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Amos Burn vs James Mason
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 15, Jun-14
Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch Defense (D40)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Straclonoor: 6-pieces endgame drawn but only, if 62....Rd2. 62....Ra3 loses in 30 moves.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A game Burn could and should have won.

Mason adopted a form of the Tarrasch defense to the Queens Gambit. The typical theme arose--the strength or weakness of Black's isolated d-pawn. Here, Mason faltered, lost his d-pawn, and Burn reduced the game to a Queen, Rook, and Knight against Queen Rook and Knight with a pawn in hand. It is unclear whether this gave him a clear win, but when the Knights came off and Mason erred again, Burn had an almost certain win. As this heavy piece ending developed, Burn had winning chances, and finally traded down to a clearly winning Rook and pawn endgame. But chess can be a cruel game, and after working so hard, Burn erred and gave Mason chances to win. Mason missed his chance, was dead lost, but Burn then threw away the win with weak 66th and 68th moves. A draw was the result, which led to a replay four days later (draws were replayed at Paris 1900) which Burn won.

While this game is far from a flawless gem, it does provide useless examples of how and how not to play Rook endings.

1. d4 e6
2. c4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 c5

A version of the Tarrasch defense to the QGD.

5. cxd5 exd5

5...Nxd5 is usually played here. 5...cxd4 is a good alternative. The text guarantees that Black will have an isolated d-pawn, but is certainly playable.

6. Bg5 Bxc6
7. dxc5

7. BxN was the best way for White to play for an advantage here. After the text, White can play against Black's isolated d-pawn, Black should be fine (but not the way Mason handles the opening).

7... Bxc5
8. e3 Nc6

The position was now:

click for larger view

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, White can get into trouble if he tries to grab a pawn here: 9. BxN QxB 10. Nxd5?? BxN 11. QxB Qxb2 (or 11...Bb4+) and Black wins.

9. Bd3 Be7

9...h6 was simplest and avoids the problems Mason soon encounters.

10. 0-0 0-0
11. Rc1 Qd7

11...h6 was again somewhat better.

12. Bb1 Rfd8

Yet again, Black should have considered 12...h6.

13. Qa4

Hardly best. 13. Qc2 was far better.

The position was now:

click for larger view

13... Bf5

Rosenthal claimed this move was "forced" because White was threatening 14. Qh5 followed by BxN. But there were better ways to deal with this problem,e.g., 13...h6 or 13...d4.

14. Rfd1 BxB?

Rosenthal rightly called this move "weak," but his proposed 14...Qe6 was not much better. Mason should have played the seemingly obvious 14...Be6 here.

After the text, Black loses a pawn.

15. BxN BxB
16. Nxd5

Did Mason overlook this intermediate move?

16... Qf5
17. NxB+ QxN
18. RxB RxR+
19. QxR Rd8
20. Qb3

This left:

click for larger view

The dust has cleared and Burn is up a pawn. Is this position a win for White? Whatever the answer, a long tough struggle lies ahead. I will try to discuss the approaches of the players from this point in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

The question of whether--with perfect play--Burn did or did not have a win with his extra pawn is less important than the over-the-board issues of: (a) how should Burn play for a win; and (b) how if at all should Mason try to hold his position. As will be seen, Burn's idea was to advance slowly and methodically and try to obtain a passed pawn in the center; while Mason decided drastic measures were needed and made repeated efforts to complicate.

20... Rd7
21. Rc1 Qd6
22. h3 Qf6
23. Kf1 g5?!

23...h6 is most solid, but Mason apparently believed he was lost and that he needed to shake up the game.

24. Qc3 Qf5

The position was now:

click for larger view

25. Nd4?!

Although the presence of Knights on the board gave Burn stronger winning chances, he made the questionable decision to play to trade Knights and try to win with his own isolated--but passed--d-pawn. There were, of course, a number of simpler options: e.g., 25. a4; 25. Qc2; and 25. Re3. But in fairness to Burn, his task after any of these choices would have been formidable. The text may have reduced the weapons available to Burn, but it did make his plan simpler and more direct.

25. NxN
26. exN Qf4

Mason was still trying to complicate (the idea being to attack White's d-pawn while threatening an eventual invasion into the White camp with Qh2.

27. Rd1

The position now was:

click for larger view

27... Rc7

27...Qh2?? immediately would drop a full Rook after 28. Qc8+. So Mason, still trying desperately to mix it up, plays to seize the c-file. More solid was 27...Rd5, but careful and solid play was obviously not what Mason was seeking.

28. Qd2

Obviously believing the Rook ending was won for White, Burn offered to trade Queens here.

28... Qf5

Mason may well have had better chances in the Rook ending, but this was not his plan.

