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Lucien Didier vs Manuel Marquez Sterling
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 15, Jun-14
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Steinitz Deferred (C79)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-23-07  dzechiel: 44 Rxe5 should be marked as mate (#). And move 43...Rd4 doesn't make any sense (it hangs the rook and doesn't prevent the mate), probably a typo.
Jul-23-07  TheaN: I guess it was Rd5, leading to Re5+, exchanging the rooks and leaving white a bishop up.
Jul-23-07  babakova: Does it really matter? The bishop ending is just as easily won as the checkmate. I wouldnt be surprised if 43...Rd4 was played.
Jan-06-09  YoungEd: Didier's lone win in the database! Hooray!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: The battle for last place. Didier (0-13) verses Sterling (1-12) going into this game.

This was indeed the only win by Didier not only in this tournament but that--at least so far as I can discern-- reported anywhere (as previously pointed out by YoungEd on this sight 9 years ago). He did--in this tournament-- manage to achieve good and sometimes winning positions in other games, and drew his initial games with Mason and Brody. However, he blew all his winning chances in other games (hanging his Queen against Pillsbury) and, since draws were replayed at Paris 1900, earned 0 points against Mason and Brody because he lost both replays. Thus, the point Didier earned against Sterling here was his only point he received at Paris 1900. Didier thus wound up tied for last place with Sterling (who defeated Mortimer) at Paris 1900. Didier did succeed in drawing a game against Mason at Monte Carlo at 1901, but since draws were replayed there also, and under the bizarre scoring rules at that tournament, Didier would up with 1/4 of a point.

In sum, Didier's total tournament play earned him--in two tournaments--and grand total of 1 1/4 points.

The game here against Sterling, though the apex of Didier's chess career, was not a thing of beauty. He played an opening combination that resulted in an even endgame. After poor play by Sterling (who seemed allergic to playing d5 until move 36 (when it was--or should have been--a disastrous mistake). Didier threw away his winning advantage with a really bad sacrifice on move 37, got to the verge of defeat on move 39, but then won when Sterling blundered on move 39 (relinquishing his entire advantage) and on move 40 (which turned what should have been a draw into a loss).

The only thing worse than the bad play in this game is the commentary in the Tournament Book by Rosenthal, which is almost certainly Rosenthal's worst commentary on the Paris 1900 tournament.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 d6

The Steinitz Defense Deferred is not often reached in this fashion, but the move is certainly playable.

6. d4

Premature and giving up most of any advantage he had enjoyed as White. MCO-13 gives 6. c3 of 6. BxN+ or 6. Re1 as best. 6. c4 is another way for White to try to squeeze an edge out of this opening.

6... b5

MCO-13 calls this line "satisfactory for Black." It yields approximately equal chances.

7. Bb3 Bg4

7...Nxd4 was probably better, but the text is playable.

8. dxe5

Rosenthal correctly notes that 8. c3 was better. The unambitious text relinquishes the tension in the center and solves most of Black's problems.

8... Nxe5

The position was now:

click for larger view

9. NxN?!

This--after some superficial excitement--leads to an even endgame. It is not indicative of any serious effort by Didier to achieve an opening advantage.

9... BxQ

Rosenthal, for reasons I cannot fathom, calls this move "weak" and claims that Black should have sought equality with 9...dxN 10. QxQ+ RxQ. In fact, White comes out with some advantage on Rosenthal's line whereas the text leads to a series of forced moves that yield an even endgame.

10. Bxf7+ Ke7
11. Nc6+ KxB
12. NxQ+ RxN
13. RxB Nxe4

The position was now:

click for larger view

The endgame is dead level and a draw is seemingly on the horizon. What followed, however, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, was very weak play by both sides culminating in what should have been game ending blunders by Sterling on moves 30 and 31 (though Didier managed to though away this winning edge in just a few moves, winning thereafter only following further blunders by Sterling).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Ragged play by both sides ensued after an even ending was reach with 13...Nxe4:

14. f3 Nf6
15. Nc3

15. Nd2 or 15. Be3 were better.

15... Be7

Starting here, Sterling repeatedly declines to play the freeing and equalizing d5 until move 36 (by which time it was a dreadful mistake).

The text, though inferior to 15...d5, is not terrible in itself. It is, however, the beginning of a bad endgame plan by Sterling that soon lands him in trouble.

16. a4

This effort to neutralize Black's Queen-side pawn majority was a sensible plan by Didier. 16. Ne2 would also have been good.

16... b4
17. Ne2 a5

Once again, 17...d5 was better, as would have been 17...Rhe8.

18. Nd4!

Seemingly set on exploiting the White-square weaknesses on Black's Queen-side.

18... Ra8
19. Nb5 Rhd8

Still avoiding 19...d5, which even now would have given him a fully satisfactory game.

The position was now:

click for larger view

20. c4?

Throwing away his chances to try to capitalize on Sterling's weak play. Didier was nowhere near a win here, but his best prospects lay in the very move denounced as an error by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book. But after 20. Nxc7 Rac8 21. Nb5 Rxc2 Didier could have mustered some advantage with 22. Nd4. With the text, he gives Sterling a chance to turn the tables with 20...d5.

