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Isidor Gunsberg vs Mikhail Chigorin
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 9, Feb-18
Queen's Gambit Declined: Chigorin Defense. Main Line (D07)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-22-06  psmith: A game marked by quite a few mistakes. In the first place it is unclear why Gunsberg resigned (perhaps he lost on time) as his position is far from lost at the end.

Some other problematic moments:
8. d5? is a mistake, allowing 8...Nb4. But Black returns the favor with 8...0-0-0.

18...h6 gives White the advantage after 19. Bb5. 18... Kb8 would have been better, getting out of the pin.

After 19. Bb5, a tougher defense might have arisen from 19... Kd7.

White has a winning position by move 26. but underestimates Black's chances with 27. f3?. He should have moved the Queen (say, 23. Qc5)to allow Be2 in response to Rhe8+.

Jul-22-06  Assassinater: <A game marked by quite a few mistakes. In the first place it is unclear why Gunsberg resigned (perhaps he lost on time) as his position is far from lost at the end.>

It looks pretty resignable to me. Let's just say 32. Nc3, then follows 32... Rxf3+ 33. Kh2 (33. Kg2 Rxc3+), then 33... Rf2+ 34. Kg1 Rxb2 35. Rh2 Rb3. Looks pretty bad, though maybe I've just miscalculated (wouldn't be the first time).

32. Rc1 looks better, though after 32... Kd6, black should be able to escape the checks and win a few pawns.

Jul-22-06  psmith: <Assassinater>
32. Rc1 Kd6 33. Rc3 holds everything. White is up two pawns and will play b3 after Black moves his Rook. I'm not saying White is actually winning (he'll end up with doubled a-pawns, for one thing), but why is his position resignable?

32. Rc1 Rxf3+ is better, but after 33. Kh2 Kd6 34. Rc3 White is still up a pawn and has every prospect of at least drawing, as far as I can see. So why does Gunsberg resign?

Jul-22-06  Assassinater: Yep, a hole in my analysis as usual. Meh... Probably why I'm still a patzer.
Oct-29-10  Adriano Saldanha: Computer´s analisys (crafty 20-14) says:
a) game ended in a drawn position (0.09, after 2´41´´, deepth 19); b) Black´s 18th move should be Ne7 or Kb8. 18. h6 was not good and 19. hxg5 was a blunder.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A shocking ending in which Tchigorin emerged as the victor after losing his Queen, when Gunsberg--after overwhelming Tchigorin with a crushing attack--went astray in time trouble: first blowing the win and then losing on time when Gunsberg failed to make his 30th move in time.

Based on what was reported in the Tournament Book, Gunsberg had only recorded 24 moves. Tchigorin's score was also flawed (he failed to record a move). Although 31 moves were actually made before the game was stopped, the Tournament Committee (represented in this case by Hoffer and de Riviere) determined that Gunsberg had only made 29 moves before he exceeded the time limit.

Thus, the game was awarded to Tchigorin at a time when--even after Gunsberg's time-trouble gaffes--the position was a theoretical draw.

The game features all sorts of ups and downs; excellent moves and blunders.

At the time, this lucky result for Tchigorin looked like it might determine first place at Monte Carlo 1901. Going into this game, Tchigorin was one of only two undefeated players (Alapin being the other). Janowski at 6-2 going into Round 9, was nominally on top, but Tchigorin at 5.75-1.75 had two 1/2 point replays (under the strange rules in effect at this tournament) and thus was truly the leader. Hot on his heals were Alapin (5.75-1.75 with one replay); von Scheve (5.5-2.5); Schlechter (5.25-2.25 with one replay)' and Gunsberg himself (5.25-2.75).

From here, however, Tchigorin's luck ran out. He lost in Round 10 to Janowski; then lost his replayed game to Schlechter; defeated Mason in a marathon game in Round 11 and Blackburne in Round 12; drew his replay with Alapin; and then lost his final round game with Mieses. Tchigorin ended up tied for 3rd prize with von Scheve.

Gunsberg finish was disastrous; losing three and drawing four in his remaining games and ending up tied for 7th place with Blackburne (with an overall minus score).

