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Mikhail Chigorin vs Simon Winawer
"A Risky Bet" (game of the day Oct-15-2016)
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 5, Feb-11
Ponziani Opening: Jaenisch Counterattack (C44)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-04-06  rudysanford: You would hope that someone of Winawer's experience could see this coming.
Sep-26-16  SeanAzarin: Always Bet On The Red
Oct-15-16  AlicesKnight: Agree with <rudysanford> - Black seems to help White - 12...h5 does little but allow the threat of the White QB, then 17...c6 drives the KB exactly where it wants to go.
Oct-15-16  offramp: Another <Goodanarchist> mate! I can't believe it!
Oct-15-16  hamzaable: You Vs the guy she told you not to worry about :D
Oct-15-16  7he5haman: <AlicesKnight> I believe 12...h5 was to stop 13.Ng4 followed by a harassing of the Black queen similar to what we see in the game.

Initially 12...Kd8 looks to be a better try, but I think it fails to 13.Bg5!

Hard to suggest a better move - Black looks to be lost long before the 12th move.

Oct-15-16  catlover: There has to be a better way for black to play that opening.
Oct-15-16  WorstPlayerEver: Nakamura vs J Becerra Rivero, 2007
Oct-15-16  morfishine: A total waste of time
Oct-15-16  wrap99: Here's a question: Do engines measure rating strength?

Because arguably both players were GMs of that day or certainly white was a gm and black was an IM -- but this looks nothing like a game between modern players of that strength.

Oct-15-16  RandomVisitor: From Wikipedia:

At the Paris 1867 tournament held at the Café de la Régence, his first international tournament, Winawer finished in second place, tied with Wilhelm Steinitz behind Ignatz Von Kolisch. He remained one of the world's best players for the next 15 years.

At Warsaw 1868 Winawer won the first chess tournament conducted in Poland. He won an 1875 match in Saint Petersburg against Russian master Ilya Shumov, 5–2. At Paris 1878 Winawer tied for first place (+14−3=5) with Johannes Zukertort, ahead of Joseph Henry Blackburne and George Henry Mackenzie, but took second prize after the play-off. At Berlin 1881 he finished =3rd with Mikhail Chigorin. Winawer's best result was a first place tie with Steinitz at Vienna 1882, in what was the strongest chess tournament in history up to that time. At London 1883 he failed to place for the first time, but later that year at Nuremberg (3rd German Congress) he finished first, defeating Blackburne who took second place.

After a long absence Winawer returned to chess in the 1890s, but by then he had been surpassed by younger players including Siegbert Tarrasch and Emanuel Lasker. At Dresden 1892 and Budapest 1896 he placed sixth. He lost an 1896 match to Dawid Janowski 2–5. He turned 63 during his final international tournament, Monte Carlo 1901, and did not place among the prizewinners. Winawer continued to play competitive chess into his 60s, and in his career he faced all of the top players from the last third of the 19th century, from Adolf Anderssen to Lasker. His rivalry with Blackburne stretched from 1870 to 1901, and they met in competitive games in five consecutive decades. Winawer died in Warsaw on November 29, 1919.


Winawer has several opening variations named for him. The most popular is the Winawer Variation of the French Defence (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4). His name is also associated with the Winawer Attack in the Ruy Lopez. <At Monte Carlo 1901, Winawer's last international tournament, he introduced the Winawer Countergambit in the Slav Defense in a game against Frank Marshall.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Chiggy wins!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: What is the worst game ever played? Should the prize to a game in which both players screw up, or can it be bestowed on one where one player performs well while the other is awful beyond belief? If the latter can qualify, then I offer this game as a candidate?

Over their career, Tchigorin and Winawer had a seemingly close rivalry; Tchigorin winning 6, Winawer 4, with one draw. But this record is misleading. The first seven games between the two were played in or before 1883, well before Tchigorin became the great player we know and love. Winawer was ahead by 4 to 3 in these first seven contests. In the games after 1883, including the present one, Tchigorin won three and drew one.

At Monte Carlo 1901, Winawer got off to a terrible start. Going into this game, Winawer had lost three and had one draw with Marshall (later to be replayed). By contrast, Tchigorin was one of two undefeated players (Alapin was the other) and was in second place behind Janowski after his victory here.

Was Winawer's mind on this game? How could he play this badly. He made only 19 moves here before being mated. Of those 19 moves, twelve were horrific: moves 5,7,8,9,10,12,13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19. If the first four opening moves are excluded, Winawer blundered on 12 of 15 moves (80%), including overlooking mate in one. Granted, Winawer was lost by move 7, so 10 of his 12 blunders probably were irrelevant to the outcome. Maybe he just lost interest in the game.

