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Mikhail Chigorin vs Jackson Whipps Showalter
London (1899), London ENG, rd 11, Jun-13
French Defense: Chigorin Variation (C00)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Tchigorin was always a dangerous and unpredictable opponent. But even by the standards of his games, this encounter with Showalter was beyond the pale.

To quote Steinitz, "Tchigorin's practical genius is almost privileged to defy theoretical modern principles..." He pushed his unorthodox style to the limit here.

Notwithstanding his loss to Cohn in the previous round, Tchigorin again played his 2. Qe2 line in the French against Showalter here. Although Cohn had played 2...Nc6 with success against Tchigorin, Showlater played the odd-ball 2...Be7. Tchigorin could now have played 3. d4, but instead took his Queen on a little tour of the board beginning with 3. Qg4. So with Black yet to make his third move, the players arrived at the following remarkable position:

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The Tournament Book condemns Showlater's third move, 3...Nf6. Fritz says it is best and close to winning. One thing is for sure, allowing Tchigorin to play 4. Qxg7 guaranteed that the game would erupt into a tactical blizzard of violent complications. Showalter was prepared to face what he knew would be coming, and thanks to this we can enjoy...and try to fathom...what happened next.

Seven of Tchigorin's first eleven moves were with his Queen. After his 11. Qc4, Tchigorin was up a pawn but his Queen's side was completely undeveloped and his prospects seemed dim:

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But here Showalter lost his cool and went for White's g2 with 11...Rxg2 (instead of the solid and strong 11...Bd7). Now the tables were turned, and Tchigorin could have played 12. Nxd4, exploiting the pin on the c6 Knight. Instead, he played the bizarre 12. b4, and Showalter was able to break the pin with 12... Nd7. Then, after 13. Bxc6 bxB 14. Qxd4, Showalter had two strong and possibly winning moves, 14...c5 (recommended by the Tournament Book) or 14...Bb7 (which Fritz thinks is equally good). Instead, Showalter played the far inferior 14...Rb8.

Now, for sure, the spectators must have expected Tchigorin to play 15. Nc3. Wasn't he ever going to develop his Knight? But Tchigorin again did the unpredictable and played 15. Ba3. And once again, Showalter failed to seize the chance to play 15...Bb2 but instead decided to try to win material beginning with 15...a5. After Tchigorin's 16. bxa5, Showalter faced the following position:

click for larger view

Despite all the prior mishaps, Showalter would have been very much in the game here with 16...c5. Instead, he was seduced by the combo 16...RxN+ 17. RxR BxB. Showalter now had two pieces for a Rook, but Tchigorin had a winning attack. Suddenly, it was Showalter who had a bottled up Queen's wing--thanks in part to his repeated failure to play Bb7--and Tchigorin's Queen, Rook, and Knight ruled the board. Small wonder Showalter did not survive for very long. Tchigorin's opening play could be wild and crazy, but once he had a winning attack, he was deadly.

Despite its flaws--and it has many--this was a exciting battle. The biggest casualty seems to be my Fritz program, which is still trying to figure out what happened here.

Dec-01-17  schnarre: ...Think Chigorin was probably toying with his opponent in this game: his Queen-tour of the board flies in the face of all opening theory, but he manages to come ahead. A pleasure to view all the same!

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