Anyway, here's the game. I note at the outset that the excellent 2006 commentary on this site by <psmith> is light years better than what appeared in the Tournament Book. I will try in what follows to fill in the few gaps in psmith's analysis.

1. d4 d5
2. Nf3 Bg4

Tchigorin had his own ideas on how to defend against the Queen's Gambit. His opening play here should have spelled early disaster, but Gunsberg let him off the hook. The lost position Tchigorin had by about move 8 resulted from later errors.

3. c4

3. Ne5 is another good line. The text transposes into variations well-known to Tchigorin.

3... Nc6

Tchigorin's patented move when facing the QGD.

4. h3

"?"--(Tournament Book)

A move not played (so far as I am aware) before or since this game. It had the merit of getting Tchigorin out of his preparation. On paper, it is inferior to 4. cxd5 (the move championed by the Tournament Book) or (and perhaps even better) 4. Nc3.

But 4. h3 was hardly a blunder. White had at least equal chances, and Gunsberg seems to know what he was doing, the position now being:

click for larger view

4... Bh5?

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"Now White has a marked advantage. Black must play 4...BxN.


Tchigorin was clearly playing for complications. He sure got them, but not to his advantage. Black was certainly not lost even after the text, but he now faced a difficult task to hold the game.

5. g4! Bg6
6. cxd5 Qxd5
7. Nc3 Qa5

click for larger view

8. d5?

"?"--(psmith on this site)

"A mistake, allowing 8...Nb4." (psmith)

Quite right. Best for White was 8...Bd2 or 8. a3, either of which give White much the better chances. After the text, Tchigorin could have turned the tables with psmith's suggested move, the position now being:

click for larger view

As will be seen, Tchigorin erred horrendously on his next two moves and was busted after these missteps.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

8... 0-0-0

As <psmith> so aptly put it, "Black returns the favor." As noted above, Tchigorin should have played 8...Nb4 after which he would have been fine (if not better).

9. Bd2

click for larger view

9... Nb8?

Tchigorin was already in trouble, but now he was (or should have been) sunk. His best chance was the Petrosian-like exchange sacrifice: 9...Rxd5. After 10. NxQ Qxd5 he would have been down the exchange for a pawn but with some decent chances of counter-play. After the text, his position was horrendous:

click for larger view

10. e4

10. h4 (10...h5 11. g5) was another strong line. IN either case, Black is definitely on the ropes.

10... e6

click for larger view

11. a3

"Preventing Bb4." (Tournament Book)

Even better was the nasty 11. Rc1 with a laser focus on the Black King on the open c-file. The developing 11. Be2 was also a live possibility.

The fact that White has so many winning plans at his disposal is demonstration--if such were truly needed--of the deplorable Black formation.

11... Qb6

11...exd5 was the best chance. Now things got really ugly for Black:

12. Be3!

click for larger view

12... c5

An unhappy choice, but Tchigorin had nothing great at his disposal. The primary (decent) alternative was 12...Bc5, but Black is in trouble in any case.

Really bad for Black would have been 12...Qxb2? As the Tournament Book noted, this loses to 13. Nb5 [e.g., 13...Nc6 (best) 14. Nxa7+ ! NxN 15. Bd4 (crushing) QaR 16. QxQ Bxe4 (what else?) 17. Qc3). Even more brutal would be 13. Na4 or 13. Bd4. Tchigorin did well to avoid these disastrous variations.

13. Rc1 exd5

"13...Nbd7 was better" (Tournament Book)

Nope. If 13...Nbd7 14. b4 is murder. Tchigorin's move was not savory, but was the best at his disposal in his miserable position.

The position after Tchigorin's 13...exd5 was:

click for larger view

Things here looked better than ever for Gunsberg. But from here, he utterly misplayed the attack and was probably lost after his 18th move.

I will discuss this remarkable reversal of fortune in my next post on this game, and will then review the even more astonishing sequence in which Tchigorin--momentarily on top--turned his won game into a lost one with his awful 18th and 19th moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

14. Nxd5

Already a mistake. Better were 14. exd5 or 14. Na4.

