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Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant vs Howard Staunton
Staunton - Saint-Amant Match (1843), Paris FRA, rd 9, Nov-28
Tarrasch Defense: Symmetrical Variation (D32)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-01-05  offramp: 32.b5 is a bit of a wacky one, as is the reply Qh5. Why not take the queen with Rxd4 and then play g5?
Feb-08-05  Catfriend: 32..♖:♕d4 33.e:♖d4 g5 34.f:g6 e.p.
It mayb become rather dangerous for the black sovereign.
Jun-30-05  paul dorion: 32...Rxd4 33 exd4 Qxc1 (pins Rd1 so Re8+ does not work) 34 Rxc1 Rxc1+ 35 Kg2 Kf8 36 Kxh3 and can White do something with his extra pawn?
Jun-30-05  paul dorion: 32 ... Rxd4 33 exd4 g5 34 fxg6ep Qxc1 and black will have a piece for three pawns Who is better?
Jan-21-07  wolfmaster: Poor opening play by both White and Black: both Saint Amant and Staunton move their bishops twice in the first 10 moves.
Jan-21-07  wolfmaster: paul dorion, I think that three pawns is almost always better than a knight and three pawns is about 40% of the time better than a bishop
Feb-26-07  HOTDOG: this was the 9th game of the match,with Staunton ahead +7 =1 -0. Black has a won position at move 31,due first of all to the horrible 20.f4? that weakens e3,e4 and the castling. 32.b5!? is a desperate move,now after 32...Rxd4 33.exd4 Qd6 34.Re8+ Rxe8 35.Rxe8+ Qf8 36.Rxf8+ Kxf8 37.Kg2 and the Nh3 is lost. After 32...Bd1!! 33.Rxd1 Rxd4 34.exd4 Qh5 35.Be3 Qf3+ 36.Ke1 Re8 37.Kd2 Nf2 Black wins,according to Bernstein. however after 32...Qh5? 33.g4! Black has still an advantage after 33...Qh4 34.Qxa4 Rxd3. The decisive mistake was 33...Rxd4??
Apr-10-08  Knight13: Black messed up after 27...Ng5, n'est ce pas? Not the correct follow-up.

<The decisive mistake was 33...Rxd4??> He must've missed the back-rank stuff. But even seeing that it's a material throw-away-for-suicide.

<Black has a won position at move 31> I don't know I like White at that point. But that's because I would never take that a-bishop of Black's. :-D

Feb-05-12  Knight13: Why 25... Ng5? 25... Bb8 is better.
Aug-22-12  Polerio: 32.b5 is a blunder. Staunton thought for 7 minutes here before playing the losing 32...Qh5. He had to find the thunderbolt 32...Bd1!! and White must resign!
Aug-22-12  thomastonk: <Polerio> May I ask where do got your information on the reflection time? Thank you in advance.

BTW, I don't think that 32.b5 is a blunder, not even a mistake, because White is completely lost anyway. I would rather call 32.. Qh5 a blunder and surely 33.. Rxd4, because here the mistakes are really obvious.

And then I think your thunderbolt (or is it Bernstein's? - see <HOTDOG>'s kibitzing) is a non-starter: 32.. Bd1? 33.Rxd1 and Black has only a slight advantage after 33.. Qh5. However, 33.. Rxd4 34. exd4 g5! is winning, say 35.fxg6 Qh5!

Aug-23-12  Polerio: My information comes from an old book:"World,s Best Chess" by Jens Enevoldsen, Copenhagen 1966. The game lasted 8 hours, St.Amant using 6 of them and Staunton 2. By the way, on 33.Rxd1 Black can safely play 33...Rxd4.
Aug-23-12  thomastonk: <Polerio> Thank you very much for the reference! Does Enevoldsen gives a 19th century source?

<By the way, on 33.Rxd1 Black can safely play 33...Rxd4.> Sorry, my variation was incomplete: 32.. Bd1? 33.Rxd1 Rxd4 34. exd4 Qh5 and Black is only slightly better. I had checked this with a silicon friend yesterday.

Jul-12-15  mikposeidon: Bernstein variation is wrong, because white plays 35.Kg2 Ng5 36.Bxg5 and now has 2 rooks and B vs Q and R. So, it is not clear how to win for black here.

The most simply way to win is 32...Rxd4! 33.ed g5 36.fg Qh5 and that's all for white ghost attack.

In book about Staunton, R. Keene noted, that Staunton was "thrown off balance by ...b5", and "afterwords Staunton, who was then leading 7-0 with one draw, remarked that had he won this game, as he should have done, Saint-Amant in all probability would have resigned the match"!

By the way, opening was quite good for Amant for surprise. He was better until his 20th move f2-f4.

Oct-28-16  clement41: I'm surprised such a great swindle as b5!! has got so few kibitzing
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Soltis calls Saint-Amant's astonishing swindle beginning with 32.b5!!! the greatest ever perpetrated in match history. It had a dramatic impact on not only the game, but also the match. Before this game, Staunton had scored 7.5 out of 8, and believed that St. Amant would have resigned the match if he had lost. Instead, St. Amant was able to continue the match for three more weeks, winning another five games, before finally succumbing.
Jan-19-23  generror: What a wild and entertaining game! Probably the most fun one that I have Stockfish'ed so far. (If you want to use that verb too, you have to pay me millions of dollars. Please?)

