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Leon Rosen vs Manuel Marquez Sterling
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 11, Jun-09
Italian Game: Two Knights Defense (C55)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-26-14  ralph46: 4 ..d6 is a tempo loss after 5 Ng5 white has a big advantage
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: For the most part, this is a poorly played game redeemed to some extent by Rosen's winning combination on move 20.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6
4. 0-0

A playable alternative to the more usual 4. Ng5 or 4. d4 that can transpose into such openings as the Max Lange Attack.

4... d6?

ralph 46 rightly calls this a "tempo loss." As what follows shows, thanks to this lemon by Sterling Rosen gets the usual Two Knights Defense line with a tempo to spare.

Best for Black here is 4...Nxe4. 4...Bc5 (recommended by Rosenthal in the Tournamentn Book) is certainly better than the God-awful text, but White is somewhat better after 5. d3. Rosenthal says Black gets the edge--but is only able to arrive at this conclusion by assuming White would respond 5. d4 after which 5...Bxd4 6. NxB NxN 7. f4 (better here for White would be 7. Be3).

5. Ng5 d5

Sterling has thus taken two moves to play d5, and Rosen has the usual Two Knights position with a free move (4. 0-0). Pretty bad play by Sterling!

6. exd5 Na5
7. Bb5+ c6
8. dxc6 bxc6
9. Be2

Even better given White's extra move was the odd-looking 9. Bd3 or even 9. Qf3.

The position was now:

click for larger view

In the Two Knights Defense, Black typically sacrifices a pawn for a dangerous attack. One thing Black cannot do having sacrificed a pawn is give up a tempo. Sterling needed to find some way to get compensation for the sacrificed pawn. But his play from here was lethargic, and he was lost after his 14th move.

9... Bc5

9...h6 was much better, making White give up a tempo by retreating his Knight.

10. c3 Nb7

Sterling still seems clueless about the fact that he has sacrificed a pawn for attack. 10...h6 was best.

11. Bf3

11. Qa4b was better.

11... 0-0

Rosenthal says that 11...Qc7 was better. But after 12. d4, Black would have a strategically lost game. The text is Black's best chance here.

12. Bxc6

Weak, and giving Black a chance to seize the initiative. The solid 12. d3 was best.

12... h6

Sterling misses his chance. 12...Qc7 was now best.

13. Ne4 NxN
14. BxN

The position was now:

click for larger view

14... Kh8?

Another terrible move by Sterling, after which Black is probably lost. Even worse, as Rosenthal pointed out, was 14...f5? 15. Qb3+ Kh8 (also hopeless were 15...Rf7 and 15...Kh7) 16. BxN Rb8 17. Qd5 and wins.

The best chance for Black in the diagrammed position was 14...Rb8

15. d4 exd4
16. Qh5

What on earth was Rosen thinking? 16. cxd4 was simplest and best

16... Qb6

Yet another really bad move by Sterling. 16...Qe7 was best.

17. Nd2?

Rosen has had a won game for several moves but seems hell-bent on mangling his own position. 17. cxd4 was simplest and best here.

17... dxc3

Thanks to bizarre play by Rosen, Sterling had a chance to get back in the game with 17...f5. Instead, he helps Rosen repair his self-inflicted damage.

18. bxc3 Qc7?

It should have been clear by now to Sterling that Rosen is planning a combination involving a capture on h6. To retreat the Queen from the 6th rank was therefore

19. Nb3 f5

Comparatively best, but unavailing.

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 19...Bb6 would have been crushed by 20. Bxh6!

The position was now:

click for larger view

From here, Rosen unleashed a nice combination that pretty most clinched the game for him, as I will show in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

The last position I gave in my last post did not include 19...f5. The position after that move in fact was:

click for larger view

Sterling had been lost for at least 5-6 moves, and was down a pawn without any real compensation. But now in the position diagrammed above Sterling got completely busted with the following combination by Rosen:

20. Bxh6!

The more prosaic 20. Bd5 also wins, but the text is prettier.

20... gxB

20...fxB loses the Queen to 21. Bf4+

21. Qxh6+ Qh7

This loses quickly, but Sterling had nothing better. As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, if 21...Kg8 22. Bd5+ Rf7 23. NxB [23. Qg6, overlooked by Rosenthal, if even more brutal and decisive, as is 23. Rae1] QxN [23...NxN would allow Black to hold on a bit longer] 24. Qg6+ leads to mate]

22. QxQ+ KxQ
23. BxN Bxf2+
24. RxB BxB
25. Nd4

The position was now:

click for larger view

The dust has settled and Rosen is now up two pawns and the win should not be in doubt. Sterling might well have resigned here. What remains of the game is neither very interesting nor impressive.

25... Be4
26. Re1 Rac8
27. Re3 Rb8

Sterling has no plan here, and returns the Rook to the square it occupied one move earlier.

28. Nb3

Also a waste of time as his 30th move shows. Better was 28. h3.

28... Rbc8

The Sterling Rook shuffle continues. 28...Kg6 was "better."

29. Rf4

29. h3 was better, though White's position is pretty hard to ruin.

29... Kg6

29...Rg8 was better.

30. Nd4 Rf6

Another senseless move. Continuing the Sterling shuffle with 30...Rb8 would have been better.

31. Rg3+

More thoughtless play. 31. g4 could have been played here.

31... Kf7
32. Nf3

Wasting time. 32. h4 was best and decisive. The "trap" set by the text was too obvious to have any chance of success.

32... BxN

Of course not 32...Rxc3 33. Ng5+ (Rosenthal).

33. RgxN

The position was now:

click for larger view

Not a bad time for Sterling to resign, but he chose to play on a bit longer.

33... Kg6

33...Ra6 was the only hope for any counterplay. The text is hopeless.

34. g4

34. Rg3+ was faster and better, but almost anything wins for White at this point.

34... Rc5

Inviting the coming trades that leave Sterling with nothing but a single pawn. 34...Ra6 was the only even mildly interesting option.

35. Kg2 Kg5
36. Rxf5+


With the loss of his pawn and the coming trade of of all four Rooks, there is obviously nothing left to play for.

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