Whatever the reason, I offer Winawer's play as the chess equivalent of the film "Plan 9 from Outer Space," arguably the worst movie ever made:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. c3

Ponziani's Opening, a Tchigorin favorite. He had already played this opening at least eleven (11) times before this game.

3... Nf6
4. d4 exd4

"?"--(Tournament Book)

The Tournament Book notwithstanding, the text is a fine and often played line. As MCO-13 points out, it transposes to the Goring Gambit.

The text in fact was one of the few decent moves Winawer played in this game. It is thus remarkable that the Tournament Book selected this move for a "?."

5. e5

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So far, pretty standard. But from here Winawer appeared to lose his mind:

5... Qe7?

A "novelty," and a bad one at that. It needlessly mangles Black's position. The only nice thing I can say about the move is that it avoided any pre-game preparation by Tchigorin (who knew the opening well but not--obviously--this line). The usual 5...Nd5 was best.

6. cxd4 d6
7. Bb5!

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If Winawer hoped to throw Tchigorin off stride with his novel line, his hopes were not realized. Tchigorin played excellent chess in this game, despite Winawer's craziness.

7... Nd7?

"?"--(Tournament Book).

"Notably 7...Bd7 must be played." (Tournament Book).

The Tournament Book's criticism of the text is clearly correct, but 7...Bd7 was far from the only good alternative. 7...dx5, 7...Bg4, and 7...Nd5 all come to mind. Even with one of these superior moves, Winawer would still suffer from the effects of his awful 5th move. After the text, his position was ruined beyond repair.

8. 0-0

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Even a glance at the position tells the tale. Winawer was already strategically lost (after only 7 moves!).

But it got worse from here---much worse.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: 7...Nd7 is painfully bad.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <OhioChessFan> Yes indeed. 7...Nd7 was wretched. Sad to say, it was only one such awful move by Winawer in this game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

8... dxe5?

This allows for a devastating reply by Tchigorin. Though probably too late to save the day against so formidable an adversary as Tchigorin, Winawer should have tried to untangle his position with 8...Qd8.

9. d5!

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Murder! But Winawer even here found a way to drive his awful position even further downhill:

9... Ndb8?

Winawer, if he didn't want to resign, should have tried 9...Nb4 or 9...a6 or perhaps 9...Qb4.

After the text (8...Ndb8?), Winawer's position was almost comically bad:

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10. Nxe5

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The Knight, of course, is immune (10...QxN 11. Re1). But bad as 10...QxN would have been, Winawer found something worse (10...a6 was probably "best," if that word can properly be used to describe Winawer's dreadful options):

10... Qf6?

To get a measure of just how bad Winawer's position was, note that Fritz rates the game +2.99 for White. Stockfish is less kind to Winawer and gives +5.60 as its assessment.

11. Re1!

click for larger view

Anyone care to try to salvage Black here?

11... Be7
12. Qe2

"!"--(Tournament Book)

The text was indeed crushing, but 12. Ng4 or perhaps 12. h4 were even nastier.

After 12. Qe2, Winawer's sorry position was:

click for larger view

If Winawer wanted to play on, he should have submitted to loss of a piece with 12...0-0 13. NxN BxN 14. BxB. That would be pretty hopeless for Black (14...NxB 15. QxB would be no fun to play against Tchigorin), Winawer reached into his bag of tricks and found something even worse:

12... h5?

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"Incomprehensible." (Tournament Book)

"12...h5 does little but allow the threat of the White Queen's Bishop." (Alices Knight on this site in 2016).

7he5Shaman (also in 2016 on this site) tried to explain Winawer's thought process: "I believe 12...h5 was to stop 13. Ng4. 12...Kd8 looks to be a better try, but I think it fails to 13. Bg5!."

12...Kd8 would, it is true, lead to trouble, after 13. Bg5. But the real crusher here would be 13. Ng4.

After Winawer's 12...h5?, the position was:

click for larger view

Bad as Winawer's position was here, he still found ways to drive the stake even deeper into his own heart.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

13. Nf3 Qd6?

Winawer seems to have two options here: (i) resign; or (ii) give up his Queen and try to hang on for a while with two minor pieces against Queen and pawn via 13...0-0 14. Bg5 QxB 15. NxQ BxN 16. Qh5.

