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Jacques Mieses vs Simon Winawer
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 11, Feb-21
Bishop's Opening: Vienna Hybrid (C28)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: 33.Rfe1 looks like a decisive mistake. Instead of that white should have played 33.f6! with idea 33...gxf6 34.Ne6!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Another interesting possibility for white was 27.Nd4 exd4 28.Bxf6 gxf6 29.Qg8+ Rf8 30.Rxe7+ Kxe7 31.Re1+ Kd8 32.Qxf8+ Kc7 33.Qc5+ Kb8 34.Qxd4 with decisive advantage of white.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: One of the most exciting games of the Monte Carlo 1901 tournament. Quite a thrill and a pleasure to play over.

At the time this game was played (Round 11 of 13), Winawer (playing in the final tournament of his career) was in 13th place just a point ahead of last place Didier (who he was scheduled to play in the next round), and had won to this point only one game. Meanwhile, Mieses was +2 and just a fraction of a point out of the money. Had he won his last three games, he could have tied for 3rd.

Under these circumstances, Winawer's enterprising play is to be commended. He dared to rake on Mieses in one of the latter's favorite variations, and went toe-to-toe with Mieses in the tactical firestorm that resulted.

The key moments of the game have already been noted on this site (just 15 days ago!) by <Honza Cervenka> Only he has spotted the crucial mistake by Mieses that cost him the game (33. Rfe1?). But, even apart from the moments <Honza Cervenka> has pointed out, the game had many moments of great interest.

1. e4 e5
2. Nc3

The Vienna Opening. A Mieses favorite with which he won many fine games. Winawer undoubtedly knew this was coming when he played 1...e5. Taking on Mieses in this opening required considerable courage. Perhaps Winawer, having a miserable tournament, decided to go down fighting.

2... Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6
4. d3 Bc5
5. f4?!

5. Nf3 is the safe and solid choice. But Mieses in the Winawer always looked for a knock-out punch, and 5. f5?! is what could have been expected from him.

5... d6
6. f5?!

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A Mieses specialty. He had defeated both Tchigorin and Janowski (no mean tacticians) in this sharp line at Paris 1900. The move has received its share of criticism--including from me in one of my commentaries on Paris 1900. But after looking over Mieses' earlier games in this line, I need to reconsider. The theoretically soundest move is 6. Nf3. But Mieses was a wizard in this variation. For him, the move cannot be called a "mistake." No many players would dare to confront Mieses on the Black side in this position.

6... Na5

Called "valueless" by Tartakower/DuMont in their commentary on Mieses-Janowski, Paris 1900. Marco also trashed the move. Schlechter recommended 6...Nd4. In fact, the choise between the text and 6...h6 and 6...Nd4 is close. Perhaps the main reason to avoid 6...Na5 is that Janowski and Tchigorin had both lost to Mieses with the move at Paris 1900. On the other hand, and assuming that Winawer knew that game, there was the chance that he had prepared an improvement. In fact, as we will see, Winawer had a surprise for Mieses in this line.

7. Qf3

"Energetic." (Tartakower/DuMont). 7. a3; 7. Bb3; and 7. Qe2 were other reasonable moves here. But Mieses had defeated both Tchigorin and Janowski with the text, and was probably happy to return to a variation he knew well.

7... c6

Though condemned by Tartakower/DuMont, Romanovsky won a game with 7...NxB in 1909. 7...0-0 and 7...Bd7 are also decent options here. But Winawer was still following in the footsteps of Tchigorin and Janowski.

8. g4?!

Again following his previous games in this variation, and eschewing the theoretically sounder 8. a3; 8. Nge2; or 8. Bb3.

After 8. g4, the position was:

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8... b5

Here is where Winawer tried his "improvement." Tchigorin had played 8...Nd7; Janowski had played 8...h6 (also against Mieses at Paris 1900). Rosenthal had also recommended 8...h6 in the Paris 1900 Tournament Book, and perhaps it is best. But the text initiates a sharp sequence in which there would be thrust and parry on both sides of the board. Janowski was apparently impressed by the move, and played it (and won with it) four years later against Leonhardt at Ostend 1905.

