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Geza Maroczy vs Mikhail Chigorin
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 13, Jun-13
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Morphy Attack (C78)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: At first blush, this game appears to be a boring grandmaster draw. Upon looking further, there are some points of interest here.

Even apart from the game itself, this contest was important in the battle for top prizes. Though Lasker had by this stage clinched first place, Maroczy (at 10.5-3.5) was very much in the running for second or third places. Had Maroczy won this game (this final game before the last round), he would have been tied for third with Pillsbury and a half-point behind Marshall. In the final round Maroczy had White against Marshall. With a win here and against Marshall (and in fact Maroczy did win this game against Marshall), Maroczy would have tied for second. With the draw he achieved against Tchigorin here and his win against Marshall, Maroczy wound up tied for third with Marshall a half-point behind Pillsbury.

Had Tchigorin won here (he was 9.5-4.5 going into this game) and also won his final round game, he would have wound up tied for fourth with Maroczy. The problem, however, was that Tchigorin's final round opponent was Lasker who (at 14-1) was obviously a tough man to beat. By drawing this game against Maroczy and then two games against Lasker (draws were replayed at Paris 1900), Tchigorin up in sixth place (ahead of Marco, Mieses, Schlechter, Janowski, and Showalter among others). Had he won this game and then drawn with Lasker, Tchigorin would have ended up tied for fifth with Burn.

The game itself is not without interest. Both Maroczy and Tchigorin, though seemingly playing listlessly for a draw, had to avoid nasty little traps that could have led to immediate defeat.

Maroczy had the advantage for most of the game, and still had an edge in the final position. But with the game reduced to a Bishops of opposite color ending, Maroczy's chances of winning were probably slim.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Be7
6. Nc3

A move more frequently played then than now (when 6. Re1 is usual). The text is fine, so long as White is not trying for much more than a good game with at best a tiny advantage.

6... d3

6...b5 seems best, but with the text Tchigorin was setting a trap.

7. d4

7. BxN+ is best and would yield White a small edge after 7...bxB 8. d4 not unlike the advantages White can sometimes obtain in the Exchange Variation (4. BxN).

After the text, White can not hope for more than a game with equal chances.

7... b5

Tchigorin now springs his trap. The position was now:

click for larger view

Had Maroczy here carelessly played the seemingly routine 8. Bb3, he (as pointed out by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book) would have been in trouble after 8...Nxd4 9. NxN exN 10. Qxd4?? [10. Bd5 or 10. Nd5--not mentioned as options by Rosenthal--would have avoided the loss of a piece and avoided the obvious Noah's Ark trap but still left Maroczy down a pawn] 10...c5 followed by 11...c4 winning the b3 Bishop.

But the always careful Maroczy avoids this beginner's trap and makes the best (and only good) move:

8. dxe5 Nxe5
9. NxN dxN
10. QxQ+ BxQ
11. Bb3

This left:

click for larger view

The game already looks drawish, but from here Maroczy outplayed Tchigorin and had some chances to play for a win as I will discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Once the endgame was reached after the exchange of Queens, Tchigorin appeared to have resigned himself to playing for a quick draw. This tactic, however, could have led to trouble had Maroczy been more inclined to press for a win.

11... Be6

This move allowed Maroczy to trade Bishops and saddle Tchigorin with an isolated doubled e-pawn. It is therefore interesting that Tchigorin apparently did not fear this prospect and that Maroczy never tried to exploit this possibility. In fact, this Bishop exchange never took place.

Tchigorin could have avoided what I am suggesting might have led to difficulties with 11...c6.

12. Bg5

Maroczy seems not to have been in the mood for a battle either. Better alternatives were 12. BxB [as discussed above], 12. Be3, or even the simple 12. Rd1. The text did not yield Maroczy much more than equality,

12... h6

12...c6 and 12...c5 were both better.

13. BxN

If Maroczy wanted to play for a win, he might have tried 13. Be3.

13... BxB (f6).

14. Rad1

Another sign that Maroczy was playing for a draw. 14. Nd5 or 14. Nd5 were the best chances to make something of White's small advantage.

14... Be7

As is obvious, neither contestant fancies trading the b3 and e6 Bishops, and Tchigorin still does not fear doubled e-pawns.

15. Nd5

This was Maroczy's last chance to trade off the White-square Bishops and saddle Tchigorin with isolated doubled e-pawns.

15... Bd6
16. c4

Still no enterprise here from Maroczy. The only small chances to play for a win here lay in 16. Rd3 or 16. Ne3.

16... BxN

This can't be right (Tchigorin's preference for Knights over Bishops notwithstanding), especially since it saddles Black with a weak pawn on c7. 16...c6 or 16...0-0 were better.

