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James Mortimer vs Jacques Mieses
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 7, May-29
Sicilian Defense: French Variation. Normal (B40)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  vonKrolock: Incredible escape by Mieses

<22...♘h8> Almost every move wins here

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The fastest is ♗f4, that will win ♕ or give checkmate, Mortimer's move, <23.♖f6> could still prove good for a point, but it simply gives room enough for the royal couple to fly towards a safer wing - then, after <31.♖xa6>

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white had still 32.(♘xf7 or 32.♖g8) but again, the actual sequence allow to his opponent the opportunity for organize a defense

May-16-09  WhiteRook48: incredible attack in the middlegame
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: As vonKrolock correctly notes, it is "incredible" that Mieses escaped defeat here. Mortimer launched a powerful king-side attack which Mieses did not defend well, and Mieses was dead lost no later than move 15. As vonKrolock also correctly points out, Mortimer's position was so overwhelming by move 23 that almost any sensible move would have won. Indeed, it took--by my count--eight (8) serious oversights by Mortimer to blow the win here (including six horrible moves in a row). And when Mortimer allowed Mieses to escape to a drawn endgame, Mieses immediately blundered away a piece on move 41, again giving Mortimer an easy win. But Mortimer blundered the piece back on move 49, and the game was drawn. Under the rules in force at the Paris 1900 tournament, this meant the game was replayed. The replay was won by Mieses the next day.

As the above summary suggests, this was not a well played game, though Mortimer did--as WhiteRook48 observes--manage to build an "incredible attack in the middlegame."

The game is perhaps worthy of study to see how careless play can manage to toss away even the simplest of wins.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Bd3

5. Nc3 is more usual here, but the text is a reasonable alternative.

5... Bc5

5...Nc6 looks better, but the text is certainly playable.

6. Nb3 Bb6
7. Bg5

Though this ultimately helps Mortimer build a strong attack, that occurred primarily because of doubtful play by Mieses. Best here was 7. e5

7... d5

Mieses begins to get into trouble here. Better was 7...Nc6 or 7...h6.

8. e5 h6
9. Bh4 g5
10. Bg3 Nfd7
11. h4

Mortimer stakes all on a King-side attack. He soon gets everything he could have hoped for--a winning position that I would have expected Daffy Duck to be able to convert to victory against Magnus Carlsen.

A reasonable alternative was 11. Qe2

11... Nc6
12. Bb5 a6
13. BxN bxB
14. Qh5

The position was now as follows:

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Mieses's position is certainly uncomfortable, and Mortimer is definitely pressing him, but thus far no one has done anything horrible and Mieses' position is not without resources. But now the usually fine tactician Mieses goes astray.

14... gxh4?

Giving Mortimer exactly what he wants. 14...Rg8 was much better and should probably allow Black to hold the position.

15. Rxh4

For reasons I cannot fathom, Rosenthal in the Tournament Book faults this move and says that 15. Bxh4 was the correct move. But Rosenthal's move blocks the h1 Rook Mortimer is trying to get into the game, and allows Black to hold with 15...Qc7. Mortimer's actual move (15. Rxh4) is definitely best.

15... Nf8

Making matters worse. 15...Qe7 was the only real chance to defend.

16. Rg4 Ng6
17. N1d2

Not best. As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, 17. RxN would forfeit White's advantage after 17...fxR 18. Qxg6+ Kf8! But 17. Nc3 was the natural move and much better than Mortimer's actual choice.

17... Qd7?

A horrible square for the Queen. White is obviously going to put his Rook on the d-file and White's Knight is aiming at f6. I cannot imagine why Mieses chose a move that leaves him both open to a skewer on the d-file and to a potential Knight fork. 17...Qe7 was clearly better, as Mieses seems to acknowledge by his 19th move.

18. 0-0-0 a5?

There was no time for this. Black had to get his Queen off the d-file immediatley with 18...Qe7.

The position was now:

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Things already look bleak for Mieses. Mortimer has two squares (c4 and e4) for his Knight to exploit the pin on the d-file. Remarkably enough, Mieses' position soon gets much worse and Mortimer's already powerful attack picks up even more steam as I will discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

After Mieses' 18...a5?, Mortimer's attack was unstoppable. Mortimer had several ways to convert his advantage.

19. Ne4

Effectively exploiting the pin on the d-file and the awful position of Black's Queen. The only thing wrong with this strong move was that 19. Nc4! would have been even better.

19... Qe7

A sad necessity for Mieses, but with his Queen on the deadly d-file and with the threatened killing Knight fork Nf6 staring him in the face, he had no choice.

20. Nd6+ Kf8?

Mieses had no good moves here, but this is the worst of the lot. His "best" chance was 20...Kd7. After the text, the game seemed as good as over.

21. Rd3!

Absolutely crushing! The Rook is headed for the f-file and Black has nowhere to hide. Well done by Mortimer (at least thus far).

21... Rh7

A really bad and really ugly move. But I can't find anything decent for Mieses to play here. He's busted!

22. Rf3!

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book is critical of this move and claims that Mortimer should have played 22. Nxf7. But this is nonsense. While 22. Nxf7 is more than good enough and does indeed win (22...Rxf7 23. Rxg6 [better than Rosenthal's suggested 23. Qxg6]), the text (22. Rf3) is best and leaves Black no answer. I would probably resign as Black after seeing this move. But Mieses plays on...and a miracle happens (or, to be more accurate, about eight to ten miracles happen).

22... Nh8

This is one of the most dreadful-looking moves I have seen on a chessboard. But, once again, I have no better ideas for Black. His position was hopeless.

