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James Mortimer vs Manuel Marquez Sterling
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 5, May-25
Ponziani Opening: Jaenisch Counterattack (C44)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: This game was <Manuel Sterling>'s only known victory.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: < Feb-05-11 Penguincw: This game was <Manuel Sterling>'s only known victory. >

You got that right, still after 5.5+ years.


This game is the solution to puzzle #38 in the 2016 Holiday Present Hunt (I'm just clicking on the game long after it had been solved), and I was surprised to see that I had posted here many years ago. :p

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A poorly played game on both sides that Mortimer lost as a result of an unsound King-side attack/sacrifice he attempted on moves 19 through 25. Mortimer was dead lost after his 25th move, but Sterling had great difficulty closing out the game and nearly blew what should have been an easy win (a Rook ending up two passed pawns) until Mortimer's blunders on moves 53, 56, and 57.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. c3

Ponziani's Opening. While this is far inferior to 3. Bb5 (the Ruy Lopez) and 3. Bc4, there is some logic to the move (support for d4). The opening can provide surprises for the unwary.

3... Nf6

Mentioned as a possibility in MCO-13, but the Tournament Book is correct that 3...d5 is much better.

4. Qa4

"Weak. The correct move is 4. d4." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

4... d6
5. d4

Another weak move by Mortimer. Though 4. d4 was best, now that the Queen has moved to a4, 5. Be2 is best. After the text, Black can obtain a clear advantage with 5...Nxe4

5... Bd7

Sterling misses the chance to play 5...Nxe4. (If then 6. dxe5? Nc5 and if 7. Qb5? dxe5 since 8.Nxe5 loses to 8...Qe7).

6. d5

Another weak move by Mortimer. Best was 6. Qc2

6... Ne7

Misguided. 6...Nd4 would have given Sterling a good game. (If 7. Qd1 NxN+ 8. QxN c6).

7. Qc2 Ng6
8. Bd3 Be7
9. h3 0-0
10. g4

Wild and unsound. White has not yet castled and his Queen-side is undeveloped. The text is--at best--grossly premature. Best was 10. 0-0

10... c6
11. c4

As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, 11. dxc6 was best. With the text, White has a strategically lost game.

11... c5

Very bad and missing his chance. 11...cxd5 was best.

12. Nc3 a6
13. Bd2

13. Be3 or 13. a3 were much better.

13... Rb8

A move that serves no purpose. 13...h6 was best.

14. Ne2 b5
15. b3

Needlessly creating weaknesses. 15. Ng3 was best.

15... b4

Locking the pawn chains on the Queen-side is a poor idea for Black. Rosenthal's 15...bxc4 would have been better, but best was 15...h5.

16. Ng3 h6
17. Nf5 a5

In this position, Mortimer decided he was poised for a King-side attack. This erroneous thought lands him in a hopelessly lost position in the course of his next eight moves.

18. Ke2

The beginning of Mortimer's flawed plan. Best was 18. Qc1.

18... Nh7

Missing his chance to play 18...a4

19. h4?

This pawn sacrifice is unsound. 19. Qc1 was best.

19... BxN
20. gxB Nxh4

21. Rag1

Having sacrificed a pawn, Mortimer carries on with his bad plan. He might have held the game with 21. Ne1

21... NxN
22. KxN Bg4
23. Ke2 BxB
24. QxB Ng5
25. f4?

Still apparently thinking he has a viable King-side attack. 25. Rg3 or 25. Kd1 offered hope of saving the game. Now Mortimer is simply lost. He is down a pawn and will soon lose another.

25... exf4

Forced--but sufficient for victory.

26. Qxf4 Qf6

White's King-side attack is now at and end and Sterling is set to invade the White position with his Queen.

The game should have been an easy win for Sterling at this point. However, as I will show in my next post on this game, Sterling bungled the win and prevailed only after a later collapse by Mortimer.

