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David Janowski vs Joseph Henry Blackburne
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 5, Feb-11
Sicilian Defense: Four Knights Variation (B45)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-08-05  Whitehat1963: Whooooops!! What the *&%$#+!@!! was I looking at???
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: After 29.f5 the rook is trapped in an unusual way. If black tries to save it by say 30...Rh3 then he is mated by 31.Qg5+ Kf8 32.Qf6+ Kg8 33.Re8+ Qxe8 34.Qg7#
Aug-27-10  Xeroxx: f5 what a nice sneaky move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Going into the 5th round game, Janowski and Blackburne were tied with von Scheve and Alapin for first place (with 3 out of 4) while Tchigorin (with 2.5 with one game to be replayed) was not far behind. With his win in this game, Janowski pulled ahead of the field (Alapin and von Scheve drawing both their replay two days later) and Tchigorin winning his 5th round game but later losing his replay to Schlechter.

The game shows a Janowski we rarely get to see, since here it is Blackburne who played for wild complications while Janowski played careful, materialistic chess, picked up every pawn sacrificed by his opponent, and eventually forced resignation with his fine (Xeroxx not inappropriately calls it "sneaky") 29th move.

All in all, a fine if uncharacteristic performance by Janowski which found its way into the annotated collection of Janowski's finest games by Cherniaev and Meynell ("C/M").

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 Nc6
3. Nf3 e6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Nf6
6. Ndb5

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6... Bb4

"6...d6 is preferable." (Tournament Book)

6...d6 is most frequently played, but the text has also been played on several occasions and can hardly be called a mistake.

7. a3

"Decidedly better than to check at d6. White [with the text] obtains the advantage of the two Bishops." (Tournament Book).

7... BxN+
8. NxB d5
9. exd5

C/M claims that Fischer got the better endgame against Bolbochan, Mar del Plata, 1959 with 9. Bd3 dxe4 10. Nxe4 NxN 11. BxN QxQ+ 12. KxQ Bd7 13. Be3 f5 14. Bf3 e5 15. b4. But I see no edge for White after 15. b4, and even with the better 15. Kd2 White's edge (with the two Bishops) would be minimal.

Strange to say, but Janowski's 9. exd5 appers to be a better positional move than Fischer's 9.Bd3.

9... exd5

9...Nxd5 would also yield White the slightly better game after 10. NxN exN.

After 9...exd5, the position was:

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Janowski had his beloved two Bishops and Blackburne had an isolated d-pawn. All in all, White's edge here seems greater than in the endgame as occurred in Fischer-Bolbochan.

10. Bd3 0-0
11. 0-0 Bg4

This seems better than the Tournament Book's recommended 11...Be6, and at least as the more frequently played 11...d4.

12. f3 Be6

"The weakness of the isolated pawn begins already to tell." (Tournament Book).

The alternative, 12...Qb6+, does not appear to be much of an improvement on Blackburn's move.

13. Bg5

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"Now White has the advantage because his Bishops (as in the Fischer game) are quite strong." (C/M)

Janowski's play to this point (and for most of the rest of the game) could well have been the work of a positional guru such a Karpov.

13... h6

"The advance of the wing pawns is naturally compromising, but the alternative 13...Qb6+ would be a blunder." (Tournament Book).

I agree that 13...h6 was probably not best (my vote goes to 13...Re8), but it was not awful, and 13...Qb6+ looks fine to me. The Tournament Book only manages to turn 13...Qb6+ into into a blunder with its poor analysis and bad follow-up for Black. After 13...Qb6+ 14. Kh1, Black would be better off than in the game with 14...Nd7. But the Tournament Book only considered the disastrous 14...Qxb2?, after which Black is indeed lost: 15. Qd2 [White can also win with 15. BxN immediately and then 16. Qd2--KEG] Qb6 [This only makes things worse for Black. 15...Ne5, though not sufficient to save the game, would be less immediately suicidal--KEG] 16. BxN gxB (Black is so bad here that even 16...h6 would be less awful than the natural text move--KEG] 17. Qh6 f5 18. g4 [18. Nxd5 was even better and would leave Black without resource--KEG]. Notably, C/M repeats the mistaken analysis of the Tournament Book.

14. Bh4

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

The position after 14. Bh4 was:

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To this point, Blackburne--though outplayed--was still very much in the game. From here, however, Blackburne's game went downhill fast and he was by his 17th move (and perhaps even sooner).

14... g5

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"A risky move which leaves the Kingside too weak." (C/M).

14...Ne5 or 14...Re8 would have been much better and left Blackburne with reasonable prospects of holding the game.

As C/M points out, 14...Qb6+ would also be "unpleasant" for Black, although it would have been better than the text. C/M's analysis, however, is somewhat flawed: e.g., 14...Qb6+ 15. Kh1 [16. Bf2 would be even better--KEG] Nd7 [15...Ne8 as given in the Tournament Book's analysis is worse for Black after 16. Bf2--KEG] 16. f4.

15. Bf2 Rc8

"There was probably a better defense with 15...Nh5." (C/M)


16. f4!

"!"--(Tournament Book).

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Stockfish and Fritz both give 16. Ne2 as best. But I really like the text. Looking at Black's King-side, the text--in over-the board play at least--seems hardest to meet.

16... d4!

"To parry the threat 17. fxg5 hxg5 18. Be3." (Tournament Book)

"Not 16...gxf4 [??--KEG] 17. Bh4." (Tournament Book) [Accord--C/M].

"If 16...g4 17. Bh4." (Tournament Book).

17. fxg5


"17. Ne2 Ng4 would allow Black some play." (C/M) [Accord--Tournament Book).

