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Carl Schlechter vs Wilhelm Cohn
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 2, Jul-24
Queen's Gambit Declined: Albin Countergambit. Fianchetto Variation (D09)  ·  1/2-1/2

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-21-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Munich 1900 marked the emergence of Schlechter as a world-class title contender. He had previously been--though recognized as a strong player--called the "drawing Master." Following this well-played draw with Cohn, Schlechter went on a tear, winning his next six games in succession and achieved a Fischeresque 8.5 points in the next nine rounds (drawing only with Pillsbury) and ultimately tied for first in this tournament.

For much of this game, Schlechter looked like anything but a "drawing Master," taking the play to Cohn and seeking complications against the latter's Albin Counter-Gambit (perhaps seeking revenge for Cohn's win against him at London 1899). Cohn had to play well indeed to achieve a draw here.

But, as in his first round draw with Showalter in which he agreed to a draw in a won endgame, Schlechter failed to press on at the very end in an endgame in which he had winning chances (though not a clear win as in his game with Showalter).

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e5?!

The Albin-Counter Gambit.

3. dxe5 d4
4. Nf3 Nc6
5. g3

5. a3 and 5. Nbd2 are the main alternatives. As MCO-13 notes, the text can transpose into the 5. Nbd2 lines.

5... Bc5

Playable, but the more frequently played 5...Nge7 is almost certainly better.

6. a3

Unnecessary after Cohn's last move. While Schlechter still had the better chances after the text, he could and probably should have played 6. Nbd2 immediately.

6... a5!

Thwarting any notions Schlechter may have entertained involving b4.

7. Nbd2

Better late than never.

7... Bg4

7...Nge7 was safer and better.

8. Bg2 Ba7

A strange move. Cohn once again should simply have played Nge7. The text undoes much of the good he had accomplished with 6...a5 since Schlechter could now have played 9. b4. Cohn could not afford to dawdle indefinitely here. He was, after all, playing a gambit opening!

The position was now:


click for larger view

9. 0-0

Solid and sound. But 9. b4 was even stronger. 9. h3 was another good choice for Schlechter here.

9... Nge7

At last!

10. h3

10. b4 was again a possibility.

10... Bf5

10...Be6 would have taken some of the sting out of Schlechter's next move.

The position was now:


click for larger view

Schlechter had a solid edge here, and we might have expected him to try to build upon his advantage slowly and carefully. But Schlechter, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, launched a Tahl-like King-side attack which made this game the fascinating contest it turned out to be.

Jul-22-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

There were various plausible plans Schlechter might have tried after 10...Bf5. I reckon that Karpov would have played 11. b4 and sought to obtain a stranglehold on the Queen-side. 11. Nh4 was another possibility. But Schlechter went for the jugular:

11. g4?!

This powerful plan created an immediate crisis. White certainly has the advantage in the ensuing complications, but the game quickly became double-edged.

11... Bg6

11...Be6 was also reasonable here.

12. Ne1?!

Schlechter--uncharacteristically--decided to go all out for attack. He could still have tried a more positional approach with the (probably much better) 12. b4. Alternatively, and in light of Cohn's last move, Schlechter could have tried 12. Nh4.

12... h5?!

Also playing with fire. While the text is the most dynamic defense at Black's disposal, 12...Qd7 was probably best.

The position was now:


click for larger view

In this tricky and difficult position, Schlechter continued to go for a quick kill:

13. g5?!

Again the most dynamic choice, but 13. gxh5 was perhaps th better choice. This game, however, would not be the wild and fun game to play over that it did if Schlechter and/or Cohn listened to my advice on the last few moves.

13... Nxe5?!

Zooks. Cohn could have had near equality with 13...Bf5 or 13...Qd7. Instead, he decides to hang his b7 pawn and play for a counter-attack.

14. Ne4?!

Another wild and crazy move. Schlechter could have snatched the b7 pawn with 14. Bxb7. But he is still playing to try to blow Cohn off the board. The text, however, overdoes this, and Cohn could now have gotten the better game.

14... N5c6

In his zeal to protect his b7 pawn, Cohn fails to play the sensible 14...0-0. Perhaps he feared 15. Qb3, though 15...N7c6 would seemingly then give him the better game. Another good possibility for Cohn was 14...c6.

