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James Mortimer vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 9, Jun-01
Sicilian Defense: Old Sicilian. Open (B32)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Mortimer decides to trade off pieces and seek refuge in a roughly equal endgame, but this is near suicide against Pillsbury who was one of the most brilliant and aggressive endgame players in history. The manner in which Pillsbury destroys Mortimer in this endgame is---despite the weakness of his opponent--a wonder to behold.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf2 Nc6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. NxN

5. Nc3 is of course stronger, but Mortimer has decided to reduce forces to avoid Pillsbury's middle-game attacking prowess. This strategy proves remarkably ineffective here. Thus, the text, while maintaining the balance, must be rated as a mistake against an opponent such as Pillsbury.

5... bxN
6. Nc3 e4

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says this move is inferior to 6...e6, but both moves are fine, and the text suits Pillsbury's style.

7. a3

7. Bc4 is theoretically best, but Mortimer is hell-bent on avoiding complications and any kind of tactical battle. The text has the merit precluding 7...Bb4 and any complications that might ensue. It is easy to ridicule Mortimer's play to this point, but in fact chances at this point are about equal, and more exchanges are in sight.

7... Bc5
8. Bd3

Rosenthal calls this move "weak" and recommends 8. Bc4. In fact, both moves are just fine, and the text suits Mortimer's game plan.

8... 0-0
9. 0-0 d5!

Mortimer has his game plan and Pillsbury has his. With this move, Black has solved all his opening problems and has if anything the better game.

The position was now:

click for larger view

10. Bg5

Mortimer's plan is now clear--pin the Knight on f6 and then trade off Bishop for Knight and then swap Queens.

10... Be6
11. Qf3

Pursuing his plan relentlessly. Best--if White were seeking more than an inferior but playable endgame--was 11. Qe1.

11... h6
12. BxN QxB
13. QxQ gxQ

The position was now:

click for larger view

So Mortimer has "succeeded" in getting himself an endgame where tactics seem limited and in which he is at worst slightly worse.

What is incredible is how quickly and brutally Pillsbury annihilates Mortimer from this position.

14. Ne2

14. Ne4 may be somewhat better, but the text is consistent with Mortimer's anti-Pillsbury strategy. It is still hard to believe that Mortimer dill be dead lost in just a few moves without any gross blunder such as hanging a piece.

14... a5

Pillsbury is ready to march--on both sides of the board and in the center.

15. Kh1?

Weak. Best was 15. b3 stabilizing at least one part of his army.

15... Rab8

15...dxc4 immediately would also have been good.

16. b3

After Pillsbury's last move, 16. Nc3 was much better,

16... Rfd8

Just about the only truly second-best move by Pillsbury in this game. 16...dxe4 was better.

17. f4?

"A mistake which loses the game. The correct move was 17...Nc3." (Rosenthal).

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

From here on Pillsbury never falters, and in just 14 moves--every one of which is a killer--Mortimer is wiped off the board. How Pillsbury did this will be the subject of my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

After Mortimer's 17. f4?, Pillsbury had a won or nearly won endgame. But how to finish off the game? Let us watch a super-grandmaster at work.

17... dxe4!

Remarkably enough, White has no defense against Pillsbury's combination.

18. Bxe4 f5!

Pillsbury does not care about the c-pawn, he seeks bigger prizes.

19. Bd3

If 19. Bxc6 (probably best under the circumstances) Pillsbury would break through immediately with 19...Rd2!, ad pointed out by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book.

19... e4!

Pillsbury does not let up for a moment.

20. Bc4 Rd2!

A look at the position shows the crushing progress Pillsbury has made in just four moves:

click for larger view

As I think Bobby Fischer would say, White is busted.

21. Ng3

A bad move by Mortimer in a lost position. His best chance was 21. Rfd1, distasteful as that move would have been. The text, however, is even worse.

21... Rxc2

The game is clearly over, but Mortimer decides to play on.

22. Rfd1?

"Best" was 22. Be2, not that this would have changed the outcome.

22... BxB!
23. bxB Rbb2

I append another diagram to display just how totally Pillsbury has overwhelmed his opponent in this endgame in just a few moves:

click for larger view

24. Rd8+

This little "attack" by Mortimer only leaves his King all the more open to the coming regicide.

24... Kh7
25. Nh5 Kg6

Thwarting any further aggressive notions Mortimer may have had.

26. h3

If Mortimer wanted to play on, he might as well have played 26. Rg8+.

26... Kxh5

Mortimer is now down a piece and a pawn and his King is in mortal jeopardy. But the game continues.

27. Rg8 Be3

Devastating. Perhaps even nastier was 27...e3! But by this stage Pillsbury is in the pleasant position of being able to decide just how he wants to finish off the game.

28. Rf1 Kh4

Another and perhaps even faster route to winning was 28...Ba7 or 28...Bb6.

29. Rh8

The fastest way to lose. Pillsbury obliges.

29... Rxg2

Now it is mate in four:

click for larger view

30. Rxh6+

A spite check.

30... Kg3


Don't mess with Pillsbury in the endgame!

Nov-21-17  dumbgai: Nice annotations, <KEG>! One has to wonder what was going through these players’ minds during the game. Pillsbury must have chuckled to himself when he realized white’s plan.
Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: Humorous finish.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <dumbgai> Thank you! I never thought about what must have been going through Pillsbury's mind, but I bet you're right!

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