After 17. fxg5, the position was:

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17... hxg5?

After this, Blackburne never had even a ghost of a chance. For better or worst, he had to try 17...cxN (e.g., 18. gxN cxb2 19. Rb1 Qxf6 20. Be3 Qc3 21. Rf3 after which Black would be in trouble but not necessarily lost).

18. Ne4

Good, but the real killer was 18. Qd2!, and if then 18...dxN? [18...Ng4 or 18...Nh7, though not pretty, would be the only ways to stay in the game] 19. Qg5+ Kh8 20. Qh6+ Kg8 21. Bh4! and Black can resign.

18... NxN
19. BxN f5

"The attack seems much more than it is." (Tournament Book(.

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20. BxN

"For the nonce Janowski discards his wonted fancy play for a simple and direct move which wins a pawn and thereby the game." (Tournament Book)

20... RxB
21. Bxd4

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Blackburne was almost certainly lost here, despite the Bishops of opposite colors.

Instead of trying to hold on grimly and struggle for a draw (as I bet Lasker would have done, knowing Janowski's reputation for getting careless in winning positions), Blackburne decided to go for broke and seek wild tactical complications with a coffee house attack. Janowski, however, was precisely the sort of tactical wizard against whom such plans were almost always misguided.

21... f4?!

Probably better to sit tight with something like 21...Bc4 or 21...Qd7 rather than create weakknesses for his King-side pawns.

22. c3

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"Menacing Qh5." (Tournament Book)

"White already has a winning position; Black is a pawn down with no compensation whatsoever." (C/M)

22... g4?!

Continuing with his madcap pawn advance. 22...Qe8 would have offered stiffer--even if likely futile--resistance.

23. Qd2

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23... Qc7

23...Qg5 was the only conceivable way to try to prolong the game.

As the Tournament Book correctly pointed out, 23...f3? would have been immediately crushed by 24. Qh6!

24. g3

"!"--(Tournament Book).

The text was cute. Even better, however, was probably 24. Rae1 or 24. Rf2.

24... Bc4

Hopeless, as was everything else.

25. Rxf4

"Two pawns to the good." (C/M)

25... RxR
26. gxR

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26... Qd7
27. Re1

The only point in the game at which Janowski' impatience led him (temporarily) astray). 27. Rd1 or 27. Qe1 were stronger.

The position after 27. Re1 was:

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27... g3?!

"A final attempt to save a hopeless game." (Tournament Book).

27...Re6 was the best chance to try to regroup after Janowski's doubtful 27. Re1

28. hxg3

"And now a third [pawn to the good]." (C/M)

Janowski had his choice of winning moves here. 28. Qg2 would also have been a winner. The text, as the position below reveals, was also quite fine.

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

28... Rh6

"Preparatory to Qh3, which would otherwise be met by Qh2." (Tournament Book).

Blackburne had nothing better than 28...Re6 29. RxR QxR 30. Bxa7, which would be hopeless (as it leaves Black four pawns down).

The text left the position as follows:

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The text allowed Janowski to create a cute finish.

29. f5!!

"After 29. f5 the Rook is trapped in an unusual way." (offramp on this site in 2005).

"f5, what a sneaky move." [Xeroxx on this site in 2010].

As a glance at the position reveals, Blackburne had no way to avoid immediate defeat after 29. f5!!:

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29... Rh5

This is hopeless, but Blackburne had nothing better.

"If 29...Qc6, then 30. Qg5+ wins." (Tournament Book) [It would now be mate in three--KEG]

"If 29...Qh7, then equally 30. Qg5+ [this time it's mate in 2--KEG]." (Tournament Book).

"Finally, if 29...Rh7, then 30. Qg5+ Kf8 [30...Kf7 delays mate by one move--KEG] 31. Bc5+ [mate in 5--KEG]." (Tournament Book).

If Black tries to save the Rook by, say, 29...Rh3, then he gets mated by 30. Qg5+ Kf8 31. Qf6+ Kg8 [or 31...Qf7 32. Qd8+--KEG] 32. Re8+ QxR 33. Qg7 mate [or 32...Kh7 33. Rh8 mate--KEG]." (offramp on this site in 2005).

30. g4!

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30... Qd6

Hoping for a miracle finish and overlooking Janowski's lethal reply. 30...Bd5 would have delayed--but not changed--the outcome.

31. gxR

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As the Tournament Book pointed out, and as Blackburne presumably overlooked, 31...Qg3+ fails against 32. Qg2 "pinning.".


Dec-02-19  Carrots and Pizza: After 8.Nxc3 it looks like White has a clear advantage positionally because of his dark squared bishop and Blacks dark squared weaknesses due to his pawn structure. The d6 square looks very weak.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Carrots and Pizza>White was indeed somewhat better after 8. NxB for the very reasons you give. But the game was still competitive at that point. Blackburne was not lost until at least his reckless 14th move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG>, reading the bald annotation <6....d6 is better> is, in retrospect, vastly amusing, as that has been used in modern play to reach the Lasker-Pelikan by transposition after 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5, with each side having lost a tempo (but a move closer to the time check!). One of the numerous Karpov-Nunn games comes to mind, as the great man demonstrated his python-like iron technique.

While Black cedes the bishop pair in the continuation after 6....Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.Nxc3 d5, he obtains free piece play, but this subvariation has a clear-cut drawing tendency.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious>Well put. I included the Tournament Book's comment on 6...d6 to give a flavor of the contemporary commentary on this game. With our knowledge based on over a century of grandmaster play and analysis, the 1901 understanding of the Sicilian Defense does indeed appear frivolous.
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