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Jacques Mieses vs James Mortimer
Monte Carlo (1902), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 1, Feb-03
Vienna Game: General (C27)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Mieses had a tougher than expected time to defeat the eventual last-place finisher. Mieses and Mortimer had also played at Paris 1900. Mortimer had managed to drawn with the White pieces, but (games being replayed at that tournament) had gotten blown off the board in the replay in which Mieses used his favorite opening: the Vienna Game.

Mieses tried the same opening here, but Mortimer had an improvement on move 6 and Mieses obtained no edge from the opening here. Indeed, after the exchange of Queens on move 29, Mortimer had--if anything--the better chances. A series of weak moves by Mortimer gave Mieses winning chances after move 38, but Mieses erred, and by move 48 Mortimer was certainly not worse. More weak play by Mortimer gave Mieses further chances, but he again flubbed his prospects, and after Mieses' 60th move the minor piece ending looked to be a likely draw, But Mortimer's blunder on move 65 allowed Mieses to march one of his b-pawns to victory.

The game was hardly a thing of beauty, and Mieses sometimes seemed to be doing little more than waiting for Mortimer to hand him the game. This ultimately occurred, and Mieses ended up with the win he probably expected to achieve with far less trouble.

1. e4 e5
2. Nc3

The Vienna Game, which was often a powerful weapon in Mieses' hands.

2... Nc6
3. Bc4

Mieses' favorite line.

3... Bc5
4. Qg4

This looks like a coffee-house move, but it has its point. Mieses used this line at Paris 1900 to overwhelm Mortimer .

4... g6
5. Qg3 d6
6. d3

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Developing his g1 Knight by 6. Nf3 or 6. Nge2 was superior and would have given White the better game and prepared for a possible Nd4 by Black. But Mieses had played the text in his victory over Mortimer at Paris 1900.

Mortimer, however, had apparently done his homework.

6... Nd4!

At Paris 1900, Mortimer had played the weaker 6...Be6 and was already under pressure after 7. Bg5 by Mieses. In the Paris 1900 Tournament Book, Rosenthal had recommended 6...Nd4 7. Bb3 Be6. Mortimer followed this advice, and got an entirely sound position.

7. Bb3 Be6

All as per Rosenthal's suggestion.

8. Bg5 Qd7

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9. 0-0-0

Mieses was always keen for a tactical brawl. Here, 9. BxB--especially since Mortimer was likely to initiate the trade himself--was perhaps best.

9... BxB
10. axB

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Mortimer had emerged from the opening with approximately equal chances. The only worry was that the unbalanced position was of a type in which Mieses' tactical prowess might come to the fore. In what followed, Mortimer tried--and for the most part succeeded--in dampening the complexities.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

10... f6
11. Bd2

A strange choice, especially from Mieses. 11. Be3 looks better.

11... a6

Sufficient for equality. But 11...a5; 11...Ne7; or maybe 11...b5 were better ways to try to exploit White's last move and seek some initiative.

12. Nge2 Ne7
13. NxN BxN
14. f4

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14... 0-0-0

Castling on the same side as had Mieses. A good way to defuse any wild Mieses attacking scheme.

15. fxe5 dxe5
16. Rhf1 f5

16...Rhf8 or 16...Rdf8 were a bit sounder. But the text was hardly a mistake, the position now being:

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17. Bg5

Mieses was probably desperate to make something happen. While, as at Paris 1900, draws were replayed at Monte Carlo 1902, both sides got 1/4th of a point and the remaining 1/2 point was decided in the replay. Mieses definitely did not want to yield even a quarter of a point to the weakest player in the field. But the text had a fairly obvious flaw (see below). Best for White here was 17. Ne2. As an alternative, 17. Qh4 was an interesting possibility.

Mieses, however, wanted to prepare to play Nd5.

17... Rdf8

Missing 17...f4 which gives Black the better chances. Mortimer, however, was focused on equality and a draw.

18. BxN

Consistent with his doubtful plan. 18. Qh4 or 18. Qh3 were probably better.

18... QxB
19. Nd5?!

19. Ne2 was simpler and better. 19. exf5 was also better than the text.

The text looks good at first blush. But--with best play by Black--the attack quickly peters out and Black should emerge with better chances.

After 19. Nd5, the position was:

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19... Qe6
20. Qh3 Kb8

Getting the Black King off the h3...c8 diagonal was a reasonable concern. But 20...Re8 was probably even better.

21. Rf3

Doubling down on his attacking plan. Objectively, 21. Nc3 or 21. Ne3 or perhaps 21. c3 were better. But it is hard for a human to switch horses in this manner.