20... c5?

Sterling's allergy to playing d5 continues to ruin his chances. Sterling could have solved all his problems with 20...d5. With his actual moves, he creates new weak squares on his Queen-side, and a dangerous weak pawn on d6.

21. Bf4!

The best way to punish Sterling's strange lapses.

21... Ra6
22. g4

Having created targets on the Queen-side, Didier strangely shifts his attention elsewhere. 22. Rd3 or 22. b3 were better.

22... Rc6
23. h4 h6
24. b3

Having said "A" he should play "B" with 24. g5. The text should have allowed Sterling to equalize.

24... Ne8

Sterling is still unwilling to play d5. The text gives Didier a second chance to play g5, and this time he goes for it.

25. g5 hxg5
26. hxg5 g6
27. Ra2 Ng7
28. Rh2 Nh5

Only driving White's Bishop to a square with better prospects. Sterlin should here have played 28...Rcc8.

29. Bc1 Rd7
30. f4

The position was now:

click for larger view

Didier has the better chances here, but is nowhere near winning. With his next two moves, however, Sterling gives Didier what should have been a clear and easy win.

30... Ng3?

Pursuing a delusion. 30...Rc8 gave him good chances at survival.

31. Bb2

"Very well played. This move gives White the advantage." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

This is one of the few comments by Rosenthal with which I agree.

31... Ke6?

31...Nf5 or 31...Bf8 were his only real chances. With the text, Black marches his King into what should have been fatal trouble.

The position after 31...Ke6? was:

click for larger view

Didier could and should have made short work of Sterling from this position. But as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Didier managed to ruin his winning chances and bring himself to the verge of defeat in just eight moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Didier had the game in hand after 31...Ke6? But not for long:

32. Re1

32. Rh7 would also have won.

32... Kf5

32...Kf7 would have been even worse for Sterling after 33. Rh7+ Kf8 34. Re6 or 34...Ke8 35. Kg2

33. Rh7

This move doesn't throw away his win, but 33. Kf2 [the King is a fighting piece in the endgame] Ne4+ 34. Kf3 was crushing.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Black is clearly lost here, and might well have tried a desperate exchange sacrifice with 33...Bf6?! 34. RxR BxB, sad as that prospect would likely have been. Instead, Sterling seemingly marched to his doom with:

33... Ne4
34. Rf7+ Ke6
35. Rg7

For reasons I cannot begin to explain, Rosenthal in the Tournament Book faults the text and says that Didier should have played 35. RxB+ RxR 36. RxN+. That might also have won for Didier, but it would have left him some work to do. With his actual move, Didier should have won without much further ado.

35... Kf5
36. Kg2!

Getting his King into the attack, and the game should have been won quickly.

36... d5?

After having declined to move d5 for much of the game, Sterling now plays it at a time when it should have led to immediate defeat. 36...Rc8 was the only chance.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Didier here has a fairly obvious and easy win with 37. cxd4. But instead he played:

37. RxB?

This loony sacrifice entirely gives away Didier's winning chances. All of a sudden, he needs to fight for a draw. Incredibly, Rosenthal did not comment on this move.

37... RxR

38. cxd5 Ea6
39. d6?

With 39. Be5, Didier would have had excellent chances of holding the game and obtaining a draw. The text--which was obviously Didier's plan in playing 37. RxB?--leaves him on the verge of defeat:

click for larger view

From here, however, and I will show in my next post on this game, Sterling first threw away all his winning chances and then blundered into a lost position all on his next two moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Sterling had life in this topsy-turvy game after Didier's poor 39. d6?. But from here he missed blundered away any advantage Didier's poor play had given him and then blundered away the game, all on his next two moves.

39... Rd7?

Sterling had winning chances with 39...Re6--returning the exchange with much the better game (if 40. d7? Red6 41. NxR+ RxN; and if 40. Be5 [best] Nxd6 41. Nc7 Ne4 42. NxR RxN 43. Rd1 Kg4 44. Rd3 Re8 45. Re3 Kf5 46. Rd3 Rc8)

The text gives away any advantage Sterling had.

40. Kf3!

"This move concludes the game brilliantly" (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

This analysis by Rosenthal--who failed to note the errors by Didier on moves 37 and 39 or by Sterling on move 39--is nonsense. Didier's 40. Kf3 was indeed best play, but it only got him equality.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Sterling's possible winning chances are now gone and he should have headed for a draw with 40...Nd2+. (if 40. Kg3 Ne4+). Instead, Sterling blunders away the game:

40... Raxd6??

It is hard to know what Sterling was thinking about (or how Rosenthal failed to comment on this blunder):

click for larger view

Black now loses a piece, and then gets wiped off the board.

41. NxR+ RxN
42. RxN Rd3+
43. Re3 Rd5

This site gives this move as 43...Rd4, but in that case--as pointed out long ago on this site-- Didier's next move would be mate. I give the move here that appears in the Tournament Book.

The text (43...Rd5) is, in any case, hopeless.

44. Re5+

This left:

click for larger view

Realizing he had to trade Rooks and that this would leave him helpless, Sterling resigned, and Didier had his first win.


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