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James Mason vs Simon Winawer
"Win a Battle and Winawer" (game of the day Oct-20-2015)
London (1883), London ENG, rd 16, May-31
French Defense: Classical Variation. Richter Attack (C13)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-21-04  capanegra:, this game is incomplete, Mason abandoned after Winawer played 43…♘c5!!!!

Not until the official score was examined several days after the game was played, did anyone notice that the ♘ had moved like a ♗. The explanation is that the position had been noted down incorrectly at adjournment time, and the ♘ had been placed at d7 instead of e7. The amazing thing is that none of the contenders noticed the mistake when the game continued!!

Oct-16-04  sapito2004: It is amazing indeed Capa. Hey, why black did not take on F4 before?
Oct-16-04  aw1988: <sapito2004> When?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <aw1988: In regard to your question to sapito2004; I believe he is referring to Black's possibility of playing 40...Qxf4>

Both 40...Ne7 and 40...Qxf4 are good enough to win.

Mason had destroyed his own position with 37.cxb4 and 38.Nc2. His position was good enough for a draw if he did not make these moves.

At move 42, Winawer could finish off the game with 42...d4 43.Qxc4 Qg4+ 44.Kh2 Qxf4+ 45.Kg2 Qxe5.

Instead, he gave Mason a short reprieve with 42...Qh1+ 43.Kg3. Had the game been resumed with the correct position, Winawer could have continued with 43...Qc1!, and then if 44.Qf2 c3 or 44.Nc2 Qxb2, Black is winning.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: In the London 1883 tournament book, Mason provides the following information about the position after Winawer played 43...Nc5!:

<No doubt the reader will see what neither of the players saw at the time--to wit, that this is what is usually known as a "false" or "impossible" move. It was not discovered to be such until some days after the game had been played and when the official copy of the score came to be examined. It was a powerful stroke, and in every sense of the word a successful one, as it left White absolutely without resource.>

Based on his above remark, it seems that Mr. Mason had quite a sense of humor.

The editor of the tournament book, J.I. Minchin, then added the following note:

<The only explanation that can be afforded regarding this singular impossible move having been made and not detected is that the adjournment had taken place just previously, and the position of the pieces was probably taken down incorrectly on the diagram handed to the member of the Playing Committee, and Black's Knight was placed on d7 instead of e7, thus affording Mr. Winawer the opportunity for his brilliant coup, but for which the game would have probably been drawn.-Editor.>

Mr. Minchin is incorrect in stating that a draw would probably be the result, if the correct adjourned position had been played. As indicated in my previous post, Winawer still had a winning position after 43.Kg3.

Also, as noted by capanegra, the above game score is incomplete. However, it is not just the move 43...Nc5! that is missing, but also the moves 44 to 49.

Mason did not abandon the game after 43...Nc5; instead he played on until he was checkmated.

The final moves of the game were: 43...Nc5! 44.Qg2 Ne4+ 45.Kf3 Qe1 46.Qh2 Nd2 47.Kg2 Qf1+ 48.Kg3 Qf3+ 49.Kh4 Qg4x.

Aug-18-06  InspiredByMorphy: The position after the final moves...

click for larger view

43. ...Nc5! going unnoticed has gotta be one of the funniest things Ive ever heard happening in chess.

Oct-25-10  meppi: 43 black to play and win.

- the surprising Nc5!

Oct-25-10  ughaibu: Should be a Sunday puzzle (Halloween? April Fool?)
Nov-19-10  sevenseaman: I'd never have thought even Chess could be as hapless as, say football or cricket whence a mistake once made is beyond retrieval or reprieve.

Win a battle and Winawer too!

Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Definitely the next April Fools Day puzzle.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: An illegal move wins the game!
Oct-20-15  Sally Simpson: Hi Keven,

Read Sneaky Pete's post in

E von Feyerfeil vs Lasker, 1889

An illegal position could have changed the whole history of Chess had it been noticed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: What were the rules, if any, that covered illegal moves at the time that this game and E von Feyerfeil vs Lasker, 1889 were played? Interestingly, the current rules (see do not address this situation except under Appendix A. Rapidplay where it indicates that the arbiter can declare the game lost by the player who made the illegal move, provided that the opponent has not yet made his move. If the arbiter does not notice, or takes no action, the opponent is entitled to claim a win before he makes his next move. But if the opponent does not claim and the arbiter does not intervene, the illegal move stands and the game continues.

There is no specific mention of this situation following adjournment. But if the Rapidplay rules for illegal move applied to games played at classical time controls, if the position was incorrectly set up after adjournment and neither player nor the arbiter notices, then presumably the illegal move stands after both players make their next move.

So on what basis was this game awarded to Mason?

Oct-20-15  Sally Simpson: Hi AylerKupp,

I cannot see there being much of a change in the rule if an abnormality is noticed in a game then the game reverts back to where the abnormality occurred.

If the game is over the results stands.

Oct-20-15  thulium: <aw1988> 40. . . Qxf4.
Oct-20-15  CaroKant: Simon says: 43...Nc5!! and, "I don't even need to play the Winawer!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: If the knight really leapt like a bishop, it might well have gone the other way and become one, crying: 43....NBh4 mate!!
Oct-20-15  The Kings Domain: Funny how both sides are poised for a kingside attack while their own kingsides are vulnerable to a direct assault.

As for the illegal move, both players were probably too tired to notice (heh).

Jan-02-17  Amarande: It will also be noted three things about adjournments in those former days:

* Naturally, computer assistance was not a thing at this point, so diagrams were used, and an error (which is believed to be what happened here) in the diagram would easily go undetected at resumption. (Nowadays, I would imagine adjourned games - if they even occur these days with FIDE's silly new time limits - would easily be double-checked at resume time by feeding the moves themselves back through a computer to reach the correct position ...)

* Adjournments could be long, sometimes days. It would not be unreasonable for such an error to be forgot about by resumption in this case (although it seems likely that the adjournment here was but two hours long, as the schedule for London 1883 was noon to 5 PM, with a two hour dinner break followed by continued play till 11 PM, only after that would the game have gone to a later date).

* Most importantly, however, is the sea change in the policies behind adjournments in the 19th vs 20th century. In more modern tournaments, it became common practise (as I noted above, I'm not sure how often adjournments actually happen anymore, due to the fact that FIDE no longer regularly uses the "X moves per 2 hours ad infinitum" time control) for GMs and their teams to analyse the position during the break (subject only to the requirement to seal their move before adjournment should it be their turn at the time); in such a case such an error would easily have been discovered and reported in due time. However, this was not the case in olden times; tournament rules in fact often stipulated that analysis of the game during the break was explicitly forbidden (such was the case at London 1883, and the penalty even included being expelled from the tournament altogether, not just forfeiting the game in question!). This makes it even easier to have forgotten such a detail during the break!

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