saved Didier.

Didier's poor 27. Qg2 was answered by 27...e3, and the game was effectively over.

Didier sacrificed the exchange with 29. RxB, but was still dead lost. The only remaining interest in the game was Showalter's gorgeous 34th move.

After Didier's 34. f6 (a final effort at attack by the never-say-die Didier), the position was as follows:

click for larger view

If Didier had thoughts of playing Qf5+ with mate to follow, he was brought down to earth with Showalter's fabulous 34...Rxa2 (as previously noted by psmith on this site). Rosenthal in the Tournament Book aptly called 34...Rxa2 "A very nice move which concludes the game brilliantly." And indeed, after 35. QxR Rg8 the game was over. (Even more brutal would have been 35...Nd2, which leads to a forced mate, but Showalter's winning method was certainly sufficient to end resistance).

A cute finish!

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