29. d5!

Burn's idea in trading Knights was to be able to advance his d-pawn.

29... Rd7

If Mason had been thinking he could get counterplay with 29...Rc2, he must have noticed here that 30. Qd4 renders the idea futile.

30. Qd4

Why not just continue to push ahead with 30. d6.

30... b6

Since White taking the a-pawn would have cost Burn his precious d-pawn, this defensive move was unnecessary. He should have blockaded the d-pawn with 30...Rd6

The position was now:

click for larger view

Burn had made progress over the course of the last ten moves, but victory was still in the distant future.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

How should White go about converting his pawn-plus advantage to a win in the diagrammed position with which I ended my last post? For a while, Burn did not appear to have a plan, and even when Mason erred badly on move 36, Burn was reluctant to enter into complications that might have brought him a speedy victory.

31. Rd3

Missing the opportunity to assault the Black Queen and King-side with 31. g4!

31... Rd6!

The blockading maneuver he should probably have used on his last move. Better late than never.

32. Ke2 f6
33. g4

The best try, though he should have played this two moves earlier.

33... Qd7
34. f4!

Burn now appears to have hit on a strong plan.

34... gxf4

Giving Burn what he wanted. a non-committal move such as 34...h6 would have been better.

35. Kf3!

A lovely intermediate move by Burn. The f-pawn will not run away. Alternatively, he could have played 35. Qxf4 immediately.

35... f5

This King-side venture does not work well--or at least should not have worked well--for Mason.

36. Qxf4

The position was now:

click for larger view

Feeling the game getting away from him, Mason decided to try for counterplay at any cost:

36... Qb5?!

The "prudent" course would have been to play 36...fxg4+ and make Burn prove he could find the (agonizingly long) win. But Mason decides to shake things up.

Needless to say, and as Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 36...Rxd5 gets immediately crushed by the pinning 37. Qc4!

This left:

click for larger view

Mason's threats to White's Queen-side pawns notwithstanding, Burn had various ways to win from this position. The simplest method was probably 37. Qxf5 preparing an invasion by his Gueen on c8. The most violent--but perhaps best--winning method was 37. QxR QxR+ 38. Kf4 (the King is a fighting piece in the endgame!).

Burn, however, was loathe to get involved in any sort of tactical fisticuffs. So he played the wimpy:

37. Qd4?

Burn probably still had a theoretical win here, but once again there was a long road ahead of him.

37... fxg4+
38. Qxg4+ Kf7

38...Rg6 was better.

39. Qd4

Back on track, but still far from victory.

39... Qd7
40. Ke2 Rf6
41. Kd2 Qd6
42. Kc2

The position was now:

click for larger view

The "I" formation of pieces in the center of the board is cute.

Having held on a pawn down for over twenty moves, Mason here lost patience and brought himself yet again to the verge of defeat, as will be shown in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Straclonoor: According to Schredder 6-man TB - after 62.Rh4 - draw. But only one move to draw for black is 62....Rd2.

62....Ra3 loses in 30 moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

42... Qh2+

Mason could perhaps have held the game with solid unenterprising play beginning with 42...Rf4. But he prefers to go down swinging, and thus tried the probably unsound text.

43. Kb3 Qd6

Having said "A," Mason should have said "B" and played 43...Qf4. In effect, he has just handed a tempo to Burn, and his game was now probably beyond salvage.

44. Qe4!

Exploiting Mason's temerity by first gaining time by attacking Mason's h-pawn and then using the time gained to reduce to a winning Rook and pawn ending.

44... Kg7
45. Re3!

An essential preliminary to what should now be a crowning incursion into the Black camp with one of his heavy pieces.

45... a6

45...Kf8 or 45...Kg8 offered better chances, but Mason's game is probably hopeless at this point.

46. Qd4

Burn could have played 46...Qe7+ immediately, but this slow approach also works nicely, especially with Mason's poor 48th move.

46... Kf7
47. Qd3 Kg7
48. Qe4 h5

One step too far. 48...h6 was better. The win for Burn now looks easy.

49. Qe7+ ! QxQ
50. RxQ+

This left:

click for larger view

A clear win for White? In theory the answer is Yes. But Rook pawn endgames can always be tricky, and this one proves to be a problem for both players.

Of course, it is easy to be a critic when the clock is not ticking and the kibitzer has endgame manuals, computers, and endgame databases within close reach. But a close study of endgame play in a context such as the instant one can be instructive. I therefore apologize in advance to the extent my comments may be critical of Burn and Mason, who were dealing with this endgame in real time under all the strains of the last rounds of a major chess tournament.