17. RxB bxc4
18. Bxc4

The position was now:

click for larger view

Maroczy is better here, but Tchigoring should not have had much trouble holding the game, especially in light of the Bishops of opposite colors. With 18...a5, Black can avoid any serious winning chances by White. But:

18... Ke7

Missing White's obvious threat of ganging up on the Black pawn on a6. Now, all of a sudden, Tchigorin is in trouble.

19. Rfd1

Was Maroczy so intent on making sure of a draw that he missed his winning chances. 19. Ra5! would have posed serious problems for him. While, as Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, Tchigorin could have avoided the loss of a pawn with 19....Rhb8 20. b3 Rb6 (20...Ra7 defending the a6 pawn indirectly may be better), but Rosenthal's claim that this would have yielded Tchigorin an "equal game" seems wrong. White here has all the threats while Black is tied down to defending his many weak points. With Bishops of opposite colors, this is probably still a theoretical draw, but I bet strong endgame players such as Lasker, Rubinstein, Capablanca and Carlsen would have pressed Black very hard here.

After the text, Black's worries seem to be at an end. But Maroczy, though he should surely have played 19. Ra5, is about to set a trap for Tchigorin that may explain why he played 19. Rfd1.

19... a5!

Ending forever the threat of Ra5. The position was now:

click for larger view

In this seemingly dead drawn position, Maroczy sprang a clever trap that could have led to an immediate win with careless play by Tchigorin. I will discuss this attempt by Maroczy in my next post on this game and how Tchigorin avoided what could have been an immediate disaster.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Theoretically best after 19...a5 was 20. a4. But Maroczy, perhaps recognizing that he had scarce legitimate chances to win and seeking a draw or some other quick ending, decided to see whether Tchigorin was awake with the transparent trap:

20. f4

Had Tchigorin been careless here and played 20...exf4??, he would have been crushed immediately (as noted by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book) by 21. e5! Bb4 [21...Rhd8 or 21...Rad8 would avoid the cataclysm that follows the text, but would lose the d6 Bishop and the game] 22. a3 and the Black Bishop is lost. Even more devastating than Rosenthal's 22. a3 would be 22. Rd7 (if now 22...Kf8 23. Rxf7+ Ke8 24. Rxc7; or 22...Ke8 23. Rxc7 a4 [saving the Bishop but not the game] 24. Rdd7 Ba5 25. Rb7 Bb6+ 26. Kh1 f3 27. Bd7+ Kf8 28. Bg6 and Black can not avoid mate for very long).

But Tchigorin was indeed awake and avoided the trap nicely with:

20... f6

The game does most certainly now seem to headed for a draw, but Maroczy decided to press on for just a bit.

21. f5 Rhb8

21...Rhd8 was a little better. Indeed, Tchigorin moves this Rook to d8 on his next turn. The error, if this move can be called a error, was not serious in this very drawish position.

22. R1d2 Rd8
23. Kf1 c6
24. R5d3 Bb4

In his zeal to trade Rooks and end the game with a quick draw, Tchigorin misplaces his Bishop. 24...Bc7 or 24...Bc5 (where Tchigorin places his Bishop four moves later) were slightly better.

25. Rd1

Maroczy could have kept a small advantage by trading off both pairs of Rooks immediately here, but it is doubtful that he could have won the opposite color Bishops ending (more on this in a bit).

25... RxR
26. RxR Rd8

Tchigorin could have pretty much guaranteed the draw he is obviously seeking with 26...a4. But he is confident that the Bishops endgame is a draw.

27. RxR KxR

This left:

click for larger view

Is this anything other than a routine draw? Probably not, though when I fed this to Fritz and Stockfish my silicone friends both gave White a non-trivial edge [0.45 and 0.52]. Black does indeed having some glaring weaknesses, most notably the hole on g6. If there is a way for White to play for a win, it would involve the King-side invasion both Fritz and Stockfish intend.

But even after looking at the lines suggested by Fritz and Stockfish, I think any strong player should be able to hold the Black position.

28. Ke2

If Maroczy wanted to play for a win, he would have to try to create play on the King-side, probably beginning with 28. Kf3.

28... Bc5

This move accomplishes nothing and makes the Black position looser while doing nothing to thwart a King-side invasion by White. Better would have been 28...Ke7 or 28...Kd7 or even 28...h5.

29. Kd3

If Marcozy wanted to make anything of the chances Tchigorin had offered him, he would have played 29. Kf3 or 29. h3.


And here the players agreed to the result with which they both seemed satisfied.

1/2 -- 1/2

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