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Simon Winawer vs Theodor von Scheve
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 13, Mar-01
French Defense: Classical Variation. Richter Attack (C13)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This replay of a Round 13 draw was played on the final day of the tournament. The game would decide 3rd and 4th prizes. If von Scheve defeated Winawer, he would take 3rd place. If he lost, he would finish 4th and 3rd prize would go to Tchigorin. If the game ended in a draw (as it did) von Scheve and Tchigorin would share 3rd-4th place.

Going into this contest, von Scheve was having the tournament of his life. He had defeated second prize winner Schlechter in their individual game, and had (with a bit of luck in each case) also bested Mieses, Blackburne, Marco, Marshall, and three others. This game thus presented an opportunity for a glorious finish beyond anything before or after in his career (when he returned for the 1902 Monte Carlo tournament, von Scheve finished 17th out of 20, albeit against a much stronger field which included not only Janowski and Schlechter and Tchigorin, but also Tarrasch, Pillsbury, and Maroczy among others).

Meanwhile, Winawer, playing in his final tournament, was having a miserable time. He ended up 13th out of 14, finishing only ahead of the halpess Didier.

Based on what had been occurring in this tournament, von Scheve no doubt expected to win and take 3rd prize. When he failed to do so, allowing Tchigorin to split the 3rd/4th place prizes with him, von Scheve--according to the Tournament Book--called Winawer "the hateful old man" (while Tchigorin, who benefited from the draw, reportedly called Winawer "the venerable veteran").

Since this was the final game in Winawer's career, von Scheve's remark--if intended seriously--was out of line. Winawer had a terrible tournament, but should not be begrudged for hanging on and achieving a draw here.

Moreover, the failure to score a win was von Scheve's own fault. Though the opening here was a Winawer favorite, he badly mishandled the opening and was hopelessly lost by about move 13. von Scheve had ample opportunity to win. Indeed, in playing through the game, there are moments when it appears incredible that von Scheve didn't win. Simply put, he missed several easy wins and allowed Winawer to reach an easily drawn Bishops of opposite colors ending.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. BxN

"Anderssen's idea, [which] reduces Black's pressure on White's center, but only at the cost of concedint the two Bishops..." (Gligoric)

This line was a Winawer specialty. He had played it at least eight times before the present game. The move was also played frequently by Anderssen, Bird, Blackburne, Showalter (at least eleven times), and Charousek, and was sometimes employed by the likes of Steinitz, Tarrasch, Schlechrer, Pillsbury, Alekhine, and Najdorf among others.

The normal 5. e5 is theoretically stronger, but the text can lead to some lively play. One might have imagined that Winawer--who knew the variation well--would have an edge in preparation.

5... BxB

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6. Nf3 0-0

Gligoric gives this move a "?" and argues for 6...c5. But his analysis fails to reckon with 7. Bb5+ after which White seems comfortable.

The text is normal, and I see nothing wrong with it.

7. Bd3

Gligoric gives only the text in response to 6...0-0, and it is the line most usually played here. But 7. Qd and 7. Be2 look much better. The text seems to ignore Black's reply, and dangerously blocks the Queen's protection of the White d-pawn.

7... c5

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von DScheve had clearly emerged with the better game. This was shocking,given that this was a variation Winawer knew well. Yet, he was in trouble--as White--after only seven moves.

8. e5

Winawer could also have played 8. dxc5 here, in any case ending up with an inferior game.

8... Be7
9. h4?!


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This move was introduced by Pillsbury in his game against Maroczy at London 1899. That game ended in a draw.

Gligoric's praises notwithstanding, 9. h4 is premature, and Black should be able to seize a major advantage here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

9... h6

9...cxd4 is much stronger.

Maroczy played 9...f6 against Pillsbury, which gives Black some edge but not as much as after 9...cxd4.

Gligoric recommended 9...f5, but White seems fine then after 10. dxc5.

After von Scheve's 9...h6 the position was:

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10. Kf1?

Bizarre play by Winawer. Not surprisingly, the text had not been played before and has--so far as I can tell--has not been played since. White would have a playable game with 10. dxc5. After the text, White was definitely on the ropes.

10... Nc6

Even stronger would have been 10...cxd4.

11. dxc5 Bxc5
12. Na4 Be7

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13. c3?

Winawer's position was already bad, but this lemon should have been fatal.

13... Qc7!
14. Qe2 Bd7

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15. b3

Winawer continued to run his position into the ground. 15. Rd1 was best.

15... f6
16. exf6 Rxf6

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17. Bc2?

Now White was--or should have been--toast. 17. c4 was the only remaining legitimate hope.

17... Raf8

This doubling of the Black Rooks on the f-file looks crushing. Winawer chose to ignore his problems and play for a madcap King-side attack. In fact, I see nothing better.

18. Qd3 Ne5!

This looks like the end of the road for Winawer. But he proceeded with his attack as if nothing was amiss:

19. Qh7+ Kf7
20. Rh3

Throwing the kitchen sink into his seemingly hopeless attack.

20... Ke8

The simplest:

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21. Qxg7?

Had Winawer wanted to play on, one would have expected 21. Re1. The text looks like a last grasp before exiting a tournament in which not much had gone right for him.

21... BxN
22. bxB

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The real puzzle of this game is how did von Scheve manage NOT to win the game as Black from here and go home with third prize money. As will be seen, it took a lot of really bad chess for von Scheve to lose his chances at winning. And bear in mind, Winawer made a number of what should have been fatal mistakes in what followed. That makes von Scheve's failure to win the game all the more remarkable.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

22... Qxc3?

