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Lucien Didier vs James Mortimer
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 10, Jun-05
Italian Game: Evans Gambit. Main Line (C52)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-22-13  vikram2791: M Didier has lost all the games in the tournament.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: vikram2791 is correct that at this stage of the Paris 1900 tournament, Didier had lost all of his games. But he did manage to defeat Sterling in Round 15 and wound up in a tie for last place with Sterling with scores of 1-15.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A poorly played game with two moments of interest: Didier's 9th and 21st move. He could have obtained somewhat the best of the game on move 9, and could have stayed in the game had he not gotten lost in the tactical complications on move 21.

The one nice moment in the game was Didier's pretty 20th move.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. b4

Didier generally played the Ruy Lopez in the early rounds of this tournament. He had faced the Evans Gambit twice as Black thus far, drawing with Rosen (and losing the replay) and losing to Tchigorin. So he decides to try his hand on the White side of this opening.

4... Bxb4
5. c3 Ba5
6. d4 Bb6

A strange choice by Mortimer. 6...exd4 is usual and best. The text gives Didier a chance to obtain at least equality with 7. dxd5 or 7. Nxd5. But Didier misses these opportunities and pursues a will of the wisp.

7. a4

I can find no record of anyone else playing this move. It has the merit of taking Mortimer out of any preparation.

7... exd4
8. 0-0?!

Making this a true gambit opening!

8... dxc3

While this is playable, simpler and better was 8...d6 which leaves Black a pawn ahead with a defensible position.

After 8...dxc3, the position was:

click for larger view

Having opted to play a gambit, Didier here had a chance--as pointed out by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book-- to play in true gambit style with 9. a5 getting the better game. Mortimer would have had three possible responses to 9. a5, each of which would have left White with the better chances:

(A) 9...Bc5. As Rosenthal points out, White now gets an edge after 10. Bxf7+ KxB 11. Qd5+ Kf8 12. QxB+. But White's edge is small on this line, since his Queen-side is not developed and Black is up a pawn. Stronger than Rosenthal's line, therefore, was 10. Qb3 retaining a powerful bind on Black's position.

(B) 9...c2. This move--not considered by Rosenthal in his commentary--is better than 9...Bc5. White gets the better game here with 10. Qxc2 Nxa5 11. RxN BxR 12. Ne5 Nh6 13. Bxh6 with somewhat better chances in this complicated position.

(C) 9...Bxa5 (best). White here gets the edge after (Rosenthal's line) 10. Qd5 Qe7 11. RxB. That White is better here is clear from the likely continuation to Rosenthal's line: 11...Nf6 12. Qb5 a6 13. Qa4 0-0 14. e5. The position would be complicated, and tactics would rule the day.

9. Nxc3

Listless play by Didier. In contrast to the recommended 9. a5, Didier now has only minimal pressure for his two pawns minus.

From this point, play was very ragged.

9... Nge7

9...d6 was better.

10. Nd5?

Very weak. Didier could have had somewhat the better position with 10. Ng5. Now, he would have little to show for his sacrificed pawns had he faced strong opposition.

10... d6?

What was best on the last move is now misguided and allows Didier to seize the advantage. 10...0-0 was correct.

11. Bg5

Missing another opportunity. 11. NxB was best.

11... h6
12. Bh4 a6

Instead of this dithering, Mortimer should have solidified his game with 12...0-0.

13. Qd2

13. e5 immediately was better.

13... Be6
14. e5?

What was good on move 13 is a losing mistake after 13...Be6. Didier should have played 14. Rab1 or 14. NxB. Has he forgotten that he is playing a gambit opening?

14. BxN
15. BxB(d5) Nxe5?

Mortimer would likely have had a winning position with 15...g5. But now Didier has chances again.

16. Rae1

More weak play. He should have exploited Mortimer's weak play with 16. a5 or 16. BxN. Now, Mortimer is back in the driver's seat again...but not for long.

16... 0-0?

With 16...g5 Mortimer would have had good winning chances. Now, Didier once again has the better chances.

17. NxN dxN
18. Rxe5 Bc5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Didier is still two pawns down but has definite and dangerous attacking chances. There are some exciting tactical possibilities afoot. Unfortunately for Didier, however, he miscalculated and--despite a gorgeous 20th move--was dead lost after move 21.

