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Jacques Mieses vs Isidor Gunsberg
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 5, Feb-13
French Defense: Exchange Variation (C01)  ·  1/2-1/2

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-13-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A thrilling up and down game, featuring the explosive tactics of Mieses (sometimes sound, sometimes not, but always exciting) and the heroic defense of Gunsberg.

Both sides were winning at one point of other, and both sides erred at various times.

The fact that, having plenty of time and Fritz and Stockfish to double-check my work--I can identify mistakes--should not detract from how wonderful this struggle was. When looking over the game, please recall that this was an over-the-board contest in which much of the crucial moments occurred with the move-30 time control approaching.

1. e4 e6

An experienced pro such as Gunsberg surely knew that playing the French against Mieses would elicit the Exchange Variation (often seen as a drawing variation but not when Mieses was at the helm).

2. d4 d5
3. exd5

Played by Mieses with every intention of playing for a win.

3... exd5
4. Be3


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Mieses played this move so often it could safely be called the "Mieses Variation." He had already played it twice in this tournament (drawing against Alapin and defeating Mason).

4. Bd3 and 4. Nf3 are more usual, but Mieses was certainly well-advised to continue with a line that he knew so well.

4... Bd6

Alapin played 4...Be6 and Mason 4...Nf6 in their respective games against Mieses' Exchange Variation in the earlier rounds.

5. Nc3

Mieses might have played 5. c4 or 5. Nf3 (with 6. c4 to follow). But Mieses knew what he was doing in playing his favorite line in the Exchange Variation of the French.

5... c6

A novelty. 5...Nf6 immediately looks most logical. Giving Mieses something new, however, made sense for Gunsberg.

6. Bd3 Nf6
7. Qd2

7. Nge2 followed by 8. 0-0 was a reasonable plan yielding approximate equality. But not for Mieses, who was--as so often--keen on quick Queen-side castling followed by an all-out attack on the other wing,

7... 0-0

Gunsberg must have braced for what he knew would be coming.

8. 0-0-0?!


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Others might still have settled for 8. Nge2, but what else would we expect from Mieses.

8... b5!

In the true spirit of this slugfest, Gunsberg chose active counterattacking defense. The spectators must already have been on the edge of their seats.

9. f3?!

"In anticipation of b4 and Ne4." (Tournament Book).

This, contrary to the note in the Tournament Book, should have landed Mieses in trouble. He had a number of better options: e.g., 9. Bf4; 9. Nf3 (wasn't it time to bring this Knight into the game; 9. h4 (a Mieses move if there ever was one); or 9. Kb1 immediately (always a useful move in this sort of position).

After 9. f3?!, the position was:


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With b4 coming from Black (requiring that e2 now be kept open as an escape square) and h3 blocking the advance of his h-pawn, Mieses was pretty much committed to leaving his Knight on g1 for a while (it did not vacate that square until move 20). Only Mieses would be willing to launch an all-out sacrificial attack with a Knight "on the bench" on g1. But such play is what made this game the intriguing encounter it soon became.

Jan-13-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

9... Qa5?!

This proved worse than useless. Gunsberg should either have commenced Queen-side attacking options with 9...a5 or else brought his b8 Knight to the fray with 9...Nbd7.

10. Kb1!

The simple answer to 9...Qa5, leaving the position:


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10... b4!

As expected. The main alternative was the retreating 10...Qc7. But to play this would be to admit that his last move was wrong.

10...Nbd7, which would have been good on his last move, now would--as was pointed out in the Tournament Book-- have allowed Mieses to seize the advantage with 11. Nxd5! (though, contrary to the Tournament Book's suggestion, Black would still be very much in the game after 11...b4).

11. Nbe2 Ba6

Much better were 11...Nbd7, 11...Re8, 11...Qc7, and 11...c5.

The position was now:


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12. Bf5

"To preserve the Bishop and to induce Black to the weakening move g6." (Tournament Book).

But Gunsberg didn't play g6, and the fear of trading Bishops gave Gunsberg an opportunity he didn't seize.

12... Nbd7

Gunsberg could have saved himself a lot of trouble with 12...Re8.

