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Geza Maroczy vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
12th DSB Congress, Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 3, Jul-26
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation Berlin Wall Defense (C67)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-13-04  aw1988: BPPP vs B 1/2-1/2
Sep-13-04  azaris: Like his contemporary Marshall, Pillsbury was a great endgame player but even he can't win a totally drawish bishops of opposite color engame where all three pawns are on the wrong files. Instructive lesson on the folly of bishop endings that simply can't be won despite having a seemingly overwhelming advantage.
Mar-11-06  Calli: Fantastic defense by Maroczy. I wondered why he was moving the kingside pawns so aggressively, but he saw very long range that he could eliminate the K-side and then move his king all the way to d6 (!!) before circling back to b2. In the final position, Pillsbury might force c3 but then Bxc3 and the doubled Rook ♙s are useless.
Mar-11-06  euripides: There are many beautiful opposite-coloured bishop endings where one side shows they can be won after all. Here is a rarity: a really beautiful drawn opposite-coloured bishop ending.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: A good candidate for capanegra's
Game Collection: Great opposite coloured Bishops endings
Apr-09-06  Whitehat1963: What a beautiful forced draw!
Sep-18-14  RookFile: 10 years ago we might have sniffed that these old players played the Berlin Defense so much. Such a defense would never, ever become used today.....
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Bishops of opposite colors endings are among the oddities of chess. In this encounter between two of the leading contenders at Munich 1900, Pillsbury brilliantly finds a way to obtain the advantage in a seemingly barren ending, but Maroczy even more brilliantly demonstrates how opposite color Bishops can be a great equalizer, drawing even though three pawns down (and topping the ending off with a sacrifice of his Bishop just to make the conclusion all the more satisfying).

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6

In this game, Pillsbury uses the Berlin Defense to equalize quickly and easily.

4. 0-0 Nxe4
5. d4 Nd6
6. BxN

A standard line in the Berlin. Pillsbury shows how to draw the teeth of any White initiative.

6... dxB
7. dxe5 Nf5
8. QxQ+ KxQ

The position now was:

click for larger view

9. Rd1+

In the final round of the 1962-1963 US Championship Tournament, Bobby Fischer and Arthur Bisguier were tied for first and reached the above position in their decisive encounter. Fischer here played 9. Nc3. Maroczy's move--recommended by Pillsbury himself as noted by Sergeant in his book on Pillsbury--seems as good as Fischer's. In either case, White has at most a tiny advantage. White could also play 9. b3 immediately here. Fischer's victory over Bisguier was not the result of the opening.

9... Ke8
10. Nc3 h6

A useful precaution. Pillsbury could also have played 10...Be7 or 10...Bd7 here.

11. b3 Bb4

Typically, Pillsbury tries here to make something of nothing. Tarrasch tried 11...g5 against Maroczy here. 11...b6 or 11...Be6 or 11...a5 all look like sound efforts if Black is satisfied with equality.

12. Bb2

12. Ne4 or 12. Ne2 would be the best tries if White wants to play for a win. But Maroczy (who had a half-point lead on Pillsbury at this stage of the Tournament) apparently was satisfied with a level game in which he could later hope to exploit Black's doubled c-pawns.

12... BxN
13. BxB Be6

13...c5 is another try here. Both moves seem to maintain the balance.

14. Nd4

Seeking more exchanges.

14... NxN
15. RxN

According to Sergeant, Hoffer claimed that 15. BxN was better since the text allows Black to gain a tempo with 15...c5. On either move, however, the game looks very drawish--especially given the dreaded Bishops of opposite colors, a factor that will loom large for the balance of this game.

15... c5

Gaining a tempo just as Hoffer suggested.

16. Rd2 Rd8

The game at this stage had all the makings of a grandmaster draw.

17. Rad1 Ke7
18. Kf1

Maroczy could also have solidified his position with 18. f3.

18... RxR
19. RxR b6
20. Ke2 a5

He alternatively could have played g5 here or on his prior move.

21. Ke3

This left:

click for larger view

An easy draw and a short day at the office for the players? Not with Pillsbury playing Black. As Hoffer (as quoted by Sergeant) said, and as I will attempt to show in my next post on this game: "The interesting part of the game now commences. It is instructive how Pillsbury gets an advantage out of such a simple position."

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

The manner in which Pillsbury obtained the advantage after 21. Ke3 was remarkable--but, as Maroczy brilliantly went on to show--insufficient to overcome the equalizing power of opposite color Bishops.

21... Ra8!

Pillsbury contemplates a Queen-side attack. Who but Pillsbury would have imagined such a plan here?