A reflexive capture. von Scheve could have gained an important tempo with 22...Qc4+! Then, after 23. Kg1 Qxc3 he must lose at least a piece and the game, since 24. Re1 (his resource in the game) gets killed by 24...NxN+

But even after missing the fairly easy win that was available to him by 22...Qc4+, von Scheve still should have won.

23. Re1

The move that would not have been possible after 22...Qc4+.

23... NxN
24. Bg6+

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24... Kd7?

Just awful. von Scheve needlessly walked into a pin. The game was still his with 24...Kd8.

25. gxN

Not 25. RxN?? RxR 26. QxQ RxQ and Black ends up a full Rook ahead.

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Despite two awful blunders, von Scheve still appears to have a won game. But not for long:

25... Qc4+

25...Qd2 or 25...Qa3 were far better.

26. Kg2

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26... Qf4

If the win was still there, it had to come after one of the two most obvious moves on the board: 26...Qxa2 or 26...Qxa4.

Have a look at those two feeble White isolated doubled a-pawns. For whatever mystical reason, von Scheve let them stand, and they remained on a2 and a4 till the end of the game 29 moves later and allowed Winawer to escape with a draw.

How should von Scheve had avoided this? How about just capturing them!

27. Rg3?

Winawer had gotten suddenly back in the game. But not for long. He should be able to save the game with 27. Rb1

27... Rc8

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28. Re3?

Yet another potential losing error by Winawer. He still had decent chances of holding the position with 28. Re2 (or maybe 28. Qh7).

28... h5?

And yet again, von Scheve missed the obvious 28...Qxa4. With the text, Winawer should have been OK:

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The game and the errors, however, were far from over.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

29. Bxh5?

Winawer would, actually have been better with 29. Rg5! Now, von Scheve should have absolutely out of danger with 29...Rc2. But here von Scheve blundered--again:

29... Qxh4?

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Now, Winawer had real winning chances with 30. Rh3 (e.g., 30...Qf4 31. Bg4 Rc7 32. Rh7 Kd8 33. Rxe6 RxR 34. Qg8+ Bf8 35. QxR Qd6 36. Qf5 Rxh7 37. Qc8+ Ke7 38. Qxb7+ Kf6 39. Qxh7).

Instead, Winawer erred again, and was back in trouble:

30. Qg4?

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30... Rc4

von Scheve should simply have played 30...QxQ after which he again had winning chances with 31. fxQ Rc2. With the text, von Scheve's Rook got temporarily buried on the King-side, and his winning prospects dimmed.

31. QxQ RxQ
32. Bg4 Bc5

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33. Re2?

Missing 33. Re5, which should be played before Black gets in Kd6

33... Kd6!
34. Rh3

34. a5 or 34. f4 offered better chances.

34... RxR
35. BxR b6
36. f4!

With an eye to f5, and his best shot.

The position was now:

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36... Ba3?

Chickening out. von Scheve still had winning chances with the tricky 36...Rxf4! 37. Rxe6+ Kc7 38. Re2 Rxa4 39. Be6 Kd6 40. Bf7 Rf4 41. Be8 Rf8 42. Ba4 Bd4. The game might still be difficult or hard to win because of the Bishops of opposite colors. But now the game appears headed for simple draw.

But not so fast:

37. Re1

Did he forget why he had played 37. f4. He should now have played 37. f5! after which the win for Black looks more than problematic after wither 37...e5 or 37...exf5.

37... Bb4
38. Re2 Bc3

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39. Kg3?

Still playing in a fog. His best shot here--and probably sufficient to save the game--was 39. Bg4.

Now, von Scheve had another serious chance:

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It was here, however, that von Scheve lost his final practical chance to play for a win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

39... d4?

39...e5 was the only remaining chance. Even then, Winawer might have been able to save the game thanks to Bishops of opposite colors, but over the board von Scheve might have had practical chances. After the text, the game was nearly certain to end in a draw.

40. Bg4 Rh6
41. Re5

Needlessly making life difficult for himself. 41. Re4 was simpler. But even after the text, Winawer was no longer in any real trouble.

41... Bd2

Reinstating the pin with 41...Rg6 was the only even tiny chance to play for a win.

42. Rh5

Re4 was again simpler.

42... Rf6

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43. f5!

Anything else seems to lose. Now, however, Black must now choose between trading pawns (after which he would no longer have connected pawns in the center) or allowing White a troubling passed f-pawn. In any case, a win for Black no longer appears to be in the cards.

43... e5

43...exf5 was the best of a bad bargain. After the text, the game was a clear draw, but there still are possible pitfalls.

44. Rh7

44. Rh8 looks easier.

44... a5
45. Kf3!

If anybody, it should now be Winawer praying for a winning line.

45... Kd5

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46. Rd7+

Amazingly, anything else might allow von Scheve to attempt to turn the tables. But now a draw was inevitable.

46... Rd6
47. RxR+ KxR

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48. Ke4

48. f6 might have given von Scheve something to worry about (though not for too long). The text left no doubt about the outcome:

48... Bg5

No more risk of f6 now.

49. Bd1 Bf6
50. Bb3 Kc5
51. Kd3 Kb4
52. f3 Kc5
53. Ke4 Kd6
54. f4 exf4
55. Kxf4

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And thus von Scheve wound up tied for 3rd-4th with Tchigorin, and Winawer wrapped up his tournament career with a hard-fought draw.

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