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James Mason vs Jacques Mieses
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-19
Sicilian Defense: Paulsen Variation. American Attack (B45)  ·  1/2-1/2

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jun-14-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A lively final-round game in which Mieses boldly sacrificed a Knight for three pawns and a dangerous attack. An exciting endgame was reached in which Mason's Bishop did battle with Mieses four passed pawns on the Queen-side while Mason pressed to make a Queen on the other wing. After Mieses missed a chance to win following Mason's poor 32nd move, the game reduced to a drawn Queen and pawn ending. This meant the players had to return the following day for a replay--this time with Mieses as White--under the rules at Paris 1900 under which draws were replayed.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e3
3. Nc3 Nc6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Nf6
6. Ndb5

An attempt to exploit the "hole" on d6. Other options for White here include 6. NxN; 6. g3; and 6. Be2.

6... Bb4

6...d6 is solid and probably best, but the text leads to the sort of complicated tactical play in which Mieses excelled.

The position was now:


click for larger view

7. Nd6+

Tempting but inferior to 7. a3 which would likely have yielded a small plus to Mason after 7...BxN+ 8. NxB d5 9. exd5 exd5 10. Bd3 0-0 11. 0-0.

After the text, the game got wild.

7... Ke7!

This looks truly ugly but in fact is best. 7...BxN? 8. QxB would lead to a bind on the Black position with the White Queen dominating on d6.

Mieses move gave him dangerous attacking prospects on the Queen-side and did not seriously imperil his King.

8. NxB+ RxN
9. Bd2?

In an effort to avoid doubled c-pawns, Mason miscalculated, apparently thinking his e-pawn was indirectly protected since his Bishop would attack g7 if Mieses traded pieces.

9... BxN
10. BxB Nxe4

This left:


click for larger view

Mason had probably assumed that he could safely regain the pawn here with 11. Bxg7. But it's not so simple:

11. Bxg7 Qa5+

Even stronger for Black, and perhaps winning, was 11...Rg8 immediately.

12. c3 Rhg8
13. Bh6

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book claimed that 13. Bd4 was better, but that move loses to 13...NxB 14. QxN Nxc3!

After Mason's 13. Bh6 (which was best play) the position was:


click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, it was here that Mieses tried his speculative Knight sacrifice and tried to blow Mason off the board. It is not clear that whether the Knight sacrifice was correct, but it created the themes and tactical problems that followed for the balance of the game.

Jun-14-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

In the diagrammed position with which I ended my last post, Mieses was at a cross-roads. He had two ways to proceed. He could have played 13...d5 (which Stockfish says was best) dominating the center. Alternatively, he could have--and did--play the move Fritz prefers:

13... Nxc3?!

"A very pretty move which gives Black the advantage." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

The text creates fascinating complications. The choice between 13...d5 and 13...Nxc3 is perhaps one of style. Given Mieses' tendency to seek sharp tactical lines, his selection here was hardly a surprise. Both moves yield a small but definite edge to Black.

14. bxN Qxc3+
15. Bd2 Qe5+
16. Be3

This left:


click for larger view

16... Nb4

16...f5 was better. The text gave Mieses compensation for the sacrificed piece, but no more.

17. Rc1

The position was now:


click for larger view

17... Nxa2?

Mieses was too eager to pick up a third pawn immediately for the sacrificed piece. 17...Qe4 or 17...Qe5 were both much better and sufficient for approximate equality (e.g., 17...Qa5 18. RxR Nc2+ 19. Ke2 RxR 20. Qd2 Rc3 21. Bxa7). After the text, the game swung (momentarily as it turned out) in Mason's direction.

18. RxR RxR
19. Be2 Qb2

The position now was:


click for larger view

20. Qd4?

Missing the chance to exploit his two Bishops and keep an advantage with 20. Bd3. The text allowed Mieses to trade down to an even ending.

Incidentally, Rosenthal's claim that 20. 0-0 Nc3 would lose for White. In fact, chances would now be equal after 21. Bg5+.

20... QxQ

He could also have played 20...Rc1+ (e.g., 21. Bd1 QxQ 22. BxQ Nc3 23. BxN RxB potentially arriving at the same position as occurred in the game).

21. BxQ Rc1+
22. Bd1 Nc3
23. Kd2

Better was 23. BxN leading to the same position as after 20...Rc1+. After the text, Mieses after the upcoming exchanges had what advantage exists.

23... RxB+
24. RxR NxR
25. KxN

This left the following fascinating endgame:


click for larger view

While with best play this is probably a draw, there is plenty of play remaining in the position and much of excitement still lay ahead in this game.

Jun-14-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

The ending after 25. KxN featured Mason's Bishop against Mieses' three passed pawns.

The immediate question for Mieses was what to do about his threatened a7 pawn. He had three options: a6, a5, and b6.

25... a5

Needlessly creating a weakness for himself. Mieses should have temporized with 25...a6.

26. Bb6

An immediate effort to exploit Mieses' last move. But 26. Kc2--keeping his Bishop centralized and ready to play on either wing--was better.

26... a4

Now the question is posed: is this advanced pawn a liability or a threat?

27. Kc2 Kd6
28. Kc3 Kc6
29. Be3

A reasonable choice. Also good was an alternate plan beginning with 29. Bd8

29... e5
30. Bc1

Probably as good or better than 30. Kb4.

30... d5

30...f5 or 30...b5 were probably stronger. The position was now:


click for larger view

Mason had various good plans at his disposal: e.g., 31. Kb4; or 31.g4. Either of these moves would have given Mason a small edge and some prospects of playing for a win. But instead, Mason played:

31. f4?

This turned the game upside down, the position now being:


click for larger view

With 31...d4+ Mieses would suddenly have had excellent winning chances. But instead, Mieses played:

31... f6?

Now, Mason can again defend his position:

32. fxe5 fxe5

This left:


click for larger view

An exciting finish looms, as Mason's Bishop had to do battle with four (!) passed Black pawns while Mieses had to reckon with a King-side advance by Mason (who had a pawn majority on that wing). How this all played out will be covered in my next post on this game.

Jun-15-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

After 32...fxe5 play continued:

33. g4

Mason, faced with four passed Black pawns, had two plausible plans: (a) a pawn advance on the King-side, or attack the passed a-pawn and try to hold off Black's d and e pawns with his Bishop. Mason opted to try a little of both.

33... d4+

Here comes the Black pawn phalanx.

34. Kb4

Mason's best chance.

34... Kd5
35. h4

Mason keeps pressing on the King-side. He could also have played 35. g5 immediately.

35... e4

The battle lines were now clearly drawn:


click for larger view

36. g5 e3
37. h5

Forced. There was no turning back for Mason now.

37... Ke4

The alternatives were no better, i.e., (A) 37...Ke6 38. Kxa4 Kf5 39. g6 hxg6 40. h6 Kf6 [or 40...e2 41. Bd2] 41. Bb2 g5 42. Bxd4+ Kg6 43. Bxe3 Kxh6 44. Kb5; (B) 37...a3 38. Kxa3 Ke4 39. g6 hxg6 40. hxg6 Kd3 41. g7 e2

38. g6

The only move--but it is sufficient for a draw.

38... hxg6
39. hxg6 Kd3

This left:


click for larger view

40. Bxe3 dxB
41. g7 e2
42. g8(Q) e1(Q)+
43. Kxa4

The final position--in which a draw was agreed--was:


click for larger view

As Basic Chess Endings confirms, this is a book draw. Therefore:

1/2 -- 1/2

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