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David Janowski vs Joseph Henry Blackburne
London (1899), London ENG, rd 9, Jun-10
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Modern Steinitz Defense (C72)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-06-14  yureesystem: This one my favorite game of Janowski, he defended a vicious attack and won in the queenside. This middlegame is like the King's Indian defence, black is attacking the kingside and white is attacking the queenside, very modern game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: An exciting game filled with sins of omission by both players and by the very poor commentary in the Tournament Book by Hoffer.

The Tournament Book's take on this game is that Blackburne played a poor opening that gave him a lost game, and that he tried a desperate and brilliant attack to try to extricate himself from the results of his poor opening that was only foiled by the excellent defensive play by Janowski. This is simply wrong.

A much better overview of the game is that provided here by yueesystem.

With regard to the opening, the Tournament Book states that the variation adopted by Blackburne required him to weaken his King's side with 9...f6. This claim is nonsense. Blackburne played the King's Fianchetto variation of the Modern Steinitz Defense to the Ruy Lopez. This line may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is certainly playable. The flaw in the Tournament Book's claim can be seen by examining the position after Janowski's 9. Bg5:

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According to the Tournament Book, Black is compelled to play the weakening 9...f6 here. But in fact 9...Nf6 is fine here (and is Fritz' choice). Indeed, even 9...Bf6 is better than the weakening 9...f6. Simply put the claim that this line of the Modern Steinitz Defense leads to fatal weaknesses is flat out wrong. I can see no reason for 9...Bf6, which did indeed compromise Blackburne's position.

Even after Blackburne's 9...f6, he still had ample chances given Janowski's strange follow-up. After 10. Be3 Qe7 Janowski messed up his Queen's side with 11. b4 (instead of the much better 11. c4). The position was then:

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At this point, Blackburne had at least two reasonable lines of play. He could have castled on the Queen's side (11...0-0-0) or tried for counterplay on the King's side with 11...f5. Instead he played 11...Rd8, effectively suffocating his position. Janowski should have then played 12. Bb3 immediately (he is praised to the heavens by the Tournament Book for finally getting around to this two moves later). After Janbowski's weak 12. Nbd2, Blackburne further locked in his position with 12...Qf7 (12...Bh6 was a better try).

Thanks to his poor play--and not because of the opening or anything Janowski had done--Blackburne found himself in a precarious situation after Janowski's 16. Nb3:

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Janowski was threatening 17. Nc5 and (as the Tournament Book correctly notes) efforts to defend the b pawn with Rb8 or Qc8 would have been futile. Instead, Blackburne came up with a wonderful plan that leads to all of the following excitement. He played 16...b6, keeping the White Knight from posting on c5, allowing White to win the pawn at a6, but planning to castle King's side and then storm the White King. What a fine idea! Much better than being strangled to death.

After 16...b6 17. Qxa6 0-0, Blackburne was poised to undertake his attack. But Janowski, unaccountably, played 18. Rad1 instead of 18. Rfd1. Now, Blackburne had an open file and a target:

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The indicated move here is 18...Ra8, after which--though still a pawn down after the likely 19. Qe2 Blackburne would have had a very playable game. Instead, he ignored this possibility, began his pawn march on the King's side with 18...h6, and allows Janowski to trade off a pair of Rooks. After a few more weak moves, Blackburne's position was in critical condition, and Janowksi had the opportunity to begin Queen-side operations with a4:

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But instead of trying to get something going on the Queen's side, Janowski began a retreat with 25. Nc1 followed by 26. Nf1. (more to follow in next post)

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After Janowski's 28. fxg4, Blackburne had very real threats:

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Blackburne should here have played 28...f3. His 28...g5 allowed 29. Qe2 defending the pawn at g4. Instead, Janowski erred with 29. Nf3 allowing 29...Qxg4. With this move, Blackburne set a nasty trap for Janowski. Had the latter played the tempting 30. NxN+ Blackburne would have been in business after 30...hxN:

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The Tournament Book claims this would have been a win for Blackburne. While that is a gross overstatement, what is undeniable is that Blackburne would at least have had equal chances.

Janowski avoided all this and maintained an edge with his careful 30. Qe2, but after 30...Qe6 he erred again with 31. b5 (he should have simply played 31. NxN+). Now Blackburne had very real chances:

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But now Blackburne's attacking genius failed him and he made a series of weak moves (31...Bf6 instead of 31...NxN+; 32...Nf7 instead of 32...Kg7; 33...Be7 instead of 33...Ne7. But he still had plenty of chances after Janowski's poor 34. c4 (instead of 34. Nb3):

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Here, Blackburne had to play 34...Ng5 to have any realistic chance of continuing his attack. His 34...Rg8 was too slow.

After 35. c5 bxc5 36. Nb3, Blackburne had his last chance to offer any resistance. As should have been obvious, he faced a crisis on the Queen's side, and absolutely had to try 36...c6 in the following position:

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After his bad 36...Nf8, the game should have been over. But--as I will show in my next post--Janowski gave Blackburne chances even after getting what should have been an easily won position

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: By move 43, Janowski had pushed his b pawn to the 7th rank, and the game appeared to be over. But then--perhaps because the players were tired--there followed a comedy or errors. After Janowski's weak 43. Qc4, Blackburne would have had practical chances by simply taking the b-pawn with 43...Nxb7:

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After Blackburne's actual move, 43...Ne6 and his awful 43...Qg8, the game was surely over:

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As is obvious, 45. Qc6 here is crushing. But instead of this, Janowski played 45. Qd5. Now, all of a sudden, Blackburne had a Knight fork available with 45...Nc7.

I'm not saying that 45...Nc7 would have saved the game. Janowski would still have had an overwhelming position (with 46. Qxd6 and after 46... NxR 47. QxN+). But--assuming Blackburne wasn't ready to resign) this was better than his actual hopeless choice of 45...Nf6. After that move, the game at last was truly over.

I have devoted a good deal of space to a critique of this game because of: (a) the unjustifiable praise it received in the Tournament Book; (b) it brought Janowski to 7.5 points out of 8 and a lead in the tournament (short-lived, since he drew Lasker in the next round); and (c) to remind myself that even great tacticians like Janowski and Blackburne can err. If the mighty can make so many mistakes, perhaps there's still hope for me.

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