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Joseph Henry Blackburne vs Jacques Mieses
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 3, Feb-07
English Opening: Anglo-Scandinavian Defense. General (A10)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-07-07  TheEnterprise: 15. ...Qc7?! 16. e5?!

What's going on here.? This can't possibly be right.

Fritz9 gives 3.84 for white on 16. exf5 and 16. Bf4

Someone tell me Fritz and I have missed something.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <TheEnterprise> The game score is incorrect. The tournament book, "Monte Carlo 1901", edited by A.J. Gillam, gives the additional moves 15...Bg4 16.b4.

Also, 26...g6 (shown above as 25...g6) is incorrect. The correct move is 26...b6.

The final correction is 31.Bxf5 (shown above as 30.exf6).

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Pawn and Two> While looking at the magazine <Checkmate>, I found this game in the May 1901 issue, p.75. The score is quoted from the Manchester Evening News, with light notes by Emanuel Lasker.

The score given there contains the additional moves mentioned by Gillam (15...Bg4 16.b4), but otherwise agrees with the score as given here--specifically 26...g6 and 31.exf6. The <British Chess Magazine>, 1901, p. 157, quotes the same source and has the same score.

However, <Deutsch Schachzeitung>, 1901, p. 40 and <Wiener Schachzeitung>, 1901, p. 127 both agree with Gillam.

To my mind, the 26...g6 and 31.exf6 version makes more sense, but I suspect the continental journals more likely had access to first-hand accounts.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A wonderful display of Blackburne's positional and tactical acuity.

We sometimes overlook Blackburne's prowess, in large part because of his often strange opening choices and occasional foibles (perhaps the result of his drinking habits). At his best, however, Blackburne was a formidable opponent. Indeed, at the double round-robin London 1899 tournament, Blackburne was the only competitor to win a game from Lasker (with a brilliant combination that even the great Lasker overlooked).

This game is another example of Blackburne at his best.

Many thanks to TheEnterprise, Pawn and Two, and Phony Benoni for sorting through the conflicting sources. For purposes of my analysis, I have relied on the moves as recorded in the Gillam version of the Monte Carlo 1901 Tournament Book.

We are also lucky to have some comments by Lasker himself about this game.

1. c4 d5?!

Playable but rarely played. It leads to positions having more than superficial resemblances to those arising from the Center-Counter Defense[1. e4 d5].

2. cxd5 Qxd5

2...Nf6 is perhaps better. Black can also play in gambit style with 2...c6?!

3. Nc3 Qd8

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This is playable but hardly feels right. 3...Qa5 or 3...Qd6 were almost certainly better.

4. g3

"4. d4 is the move in the books. [??--KEG] The line chosen by the veteran master is ingenious as it permits his Bishop to exert permanent pressure in the center and on the Black Queen's side, well worth the loss of a move." (Lasker).

At the risk of taking sides against a World Champion, the text--while not horrible--gives White no advantage. 4. Nf3 and 4. d4 both look much stronger (among other things, they prevent e5). I'm also not sure which "books" Lasker was citing. I am not aware of much discussion about this opening anywhere. Indeed, after Black's fourth move, the game is on virgin territory.

4... e5!
5. Bg2

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5... c6

"Insufficient against the pressure. 5...Bc5 leading to a lively attacking game principally with the pieces, was the correct policy." (Lasker)

5...Bc5 wad certainly better than the text and was more in accord with Mieses' attacking style. But the simple 5...Nf6 looks even better.

6. Nf3 Bd6
7. d4

"White's strategy is to harass his oppinent so as to impede his development." (Lasker).

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White undoubtedly had the better game at this point, and Mieses' opening play is hardly to be recommended. But Blackburne's edge was still minimal, and the reasons for Blackburne's victory must be sought in what followed.

7... exd4
8. Qxd4 Be7

A provocative move by Mieses, who could simply have played 8...Nf6.

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9. Qa4

"Obviously [sic--KEG] 9. Qxg7?? would be followed by 9...Bf6 winning the Queen." (Tournament Book)

It's not that simple. If 9. Qxg7 Bf6, things get exciting after 10. Bh6! If now 10...BxQ White may even be better after 11. BxB. The problem with 9. Qxg7 is that Black might well play the stronger 9...Bf6 10. Bh6 Qe7! and now after 11. 0-0 BxQ 12. BxB f6 13. BxR Nh6 14. Rfd1 Qf8 15. Bxf6 QxB Black (with Queen for Rook and two pawns) has much the better chances despite White's superior development and Black's vulnerable King.

Blackburne could also have played 9. Bf4 or 9, 0-0, or perhaps traded Queens.

9... Nf6
10. 0-0 0-0

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Mieses' undeveloped Queen-side looks problematic, but he was still very much in the game at this point. But from here, he erred and Blackburne took control.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11. Rd1 Qb6

11...Qc7 seems preferable." (Tournament Book).

Not hardly. If 11...Qc7, White would have much the better game after 12. b4 or 12. e4.

The text was best, and Mieses was still very much in the hunt. His real problems did not begin until his 13th (misguided) move. The text obviously prevented 12. b4. If now 12. e4 then 12...Na6 13. Qc2 Nb4 and Black is basically OK.

12. Qc2 Na6
13. a3

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13... Qa5

"This move proved eventually indifferent. It is, however, the initiation of a combination the end of which is difficult to see at this stage." (Tournament Book).

The text was indeed dubious. Mieses should have played either 13...Nc5 or 13...Qc5.