22. a3

Maroczy made a few moves during this stage of the game that--while not fatal--made his task more difficult. Here, 22. a4 would have limited Pillsbury's options on the Queen-side.

22... g6

Pillsbury might also have tried 22...a4 immiediately (to exploit Maroczy's last move), or perhaps 22...g5.

23. Rd1

Since Maroczy has to move his Rook back to d2 on his very next turn, this was clearly loss of time. Still, as Maroczy seems to have calculated, opposite color Bishops allowed him to get away with this. 23. f3 (an advance Maroczy played on his 28th turn, seems simpler.

23... Bf5

"!"--(Tournament Book).

24. Rd2

The position was now:

click for larger view

24... a4!

The Queen-side assault begins! 24...h5 was another reasonable plan.

25. b4

The alternative, 25. Bb2, was hardly attractive.

25... cxb4
26. Bxb4+ c5

Pillsbury's pawns march.

27. Bc3 Rd8

Having achieved the Queen-side pressure he sought, Pillsbury was now prepared to trade Rooks.

28. f3

Giving Pillsbury another tempo. Maroczy could simply have played 28. RxR and probably have been fine.

28... RxR

28...h5 was a good alternative.

29. KxR h5
30. Bb2 b5!

Pillsbury's Queen-side advance certainly looked formidable at this stage:

click for larger view

How should Maroczy deal with Pillsbury's threats?

31. c4

Though Maroczy survived, I suppose this move was OK. But it sure looks ugly.

31... b4!

The progress Pillsbury has made in the last ten moves is amazing.

32. Bc1

Maroczy, however, did not panic, and settled down to hold off his talented opponent.

32... Ke6
33. Bb2

Maroczy was in a holding pattern at this point. He was not going to give Pillsbury an inch.

33... Bb1

33...b3 or 33...g5 look stronger, but probably insufficient.

34. g3 Kf5
35. Ke2

Why not 35. h4 here? MarocY will soon provide an answer to this question.

35... Ba2

35...Bc2 looks like a better try, but attacking the c-pawn must have looked most attractive. The reason this plan got Pillsbury nowhere will not become apparent until Maroczy's 48th move.

36. Kd3 Bb3

This left:

click for larger view

Matters certainly look grim for Maroczy here, but as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Maroczy from this point dazzles the viewer with his method of saving the game. Who would have imagined he had devised a drawing method that involved the sacrifice of no less than three pawns!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Maroczy's method of holding the game after 36...Bb3 was as counter-intuitive as it was effective.

37. Ba1!

As will be seen, Maroczy had calculated that he could handle Pillsbury's threats by keeping his Bishop on the a1..h8 diagonal.

37... bax3

Pipllsbury has now "won" a pawn, but his doubled a-pawns are hardly worth two pawns, and his Bishop now cannot control the Queening squares (a1 and c1) for any of his Queen-side pawns.

38. Bc3!

Staying on the key diagonal.

38... Ke6
39. Ba1 Bd1

Shifting his focus of attack from White's c4 pawn to the f3 pawn.

40. Ke3 Bc2

g5 was an alternate possibility here and on his prior move.

41. h3

The beginning of a remarkable plan by Maroczy to give up his four King-side pawns in exchange for Pillsbury's three pawns on that wing, all on the theory that Pillsbury could not win on the Queen-side.

41... Kf5
42. h4 Bb3
43. Kd3

The position was now:

click for larger view

Pillsbury now tries what looks to have been his only chance, but Maroczy was prepared for it:

43... g5
44. hxg5 Kxg5
45. Bc3 h5
46. gxh4+ Kxh4
47. f4 Kg4

This left:

click for larger view

With his King seemingly tied to the defense of the c-pawn and with Pillsbury about to gobble up his King-side pawns, Maroczy again appears to be in serious trouble. But his next move showed he had everything under control:

48. Ke4!

Giving up his c-pawn in order to be able to make sure he could get rid of Pillsbury's only real threat: the Black pawn on f7.

48... Bxc4
49. f5! Kg5

I initially thought that 49...a2 was better, but this doesn't work for White either.

50. e6! fxe6

50...f6 would hardly be better, so Pillsbury had no choice.

51. fxe6 Bxe6

Maroczy now has the position for which he was playing:

click for larger view

Maroczy now only has to get his King to a1 and keep his Bishop on the long diagonal. The game is a draw despite Pillsbury's extra three pawns:

52. Ke5 Bb3
53. Kd6 c4
54. Kc5 Kf5
55. Kb4 a2
56. Ka3 Ke4
57. Kb2 Kd2
58. Ka1!

A remarkable finish:

click for larger view

58...KxB would of course be stalemate!

Wonderful endgame play by Maroczy.

1/2 -- 1/2

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