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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs David Janowski
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 13, Aug-08
Spanish Game: Open Variations (C80)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-20-04  chocobonbon: Lighthorse Harry! Janowski hated the end game & Pillsbury loved it. It shows here. Nice finish.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Going into this 13th round game, Pillsbury was tied with Schlechter a half-point ahead of Maroczy. With this win over Janowski, and since Schlechter drew his game with Marco this round, Pillsbury pulled into sole possession of first place by a half-point ahead of Schlechter and Maroczy (who defeated Jacob this round) with just two rounds to go. Since Pillsbury's last two games were against 13th-place Halprin and Berger, and since Schlechter and Maroczy had yet to play, it appeared that Pillsbury would record his first major tournament win since Hastings 1895. Meanwhile, Janowski continued his terrible form and slipped to an even score well off the lead.

The game itself was disappointing, Pillsbury emerging from what should have been an inferior variation of the Ruy Lopez to achieve a winning position, and then both players missed chances in the endgame, Pillsbury playing this phase of the game well below his best form.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Nxe4

The Open Defense to the Ruy Lopez. Korchnoi would be pleased.

6. d4 b5
7. Bb3 d5

The standard position in the Open Ruy Lopez.

8. a4

8. dxe5 is usual and best.

The text, which was introduced into tournament play by Tchigorin in 1883, was a Pillsbury favorite. He registered important wins over Albin at Hastings 1895; over Maroc and Tarrasch at Vienna 1898, and over Cohn at London 1899. It was also played on occasion by Tarrasch, Maroczy,Marco, and Schlechter (at least twice). The move went out of fashion after Lasker played it in 4 of his 5 games as White in his 1910 World Championship match against Schlechter, nearly losing his title as a result. As Schlechter demonstrated in games 2 and 8 of that match, Black can obtain an advantage with 8...Nxd4.

8... Rb8

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Though this move was played by Schlechter, Tarrasch, and Mason before the 1910 match, and though Schlechter drew two games against Lasker with it, White gets the better game.

9. axb5 axb5
10. dex5 Be6
11. c3

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11... Bc5

This is the most frequent response. Schlechter played 11...Be7 in Game 4 of his match with Lasker but---despite getting a draw--was dissatisfied and switched to the text. As both Hoffer and Sergeant-Watts noted, 11...Be7 is probably better. 11...Qd7 is also probably better than the text. Notwithstanding all this, Black certainly still has a playable game even with 11...Bc5. It is also more active than 11...Be7, which may explain why it was played by Tarrasch, Marocy, and Janowski.

12. Nbd2 0-0
13. Bc2 f5

Sergeant-Watts claim in their book on Pillsbury that 13...f5 is "probably the best at Black's disposal. But the weaknesses it creates on Black's King-side could be unpleasant. 13...NxN (as was played by Albin against Pillsbury at Hastings 1895), 11...Bf5, and 11...Bg4 all look better. It also allows White to gain time by attacking the Bishop,a possibility seized by Pillsbury here.

14. Nb3 Bb6
15. Nfd4 NxN
16. NxN

This left Janowski with many weaknesses that Pillsbury was poised to exploit:

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16... Qd7

Wrong square for the Queen. Better were 16...Qe8 or 16...Bd7.

17. f3 Nc5
18. Kh1

The King is not happy on the a7...g1 diagonal, so Pillsbury's move was logical and best.

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White was definitely better here, but the real action was yet to come. (To be continued).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IA

The diagram with which I ended my last post was flawed. After 18. Kh1, the position was:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II


"??"--Tournament Book.

"Leading to the loss of a pawn in a rather unexpected way." (Sergeant-Watts).

Sergeant-Watts refer to the loss of Black's pawn on b5 which now could be picked up (after driving away the Black Knight on c5 via a Queen fork with Qd3 simultaneously attacking the Black pawns on b5 and h7. Janowski could have avoided all this by leaving his pawn on f5 thus blocking the d3...h7 diagonal. Perhaps best for Black here was 18...Na4 or maybe 18...Nb7 or 18...c6.

But we must remember that Janowski was at the helm here. With Janowski, it if often difficult to determine whether we are witnessing genius or lunacy (or just stubborn arrogance). In this case, I rather doubt that Janowski missed the simple Queen fork. As is apparent, none of my suggested alternative moves in place of 18...f4 would have given Janowski a pleasant game to defend against Pillsbury. Indeed, sitting back and waiting for Pillsbury to attack and pick apart your position was rarely very good strategy. I therefore think that Janowski knew exactly what he was doing here: sacrificing a pawn in an effort to open lines and get some counterplay. This, of course had the unfortunate side-effect of allowing Pillsbury to reduce to an endgame; a phase of the game that--as chocobonbon has noted--Pillsbury loved and Janowski disliked.

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19. b4

"!"--Tournament Book.

Pillsbury decided to play to win the Black b-pawn and play and endgame. But was this really best? Fritz and Stockfish both prefer 19. Qe1, keeping the Queens on the board and preparing an attack on Janowski's minimally defended King-side beginning with 20. Qh4. In theory, the machines are probably correct. In practice, however, Pillsbury's decision to win a pawn, eliminate one of Janowski's Bishops (given that Janowski had no equal in using the two Bishops as an attack force) and playing an endgame seems inevitable and the best route for a player pressing hard for a win at a critical stage of the tournament.

19... Nb7

While I (sort of) understand Janowski's decision to play 18...f4, I do not understand this move. 19...Na4 which would lead to a double-edged struggle after 20. Qd3 g6 21. Bb3 c6 22. BxN bxB 23. Rxa4 Bf5 24. NxB (24. Qd1 is probably better) RxN 25. b5 cxb5 26. Rxf4 Rxe5 27. Rb4 Rbe8 28. Rxb5 in which Janowski would have been down a pawn but would have had decent counterplay in the kind of position in which he excelled. The text pretty much ceded the initiative to Pillsbury (along with the pawn he was destined to win).