With Mieses sitting White, the text guaranteed there would be a battle royal. And indeed, the fans were not to be disappointed.

9. Bb3

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

9... NxB

At Ostemd 1905, Janowski varied from this game and played 9...h6 here (and won).

The text certainly makes sense against Mieses. Cutting down the wood is often good strategy against an attacking wizard, and that may have been Winawer's idea here.

10. axN

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So far as I can determine, this is the only game in which this position was reached. The battle lines are clearly drawn. Mieses is set to attack Winawer's King-side, and Winawer is ready to return the favor on the other wing.

10... Qb6

10...h6 or 10...Nd7, to anticipate Mieses' coming King-side assault, may have been more prudent. But Winawer wanted to play offense (and ti try to force Mieses to play defense). The text also seemingly requires Mieses to lose time in light of the double attack on his g1 Knight. But does it?

11. Nge2

The move most of us would likely have played. But--with Mieses commanding the White pieces--I am surprised he didn't go for the jugular immediately with 11. g5. Since Nge2 would likely have been necessary sooner or later, the text was hardly a mistake.

11... h6

A reasonable choice, but g5 will be coming anyway, though now after h4. So Winawer might have saved time with an immediate 11...Bb7 or 11...Nd7.

12. h4!

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"It is upon these formidable king side operations that White relies for victory..." (Mason)

12... Nd7


12...h5, so as to be able to respond to 13. g5 with 13...Ng4. White would thus have nothing better than 13. gxh5 with about even chances. After the text, Mieses attack picked up steam.

13. g5

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Quite a complicated position! All in all, White probably had the better chances at this point. The engines, however, are all over the place in trying to evaluate this game, and even if they were consistent I doubt that would mean much in over-the-board play where it is impossible to calculate everything to the nth degree and the players need to rely on judgment and instinct.

13... h5

One of many live reasonable options here, the others being 13...Bb7, 13...hxg5; and 13...a5. Each of these moves has merit, and each comes with a cost.

14. Rf1

Ready to focus his attack on f7. 14. Nd1 (intending Ne3) was another idea. Mieses was no doubt hoping for another quick crush in this his favorite variation (he beat Tchigorin in 27 moves and Janowski in 36 moves in this line at Paris 1900).

14... Bb7
15. g6

He could have prepared the ground with 15. Ng3, but Mieses was off to the races, and the text must have been a nightmare to face over the board.

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

15... fxg6


Mieses' King-side attack was certainly scary, and 15...0-0-0 appears best. Winawer might well have been able to hold with the text even with best play by White, but he was taking his life in his hands.

After 15...fxg6, the position was:

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Mieses would have maintained a strong initiative with the simple 16. fxg6, but he decided to try for a knockout punch by playing:

16. Bg5

"Naturally, to prevent castling [i.e., castling Queen-side]. Perhaps playing for too much; maybe 16. Qg3 would do better." (Mason)

16. Qg3 would, like the text, lead to unclear and difficult play. 16. fxg6, however, was best. But if Mieses had played that, he would not have been Mieses.

16... Rf8

The best way to handle Mieses' aggression was with 16...0-0. The text, however, was also a reasonable effort and contested Mieses' intended pressure on the f-file.

17. Qh3

I would have expected Mieses to throw everything at the King's side here with either 17. 0-0-0 immediately or 17. Kd2. Alternatively, he could have built up the pressure with 17. Ng3. The finesse he attempted with 17. Qh3 gave Winawer a creative double-edged possibility.

17... Bc8

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Mason called 17...Bc8 "far reaching and...[a] useful retreat...[that] beings a counter-attack." In this dynamic position, it is hard to know what is best. 17...Nf6 and 17...Qc7 look viable. But I also like the text, which signaled the launching of Winawer's Queen-side attack.

18. 0-0-0?!