After 21. Rf3, the position was:

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As a strictly theoretical matter, Black could just sit tight and--with best play--obtain much the better game. But over the board, facing Mieses with a White Knight planted on d5 must have been unnerving.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

21... c6

Overly worried about the d5 Knight. Black would have a clear edge after 21...Qd6 or 21...Qg8 or even 21...Qf7.

22. Nc3 Qc8

Pretty much relinquishing any of his remaining advantage, which he might yet have retained with 22...Rf6.

23. Ne2

Why on earth play this instead of 23. exf5, which would at least yield approximate equality.

23... Bb6

Now it was Mortimer's turn to err. 23...fxe4 was much better.

24. Qh6?

Yet again putting himself behind the 8-ball. White would be fine with 24. exf5.

24... f4!

Finally some good chess. The text is even better than 24...fxe4 which would also have given Black significant advantage.

25. Rfd1

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25... Be3+?

Incomprehensible. Black would have real winning chances with 25...Rfg8.

26. Kb1 Qd8
27. h4

Still undaunted, Mieses continued to look for ways to attack.

27... Bc5
28. Qg7 Qe7

Rightly seeking to reduce to an ending in which he seems to have little risk of losing.

29. QxQ BxQ

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30. d4 exd4
31. Nxd4 Bxh4
32. Rxf4

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With best play, this certainly looks like a draw. How, I wondered as I played over the game, did Mortimer manage to lose. Little did I realize how many times he erred in the upcoming moves and put himself in jeopardy of losing before finally and irrevocably blundering away the game on move move 65.

32... Be7

32...RxR immediately was better, but the text on its face did not seem to run any risk of losing.

33. Rf7 RxR
34. RxR Bd6

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Mieses did have a bit of an attack, but that shouldn't lead to loss for Black, should it?

35. Rd7 Bg3
36. Ne6

Now with 36...Kc8 37. Rg7 Be5 38. Rf7 Bd6 the game should resolve peacefully. But..

36... Bf2?

This needn't lose, but it should have allowed Mieses to make Mortimer's life miserable for a while after 36. Rf7. But:

37. Ng5

This clumsy effort should have led to a draw straightaway, the position now being:

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What followed from here is more an example of how not to play the ending than something one might expect to see in an important international tournament.

Spoiler alert, Mieses eventually won be promoting his b3 Pawn. The bizarre story of how that came to pass will be related in upcoming posts.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

37... h6?

Facing loss of his h-pawn, Mortimer panicked. Instead of this feeble maneuver, which soon enough resulted in loss of the h-pawn under more unfavorable circumstances, Mortimer would have been fine after: 37...Re8 38. Rxh7 Be3 39. Nf7 Re7 (much better than 39...Rxd4 40. Nd6) 40. Rg7 Kc7 (again, not 40...Rxe4 41. Nd6) 41. c3 Bf4 and Black, though nominally down a pawn, should have no difficulties in holding the position.

The text does not necessarily lose, but it left Black a tough task in fighting for the draw.

38. Nf7

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38... Rf8?

38...Rh7? would have been even worse (e.g., 39. e5! h5 40. e6 Bh4 41. e7 and wins).

Best, though still a tough save for Black, was 38...Re8 39. Nd6 Re6 40. Rxb7+ Ka8 41. Rd7 a5

Indeed, throughout this portion of the game, the players seemed to have forgotten about White's passed e-pawn.

After 38...Rf8, the position was:

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39. Nxh6.

This gives Black a break. Stronger were 39. e5 or 39. Nd6. I have not been able to prove a win on either move, but--at a minimum--White could make Black sweat.

39... Bc5

39...Be3 was certainly stronger.

40. Rg7

Not awful, but still missing the strength of his position. Better were 40. e5 or 40. c3.

40... Rf1+
41. Ka2 Rf2

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42. Rxg6?

Incredibly bad. With 42. e5 (using his passed pawn) or maybe 42. c3 (avoiding the destruction of his Queen-side pawns), Mieses might have had some at least practical chances of winning (beyond having the hapless Mortimer as his opponent). After the text, the game should have been an easy draw for Black.

42... Rxc2

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White has two isolated passed pawns on the Kingside. Black has the better minor piece plus effectively a three-to-one pawn edge on the Queen-side.

Now the mystery emerges: how did Mortimer manage to lose this game?

43. Nf5 Re2

Eyeing the White e-pawn.

44. Rg4

Playing defense. While this almost certainly did not put White in serious danger of losing, active play via 44. g4 (he did, after all, have the only two passed pawns on the board) was indicated.

