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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Leon Rosen
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-19
Sicilian Defense: Paulsen. Szen Variation (B44)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: If Rosen had played 21...dxe5, I think Pillsbury would have played 22. ♘f5 followed by 23. ♕g3.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: With this final round victory over Rosen (coupled with Marshall's loss to Maroczy in the same round), Pillsbury finished in second place at Paris 1900, a half-point ahead of Marshall and Maroczy.

Pillsbury's second-place finish--alongside his victory at Hastings in 1895, his tie for third and fourth at Nuremberg 1896 with Tarrasch behind Lasker and Maroczy [ahead of Steinitz, Janowski, and Schlechter], his third place finish at Budapest 1897 [behind Tchigorin and Charousek and ahead of Tarracsh, Schlechter, Janowski,and Maroczy], his tie for first with Tarrasch at Vienna 1898 (losing a closely contested playoff match) ahead of Janowski, Steinitz, Schlechter, Tchigorin, and Maroczy; his tie for second at London 1899 with Janowski and Maroczy behind Lasker and ahead of Schlechter, Tchigorin and Steinitz; and his upcoming tie for first with Maroczy and Schlechter at Munich 1900 (ahead of Janowski amongst others) made Pillsbury as of 1900 one of the two best players (Tarrasch being the other) on the planet behind Worlc Champion Lasker.

At Paris 1900, though, much of Pillsbury's succes was the result of good fortune. Many of his opponents self-destructed, e.g., Didier hung a Queen in a won position against Pillsbury. In the instant game, Pillsbury obtained no advantage against the hapless Rosen (3-12 going into this contest) and won only because of a dreadful blunder by Rosen on move 20 coupled with Rosen's inexplicable and unsound sacrifice of the exchange on move 22 after Pillsbury had failed to capitalize on Rosen's error.

All in all, this tournament--like this game--was an important practical victory for Pillsbury, but not a triumph reflecting the fine play Pillsbury exhibited in the tournaments listed above.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 e6
5. Nb5

A very Karpovian move by Pillsbury. 5. Nc3 is most frequently played here.

5... d6
6. N1c3 a6
7. Nd4 Nf6
8. Be2 Bd7

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says that 8...Be7 was "correct," but there is nothing wrong with the text, especially if Black is thinking of an eventual Rc8.

9. 0-0 Be7
10. Be3 0-0

The position was now:

click for larger view

To this point, Rosen's play was fine and Pillsbury had at best a nominal advantage.

11. Qd2

A stereotyped move by Pillsbury. 11. f4 was much more in the spirit of the position, and perhaps the best chance to seize the initiative. After the text, Pillsbury got nothing out of the opening until Rosen's blunder on move 20.

11... Qc7

More ambitious and better were 11...Ne5 or 11...b5. The text, however, is safe and sufficient for approximate equality.

12. Rad1

Still following a formulaic build-up rather than the creative play we usually see from Pillsbury at this stage of a game. Either the aggressive 12. f4 or the prophylactic 12. a3 were better.

12... Rad8

Again playing safe and seeking only equality. The only way to fight for an edge here was 12...b5.

13. f4 b5

This move was overdue from Rosen. Alternatives for Black here were 13...d5 (recommended by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book) and 13...NxN.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Battle lines are now drawn, and a typical Sicilian struggle appears to be looming. However--and shocking to say--for the next stage Pillsbury's play was unrecognizable, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Rosen obtained chances which (fortunately for Pillsbury) he failed to exploit.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Whether because this game was played in the last round of a long tournament or because he took Rosen lightly, Pillsbury's play beginning in the last diagrammed position in my prior post became lethargic.

14. Bf3?

Ignoring Rosen's only threats (involving the square b4). Pillsbury would have been fine (albeit with no real advantage) after 14. a3

14... Na5

Missing the stronger 14...b4! (e.g., 15. Nb1 NxN 16. BxN e5 or 15. Nce2 e5). The text, though less sharp, still yields a small plus to Black.

15. b3 Rc8
16. Nb1

16. Nde2 was perhaps a little better.

16... e5
17. Ne2 Bc6

Rosen should probably have repositioned his now misplaced Knight with 17...Nb7

19. Qf2

Another seemingly rote move by Pillsbury. 19. b4--limiting Rosen's Queen-side options-- was much better.