Winawer's move (13...Qd6?) left him in even more deplorable distress:

click for larger view

Winawer's play was so bad that, as the above diagram reveals, Tchigorin had managed to obtain an overwhelming position without having yet moved any of his Queen side pieces. Needless to say, matters only went further downhill for Winawer once Tchogin brought his other Bishop into the fray:

14. Bf4

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14. Bg5 would have been even more devastating, but the text was more than sufficient to finish off the game. Winawer pretty much (if he didn't want to resign) had to kiss his Queen good-by with 14...0-0 or 14...Qf6 15. Bg5. But yet again, Winawer found something even worse:

14... Qc5?

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White to move and win.

15. d6!

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Should we laugh or cry?

Was there a way for Winawer to dig himself into an even deeper hole?

15... 0-0?

Yep. 15...Nc6 was the only plausible way to continue for at least a few more moves. But After Winawer's bungling 15...0-0? (castling at just the wrong time), the position was:

click for larger view

16. dxB

Tchigorin now had a winning material advantage on top of his positional bind on the hopeless Black position.

16... Re8
17. Nc3

Tchigorin, having won a piece, quite reasonably decided to bring out his remaining minor piece. This, of course, left him with an absolutely clear win. But 17. Ng5 was the real killer.

After 17. Nc3, the position was:

click for larger view

Was there now any way for Winawer to blunder in this hopeless position? Fear not, Winawer was up to the task.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Playing 7...Nd7 Winawer apparently missed or underestimated 9.d5 and its consequences. 12...h5 was clearly motivated by threat 13.Ng4 Qd6 14.Bf4! Qc5 15.d6! +-

I would say that 7...dxe5 8.Nxe5 Nd7 gives black a reasonably playable game after 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.0-0 Nxe5 11.dxe5 Qe6 and that it is something what Winawer had in mind when he played 7...Nd7. Unfortunately for him, order of moves mattered here to his disfavour.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Almost any player of any strength, if forced to play on in Winawer's position, would have played 17...Nc6. But Winawer came up with a howler that was outside my mental data-base:

17... c6?

click for larger view

"17...c6 drives the King Bishop exactly where it wants to go." (Alice's Knight on this site in 2016).

In "My 60 Memorable Games," Bobby Fischer--in commenting on his game against Tigran Petrosian in the 1958 Interzonal Tournament at Portoroz that: "I was amazed during the game. Each time Petrosian achieved a good position, he managed to maneuver into a better one."

I was similarly amazed in playing over this game. Every time Winawer got into a terrible position, he somehow found a way to make it worse.

18. Bc4

Tchigorin could also have won with the even more crushing 18. Ng5 (if 18...cxB 19 Qxh5 or 19. Nce4). But Tchigorin, understandably, kept things simpler.

But not to fear, Winawer still had two blunders in store for us.

Anyone else would either resign or play 18...Nf6 (though things would still be hopeless for Black after 19. Ng5). But Winawer, not wanting to disappoint us, and like a lamb to the slaughter, played:

18... b5?

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19. Bxf7+

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"You would hope that someone of Wiaawer's experience could see this coming." (rudysanford on this site in 2006).

Even in the above position, Winawer (whose only hope of continuing the game was the unappetizing 19...Kh8), had one more blunder up his sleeve:

19... KxB
20. Qe6 Checkmate

click for larger view

I hereby nominate Winawer's performance in this game as the worst game (by a single player) even played.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <KEG>

<15... 0-0?

Yep. 15...Nc6 was the only plausible way to continue for at least a few more moves.>

Well, not that it makes any difference here but how exactly 15...Nc6 improves black position in comparison to 15...0-0 after simple 16.Bxc6? with a threat of mate in 1 on e7?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Honza Cervenka> You are of course right that Winawer would still have been dead as a door-nail after 15...Nc6 16. BxN. All Black can do is castle and then submit to 17. dxB QxB 18. e8(Q) RxQ 19. Qxe8+ Nf8 20. Nc3 QxQ 21. RxQ leaving himself down Rook and Knight.

My point was only that even in the hopeless position in which Winawer found himself after 15. d6 (when any sensible person would have resigned) and when drastic material loss was inevitable, Winawer still managed to find a way to dig an even deeper grave for himself. He was, of course, lost a long time before that.

With his actual 15...0-0, the only reason Winawer had any chance to continue the game was because Tchigorin "missed" the immediately crushing 17. Ng5. Of course, with his 17th, 18th, and 19th moves, Winawer assured himself of a quick death.

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