14. Bg5!

Even better than 14. Bf4, which would also give White a significant edge.

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14... Bf5

A serious loss of time. Mieses had to play 14...Rd8, 14...Bg4, or perhaps 14...h6 here. He somehow overlooked Blackburne's reoly:

15. e4!

Neatly exploiting Mieses' last misstep.

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15... Bg4?

"Black intended to delay the advancement of the e-pawn, hendce his previous Qa5. Blackburne calculated further, and advances the e-pawn all the same, with so much more effect as Black made an erroneous combination." [Tournament Book]

After this lemon, Blackburne ran Mieses off the board. 15...Bg6 would not have been fun for Black, but it was Mieses' only chance.

16. b4!

"The beginning of the final attack which is conducted in splendid style." (Lasker)

16... Qc7
17. e5!

"!"--(Tournament Book)

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As Bobby Fischer would have said [and as is clear from what followed as I will discuss in my next post on this game], Black is busted.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

17... Ne8

"If 17...BxN 18. BxB and the e-pawn could not be captured because of Bf4 followed by Re1 etc., winning a piece." (Tournament Book).

17...Ne8 was hardly a pleasant move for Mieses, but there was nothing better. The position was now:

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18. Nb5!

"!"--(Tournament Book).

"The White 18th move is especially brilliant and energetic." (Lasker)

"After this attractive exchange combination, White is left with a decisive positional advantage." (Tournament Book).

This exploitation of the position of the Black Queen on the c-file allowed Blackburne to obtain an overwhelming advantage, even though this combination does not immediately yield a material advantage.

18... cxN

Once again, Mieses had no choice.

19. QxQ NexQ

19...NaxQ would have been even worse.

20. BxB

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20... Rfe8

The Rook is not happily situated here. 20...Rfc8 was slightly better, but Mieses' position was almost certainly beyond repair at this point.

Blackburne's ruthless use of his position from here on is delightful to behold.

21. Bd6 Rad8

Mieses was desperately seeking counter-play, but the text only made matters worse. 21...Rac8 was somewhat better, but almost certainly hopeless as well.

22. h3 Bd7

"?"--(Tournament Book)

22...BxN or 22...Bh5 would indeed have allowed Mieses to have resisted for longer and would have avoided tying up his own pieces, but would hardly have saved the game for Black.

After 22...Bd7, the position was:

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So fine an attacking player as Mieses must have deplored being reduced to such a mangled position. Meanwhile, Blackburne was clearly in his element.

23. Nd4! Bc8

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Mieses' position was hanging by a thread. 23...f6 or 23...Ne6 look better, but likewise would not have promised much balm for what ailed Mieses here.

24. Rac1

Blackburne had his choice of winning lines. 24. a4 and 24. f4 were other ways to finish off Mieses.

24... Rd7

24...Ne6 or 24...f6 would have put up stiffer resistance. The text allowed Blackburne to unleash the sort of "quiet" lethal moves I find especially pleasing.

25. Bf1!

"!"--(Tournament Book).

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From here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Blackburne picked up the Black b5 pawn and the game quickly became a massacre.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

25... Red8

Mieses seems punch-drunk at this point. If he wanted to play on, 25...b6 or 25...Rdd8 were better.

26. Nxb5

Blackburne now had a material advantage on top of his powerful positional bind.

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26... b6

With the a7 pawn hanging and 26...NxN leading to 27. BxB winning the exchange, further material loss for Mieses was inevitable.

27. Be2

"He could safely play 27. Nxa7, but the text, threatening NxN, is more conclusive." (Lasker).

I'm not quite sure why Lasker thought 27. Nxa7 would have been any less "conclusive" than the text, but both moves are killers.

27... Ne6
28. Nd4

28. Be7 and 28. f4 both appear to be more "conclusive" (to steal a word from Lasker), but by this stage it hardly matters:

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28... NxN

28...Bb7 was a better way to prolong some form of resistance, but equally hopeless.

29. RxN Nb8

29...Bb7 made more sense, but further criticism at this stage is probably just quibbling.

After 29... Nb8 the position was:

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30. Bg4

"!"--(Tournament Book).

30. Bb5 was also a killer.

30... f5


31. Bxf5

31. exf6 e.p. would also have closed proceedings quickly.

After 31. Bxf5 the position was:

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31... RxB

Prolonging resistance with 31...Re8 would have been unpleasant and futile.

32. RxR


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Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: Nice post. Elegant play by Blackburne.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <WorstPlayerEver> "Elegant" is indeed an excellent description for Blackburne's play in this game.

So glad you enjoyed my analysis.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Phony Benoni: <Pawn and Two> While looking at the magazine <Checkmate>, I found this game in the May 1901 issue, p.75. The score is quoted from the Manchester Evening News, with light notes by Emanuel Lasker.

The score given there contains the additional moves mentioned by Gillam (15...Bg4 16.b4), but otherwise agrees with the score as given here--specifically 26...g6 and 31.exf6. The <British Chess Magazine>, 1901, p. 157, quotes the same source and has the same score.>

But Lasker's score (which he credits to the London <Standard>) in the <Manchester Evening News>, February 13th 1901, p.5, has <26...b6> and <31.Bxf5>.

The <Standard> of February 11th, p.7, is the number in question, and also talies with the score appearing in the <Field> of February 16th, p.221.

All of which suggests the errors originated with the April <BCM>, p.157, (mentioned above) and were copied into the <Checkmate> issue of May.

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