After 22...Nh8, the position was as follows:

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To quote vonKrolock again, "Almost every move wins here [for White]." Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says that 23. Bh4 is the right move, and that most definitely wins. Better still is vonKrolock's devastating 23. Bf4! Mortimer did not play any of these moves. Instead, he played:

23. Rf6

Far inferior to the moves suggested by vonKrolock and by Rosenthal, but still sufficient to win.

23... Qa7
24. Bf4

One move too late. 24. Bh4 was now better. But even after his last two inferior moves, Mortimer has yet to blow the win.

24... Bxf2?

Trying to set up Be3+ for himself. But Mortimer now has an easy win. Mieses' best chance---and not at all a good one--was 24... Qa6 trying for back-rank threats.

The position was now as follows:

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Mortimer has a fairly easy win here beginning with 25. Rxh6 But now, having played so well at the start of the game, his play becomes terrible.

25. Bxh6+ ?

Mortimer still has the game in hand, but this is one step in a very wrong direction. As noted above, 25. Rxh6 wins easily.

25... Ke7
26. Qg5?

Another bad move. 26. Rg8 was best.

26... Kd7?

He should surely have tried 26...Be3+ here. Now Mortimer's win once again looks easy.

The position was now:

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27. Qf4??

27. Qg8 would wrap up the victory. Mortimer was apparently expecting Mieses to play 27...RxB after which White wins immediately with 28. Rxf7+ NxR 29. QxN+ as mentioned by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book. But Mieses doesn't fall for that.

27... Ba6?

But Mieses misses his best chance here...a4! Now White should win in a cakewalk. But that's not what happened as I will discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Following Mieses' 27...Ba6?, Mortimer was very much back in the driver's seat and had various ways to win. Simplest would have been 28. Kb1 to eliminate Black's chance to check the King by Bishop or Queen to e3. But Moritmer had another idea.

28. QxB

Not as good as 28. Kb1, but this simplifying line should still win.

28... QxQ
29. RxQ RxB

The position was now as follows:

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Despite all his missed opportunities, Mortimer still has the game in hand. It won't be as easy now, but he surely should be able to win the endgame after picking up a pawn with 30. Nxf7. But...

30. Nc5+?

Making his task much harder, but even this doesn't end Mortimer's winning chances.

30... Ke7
31. NxB?

31. Nxf7! still wins for White (31...NxN 32. Rg7). But even with this latest lemon (31. NxB?), Mortimer should still be able to win.

31... RxN

The position was now as follows:

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As vonKrolock noted on this site more than eight years ago (but as was overlooked by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book), Mortimer still has two ways to win: 32. Nxf7 or 32. Rg8. But Mortimer misses both of these opportunities, and thus--finally--manages to blow the win.

32. Rg7?


32... Kf8!

All of a sudden, Black has everything defended and White's Rook on g7 must flee.

33. Rg3 Rh5
34. Rb3 Ra7

34...Rxe5 looks tempting, but it loses to 35. Rh3 (but not to Rosenthal's 35. Rb8+ Ke7). The text is best, and Mieses is now past the worst.

35. Rb8+ Kg7
36. Rf3 Ng6

The Black Knight that had been driven back to h8 finally reenters the game. But its sad story is not yet over. It soon gets pinned and then is blundered away by Mieses on move 41.

37. Ne8+ Kh6
38. Nf6 Rh1+
39. Kd2 Kg5
40. Rg8 Rh4
41. Rg7

The position was now:

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The position is about even, but there is still some play for both sides and it is not surprising that Mieses (who was tied for first going into this round) wanted to play for a win against the hapless Mortimer (who had lost his first six games). But, as I will show in my next post on this game, Mieses got careless here and blundered away a piece, once again leaving Mortimer with a won game. How this happened, and how Mortimer nonetheless blew the win, will be covered in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Having emerged from the valley of death in this game, Mieses decided after 41. Rg7 that he should play for a win against the last-place Mortimer. But he apparently momentarily overlooked the fact that his Rook on a7 was undefended and played:

41... Rf4??

41...Kh6 was best, as was noted by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book. Now Mortimer can win a piece with a fairly simple combination.

42. Rg3+ Kf5
43. R3xN fxR
44. RxR Kxe5

Now Mortimer is up a Knight in the endgame, and the win--or so it seems-should be routine:

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45. Nd7+ Kd6
46. Nb8

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 46. Ke3 would throw away White's win after 46...Rf7 47. Nb6 RxR 48. Nc8+ Kc7 49. NxR e5 (even better than Rosenthal's 49...Kb7) since Black will pick up the wayward Knight. But Mortimer doesn't fall for that and maintains his winning advantage. 46. Nb6 was also good. But the game is not over yet.

46... Rf2+
47. Kc3 Rxg2

The position was now:

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48. b3

Rosenthal calls this "weak" and says that 48. Rxa5 was the right move. While indeed 48. Rxa5 was best (and while I fail to understand why Mortimer did not play this), Mortimer still has the game well in hand even after the text.

48... e5
49. Ra6??

This was in fact the move that finally blows the endgame win for Mortimer. Incredibly, White's Knight is now lost:

49... Kc7

The position was now:

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As is obvious, Mortimer now loses his Knight and the game is soon drawn. What followed was of little interest.

50. Rxc6+ KxN
51. Rc5 d4+
52. Kd3 Rg3+
53. Ke4 Re3+
54. Kd5 g5
55. Rxa5

The capture Mortimer should have made on move or on move 49.

55... g4
56. Ra6 g3
57. Rg6 Re2
58. Rxg3 Rxc2

1/2 - 1/2

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