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Jackson Whipps Showalter vs Mikhail Chigorin
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 15, Jun-14
Queen's Gambit Declined: Chigorin Defense. Main Line (D07)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A tough struggle came to a sudden conclusion when Tchigorin blundered on move 32.

Tchigorin played his favorite 2...Nc6 against Showalter's Queen's Gambit. Despite being on "home territory" in this opening, Tchigorin got outplayed and Showalter built up what looked like a decisive King's-side attack. But Tchigorin fought back and the game appeared to be developing into a fine battle of ideas when Tchigorin miscalculated in his 32nd move and had to resign three moves later.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 Nc6

Tchigorin's patented defense to the Queen's Gambit. Its disadvantages are obvious (blocking Black's c-pawn), but Tchigorin had often demonstrated the dynamic possibilities for Black in this opening.

3. Nf3

The text, 3. Nc3, and 3. cxd5 (perhaps White's best choice here) are all known lines against Tchigorin's 2...Nc6 line.

3... Bg4?!

Many of us would opt for 3...e6, but Tchigorin's well-known preference for Knights over Bishops led him to adopt the text. This move has the virtue of attempting a solution for the problem of Black's White-square Bishop against the Queen's Gambit.

4. e3

MCO-13 gives 4. cxd5 or 4. Qa4 as best. The text, however, is solid and allows White to avoid doubled pawns should Black decide to trade off his g4 Bishop (always a possibility with Tchigorin). Perhaps 4. Nc3 is the simplest and best choice here if White is seeking to obtain an advantage.

4... e6
5. Nc3 Bb4
6. Bd2 Nge7

Though it is presumptuous to argue with Tchigorin in this opening, it is hard to see why he preferred developing his Knight on e7 instead of the natural 6...Nf6.

7. a3 BxN(c3)
8. BxB 0-0
9. h3 Bh5

The position was now:

click for larger view

10. g4?!

10. Rc1 looks most solid and logical. But Showalter, instead of playing for pressure on the c-file, launches a speculative King-side attack. While this approach may not have been theoretically best, it wound up giving Tchigorin fits. Perhaps he underestimated the potential dangers.

10... Bg6
11. h4?!

11. Nh4 seems best, but Showalter has decided on an all-out assault on Tchigorin's King-side.

11... Be4

As so often in his games, Tchigorin seems happy to part with his Bishops and play with two Knights against his opponent's two Bishops. 11...dxc4 seems the safest and best move here, though Black is still fine after the text.

12. Rg1 f6

Creating needless weak squares on his King-side. 12...BxN or 12...dxc4 were best.

13. h5?!

Showalter refuses to be distracted from his intended King-side assault. Here, however, 13. Nd2 immediately was best.

13... Qe8?

Having played f6, Tchigorin had to play 13...h6 immediately. Showalter's attack now picks up steam.

14. Nd2!

An essential element in Showalter's attack is to deal with Black's e4 Bishop.

14... h6

One move too late!

15. NxB dxN
16. Qc2 f5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Showalter has clearly emerged with a significant and probably winning position from the opening. The question now was how to continue the attack. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Showalter had a variety of strong options and plans available to him here. The plan he adopted was least until his mis-plays on moves 19 and 21.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

In the last diagrammed position in my prior post, Showalter chose to continue with:

17. Bh3

Was this the best way to continue the attack?

According to Rosenthal in the Tournament Book, the "right move" was 17. g5. This is indeed a fine alternative, and seems to lead to a win for White. If Black plays 17...hxg5, White wins after 18. Rxg5 as Rosenthal correctly noted. Alternatively, if 17...Qxh5 (Black's best chance) White wins with Rosenthal's 18. d5 (18. gxh6 may be even better) Nd8 (18...exd5 is better but unavailing) 19. gxh6 g6? (suicide, 19...g5--not mentioned by Rosenthal--was the only chance to stay in the game) 20. Be2 Qxh6 (20...Qh2 and 20...Qh4 are likewise hopeless) 21. 0-0-0.

While Rosenthal has indeed demonstrated a win for White with 17. g5, Showalter's more subtle move should also have won if properly followed up, and was at least as good as Rosenthal's move.

In fact, White has at least two other winning lines here: 17. gxf5 (a simpler way to open the g-file) or 17. 0-0-0 (perhaps the best move of all).

With his pressure on the g-file and with his c3 Bishop poised to join the attack on g7, it is hard to see how Tchigorin could hope to survive very long here.

17... Nd8

Despair! 17...Rf7 looks better, but is hardly a cure for all the problems that ail Black here.

18. d5

Unleashing the c3 Bishop. 18. gxf5 was another winning line.

18... Nf7

He might have tried 18...f4 here, but Tchigorin's position seems beyond repair.