50... Kf8
51. Re3

This is good enough to maintain his winning advantage, but 51. Re5 was a faster way to breaking down Black's remaining resistance.

51... Kf7
52. Kc3!

An essential tempo with the King.

52... Rf1
53. Re6

There was no need to rush to play this move. 53. a4 or 53. Kd4 to prepare for the coming invasion were better. There was no reason to give up the h-pawn yet and give Mason a passed h5 pawn.

53... Rf3+
54. Kd4 Rxh3
55. Rxb6 Rh2

The position was now:

click for larger view

Burn's win has gotten a little dicier. As I will show in my next post on this game, Burn now erred and gave Mason a chance to save the game...a chance he at first he at first completely missed. Indeed, after Burn's second-best 53rd move, the win for White, while still there, has become difficult.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

As will be seen in what follows, Straclonoor has already identified one of the key upcoming moments in this instructive endgame.

56. Ke5

This does not blow the win, but better chances were offered by 56. b4 or even 56. Rxa6 or 56. Kc3

56... Re2+

Mason should have exploited Burn's lapse and played 56...h4. The h-pawn is Mason's one remaining trump card, and he should have used it here. Burn now has a clear winning line.

57. Kf5?

57. Kd6 wins easily. It is no longer clear that White can win after the text.

57... h4

The position was now:

click for larger view

58. Rb7+

The win is now almost certainly gone for Burn. He had to play 58. Kg4.

58... Ke8
59. Rh7 Rxb2
60. Ke6

He might as well played 60. Rxh4. The text--though cute with its mating threat-- gives him few winning prospects since Black has an obvious retort.

60... Re2+!

The only saving move for Black.

61. Kd6

The position was now:

click for larger view

61... Rxa2

Black's easiest way to draw was 61...Re4. After the text, things get tricky.

62. Rxh4

This left:

click for larger view

This position certainly looked like a win for White to me when I first played over the game. But, as Straclonoor has pointed out, the chess databases have demonstrated a draw for Black here with the incredible 62...Rd2! ,Straclonoor> Bravo Straclonoor! I ran a 50-ply search on Stockfish and it confirmed what Straclonoor reported on this site months ago--and then again yesterday. Black can draw here. Amazing! Fritz 15 still thinks White is winning with a 33-ply search, so even computers examining untold billions of possibilities have trouble with this ending. Small wonder that Mason did not find the drawing move.

62... Ra3?

I append a question mark to this move because we all know that this allows White to win. The position was now:

click for larger view

Looks like clear sailing for White now, right?

63. Rh8+ Kf7
64. Kd7! Rd3
65. d6! a5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Burn now had what should have been an easy win (Fritz-15 announces a forced mate and Stockfish gives White +132.71). Yet, as I will show in my next post on this game. Burn was unable to win from this position.

So maybe things were not so easy and we should recall the simple adage: Rook endgames are tough!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Let me try this again and correct a typo in my Post V on this game:

<Straclonoor> Bravo. Fine analysis!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

Burn had held a winning or near winning edge for about the last 50 moves (putting aside the obscure chance he had afforded Mason on move 62). But now, in just a few moves, he threw away what should still have been a winning endgame.

66. Rh5?

66. Ra8! would have brought the game to a quick conclusion. 66. Rh4 would likewise have won. The text, by contrast, almost certainly threw away Burn's winning chances.

66... a4!!

The only move, but almost certainly sufficient for a draw.

67. Rf5+

I see nothing better for White here.

67... Kg6

The position was now:

click for larger view

68. Ra5?

Now the win was surely gone. The only chance was to keep the Rook on the f-file.

68... a3!

Once again, Mason finds the only move. And once again, it is a really good one.

69. Ke7 Re3+
70. Kd8 Kf7
71. d7

The position was now:

click for larger view

71... Rc3+

Mason had been playing superb chess since missing his chance to draw on move 62, but now errs and gives Burn a chance to try a few tricks. 71...Rd3 would leave Burn nothing at all to play on for.

72. Ra8 Rb3
73. Ra4 Rf3!

Well played. The text denies White's Rook the chance to chase Black's King off the f-file.

74. Ra5

Burn could have tried the tricky 74. Re4, but Mason could then have saved the game with 74...a2 75. Re7+ Kf6 76. Re1 Re3!! 77. Rc1 Rc3!!

74... Rd3
75. Ra6 Rc3
76. Ra4

1/2 -- 1/2

A near miss for Burn, but Mason deserves credit for hanging tough for what must have been many long hours of play in a series of difficult positions until he finally achieved a draw. Unfortunately for Mason, draws were replayed at Paris 1900, and Burn won the rematch a few days later.

The final position was:

click for larger view

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