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Georg Marco vs James Mortimer
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-19
Philidor Defense: Hanham. Sharp Variation (C41)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-04-09  YoungEd: I don't know the Philidor very well, so I have to ask: what was Black's error in the opening? He's pretty much busted by move 10. His e-pawn is weak, his king is exposed, and he has no development to speak of. Was 4. ...♘b6 the start of the problem?
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: <YoungEd>Was 4...♘b6 the start of the problem?

I'd say so. 4...♘f6 looks a much better move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A poorly played game redeemed only by Marco's lovely (albeit unnecessary) winning combination beginning with move 18.

YoungEd and GrahamClayton have correctly faulted Mortimer's handling of the Black side of a Philidor's Defense, but as I will attempt to show the problem did not lie with 4...Nb6 (hardly best but not fatal) and 4...Nf6 was not a superior alternative. Mortimer's blunders in the opening not begin until move 6, and he should probably have won after Marco's oversight on move 7.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 Nd7
4. Bc4

The position at this stage was:

click for larger view

4... Nb6

GrahamClayton has dubbed this "the start of [Black's] problems" and claimed that 4...Nf6 [I assume referring to 4...Ngf6] looks better.

I agree that 4...Nb6 was not best (the "book" move of 4...c6 or 4...exd4 were somewhat better), but Mortimer was--as discussed below--not without resource even after the (slightly) inferior text.

4...Ngf6 would be a mistake in light of 8. dxe5 Nxe5 6. NxN dxN 7. Bxf7+! KxB 8. QxQ Bb4+ 9. Qd2 BxQ+ 10. NxB leaving White a solid pawn to the good.

5. Bb3 exd4
6. Qxd4

With Black's Knight on b6, Marco could comfortably play this move, obtaining the better game.

6... Be6

Needlessly allowing Marco a chance to weaken the Black defenses with 7. BxB.

The position was now:

click for larger view

7. 0-0??

A horrible oversight that should lose immediately. Remarkably, this error was overlooked not only by both players but also by Rosenthal in his commentary in the Tournament Book.

7... h6??

Rosenthal preferred 7...Nf6, which is somewhat better than the text.

But Black has a simple win here with 7...c5 followed by c4 winning the White Bishop (Noah's Ark Trap). The position looks like something out of a beginner's book on tactics rather than a line missed by all concerned in a major international tournament.

8. BxB

Given a second chance, Marco makes sure he doesn't lose a piece.

8... fxB

Marco (White) now certainly had the better game, but Black's game is hardly hopeless:

click for larger view

9. e5

This allows Black to solve many of his problems. 9. Be3, 9. a4, or 9. Qd3 were the beginnings of better plans for White.

9... d5?

Very bad. White keeps his pawn on e5, Black's pawn on e6 is now terribly weak, and Black has no comfortable way to develop his pieces. Either 9...Qd7 or 9...exd5 (despite the isolated pawn) were much better.

10. Qg4

The Queen remains on this precarious perch for the next 11 moves. While the text is not bad, White's game remains undeveloped and Black retains the chance to chase White's Queen at any time. Marco might better have sought to lock up the Queen-side with 10. a4.

The position was now:

click for larger view

From here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, play got truly ragged: Marco failed to develop his b1 Knight until move 17, and Mortimer missed chance after chance to chase White's Queen with h5.

This game was played in the last round of a long tournament, and Mortimer was 2-13 going into this game. So perhaps we should excuse the players' foibles. Marco, though he won, did not display his undoubted talents here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

YoungEd stated that Black (Mortimer) was "pretty much busted by move 10." I'm not sure that was the case after 10. Qg4, but it most certainly was the case after Mortimer's next move:

10... Kd7?

Terrible. While the weak e6 pawn had to be defended, the way to do so was by 10...Qd7. After the text, the position was:

click for larger view

No doubt about it, Mortimer's position was now truly wretched. But weak play by Marco let him back into the game.

11. b3?

For reasons hard to fathom, Marco for the next several moves failed to develop his b1 Knight with Nc3 and failed to play the indicated a4. Now Mortimer could mess up Marco's edge with 11...h5. But he--again for reasons hard to fathom--failed to make this move for the balance of the game, allowing White's Queen to remain unchallenged on g4.

11... Qe8

As noted above, 11...h5 was better.

12. c4 c6?

Creating new weaknesses for himself and accomplishing little or nothing. 12...h5, or 12...Ne7 were much better.

13. Be3

13. a4 was again better.

13... Qf7

And, once again, 13...h5 or 13...Ne7 were much better.

After the text, Mortimer has a strategically lost game:

click for larger view

14. BxN

This was good enough, especially against a self-destructing opponent, but 14. a4 was--yet again--indicated and best.

14... axB
15. cxd5 cxd5

This left:

click for larger view

With 16. Nc3, Marco would control the board. But...

16. Rd1

Why play this while leaving his Knight bottled up on b1?

16... Ne7

Yet again, 16...h5 was best.

17. Nc3

Finally developing this piece, whose presence quickly decides the game.

The position was now:

click for larger view

In this position, as I will show in my next post, Mortimer erred yet again allowing Marco to wrap up the game with a beautiful combination.

Jun-07-18  Sally Simpson: Hi Keg,

As always lovely clear notes with diagrams. A joy to read through.

Just adding that in Round 11 of the same event Mortimer had the same position in Schlechter vs J Mortimer, 1900 here.

click for larger view

But Schelecter played 7.Bxe6 and not 7. 0-0?

One cannot say Mortimer was playing for a Trap because when Marco stepped on the mine...Mortimer did not press the plunger.

I'm going to defend poor Mortimer for missing his chance to float the Ark.