This left:

click for larger view

But here, just as it appeared victory was at hand for Showalter, he seemed to lose the thread of the game.

19. 0-0-0?

This, while allowing White to bring his other Rook to the party, gives Black time to organize a defense.

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, White can win here with 19. dxe6 Ng5 20. gxf5 Nf3+?! (the hyper-defensive 20...Rd8 would be less immediately disastrous than Rosenthal's move, but would not hold out much hope for Black) 21. Ke2 NxR+ 22. RxN.

Perhaps even stronger than Rosenthal's line was 19. gxf5 opening the g-file immediately.

With Showalter's move, however, Black was suddenly very much back in the game.

19... Ng5!

The only move, but a good one.

20. gxf5 Nxf5?

Overlooking the crushing reply Showalter now had. 20...exf5 was Black's only chance to hold out. Luckily for Tchigorin, Showalter also overlooked the way to win here.

The position was now:

click for larger view

21. BxN?

Undoing everything he had accomplished in his attack and leading to no more than equality. The winning move here was 21. RxB! Then after 21...hxR 22. Qxe4 Rd8 23. Qg2 exd5 24. Qxg5 Qe7 25. QxQ NxQ 26. Rg1 d4 27. Bxd4 White's attack is overwhelming.

In fairness to the players, Rosenthal in the Tournament Book--with plenty of time to analyze the game--also missed 21. RxB!

21... RxB

As Rosenthal pointed, 21...exB leads to an inferior position for Black after 22. c5 (or--even better--22. Qb3).

The position was now:

click for larger view

White's attack is pretty much at an end, and we have in effect a new game. How the players fared from here will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

I should correct one mistaken impression my last post may have caused. While 21. BxN? did indeed throw away White's winning advantage, and while 21. RxN! was indeed best, there were other moves that would have won for White without sacrificing the exchange, e.g., 21. Bg2

Anyway, back to the game after 21...RxB.

22. dxe6

22. Rd2 or 22. Rd4 or even 22. Kb1 were better, though the text does not seriously weaken White's already diminshed chances.

22... Qxe6
23. Rd4

Showalter continues to floudner. 22. Kb1 was better.

23... c5

Missing his chance to seize the initiative with 23...Raf8

24. Rd2 Raf8

As Rosenthal noted in the Tournament Book, 24...Qxc4 would lose to 25. f4 Ne6 (hardly "forced" as Rosenthal claimed; 25...Raf8 was less immediately disastrous) 26. b3 (the text wins, but 26. Bd6 would have been crushing) 26...Qa6 27. Qxc4)

25. b3

Showalter is still in a haze. 25. Qa4 was far better. The text gives Black real chances to gain a significant edge.

25... Qf7

25...R5f7 would have given him much better chances.

26. Qd1 Re8
27. Qe2

27. Rd7 or 27. Rg2 would have given Showalter even chances

27... b5

It is hard to understand why Tchigorin did not play the far stronges 27...Rf3 here.

28. Rgd1

The position was now:

click for larger view

28... Re7

Rosenthal called this "weak" and claimed that 28...Ne6. This analysis is completely wrong. The text is fine, while 28...Ne6 29. Rd7 Re7 [Rosenthal's line --29...Rxf2 was slightly better and might yet hold the game for Black] would lose to 30. RxR QxR 31. cxb5. I simply can't understand what Rosenthal was thinking here.

29. Rd8+ Kh7

Rosenthal correctly noted that 29...Re8 would lose to 30. R1d7 [and 30. RxR+ or 30. cxb5 would be even stronger].

30. Rb8 Ne6

If 30...bxc4, as noted by Rosenthal, would lose to 31. Rdd8.

31. Qg4 bxc4

31...Qxh5 was somewhat better.

32. Qxe4

The clever 32. Bxg7! would have given Showalter some chances.

The position after 32. Qxe4 was:

click for larger view

The position is undoubtedly correct and the game is very much in the balance. Chances were approximately equal. But here, as I will show on my next post on this game, Tchigorin blundered and the game came to a sudden and shocking end.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

In the diagrammed position with which I ended my last post Tchigorin blundered/miscalculated with:

32... Nd4??

32...cxb3 or 32...Nf8 would have left both sides with about even chances. The text, however, was a fatal mistake that spelled immediate defeat. Tchigorin obviously overlooked Showalter's reply.

The position could be given as a problem. White to move and win:

click for larger view

The winning move was found by Showalter:

33. Qa8!

As Bobby Fischer would say, "Black is busted."

33... Ne2

33...Qxh5 or 33...Rxh5 giving up the Knight might have allowed Tchigorin to extend the game a bit, but would not have saved him.

34. Kb2 Rxh5
35. Rd6

The position was now:

click for larger view

Here, Tchigorin resigned.


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