The position was now:


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13. Bh6?!


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Anyone else would likely have played 13. Bf4 or 13. Nc1.

"The beginning of a highly interesting phase of the game." (Tournament Book).

13... Rfe8

"The capture of the Bishop has been tried after the conclusion of the game and been found to be impractical." (Tournament Book)

Indeed, if 13...hxB White would have had excellent chances after 14. Qxh6, e.g., 14...Be7 15. Qg5+ Kh8 16. BxN or 14...Bc4 15. Nc1 Be7 16. Qg5+ (or 16. g4).

After the text (13...Rfe8), the position was:


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Another key moment of the game had been reached. Could Mieses afford to leave the Bishop on h6?

Jan-14-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

14. g4?!


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Pure Mieses. He ignored 14. Bg5 and 14. Qg5.

But can't Gunsberg just take the Bishop (now that he has freed f8 for his Bishop)? I think so. if 14...gxB 15. Qxh6 Bf8 (or 15...BxN immediately) 16. Qh4 BxN 17. NxB RxN 18. g5 Qd8 Black is a piece ahead with every prospect of winning.

But Gunsberg chickened out with:

14... Qc7?

Gunsberg was OK after this move, but Mieses could now have played 15. Bf4 with interesting chances for both sides.

But Mieses was determined to go for the gold, and thus played:

15. Ng3?!


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Gunsberg would be fine with 15...Nf8, and that was probably best. But--deciding to continue in the spirit of the game--Gunsberg played:

15... gxB?!
16. Qxh6 Bf8

16...b3 looks good but in fact loses after 17. axb3 Bf8 18. Qh4 h6 19. g5 hxg5 20. Qxg5+ Bg7 21. Nh3 Nf8 22. Rhg1 Ne6 23. BxN fxB 24. Nf4 and White, though still a piece down, has a winning attack.

In retrospect, 15...gxB was good enough to reach an unclear position but, unlike the chance two moves earlier, does not win for Black.

17. Qh4 h6
18. g5

"!"--(Tournament Book).

This is certainly best, but it should not have been sufficient to win against best play by Black.

hxg5
19. Qxg5+


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19... Kh8?

This should lose. Gunsberg would have been OK after 19...Bg7. But now the position was:


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Mieses could now win with 20. BxN Nh7 (20...NxB would be even worse after 21. Qh5+ Kg8 [21...Kg7 22. Nh3] 22. Nf5 Re6b 23. Nh3 and Black cannot hope to survive) 21. Qg4 Bc8 22. BxB QxB 23. Qh5 and White has won back his sacrificed piece, is a pawn up, and still has a brutal attack on the nearly helpless Black monarch.

The Tournament Book reported that Hoffer said that 20. BxN "would have drawn," but the above variations prove otherwise.

20. Qh4+ also wins for White. [Gunsberg, according to the Tournament Book, correctly said that 20. Qh4+ "would give White a dangerous attack." This is an understatment.

But here Mieses chose the wrong moment to bring his long dormant g1 Knight into the game with:

20. Nh3?


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Now, it once again was anybody's game.

As will be seen, the wild and sometimes brilliant play by both sides was far from over.

Jan-14-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

20... Ng8

Forced (e.g., 20...b3 21. Qh4+ Kg8 22. Nh5 Bg7 23. Rhg1 NxN 24. QxN bxc2+ 25. Bxc2 Kf8 26. Qh7).

This left:


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21. Qh5+

"21. Qh4+ seems to be the better move, discouraging Black from playing Nf6." (Gunsberg as reported in the Tournament Book).

21. Qh4+ does look best, and leads to what looks like a draw by repetition after 21...Bh6 22. Ng5 Re7 23. Bh3 (to make room for the Knight on f5) Nf8 24. Nf5 Ng6 25. Qh5 Nf4 26. Qh4 Ng6 27. Qh5 etc./

21... Nh6

It now appears that Black has weathered the storm and--still a piece ahead--has good winning chances. But it's still tricky.

22. Rhg1

The best chance:


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22... Nf6

The double-edged 22...Nb6 (with 23...Nc4 in view) seems to present more problems for White.