The position after 14. Nxd5 was:

click for larger view

14... Qe6

Tchigorin here might have sacrificed the exchange to break White's bind on the position via: 14...Qxb2 15. Bd4 RxN! 16. BxQ RxQ+ 17. RxR Nc6 with some counterplay (plus a pawn) for the lost exchange.

The text looks hopeless--until Gunsberg's next move, the position now (after 14...Qe6) now being:

click for larger view

15. Bxc5?

Sloppy. This picked up a pawn but let Tchigorin back into the game. With 15. Ng5!, it is hard to see how Tchigoring could have withstood the attack.

15... BxB
16. RxB+ Nc6

click for larger view

White, with his pawn plus, is still better. But all that now changed:

17. Ng5?

Two moves too late and now a clear mistake. The only way to maintain an edge was with 17. Bd3.

17... Qd6

click for larger view

Tchigorin's prospects had improved markedly from just a few moves ago. And now he received another present from Gunsberg:

18. Qc2?

Right file, wrong square. He had to play 18. Qc1. Now, suddenly, Tchigorin could think about playing for a win:

click for larger view

18... h6?

Missing his chance. As apparently only <psmith> has noticed, Tchigorin should play 18...Kb8! to break the pin.

After the text, the position was:

click for larger view

19. Bb5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"Decisive. To avoid mate Black must lose his Queen..." (Tournament Book)

This is just wrong. Black is most definitely not lost here. Indeed, 19. Ba6 was probably better than the text, which left the position as follows:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Tchigorin had at least equal chances here, but now went badly astray and was nearly wiped off the board by Gunsberg (before the game's shocking final reversal of fortunes).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

IN fairness to the players, the position is and remains very complicated for most of the rest of the game and Gunsberg got into severe time trouble (and indeed lost on time). The fact that they missed opportunities therefore is understandable.

19... hxN?

This loses. Only <psmith> noticed that the text was not best. But his proposed improvement, 19...Kd7, though somewhat better than Gunsberg's move, also loses: e.g., 19...Kd7 20. Ke2 (bringing the h1 Rook to the party) Nge7 21. Rd1 Kc8 22. NxN+ QxN 23. BxN bxB 24. Rxc6+ Kb8 25. RxR+ RxR 26. Rc4 and White is up two Pawns with a still strong attack [if 26...QxN 27. Rb4+ and mate in two].

The saving move for Black, which gives him the better chances, was 19...Nge7 (e.g., 20. NxN+ QxN 21. BxN bxB 22. Rxc6+ Kb8 and Black--though temporarily down two pawns, is better in light of his threats on e4; or 20. Nxf7 BxN 22. NxN+ QxN 22. BxN bxB 23. Rxc6+ Kb8 24. 0-0 Rhe8 and Black has a Bishop for three pawns with strong threats).

After 19...hxN? Black's position was--on paper at least--hopeless:

click for larger view

20. BxN Bxe4

If this skewer is what Tchigorin had banked on, he was quickly disillusioned. 20...a6, though also hopeless, was the best he had available. The position after 20...Bxe4 was:

click for larger view

21. Bxb7+!

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"If 21. Bd7+ Black survives." (Tournament Book) [i.e., 21...KxB 22. Rc7+ Ke8 23. QxB+ Kf8 after which White has nothing better than 24. Qb4 QxQ+ 25. NxQ Rh6 and now if 26. Rxb7 a5 27. Na2 (27. Nd5 RxN 28. Rb8+ Ke7 29. RxN Rb5 with a likely draw) Re6+ 28. Kf1 Ne7 and Black, despite his Pawn minus and doubled g-pawns, should "survive."

After Gunsberg's lovely 21. BxB+, Black has no escape:

click for larger view

21... Kb8

As the Tournament Book pointed out, 21...KxB is even worse: "22. Qb3+ [Even better was 22. Rb5+ after which Black is quickly mated--KEG] Ka8 23. Nc7+ QxN 24. RxQ BxR (24...Nf6 or 24...Bd5 would hold on a bit longer, but were also hopeless--KEG] 25. f3! [with mate to follow--KEG]."