19... Nc5

Rosen should have tried to exploit the c-file with 19...Bd7

20. Nd2

Yet another wooden move by Pillsbury. 20. Nc3 (preparing fxe5 and Nd5 if Rosen opened the c-file) was much better and would have yielded at least a small edge to Pillsbury.

The position was now:

click for larger view

The opening has been anything but a success for Pillsbury. Had Rosen now taken steps to clear the c-file (e.g., 20...Bb7 or 20...Ba8) he would definitely have had the better game.

Rosen, however, miscalculated here, and was immediately lost:

20... Rfe8?
21. fxe5!

Taking immediate advantage of Rosen's slip.

21... Nfd7

Belatedly recognizing that his intended 21...dxe5 would lose a piece to 22. BxN (but not GrahamClayton's 22. Nf5 which would lose for White after 22...Nfxe4).

22. Bh5?

Letting Rosen back into the game. 22. b4 was best. Even the simple 22. exd6 would have been better than the text, which leaves (or should leave) Pillsbury a pawn ahead but allow Rosen significant counterplay and chances to hold the game.

22... Nxe5

The position was now:

click for larger view

23. Bxf7+ Kh8?

Hard to believe. Why not the obvious 23...NxB? Whatever led Rosen to sacrifice the exchange, his plan was misguided.

24. BxR RxB
25. Bg5 h6
26. BxB QxB

26...RxB was better.

27. Nf5 Qc7

This left:

click for larger view

The game is clearly won for Pillsbury. In my next post on this game, I will examine the ill-conceived (and unsuccessful) attack that Rosen now attempted and that perhaps explains (if such is possible) his mysterious 23rd move and exchange sacrifice.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Although Pillsbury had a won game after 27...Qc7, his play from here--as throughout the game--remained spotty and uncharacteristically careless. As will be seen, he gave Rosen chances to get back into the game; chances which Rosen did not exploit on his way to defeat.

28. Qf4

Weak play that almost allowed Rosen to launch the desperate attack he may have hoped his ill-conceived exchange sacrifice on move 23 was going to generate.

Much better here was 28. b4 or even 28. Qd4.

28... Re6
29. Nd4

Yet again failing to play 29. b4. Also better than the text were 29. Ng3 or 29. a3.

29... Rg6
30. NxB QxN
31. Nf3 Nxe4
32. NxN dxN

Rosen has made some small progress. He has won back a pawn and has some counterplay. The position was now:

click for larger view

Despite some second-best moves by Pillsbury, he still seems to have the game in hand. But now:

33. Rd8+?

A severely flawed attempt to build a mating net. Suddenly, Rosen has chances.

Pillsbury should have played 33. Rf3.

33... Kh7
34. Qf8 Qb6+
35. Kh1

This left:

click for larger view

Pillsbury is threatening mate on the move, but Rosen would have had chances with the simple 35...Rf6. After 36. RxR NxR. Instead:

35... Rg5?

This allowed Pillsbury to chase the Black King to destruction with 36. Qg8+ or 36. Qh8+. But--yet again in this game--Pillsbury missed his chances with:

36. Rf3?

This allowed Rosen a chance to play 36...Nf6 and hang on for a while. But...

36... b4??

Now Pillsbury again can rule the board with 37. Re8 (and get his Rook off d8 where it is attacked by Rosen's Queen, or to play

37. h4

Perhaps not as strong as 37. Re8, but this move is consistent with Pillsbury's style of striving for mating lines. Unlike Pillsbury's last few moves, this time the threats are for real, and the game is over.

37... Ng3+

37...Rh5 was probably better, but there was no hope for Rosen now.

38. RxN

There were other ways to win, but this method is cute.

38... RxR

The position was now:

click for larger view

Rosen has restored material equality, but now he must give up his Queen to avoid mate.

39. h5!

A beautiful move, that (finally) cinches victory for Pillsbury.

39... QxR
40. QxQ e4
41. Qe8 Rg4
42. Kg1

42. Qe5 was even better, but this move was more than sufficient.


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