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Joseph Henry Blackburne vs Mikhail Chigorin
London (1899), London ENG, rd 20, Jun-26
Formation: Queen Pawn Game: London System (D02)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-02-08  paladin at large: A cute eight-move dance at the end as Chigorin avoids the white rook's advances (and stalemate).
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: < paladin at large: A cute eight-move dance at the end as Chigorin avoids the white rook's advances (and stalemate). > Yes.However after 83...♔b7 anymore ♖ checks will result in the black ♕ capturing the rook and white will be losing.
Dec-05-14  joddon: huge tactical warfare , greatest game ive seen thus far.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Tchigorin and Blackburne showed once again in this game how dangerous and resourceful they could be when in difficult or even lost positions.

Blackburne was on a roll at this point in the London 1899 tournament. He had beaten Lasker in Round 4, and in his nine games preceding this one he had scored 7 points--even with a loss to Lasker in Round 16. This included two wins (in Rounds 11 and 18) against Pillsbury. Blackburne nearly won another game against a top competitor here.

Early on, it appeared that Tchigorin would make fast work of Blackburne. After Blackburne had gotten much the better of the opening, he erred on move 12, playing 12. Rb1 instead of 12. 0-0-0. With 17. Qe3, he bravely ignored Tchigorin's threat to snatch his a-pawn . The idea was sound, but there were better ways to accomplish this (17. b4 or 17. Bf2). Tchigorin avoided 17...Qxa2, which have lead to trouble after 18. Ra1 Qxb2 19. Rfb1, but his 17...b6 was far inferior to the simple 17...0-0. Blackburne could now have gotten a dangerous attack with 18. f5, but instead played 18. b4. Once again, the a-pawn was hanging, and Tchigorin once again declined the Greek gift.

With 19. Nf3, Blackburne offered the a-pawn a third time, and Tchigorin again declined what this time would have lead to a dead-lost position (19...Qxa2 20. Ra1).

Blackburne then went astray trying to ratchet up a King's side attack. His 22. Qf2 was inferior to 22. Rc1, and his 23. Nh4 could have lost him the game, and it appeared that Tchigorin would prevail.

But Tchigorin did not follow up his edge properly. 23...c4 was probably still good enough to win, but 23...Ba4 was much stronger, and he should have played 24...Qxc4 instead of 24...dxe4.

Blackburne then began to turn the game around, ultimately ending up with a winning Queen-side pawn bind. He commenced this campaign with 25. b5. This bind became more serious when Tchigorin played 29...e3 instead of trying to relieve the Queen-side pressure with 29...a6. After Blackburne grabbed the pawn with 30. Bxe3, Tchigorin overlooked the strength of Blackburne's Queen-side advance and played 30...Qe4 instead of the necessary 30...a6. When he erred once again with 31...be8 (instead of retreating his Queen with 31...Qb7), Blackburne swung into action.

With his powerful 32. c5 and 33. c6, Blackburne had Tchigorin completely tied up on the Queen-side. Tchigorin finally played a6 on his 34th turn, but it appeared he was too late. After Blackburne's 35. a4, Tchigorin's position was so bad he might have considered sacrificing a Bishop with 35...Bxa6 to get some relief.

But Tchigorin decided to try another desperation tactic, an attack along the a-file which he opened with 35...axb5. But even after 36...Ra7, the game still seemed lost for Tchigorin:

click for larger view

Blackburne was a pawn up with a protected passed pawn on c6. But it is in just such positions that Tchigorin could be a most lethal opponent.

As the Tournament Book notes, in the diagrammed position, Blackburne had a win with 37. Nf5! Once he missed this chance, Tchigorin sprung into action first (after 37. Rc2) with 37...Ra3 and then--after Blackburne's 38. Nf3 (38. Bd4 was much better)--with the trick 38...Qa4!

The Tournament Book thinks Blackburne was lost in this position, and he indeed did lose a piece after 39. Nd4?, but 39. Bg1 seems to hold for White here. After 39. Nd4? Tchigorin did indeed win a piece, and the game looked over.

But Blackburne still had his passed pawn on c6, and made a gallant fight of the position, and with 46. Ra1 and 47. Qf2 created problems for Tchigorin.

Tchigorin could have squealched resistance with 47...Qc4 (If 48. Qxb6 Rd3) but erred with 47...Rd4. Blackburne then fell from grace and played the tempting but unsound 48. c7, and was now clearly lost once again, and from this point on Tchigorin never relinquished his hold on the game.

After 56. Kh2, Tchigorin could have closed proceedings with the pretty 56...Bxg2, although his actual 56...Qd8 was more than good enough. Queens were then exchanged, and with Tchigorin up a full Bishop in the endgame, it certainly looked to me that it was time for Blackburne to resign.

But the veteran Blackburne had one more trick up his sleeve. He played for stalemate! He sacrificed two pawns and marched his King into a near self-mate position. Finally, he grabbed Tchigorin's Rook but allowed the latter to Queen his g-pawn.

Game over? Not yet. See my follow-up post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After Tchigorin Queened his g-pawn with 74...g1(Q), the position was as follows:

click for larger view

Here, Blackburne began trying to sacrifice his Rook beginning with 75. Rh7+. With Blackburne's King stale-mated, Tchigorin did not dare take the Rook, and so began the dance of Rook and King all the way to 83...Kb7. As previously explained on this site by others, only now did Tchigorin manage to escape the stalemate threat:

click for larger view

Now, Tchigorin could meet 84. Ra7+ or 84. Rb6+ with 84...QxR. So Blackburne resigned.

What a struggle!

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