He may have considered 7...c5 but it is creating a backward pawn (d6) on an open file. This is usually reason enough at a surface glance for most 'Rule of Thumb' players to not even go there.

Second. After 7...c5 there is a Bishop check. 8.Ba4+

click for larger view

...the only way to win the piece is to play 8...Ke7.

If I am correct and Mortimer was playing chess by 'Rules of Thumb' then his thinking would not taken him this way. 8...Ke7 is not that easy to see (as you say Rosenthal (and Marco) missed it).

10...Kd7 here has been bashed by everyone.

click for larger view

Look at the alternatives and put yourself in Mortimer's place.

10...Kd7 was a well thought out move, he knew what he was doing. He may have misjudged what was coming but there is a logic behind it.

10...Qe7 White plays 11.Nh4 with a fork on g6.

10...Qd7 White will play 11.Nd4 and I have to defend the pawn with 11...Kf7.

The King is open there to attack there and because I am forced to do a King move anyway I'll go Kd7 then Qe8 (which happened) and maybe I can castle 0-0-0 by hand.

And Keg do think this is criticism, just joining in- in passing.

Please continue....

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Sally Simpson> Thank you for your always interesting and thoughtful comments. I had overlooked the earlier Schlechter game (even though I had commented on it!).

With regard to the "winning" 7...c5 that Mortimer overlooked, you are of course correct that after 8. Ba4+ Mortimer's only way to win the Bishop would have been by playing the ugly-looking 7...Ke7. But this only makes matters worse for White, who would now have to retreat his Queen allowing Black to win a full piece. "Best" for White would be 8. Qe3, which at least wins a pawn for the piece (8...c4. 9. Nc3 cxB 10. axb3), opens the a-file for his Rook, and saddling Black with a weak d-pawn. White is still lost, but is better than after 8. Ba4+.

With regard to 10...Kd7, I think we have to agree to disagree. This move is a lemon no matter how you look at it. You are doubtless correct that--as a result of his earlier poor play--Mortimer had a bad position no matter how he responded to 10. Qg4. But 10...Qd7 would at least have kept him in the game. If 11. Nd4 as you suggest (11. a4 was probably best) Mortimer could have clawed his way back into the game by sacrificing a pawn with 11...0-0-0! Then: 12. Qxc6 c5 13. QxQ+ KxQ 14. Nb3 Nc4 would give Black considerable counterplay for the pawn. Black's position would be significantly better than what he faced after 10...Kd7?

Always good to read your thinking.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Picking up with the game after 17. Nc3, Mortimer had to play in the following position:

click for larger view

His best chance lay in 17...h5 and if 18. Qb4 then 18...Nc6. True, Marco would win the b6 pawn, but isolated soldier was of little value. Better to get counterplay (though he would still probably be lost in the long run).

Mortimer's actual move, however, led to immediate disaster:

17... Nf5??

This left:

click for larger view

White to move and win:

18. Nxd5!

"A very pretty combination which concludes the game brilliantly." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

While I agree completely with Rosenthal, 18. Rac1 is also crushing (e.g., 18...Kd8 19. Na4 h5 20. Qg5+ Be7 21.Qd2 Ke8 22. Nxb6). The text, however, is far lovelier and a faster way to win.

18... exN

A sad necessity. Anything else is even worse.

19. Nd4 Ke8?

Black is busted, but 19...h5 might have allowed him to hold out for a while. After the text, the roof falls in on Mortimer, the positioon now being:

click for larger view

20. NxN

Also good was 20. e6! immediately.

20... Rd8?

Even the "best" move 20...h5 would not have left Mortimer much to play for, but the text is practically a self-mate.

21. e6!!

The position now was a remarkable sight:

click for larger view

There is nothing to be done for Mortimer here. As Rosenthal correctly noted, 21...Qxe6 loses the Queen to 22. Re1.

But Mortimer finds something even worse:

21... Qf6
22. Qa4+

Mate in three.


Jun-08-18  Sally Simpson: Hi Keg,

Nice wrap up. Clear and inviting the reader in. (plenty of windows) Too many posts on here look like porridge all sqiffed up with no spaces. Only a real die hard would attempt to wade through that treacle.

People coming here will read yours.

Back to move 10 by Mortimer. Yes a lemon but he had decided not to give up the pawn so went this way. he spotted the threat and reacted to it. Correct (in hindsight) was to ignore it but at least he saw it.

His lemon was not floating the Ark, that was a clear missed chance.

In a way a typical last round game with very little at stake. The stronger player's slack moves may be explained by over confidence and waiting for the blunder.

Or some of Marco's slightly inaccurate play after his 7.0-0 blunder may have been him fishing for a glorious finish to steal the brilliancy prize from the round 14 game J Mieses vs Janowski, 1900 (excellent notes by you there as well.)

A picture here of Mortimer.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Sally Simpson>Thank you for your (too kind) comments.

I think you have identified the likely reasons for Mortimer's awful 10th move. I think you are also spot on concerning the mind-set of the higher rated players when matched against weaker foes in the closing rounds at Paris 1900. It was the kind of slack play you mention that doubtless led Marco to blunder on move 7. Indeed, the bottom five finishers at Paris 1900 lost each and every one of their games to all the top finishers (not counting replayed draws).

BTW I have now just about completed my run through the Paris 1900 tournament, and am pondering whether to take on Munich 1900 next.

Jun-08-18  Sally Simpson: If you enjoy doing it Keg, and one can clearly see you do, then continue.

Munich 1900 - remember to catch Von Bardeleben vs Showalter, 1900 Curt von Bardeleben resigning in a drawn position.

Our Friend Marco goes one better a couple of years later. Von Popiel vs G Marco, 1902

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Sally Simpson> You have whetted my appetite for Munich 1900, and I will indeed take that tournament on next.

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