|KEG: Very poor play by Sterling lands him in a lost position as White by move 13 (if not before). He could safely have resigned by move 17 (if not before).|
Other than a cute combo on move 17, Showalter was not called upon to do much more than sit back and accept the gifts Sterling's blunders placed in his lap.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bg5 Nf6
The Berlin Defense--a popular way to respond to the Ruy Lopez in this tournament.
4. 0-0 Be7
4...Nxe4 is better, but Showalter has reckoned--correctly as it turns out--that he need do little more than await missteps by Sterling.
Solid but inferior to 5. Nc3 or 5. Re1
This move is often good for White in the Ruy Lopez, but not here. 6. d4 or even 6. Nc3 were much better. With the text, any advantage Sterling had enjoyed as White has been dissipated.
As Rosenthal correctly notes in the Tournament Book, 7. Re1 was better.
Better was 7...a6.
Very bad and unduly passive. 8. h3 or 8. Be3 were much better.
One of only two bad moves by Showalter in this game. 8...d5 was best. Showalter, however, may have decided that Sterling was quite capable of getting into trouble all by himself. And indeed the next few moves demonstrate how horribly Sterling is able to mangle his position without any assistance from Showalter.
Rosenthal appropriately labels this move as "weak," but his proposed 9. Bg5 would have been even worse (Black would simply play 9...h6 with much the better game).
Sterling should have concentrated on developing his pieces before opening the center. 8. Nbd2 or 8. Re1 were best. Note that Sterling, while apparently trying to hatch all sorts of unsound attacking schemes, never gets around to moving his b1 Knight until move 23!
The position after Showalter's capture was as follows:
click for larger view
10. cxd4 is the obvious move here, after which Sterling would have had--at worst--a slightly inferior game. But Sterling has other ideas.
"A mistake which compromises his game. The right move was 10. cxd4..." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book). My only quibble with Tosenthal here is that he claims that Sterling could have obtained "at least an equal game" with 10. cxd4. But after 10. BxN 11. gxB Showalter would presumably have played 11...Nb4 rather than 11...Qh3 (the only move Rosenthal considers). After 11...Nb4 in this variation, Black definitely seems better. After 11...Qh3, bu contrast, White would indeed have about even chances after 12. Nc3 (but not with Rosenthal's proposed 12. Be3).
As for Sterling's move, he apparently thought he had the makings of a King-side attack. But this is nonsense. Sterling has yet to develop his pieces and his "threats" are non-existent. With the text, Sterling is down a pawn with nothing to show for it.
It is my guess that only here did Sterling notice that 11. Nxc3 runs into 11...Nb4 allowing Black to trade off White's d3 Bishop and leaving Sterling hopelessly lost.
11...g6 was another good alternative.
12. QxB Qg4?
Allowing Sterling to swap Queens and--with his two Bishops--get some semblance of compensation for the lost pawn.
After 12...Qe6, Showalter would have been up a pawn without any compensating counterplay for White.
Throwing away his last lifeline in this game. Come what may, Sterling had to play 13. QxQ and try to make something of his two Bishops. Now, once again, he is down a pawn in a position with no real prospects.
Logical, but 13...d5 or 13...Qh5 were better.
Weakening his King-side while neglecting his development--a sure recipe for trouble. Best was 14. Nd2 (time to bring the b1 Knight into the game).
Perhaps foreseeing the little combination Sterling is about to let him spring.
A pointless horrible move. Having played 14. f3, he might as well have continued his plan with 15. g4.
Showalter's counterattack is under way!
Another terrible move, which leaves his Queen undefended and thus leaves him open to devastation.
Sterling had to play 17. Bxe4, unappetizing as that would have been for him. After the text, he is quickly brought to a hopeless endgame down two pawns, as I will show in my next post on this game.