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John Owen vs Amos Burn
Casual game (1887), Hooton ENG, Oct-??
Queen Pawn Game: Zukertort Variation (D02)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jun-09-11  consul: I actually saw the line in the game, with the mating attack. In case Black answers with 16 .. Kh8 White doesn't mate immediately, but grabs queen rook and perhaps more...

click for larger view

while with 16 .. Nxf6 the line is as in the game.

Jun-09-11  sevenseaman: <Dr. J> Yes. I too was intrigued by the 17...gxf defense but did not delve into it.
Apprehension of a latter e5 by Black was what stopped me from going in with the N first.
Jun-09-11  consul: Oh, now that i read all the comments i can say that Nf6 is not the strongest... actually the chance Black has playing e5 is frustrating... I must congratulate to those who found it correctly!
Premium Chessgames Member
  scormus: I tripped up here, tried 16 Qxg7+ but didnt see the tricky sequence for W to win. In fact after ... Nxg7 17 Nf6+ Kh8 18 Nxd7 I got hung up on ... Ng8. In fact I'm still not sure how W continues, 19 0-0-0 perhaps?

I looked again and thought I found the immediately winning sequence 16 Nf6+ etc, but missed that after 16 ... Nxf6 17 Qxf6, 17... e5 would keep B in the game. Should have guessed Thursday wouldnt be that simple

Jun-09-11  rilkefan: Funny, I rejected Nf6+ and chose Qxg7+ instead, but forgot my reasoning for the former and figured I'd messed up when I looked at the game. Yay for the commenters.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Jan-15-04 Dick Brain: It seems incredible to me that Burn played such a weak defense against 16. Nf6+.>

What he said. I rejected 16.Nf6+ because of 16...Nxf6! 17.Qxf6 e5! and preferred 16.Qxg7+ instead - although neither line seemed clear enough for these puzzles.

Jun-09-11  newzild: Add me to the list of folks who went for 16. Qxg7+ Nxg7 17. Nf6+ Kh8 18. Nxd7.

I was disappointed to see that Burn chose a different line, but heartened by <crafty>'s analysis.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: An interesting one. Burn plays into a flawed combination and his opponent, obligingly, doesn't defend as well as he could. How come two strong players missed the fact that 16. Nf6+ doesn't work? Or at least shouldn't have worked with best play?

The answer I think has something to do with the way that chess players think - and an odd phenomenon which is perhaps a chess version of bluffing.

Here is the position one full move before our puzzle. It is white to play (or in CG terms it is "15. ?")

click for larger view

And here white uncorked the rather splendid move 15. Nxd5.

You can imagine black's surprise at this point. Has white just blundered his knight? Surely not for a player like Burns?

If you were black you would now calculate. If white is prepared to give away a knight, he must get something for it. Ah yes, I see it now! The knight move uncovers the bishop queen battery along the long diagonal. If 15...exd5 white wins with 16. Qxf6 gxf6 17. Rg1+ Kh8 18. Bxf6#.

The fact that white led with a sacrifice prompts black to calculate deeply to find the reason for the sacrifice.

Now both players have the Qxf6 sacrifice locked into their brains. We know that good players think in chunks. Instead of looking at individual pieces they look at clusters of pieces. And instead of looking at individual moves they can sometimes think in series of moves.

So black decides to overprotect against the Qxf6 idea by retreating the knight with 15...Ne8. From e8 he figures that the knight is protecting both f6 and g7. Surely no harm can come to me?

And that is when white reasoned that his combination still worked. The combination of the Bb2 and the Rg1 are so powerful that he could afford to throw a knight and a queen to get to the mating pattern. Hence 16. Nf6+. Burn is thinking in chunks - series of moves - rather than individual moves.

What neither player realised was that the landscape had changed. The Qxf6 combination that worked a move earlier can now be refuted by a timely e5. This move wasn't possible in the first variation (15. Nxd5 exd5 16. Qxf6) because black's e6 pawn had been deflected to the d file.

So Burn played into the combination assuming that it still worked. And Owen accepted his fate for exactly the same reason. The defence of e5 did not occur to either of them because it was not possible when they first examined this series of moves - white when he decided to play 15. Nxd5 and black when he had to sit back and work out why he couldn't take the knight.

The other interesting possibility is that there was an element of bluff. Owen might have reasoned it like this - if Burns has played a combination against me it must be sound.

Only chess can do this. We are sitting at computers in the year 2011 - and we are given a tantalising glimpse into the way that two men were thinking more than 120 years ago. You can almost smell the tobacco smoke from Amos' pipe!