44... Bb4

44...Ka7 (the King is a fighting piece in the endgame) or 44...a5 were more dynamic. but the text looks more than adequate to hold the game.

45. Nd4 Rf2

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Although it looks unlikely, much of the excitement in this game was yet to come.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

46. Rg3

Another weak effort by Mieses that needlessly ties up the mobility of his own forces.

Better to try to bring his King back into action with 46. Kb1.

46... c5

This did nothing to advance Black's cause, though it was hardly fatal.

The best chance of trying to exploit White's doubtful play was with 46...Rd2 or maybe 46...Rf4, though even then win for Black was at best a remote hope. In any case, Mortimer seemed satisfied to draw.

47. Ne6 Re2
48. Rg4

Another useless move by Mieses. More appropriated 48. Rg5 or 48. Rg8+. But, once again, this is all a bit of quibbling. The game in any case was a likely draw.

The position was now:

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48... b6

"?"--Tournament Book.

48...Bc3 was the best chance if Mortimer had been trying to find a way to squeeze out a win. But this was a remote hope for Black here.

The Tournament Book suggests that the text was the reason for Mortimer's defeat. This is ridiculous. White the text left Black open to a bunch of checks, the game was still a theoretical draw. Mortimer was still a long way from finding a way to lose this ending.

49. Rg8+ Kb7
50. Rg7+ Kc6
51. Rg6

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51... Kd7?

Needlessly making trouble for himself. With 51...Kb7, Black would be fine.

52. Nf4!

Giving up his passed e-Pawn in order to fuel a renewed attack.

52... Rxe4

Black's situation was still difficult after his last move, but getting rid of White's hithertofore dangerous e-pawn must have been a relief.

53. Nd5

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With the break-up of Black's Queen-side pawn mass, and with his remaining passed Pawn on the other wing, Mieses again had some winning chances.

53... Re6?

Giving Mieses further chances. Better were 53...Rd4 or 53...Re5 or maybe 53...Re2.

54. Nxb6+ Kd6

Obviously forced. If 54...Ke7? White wins immediately with 55. Nd5+ Kd7 56. RxR KxR 57. NxB cxN 58. Kb1 and Black cannot both stop White's passed g-pawn and defend his Queen-side.

After 54...Kd6, the position was:

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55. RxR+

Better winning chances were offered by 55. Nc4+ Kd7 56. RxR KxR 57. Kb1, though even then Black's Bishop should give him enough firepower to hold the draw.

55... KxR
56. Kb1

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With best play, Black should still probably be able to hold the position. But what followed was anything but "best play" from either side, and there were still plenty of ups and downs still to come before Mortimer found a fool-proof way to lose the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

56... Kf5?

Was Mortimer trying to lose? He would be fine with 56...Ba5. Even after the text, however, a win for White remained unclear.

57. Kc2 Kg4
58. Nd5

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58... Ba5?

After this, Mortimer was almost certainly lost. He should have been able tp hold the position with 58...Be1.

59. Kd3

59. Nf6+ was perhaps an even faster road to victory.

59... Kg3

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60. Ne3?

Failing to exploit his chances. With 60. Kc4, White has a likely win (e.g., 60...Bd2 [60...Kxg2 61. Kxc5 Bd8 62. b4 Kf3 63. Kd4 Kg4 64. Ke4 Kg3 65. Nf4 Bg5 66. Nd3 Bd2 67. Kd5 Kf3 68. b3 Ke3 69. Kc4 Ke4 70. Nc5+ Ke5 71. Nxa6] 61. Nc3 Kxg2 62. Kxc5 Kf3 63. Kc4 Kf4 64. b4 Ke5 65. Na4 Bf4 66. Nc5 Kd6 67. Nxa6

60... Bd8
61. Nd5

Mieses clearly had no clue on how to try for a win (other than keeping the game going and waiting for Mortimer to blunder). The best chance (though probably not sufficient) lay in 61. Kc4.

61... Bg5

61...Ba5 or even 61...Kxg2 were simpler.

62. Nc3 Be7
63. Kc4 Kxg2

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64. Nc4 Kf3
65. Nxc5

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65... Ke3?

Allowing Mieses to advance his b-pawn and promote to Queen. The saving move for Black was 65...a5; e.g., 66. Nb7 Bf6 67. Nxa5 Bxb2.

After the text, the game was over:

66. b4

66. Nxa6 also wins.

66... Bf8
67. Nxa6

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With the Black King out of play, the win for White was not routine.

67... Ke4
68. b5 Ke5
69. b6


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