This sad (for Didier) story will be recounted in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Didier had attacking prospects after 18...Bc5, but how should he play from here?

19. Rh5?

Not like this. Didier's blunderbuss ganging up on the h-pawn is doomed to failure against good defense.

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book recommends 19. Bxf7+ as best and gives the following line: 19. Bxf7+ RxB 20. QxQ+ RxQ 21. RxB. But this would leave the position as follows:

click for larger view

But this is hardly good for White. Mortimer could have simply played the forking 21...Rd4 and wind up a pawn ahead in an endgame he should almost certainly be able to win. This can hardly be best for White.

Going back to the position I gave at the end of my last post, Didier's best move was the most obvious one: 19. Rd1. Now the Queen is protected and all his threats remain (including Bxb7). I am far from sure White can win from this position, but he certainly has excellent chances and ample compensation for his two sacrificed pawns.

After the text (19. Rh5, however, White is in serious trouble.

19... c6

Defending everything. Is White now lost given that he is two pawns down. The position was:

click for larger view

20. Bf6!!

An incredibly lovely move that breathes life into White's attack.

Had Mortimer now played 20...gxB Didier would have mate in three starting with 21. Qxh6.

And if 20...cxB White can get at least a draw with 21. Rxh6!! Black then could not play 21...gxR because White then mates in three beginning with 22. Qxh6. On the other hand, 21...gxB leads to a draw after 22. Qd3 , e.g., 22...Ng6 23. RxN+ fxR 24. Qxg6+ and draw by perpetual check.

The only way Black could have played to win after Didier's 20. Bf6!! would have been to sacrifice his Queen with 20...QxB 21. RxQ NxR, which would leave the position as follows:

click for larger view

Black here has Rook, Knight, and two pawns for White's Queen. It is not clear that this was sufficient to win, but Black would have had the better game.

But Mortimer did not play any of the above moves. Instead he played:

20... Qd6

This move breaks the pin on Black's e7 Knight, defends his c5 Bishop, and indirectly defends h6.

The position was now:

click for larger view

This, as it turns out, proved to be the climactic moment of the game, as I will discuss in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

After 20...Qd6, Didier was down two pawns and had two Bishops hanging. How to continue the attack?

21. Bxg7?

This flashy move loses almost immediately. The correct move, as noted by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book, was 21. Rxh6!! This move gives White life in all variations (many of which, however, were incorrectly analyzed by Rosenthal).

A) If 21...Qxd5 White mates in three with 22. Rh8+!! KxR 23. Qh6+ and mate next move.

B) Much better is 21...Nf5 which leads to at best a small advantage for Black. Rosenthal suggests that White would now play 22. Rg6?, but that loses to 22...cxB (not Rosenthal's awful 22...QxB[d5] 23. Rxg7+ and White mates in a few moves). Rather, after 21...Nf5 White should play 22. Bxg7! and then after 22...NxR 23. Qg5 Kh7 24. BxN Qg6 25. Be4 f5 26. QxQ+ KxQ 27. BxR BxB (or 27...RxB) and a likely draw with Bishops of opposite colors.

C) also good (and probably best) for Black after 21. Rxh6---and contrary to Rosenthal's claim--is 21...gxR. Rosenthal says that White then wins with 22. Qh6, but Black winds up with the better chances by sacrificing his Queen with 22...QxB(f6). Then, after 23. QxQ cxB the position would be:

click for larger view

With Rook, Bishop, and Knight for the sacrificed Queen, Black is almost certainly better.

Unfortunately, Didier missed the lovely 21. Rxh6 and played 21. Bxg7 leaving the position as:

click for larger view

It is not clear exactly what Didier was thinking. In any event, the rest was easy for Mortimer:

21... KxB
22. Qc3+ Qf6
23. Qg3+

23. QxQ+ was a little better, but also hopeless.

23... Ng6
24. Be4 Bd4

24...Rad8 was faster and more accurate, but the text is good enough to preserve Black's win.

25. Qh3

If Didier really wanted to play on a piece down, he had to try 25. Rf5. Now the game is over, even for Didier (who tended to play on in hopeless positions).

25... Rae8


If 26. Bb1 Black mates in two beginning with 26...Qxf2+! If 26. Bd3 Re5 extinguishes all hope (even better than Rosenthal's 26...Re1, which also wins).

The best parts of this game were the moves and variations that were NOT played.

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