Jun-09-11  morfishine: Wow, I was wrong, but ended up right... sort of.

I too, settled on 16.Qxg7 as simple and direct.

What a wondrous game chess is

Jun-09-11  Stormbringer: I had the move order slightly wrong, sacced the queen *before* moving the rook, does it matter?
Jun-09-11  gofer: I suppose that black has just played e6 in the vain attempt to put Nd5 under some pressure, but this has left weakened f6...

<16 Qxg7+ Nxg7 17 Nf6+ Kh8 18 Nxd7 Rfd8 19 Rg1 Rxd7 20 Bxg7+ Kg8 21 Rd1 ...>

but, as with yesterday, there is a simple mate on offer...

<16 Nf6+ ...>

16 ... Nxf6 17 Qxf6! gxf6 18 Rg1+ Kh8 19 Bxf6#
16 ... gxf6 17 Rg1+ Kh8 18 Qxf6+ Nxf6 19 Bxf6#

So black must lose its queen and/or resign...

Premium Chessgames Member
  scormus: <Once ... the way chess players think>

A very penetrating comment on an instructive point. Yes, chess shows it most graphically and abundantly, though I'm sure its not only chess. I slip up frequently in everyday life with the same type of flawed thinking.

Interesting observation also about the "bluff". I think rather an example of how easily we can get swept along by the momentum of someone else's (faulty) reasoning ... not necessarily an intentional bluff. And chess seems to provides the clearest demonstration. Of course, if I make such a error myself I might be tempted let others think it was a tactic rather than admit my mistake.

The last 2 GOTDs are tragicomic examples of how a player's thoughts can be misdirected, perhaps unintentionnally.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Once ... So Burn played into the combination assuming that it still worked. And Owen accepted his fate for exactly the same reason.>

Astute and very plausible (psycho)analysis, but you seem to be thinking that Burn was White and Owen Black. It's the other way around.

Jun-09-11  David2009: Owen vs Burn, 1887 White 16?

Keep it simple. White, already a Pawn up, wins more material with 16 Qxg7+ Nxg7 17 Nf6+ Kh8 18 Nxd7 Rfd8 19 Rg1 Rxd7 20 Bxg7+ Kg8 21 0-0-0 protecting the c2 Pawn and threatening Rxd6. Time to check: ====

click for larger view

White found the checkmate- even better! Perhaps I orient my thinking too much to 20-minute chess or 5/15 (5 mins + 15s/move) Internet chess. In such games there is a premium on making good, rather than best, moves.

Setting the position up in Crafty End Game Trainer the EGT defends 16.Qxg7+ Nxg7 17.Nf6+ Kh8 18.Nxd7 with 18...Rxc2! (the move I had missed).

click for larger view

Accurate play is now required: one winning line is 19.Bxg7+ Kxg7 20.Rg1+ Kh6 21.Nxf8 Bxf8 22.fxe6 fxe6 23.Rd1 Bg7 24.f4 (if Rd7 Rc1+) Bb2 25.Rd6 Rc6 26.Rxc6 bxc6 27.Ke2 Bxa3 28.Ra1 Bxb4 29.Rxa7 and the rest is straightforward. First time round I lost my way.

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <Jun-09-11 abuzic: 14.Bxd7 may deserve a ?, but 14...Qxd7 deserves a ?? (14...Nxd7! and black is more than OK.)> Indeed, with 14...Nxd7!, instead of 14...Qxd7?, Black is winning. For after 14...Nxd7!, 15. Nxd5?? Be5! would be resignation time for White.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <FSR: ... you seem to be thinking that Burn was White and Owen Black. It's the other way around.>

Well spotted! Not as bad as a couple of days ago when I failed to spot that the two players were women ... which unfortunately got <estrick> into a little trouble.

Details, details! ;-) Now which way does the horsie jump?

Jun-09-11  David2009: Owen vs Burn, 1887 POSTSCRIPT: I've just read the kibitzes - Golly gosh!- the combination is flawed! I found the winning line after all! Shades of "The Immortal Mr. Magoo" B Melvin vs R Cunningham, 1994
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: IM Richard Forster in his magisterial 972-page biography of Burn gives 14...Qd7 a question mark, writing, "After both 14...e5 and 14...Rc4, Black is doing well, while an even stronger line is 14...Nxd7!, since 15.Nxd5 is met by 15...Be5 and 15.f4 allows an annoying queen check on h4. White's reckless play succeeds only because Burn overlooked the following combination." Amos Burn: A Chess Biography, p. 274.