Aug-30-17  sudoplatov: Often in this type of position (in the Ruy rather than in the KID or other simiar Fianchetto positions), it's better to play e:f5 to recapture the Knight rather than g:f5. (Alekhine lost an early game this way but I don't recall which one.) Perhaps Mortimer should have prepared e:f5 before playing Nf5 (or may be he did and the e:f5 recapture would work here.) The idea is that often the extra Pawn on the Kingside generates more attacking power that the immediate opening of the g-file. It's likely that files are going to get opened later after e:f5 any; g5 may force opening of the h-file.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <sudoplatov> I agree that 20. exB was probably better than 20. gxB, and I also agree that 17. Nf5--though not wrong in itself--was part of a bad plan.

Good spot! Thank you.

But Mortimer nonetheless had at least even chances before 19. h4, and had a playable game until 21. Rag1.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After 26...Qf6, Sterling had what should have been an easily won game. But the win proved not to be easy for him.

27. Rc1

To keep Black's Queen from coming to c3.

27... Rfe8
28. Rhe1 Rb7
29. Kf1 Rbe7

Sterling seems not to know how to proceed here. He should have played to break through on the Queen-side with 29...Ra7. The text accomplishes nothing.

30. Bb1

Equally pointless. Better chances were offered by 30. Re3, though Mortimer would still be lost.

30.... Qd4

Waste of time as shown by his next move. 30...Qe5 immediately was better.

31. Rcd1 Qe5
32. Qg4

Very bad. He had to play 32. Qf2 to keep Black's Queen from getting to h2.

32.... Qh2

Sterling seizes his chance. He is now able to simplify to a Rook ending up two pawns that should have been easy to win.

33. Re2 Qh1+
34. Qg1 Qf3+
35. Qf2 QxQ+
36. KxQ

If Mortimner wanted to continue in this hopeless position, he should have played 36. RxQ.

36... Nxe4+
37. BxN RxB
38. RxR RxR

This should now be a routine win for Sterling, the position now being as follows:

click for larger view

But Mortimer refused to resign, and Sterling almost blew it.

39. Kf3 Re5
40. Kf4 Re7
41. Ra1 g3

Creating problems where none existed. 41...Rb2 would have left Mortimer with little basis to play on.

42. fxg6 fxg6
43. a3

As a result of Sterling's failure to play 41...Rb2, Mortimer is able to get himself an open file.

43... Kf7

Simpler and better was 43...g5+

44. axb4 axb4
45. Ra7+

Mortimer misses his chance to make a fight of it with 45. Ra6.

45... Re7

Game over, right? Not quite, as I will show in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: The finale of this game was not impressive.

46. Ra6

One move too late!

46... Rd7

46...g5+ was probably better, but Sterling still seems well on his way to victory.

47. Ra8 Kf6

Sterling could have saved himself a lot of trouble with 47...h5, but his position is seemingly too overwhelming to ruin.

48. Rf8+ Rf7
49. Re8 Kg7+

It is always cute to give check with a King move, but 49...h5 was obviously better. Nonetheless, Sterling has not managed to jeopardize his win...yet.

50. Kg4

Handing Sterling a tempo after 50...h5+. He should have played 50. Kg3. But the error did not prove costly given Sterling's next move.

50... Rf6

50...h5+ was obviously best.

51. Re7+ Kf8
52. Rd7 g5?

All of a sudden, Mortimer has a ghost of a chance. 52...Kg8 was best.

53. Kh5?

Missing his chance. After 53. Rh7, Mortimer had real drawing chances (i.e., if 53...Kg8 54. Rd7). Now, surely, the game is over. But...

53... Ke8

53...Rf3! would have been crushing.

54. Rh7 Rf3

Where the Rook should have moved on his previous turn.

55. Rxh6 Rxb3
56. Rxd6

56. Kxg5 was his last chance, though Sterling still would have had a likely win.

56... Rc3
57. Re6+

Now it truly is game over. Mortimer had to try to use his King beginning with 57. Kxg5.

57... Kd7
58. Re4

Equivalent to resignation, though the "better" 58. Rb6 or 58. Kxg5 would have provided few chances.

58... b3


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