20. Qd3

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20... g6
21. Qxb5 QxQ
22. NxQ Nd8
23. Rd1

And thus an endgame was reached in which Pillsbury had an extra pawn, but in which Janowski still had considerable play:

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23... g5?!

Typical Janowski efforts at terror tactics. This worked against lesser players, but against Pillsbury...

23...Nc6 was much stronger and sounder.

24. Ba3?

Missing his chance. With 24. h4!, Pillsbury could have punished Janowski's temerity in playing 23...g5?! Now, it was still very much a game despite Pillsbury's pawn plus:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

24... Nc6
25. Ba4?

White's best plan is Bb3 and Nd4, so either 25. Bb3 or 25. Nd4 were in order. The text should have allowed Janowski to save the day:

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25... Nxe5?

Given the sloppy play between here and the move 30 time control, I am guessing that time trouble had reared its ugly head for both sides. In the above diagrammed position, Janowski should have played 25...Ra8 after which Janowski--though still emerging down a pawn--would have had nearly-equalizing counterplay after: 26. Nxc7 RaB 27. NxB Re8 28. Nd4 Nxe5 leaving the following double-edged position:

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With regard to Janowski's awful 25...Nxe5, Sergeant-Watts' comment says it all:

"White has to clear some avenue for his Bishops and this seems to assist."

Sergeant-Watts' suggested 25...Ne7, however, was even worse than the text: e.g., 26. Nd4 Kf7 (26...BxN 27. cxB immediately is no improvement) 27. b5.

Anyway, back to the actual position after 25...Nxe5, which was:

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26. Re1 Be3

Obviously forced, but still leaving Black in trouble:

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27. Nxc7?

Time-trouble probably explains why Pillsbury went pawn-grabbing here instead of playing the powerful 27. Bc1 leaving White with a winning,or nearly winning, game after: 27...Nd3 28. BxB NxR 29. Bc5 Nc2 30. BxN RxN 31. Bxh7+! Kg7 (31...KxB 32. BxR yields a Bishops of opposite colors ending that is nonetheless lost for Black) 32. BxR+ KxB 33. Ra5 Rb6 (trading Rooks would be tantamount to resignation) 34. Rc5.

27... Bf7
28. Red1

28. b5 or 28. Na6 were probably better, but Black would still have good chances to draw. After the text, Janowski should have been able to save the game:

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From here, however, Janowski quickly collapsed, leaving himself hopelessly lost.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

28... d4?!

A wild effort to obtain counterplay that lost Janowski a pawn for nothing. With 28...Rfd8, he would have had every reason to be optimistic about holding the game despite his pawn minus.

If Janowski wanted to mix it up, 28...g4 was a better try than the text.

But all this probably ignores the probability that Janowski was operating under time pressure.

29. cxd4

Pillsbury was happy to snap up the offered pawn.

29... Nc4

If Janowski thought this would give him chances despite being two pawns down, he was quickly disillusioned.

30. b5!

30. d5 was also good, but the text was best. Janowski was probably now lost, and his ensuring blunders on moves 30 and 34 only hastened his defeat:

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30... NxB?

Janowski loved Bishops, but this simplification pretty much ended the game. Janowski's best (and perhaps only) chance here was 30...Rfd8.

31. RxN Rb7

This accomplished nothing. 31...Rfd8 was best, though almost certainly inadequate to save the game.

32. Rc3

Janowski had his beloved two Bishops, but playing an ending two (passed) pawns down against Pillsbury was pretty much a hopeless enterprise:

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32... Rc8
33. Nd5 Ra8

33...RxR was equally hopeless.

34. NxB

Pillsbury gave Janowski no chance to get back into the game. Trading off one of the Black Bishops left Janowski little to play for, the position now being (with Janowski yet to recapture):

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34... RxB?

Leaving Pillsbury with a monster Knight in additional to his two additional--and passed--pawns. The rest was child's play for Pillsbury, who nonetheless found a cute way to finish off the "I never resign" Janowski:

35. Nf5

"!"--Tournament Book

35... Be6
36. Nd6 Rd7
37. Rc8+ Kg7

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From here, Pillsbury finished with a flourish.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

38. Rc7

There were other ways to finish off the game here (e.g., 38. Rc6 or 38. Ne4), but none prettier than Pillsbury's little combo which forced the trade of a pair of Rooks and left Black little to play for.

38... RxR
39. Ne8+ Kf7
40. NxR

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40... Bb3
41. Rb1

41. Rc1 was perhaps more accurate, but either move wins easily.

41... Bc2
42. Rc1

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42... Rxd4

The Bishop on c2 was of course immune because of the back-rank mate, but Pillsbury both nixed that threat and went to work on Janowski's King-side pawns with:

43. h4!

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43... Bf5?

The game is lost for Janowski, but I would have expected him to go down with his boots on by playing the exciting 43...g4! rather than the futile text. After 43...g4 play might have proceeded 44. b6 (44. RxB?? would get White mated after 44. Rd1+ 45. Kh2 g3+ 46. Kh3 h5! and mate next move).

44. Rc5

44. hxg5 was even more crushing, but at this stage Pillsbury may have just been waiting for Janowski to resign.

44... Kg6

This was equivalent to resignation. 44...Bd7 or 44...Bd3 were the only ways to prolong the agony if that is what Janowski wanted.

click for larger view

45. h5+

45. hxg5 followed by 46. b6 seems simplest, but the text works well enough (e.g., 45...Kf6 46. b6).


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