18. fxg6 still looks best. 18. Qg2 or 18. Qg3 also were decent choices. The text, however, was the most aggressive choice, bringing a second Rook to the King-side attack. The down-side, of course, is that the White King now resided in the line of assault on the Queen-side.

18... a5?!


Fritz thinks this is bad. Stockfish thinks it is a losing blunder. Both engines opt for 18...Nf6. In practice, however, the text ended up working just fine. It left the players to untangle the following highly complex position:

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19. Qg3?!

"White modifies his plays, and Black profits accordingly." (Mason)

However one evaluates the game at this point, Mieses should definitely have played 19. fxg6.

19... a4!

All of a sudden, and with Black given a breather thanks to Mieses' doubtful 19th move, Winawer's attack looks dangerous.

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

20. b4

Mieses could also have played 20. d4. In either case the game is unclear, and exciting.

20... Bxb4
21. Be3

With Winawer threatening a3, the text was practically forced. Among other things, the Black g6 pawn is now loose.

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21... Qa5?!

Going all out for his attack. 21...Bc5 was likely best. Reasonable alternatives included 21...Qb8 and 21...Qa6

22. Qxg6+ Rf7

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23. Kd2?!

"Anticipating 23...a3; inconvenient, but somewhat necessary to maintain his own attack." (Mason)

Mason notwithstanding, the text only created new problems for White. Mieses should surely have played 23. Na2. After the text, Mieses was in danger once again.

23... Nf6

Winawer could also have played 23...a3, but the move played was useful for both offense and defense.

24. Bg5

This or 24. Ng3 were Mieses' best chances to re-start his attack.

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24... d5?!

Reckless. Winawer would have had excellent chances with 24...Qc7! But now it was Mieses' turn to err:

25. exd5?

Mieses would have been OK with 25. BxN. But now, he was once again in potential trouble.

25... cxB
26. Rde1

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26... Be7?


Huh? With 26...Ra6, Black would be clearly better. The text, however, gave Mieses the opportunity to turn the tables in this wild game:

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As it turned out, this was to be one of the two key moments of the game (the other being on Mieses' 33rd move).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

Only <Honza Cervenka> seems to have noticed that Mieses had a likely win after 26...Be7? with 27. Nd4! As he has shown (see his analysis), White then wins after 27...exN.

Mason also discussed 27. Nd4 in his commentary and says that it would have yielded White "a good chance" after 27...b4. But he arrived at this conclusion only by misjudging the resulting position. If 27. Nd4 b4, Mason only considered 28. Ne6? which in fact seems to lose on the line Mason provides: 28...bxN+ 29. bxc3 because of 29...Ra6 [not given by Mason]. But all this is irrelevant since if 27. Nd4! b4 White wins with 28. Ncb5![to give just one line: 28...exN (28...b3+ or 28...Ra6 are "best" here but hopeless) 29. BxN gxB 30. RxB+ KxR 31. Re1+]

When I first looked at Honza Cervenka's suggested 27. Nd4!, I thought that 27...Ra6 might save the day for Black. But then 28. Rxe5 wins.

In sum, <Honza Cervenka> is correct and Mieses could have won here with 27. Nd4!

But instead, Mieses played:

27. Nf4


Mason notwithstanding, this move blows the win for White, the position now being:

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27... Bxf5!

As Mason correctly noted, 27...exN? would be a fatal error, Black now being subject to TWO nasty pins: 28. BxN gxB 29. Qg8+ [29. RxB+ immediately also wins--KEG] Rf8 30. RxB+ KxR 31. Re1+ Kd7 [this is immediately suicidal, but 31...Kd8 32. QxR+ is also hopeless for Black--KEG] 32. QxR wins [and 32. Qxd5+ is mate in four--KEG].

After 27...Bxf5, the position was:

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Mieses here had nothing better than to give up his Queen (for considerable material) and reach an approximately equal position:

28. QxB Ne4+
29. dxN RxQ
30. exR BxB

Winawer would also have been OK with 30...Bd6 or 30...Bf6

31. Rxe5+

Mieses could also have played 31. hxB immediately

31... Kf7


31...Be7 32. Ng6 was just as good.