23. Qh4


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23... Nfg8?


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This leads to more trouble for Black. Gunsberg had plenty of moves that should leave him OK with some winning chances, e.g., 23...Qd6; 23...Bg7; 23...Qe7; and 23...Qd8. But now:

24. Nh5

"!"--(Tournament Book):

The only move, but a good one:


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24... Qd6?

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"Black defends the weakened position skillfully" (Tournament Book).

This analysis seems clearly wrong. 24...Qe7 was the only chance to hold the position.

Gunsberg was now on the brink:


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Mieses seems to have a winning attack here. But how should he continue?

Jan-15-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

25. Ng5

"!"--(Tournament Book).

Also strong was 25. N5f4.

"25. RxN+ was tempting but incorrect [it loses--KEG]: 25...KxR [25...NxR also wins--KEG] 26. Nf6+ [26. Rg1+ or 26. Ng5 were slightly better, but would not save the day--KEG] 26...Kh8 27. Rg1 [Hopeless, but 27. Ng4 or 27. NxR were not much better--KEG] Bg7 28. RxB [28. Ng4 was probably "best" here, but still hopeless] QxN "with an adequate defense." (Gunsberg as reported in the Tournament Book) Actually Black here--up a Rook for a pawn--should win easily.

25... Re7


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White to move and win.

26. Nf4

"With this move White secures a draw now, Black having sufficient forces for the defense of his King position"--(Tournament Book)

But should White be satisfied with a draw here. The answer is a resounding "NO." For one thing, even after the text, White should still play on for a win, as I will discuss below. More fundamentally, however, White has something much better than 26. Nf4.

The killing problem-like move [nice to be able to confirm the power of this move with Fritz and Stockfish--and no doubt unfair to fault Mieses for not finding it while sitting at the board with the move 30 time control approaching] is 26. Nh7!! which would leave the position as follows:


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Black would now be helpless:

(A) 26...Re2 (best) 27. Qg5 Ne7 28. N5f6 Qb8 29. Be4 (29. NxB also wins, but Fritz found 29. Be4! and I can't resist sharing this remarkable resource) dxB 30. NxB QxN 31. Nd7 f6 32. Qh5 Kh7 (the only hope) 33. NxQ+ RxN 34. f4 e3 35. d5 cxd5 36. Rg3 Rf2 37. Rh3 Neg8 38. Qf5+

B) 26...NxB 27. RxN+ KxR 28. N7f6+ Kh8 29. Qg5 Nh6 30. Rg1

But, returning to the actual game, after the "human" move 26. Nf4 that Mieses made over the board, the position was:


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26... Bg7

If 26...Bc8 27. Nxf7+ RxN 28. Ng6+ Kh7 29. NxB+ Kh8 30. Ng6+ Kh7 31. Bd3 Bf5 32. Ne5 Qe7 33. Qh5 BxB 34. cxB Qe6 35. NxR QxN 36. QxQ+ NxQ 37. Rde1 leaving:


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With good chances to win the ending.

But let's look at the position after Gunsberg's actual 26...Bg7


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Does Mieses have a win here?

Jan-15-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

27. Nxf7?

Not this, which virtually forces a draw.

The way to play for a win here was with the problem-like 27. Be6!! which would leave:


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Best for Black would now be 27...Bc8 (obviously if 27...fxB 28. Ng6 mate), after which play would continue 28. Nxf7+ RxN 29. BxR Qf6 30. Ng6+ Kh7 31. BxN+ KxB 32. Ne7+ Kh7 33. QxQ BxQ 34. Nxc6 a5 35. Rde1 leaving:


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Not a sure win for White by any means, but White clearly has fine winning chances.

By contrast, after Mieses' actual move, 27. Nxf7+, the position was:


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Now, a draw was inevitable:

27... RxN
28. Ng6+ Kh7
29. Ne7+

29. Nf8+ amounts to the same thing:

29... Kh8
30. Ng6+


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Drawn

According to one source, the game continued:

30... Kh7
31. Ne7+ Kh8

Drawn

Quite an exciting game!

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