After Tchigorin's 21...Kb8, the position was:

click for larger view

22. Qb3!

What a picture!

click for larger view

22... QxR

"Forced"--(Tournament Book)

22...BxN is arguably less disastrous, but nothing helps here against precise play by White. (But Gunsberg was soon--and probably already--in desperate time trouble).

23. Ba6+ Qb6
24. NxQ Kc7

click for larger view

With Queen and Pawn for Rook, White does appear to have an obvious win. But by now Gunsberg was in such bad time trouble that he stopped recording his moves. Meanwhile, Tchigorin had failed to record a move and believed he had just made his 23rd move.

Black has some tactical possibilities here that can probably only work against a strong player in a blitz game. In effect, Gunsberg was now playing blitz. What followed--which I will discuss in my next post on this game--was a tragedy for Gunsberg and manna from heaven for Tchigorin, who once again looked like the likely winner of the tournament.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

25. Qc4+

"25. 0-0 wins easily." (Tournament Book)

25. 0-0 is indeed the fastest and surest way to win. But the text didn't really ruin anything for Gunsberg. Given his time trouble, this sort of checking move was understandable.

25... Bc6

"!"--(Tournament Book).

The text is Black's best chance, but he was still quite lost. Appending a "!" to the move was therefore questionable.

Whatever the evaluation of 26...Bc6, it left the position as follows:

click for larger view

26. Na4

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"After 26. Bb5! Black can resign." (Tournament Book)

Nonsense. While 26. Bb5 wins more quickly, the text is also entirely sufficient to win. Actually, 26. Nc8 is the fastest and most brutal way to win.

Given that Gunsberg was in dreadful time trouble, criticizing him for not finding the absolute fastest win seems churlish.

26... Nf6

Tchigorin finally develops his g8 Knight:

click for larger view

27. f3?

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"27. Nc3 is necessary." (Tournament Book)

"White [had] a winning position by move 26, but underestimated Black's chances with 27. f3? He should have move the Queen (say 27. Qc5) to allow Be2 in response to Rhe8." (<psmith> on this site).

27. f3? did indeed blow the win for Gunsberg. But neither 27. Nc3 nor moving the Queen was "necessary." White had all sorts of ways to retain his winning advantage here: in addition to 27. Nc3 and 27. Qc5, he could have played 27. 0-0 or 27. Qc2 (and probably other moves I probably didn't explore).

27... Rhe8+
28. Kf2 Rd2+

click for larger view

29. Kf3

"?"--(Tournament Book)

29. Kf1 was arguably more precise, but there was nothing much wrong with the text. The game was perfectly salvageable for Gunsberg is only he had time to think (and knew how many moves had been made--a fact about which both he and Tchigorin were apparently confused).

29... Re3

click for larger view

If the ultimate verdict on the game was correct, Gunsberg exceeded the move 30 time control before making his next move. Play continued for yet another move because Tchigorin's score sheet was missing a move and he thought the Re3 was his 28th move (when it in fact was his 29th move).

30. Qxf7+

Objectively (i.e., looking at the board and ignoring the clock), the only move to save the game.

30... Rd7


31. QxR+


31... NxQ

click for larger view

As this position was reached, the Tournament Committee (in the persons of Hoffer and de Riviere) decided that Gunsberg had exceeded the time control before making his 30th move [30. Qxf7+] and awarded the game to Tchigorin.

As <psmith> has explained on this site (and I have nothing to add to his excellent analysis of the final position) neither side had anything approaching a win. psmith's line [32. Rc1 (anything else loses--KEG) Rxf3+ 33. Kh2 Kd6 34. Rc3] looks like best play to me and should lead to a draw (unless Gunsberg lost his mind and played 34...Rf2+ 35. Kg3??? [rather than 35. Kg1] Rg2 checkmate).

All in all, a very lucky result for Tchigorin, and a sad loss for Gunsberg, who had achieved a winning position and who was not lost (though the Tournament Book says otherwise) in the final position.

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