32. hxB d4

"With winning advantage." (Mason)

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In fact, Black does NOT have a winning advantage here. As Honza Cervenka has shown, and as I will discuss further in my next post on this game, Mieses had a wonderful saving resort here. Indeed, and as we now know thanks the the fine analysis of Honza Cervenka, it was in this position that Mieses lost the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

33. Rfe1?

As <Honza Cervenka> has pointed out, this was the decisive mistake that cost Mieses the game (and any real chance of a high finish at Monte Carlo 1901).

33. f6, as noted by Honza Cervenka, saves the game for White: 33. f6 gxf6 (playing 33...dxN+ 34. bxc3 gxf6 first leads to much the same thing) 34. Ne6! or 34. Nxh5 with, in either case, Rxf6+ to follow.

Great find!

The only thing I have to add is that White can also save the day with 33. g6+, after which Black can only avoid trouble with 33...Kf6, but then White is fine via 34. Rc5 dxN+ 35. bxc3 a3 36. Nxh5+ Ke7 [forced] 37. f6+ gxf6 38. Nxf6 a2 39. Ne4 Qd8+ [or 39...a1(Q) 40. Rf7+ Ke6 41. Rf6+ and draws by perpetual check] 40. Ke2 a1(Q) 41. Re5+ Kd7 42. RxQ RxR 43. Rd5+ Kc7 44. RxQ KxR 45. c4

But, as is obvious, Honza Cervenka's line is simpler.

But Mieses' actual 33.Rfe1? left:

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This position is almost certainly lost for Mieses (who did little to aid his own cause from this point on):

33... dxN+
34. bxc3 Qd8+

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The power of the Queen on an open board is beautifully demonstrated here. Mieses' only (admittedly tiny) chance now lay in getting his King over to the corner to contest Black's a-pawn with 35. Kc1. But here Mieses missed even that remote chance with:

35. Nd3?

After this, the game became a massacre and Mieses had no further opportunities, even though Winawer didn't always find the fastest routes to concluding the contest:

35... Qxg5+
36. Kd1 a3


Now, Mieses (having just allowed Winawer's Queen to deprive him of access to c1) had to shed another pawn just to stop Winawer's a-pawn from Queening:

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37. f6

"To get at the advancing pawn. Afterwards, Rook and Pawn are no match for the Queen--and other Pawns; so that even now White may be considered as virtually forlorn." (Mason)

37... Qxf6
38. Kc1 a2
39. Kb2 a1(Q)+
40. RxQ RxR
41. KxR h4


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Although as I will discuss in my next (and probably last) post on this game Mieses played this hopeless struggle out for another 11 moves, the result was no longer seriously in doubt.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

42. Re3 Qxc3+

This certainly was plenty good enough, but 42...h3 was the fastest way to end resistance.

43. Kb1 Kf6

With the move-45 time control approaching, it is understandable that Winawer didn't find the quickest finish (43...Qd2 or 43...Qd4) over the board. Since the King soon enough has to retreat, I suspect that Winawer was just making safe moves while keeping an eye on the clock.

44. Rh3 g5
45. Rf3+ Kg7

Given that Winawer had made the move 45-time control, Mieses might have called it a day here:

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46. Rf5 Kh6
47. Rxb5 h3


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48. Ne5

This only eased Winawer's task, but by this point criticism of Mieses' play is pointless.

48... Qd2


Since Winawer had a bunch of winning moves here, I'm not sure why Mason decided to assign a "!" to 48...Qd2. The move gave Mieses nothing left to play for except some spite checks, so 48...Qd2 is certainly a good choice.

49. Ng4+ Kh5
50. Nf6+ Kb4

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There was clearly no way to catch Winawer's King in a mating net (absent gross negligence on his part), so there was nothing left to play for.

51. Rb8 Qe1+
52. Ka2

52. Kb2 leads to much the same thing after 52...Qe5+.

52... Qe6+


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With the loss of his Knight, even Mieses' never-say-die attitude waned.

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