He also gives 15...Ne8 a question mark, writing, "With 15...e5! 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 Black can still put up stiff resistance." Id. Of Owen's 16.Nf6+, he writes, "A spectacular line, but not the best. 16.Qxg7+ Nxg7 17.Nf6+ Kh8 18.Nxd7 Rfd8 19.Rg1 is the direct way to victory, for now Black could prolong the fight by 16...Nxf6! 17.Qxf6 e5! 18.Rg1 g6 etc." Id. at 275.

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Like Owen I would have played 16. Nf6+. So I picked it as my solution to today's Thursday puzzle, and peeked after a few seconds.

However, I missed the defense pointed out by <David2009> when Black can defend 16. Nf6+ with 16... Nxf6! 17. Qxf6 e5! 18. Rg1 g6 19. O-O-O Qc6 20. c3 Bb8 21. Qxc6 Rxc6 22. Rd7 b5 23. e4 a6 24. Kc2 Bc7 . White has an extra pawn, but has a long way to go to win the game.

Better is 16. Qxg7!! Nxg7 17. Nf6+ Kh8 18. Nxd7 as pointed out by <DWINS>, <Honza Cervenka> and <Crafty> in 2004 on page 1 of the kibitzing here.

P.S.: <FSR>, thanks for the insightful information from IM Forster's biography of Amos Burn.

Jun-09-11  IRONCASTLEVINAY: i didn't see that black has defense with 17....e5. but I am happy that ♕xg7 was my 1st preference.
Jun-09-11  zb2cr: I found 16. Qxg7+, Nxg7; 17. Nf6+, Kh8; 18. Nxd7, with White being 2 P up. After seeing the games score and the comments from when this game was used as a puzzle in 2004, this seems to be right,
Jun-09-11  DarthStapler: I didn't get it
Jun-09-11  sfm: 16.-,gxf6 is a beginner move. Could the game be a fake?
Premium Chessgames Member
  agb2002: White is a pawn up.

Black threatens 16... exd5 and eventually ... Rxc2, ... exf5.

On the one hand, White exerts considerable pressure along the a1-h8 diagonal, particularly on f6 and g7. On the other hand, the pawn on g7 prevents the knight fork on f6. This invites to play 16.Qxg7+ Nxg7 17.Nf6+ Kh8 18.Nxd7:

A) 18... Rfd8 19.Rg1 e5 20.Nxe5 Bxe5 21.Bxe5 Rg8 22.0-0-0 h6 23.Rxg7 Rxg7 24.Rg1 Rg8 25.Rxg7 Rxg7 26.Kd2 Kh7 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.Kd3 with a won endgame.

B) 18... Rg8 19.0-0-0 (assuming this is legal)

B.1) 19... Bf8 20.Nxf8 Rcxf8 21.Rg1 is similar to A.

B.2) 19... Be7 20.f6 + -.

B.3) 19... Bc7 20.Rg1 exf5 21.Nf6 Rf8 22.Nh5 + -.

C) 18... Rxc2 19.Bxg7+ Kxg7 20.Rg1+ Kh6 21.Nxf8 Bxf8 22.f6 + -.

Another option is 16.Nf6+:

A) 16... gxf6 17.Rg1+ Kh8 (17... Ng7 18.Qxf6 + -) 18.Qxf6+ Nxf6 19.Bxf6#.

B) 16... Nxf6 17.Qxf6 e5 (17... gxf6 18.Rg1+ Kh8 19.Bxf6#) 18.Rg1 g6 19.0-0-0 Qc6 and White's attack seems to vanish.

16.Qxg7+ looks much stronger than 16.Nf6+.

Jun-09-11  Patriot: <Once> Great post. Last night I started reading (again) Jacob Aagard's "Excelling at Chess Calculation". I bought this book several years ago and just couldn't handle the intense analysis so I didn't follow it through. I tried to follow some of the analysis in my head and mostly looked for the main points he was trying to make.

Several points you made fall in line with the book. I don't have the book in front of me, but paraphrasing he said "When you're calculating you must be concrete and not generalize with ideas." He also made a point about assuming your opponent is not making a mistake.

This is exactly what happened in this game and is the same mistake I made on this puzzle! What's worse is I consciously looked for a defense after 16.Nf6+ Nxf6 17.Qxf6 and just didn't see the 17...e5 defense. I was focused on defending against mate on g7 directly. This goes with another point Aagard makes about "thinking wide before thinking deep". He says you must see what's right in front of you.

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