The opening is amazingly solid. Sure, maybe not the most accurate lines as of 2023, but this is definitively something that, unlike most 19th century games, does appear on the board even today. As a Queen Gambit's player, it was enlightening to analyze the position after <6...b6?!> (D)

click for larger view

and realizing this is the very moment to play <7.cxd5! Nxd5 8.Bb5 Bb7 9.Qa4 Qc7 10.Ne5 Rc8 11.Qxa7>, winning the initiative and a pawn after a massive exchange orgy on d5, c6 and c7 (<7...exd5> is even better for White). That was something I aimed for a few times in my games but somehow never quite managed.

White emerges with a slight advantage from the opening, with an open c-file and Black having a not very mobile isolani; and Black helps by playing <14...Rad8?> (virtually every other move would have been okay). Now <15.Ng3> (the logical continuation of <13.Ne2>), threatening <16.Nf5>, would have forced <15...Bxg3 16.hxg3> and given White the bishop pair, but White is fine with <15.Rc1>.

Both go on with their dogged fight for the centre, with White keeping the upper hand due to its compact and well-coordinated setup. But once more, these 19th century guys needs to push the f-pawn two squares: After <20.f4?>, the center is effectively blocked, and White loses its initiative and most of its advantage. <20.f3> would have been fine, but the whole position virtually explodes if White would have played <20.Rfd1> (D). I will only describe the main line, but if you have time to waste, fire up Stockfish and check it out, it's really fun, you get everything chess has to offer.

click for larger view

After <20...Bc8 21.Nc6 Rde8>, <22.Nxa7?> leads to draw by repetition, but *now* it's time for <22.f4!>, winning the important d-pawn after <22...Qg6 23.Rxd5> wins the important d-pawn. The best thing Black can do is <23...Nxg3!>. <24.hxg3? Bxf4!> equalizes for Black (despite White *nearly* getting a windmill), but after <24.Qg2 Nf5 25.Qxg6 hxg6 26.Nxa7 Bb7>, White's best is <27.Rxd6! Nxd6 28.Bxe8 Rxe8 29.Bd4> (D), White is still not quite winning, but should have no trouble getting a winning endgame by getting the passed pawn on the queenside. Both players need to tread carefully, these variations are full of traps and pitfalls for both players, although mostly for Black.

Jan-19-23  generror: Back to the game. After Saint-Amant's <20.f4?>, he plays a series of weak moves effectively deconstruction his entire position and giving Staunton the initiative by move 25. <28.Qxd5??> should have lost the game, but Staunton misses <28...Red8> (threatening <29...Bxb4>) <29.Qa2 Nh3+ 30.Kh1 Rxc1 31.Rxc1 Qxe3 32.Qd2 Qxd4>, with Black having bishop and knight for a rook and putting devastating pressure on White's position.

But Saint-Amant blunders yet again with <30.Rge2??>, and this time Staunton doesn't miss the win. (<31.exd4!?> could also have been a successful swindle: <31...Rxc1> is accurate, but <31...Rxe2??> leads to another little tactics explosion which theoretically results in a highly unbalanced endgame where Black has a rook, bishop and knight for a queen and a pawn; Stockfish says it's slightly better for White (+1).

But luckily, Saint-Amant doesn't play that so we get the even better <32.b5!!> (D).

click for larger view

The correct move now is <32...Ng5> or <32...Bb3>, but the fun thing is that Black *could* still have taken the queen: after <32...Rxd4? 33.exd4> (threatening mate on e8, now that square is blocked by the a4-bishop)<33...g6??> of course gives away the Queen, but -- hilariously! -- <33...g5!> would have relieved Black from its trouble and still leave him winning.

Instead, Staunton goes <33...Qh5?>, allowing Saint-Amant to continue his little joke with <34.g4!>, and now Staunton -- obviously still in shock -- plays <34...Rxd4??> (a simple <34...Qh4> would have kept him winning). He essentially gives Saint-Amant a rook and takes the queens off the board, immediately losing the game. The move makes Stockfish's evaluation go from -4 to +10, I don't think I've ever seen such a massive change.

This was Saint-Amant's first win in the match, after seven losses and a draw, and went on to score 5-4 wins -- not enough to win the match, but enough to show he was a serious contender.

The <Staunton - Saint-Amant> match is often said to be boring, and yes -- it's not the rabid attacking of those <La Bourdonnais - McDonnell 1834>, the games are much more positional. But as this game shows, they are far from being "boring"; in fact they are definitively the much better chess. It's actually amazing how much better this chess is than the chess of 1834, probably a result of the increased international communication between chess players after that match, which may, in the end, be the most important legacy of the 1834 match.

This game not only is totally solid chess -- of course not quite today's master level, but approaching --, it was also extremely entertaining. And as a bonus, it shows how much of human chess is not just crunching variations and playing the "best" moves, but that is also is psychology, creativity, and, yes: humour. That little b-pawn push has made me an instant fan of Saint-Amant :)

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