15. Nd3 Nf5?!

Cohn had obviously looked deeply into the position and calculated that the coming attack by Schlechter could be resisted. While Cohn was correct in his calculations, the simple 15...0-0 was better and sufficient for approximate equality.

The position was now:


click for larger view

16. Ned5?!

This looks very strong, and earned a "!" from the Tournament Book. But, as will be seen, Cohn had identified a way to defend the position. The only way to maintain an advantage for White here was 16. Qb3.

16... BxN

Forced.

17. NxB

Schlechter had perhaps planned to play 17. BxN+ here, but undoubtedly recognized that this would lead to trouble after 17...bxB 18. NxB Qe7 19. Nd3 Nh4.

17... Qc8

This left:


click for larger view

The Tournament Book opined that Cohen was in a difficult position here. But as I will discuss in my next post on this game, there is plenty of play for both sides, and the fierce struggle that lay ahead by no means left Cohn without resource.

Jul-22-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Cohn's last move (17...Qc8!) served several purposes:

A) It defended the b7 pawn;
B) It got the Queen off the d-file where it could face trouble in several upcoming variations; and C) It eyed h3, a theme that will loom large in the coming fireworks.

18. Qb3 Rb8
19. Bf4

This move, which combined attack and defense, was excellent. 19. Re1 was also good. The wild and woolly move, however, was 19. Na6?! (19...bxN 20. Bxc6+), but this was probably only good for equality after the prosaic response 19...Ra8.

19... 0-0
20. Rad1

Schlechter is looking ahead to a Knight fork on d7 supported by his Rook. But in fact the text should not lead to any advantage for White with best play. The key file was the e-file, and 20. Rfe1 would have been better.

20... Nd8

This may be sufficient to hold the position, but Cohn had stronger options and a chance to seize the advantage. Interestingly, Fritz and Stockfish--while agreeing that 20...Nd8 was not best--differ on how Black should best proceed, Fritz opting for 20...Re8 (recognizing the prime importance of the e-file) while Stockfish (while agreeing that 20...Re8 gives Black the better game) thinks the counter-attacking 20...Nh4 was best.

21. e4!

The fireworks begin!

21... dxe4 e.p.

This is hardly a blunder, but 21...Nh4 was stronger.

22. fxe3 Nh4

One move too late. 22...Re8 or 22...Nd6 were better. The text, at first sight, appears to be a simple blunder losing the exchange. But Cohn has correctly calculated that he can hold the position.

23. Nd7

The position was now:


click for larger view

This certainly looks scary for Cohn. Isn't he about to lose the exchange? As Cohn's next two moves show, he has exciting tactical resources here.

23... NxB
24. KxN!

As Schlechter correctly noted, he could not take either Rook here. If 24. NxR(f8)? Cohn would actually win with 24...NxB 25. exN Bf5 and Black, though down the exchange, has a winning attack. Even worse for White would be 24. NxR(b8) Qxh3 and White is toast.

Schlechter carefully avoided these pitfalls, but the full brilliance of Cohn's defensive scheme was only revealed after his next brilliant move:

24... Bf5!

This left:


click for larger view

The importance of Cohn's 17...Qc8 now becomes apparent. Had Schlechter now carelessly played 25. NxR(b8) Cohn would have at least equal chances with 25...Bxh3+ 26. Kf2 QxN. The only legitimate chance for Schlechter to retain an edge was with 25. NxR (f8), but even then Cohn would be very much in the game after 25...Bxh3+ 26. Kf2 KxN 27. Rh1 Bg4 (and both sides have chances in this double-edged position).

But Schlechter had another idea that yielded another "!" for him in the Tournament Book.

25. Qb5?!

This move, clever as it appears, allowed Cohn to escape from trouble:

25... BxN

The Tournament Book stated that 25...Be4+ was equally good for Cohn, and Stockfish actually prefers this move. But after 25. Be4+ 26. Kh2 (26. Kg3 may be even better) Bc6 27. Qf5 BxB 28. RxB Ne6 Cohn would still be fighting to hang on. After the text, despite Schlechter's upcoming exquisite play, Black is fine.

26. RxB

Fritz (contra Stockfish) opts for 26. QxB, but after 26...Ne6 27. Be5 Qe8! Black is fine. The position was now:


click for larger view

Although Schlechter's attack is far from done, as I will discuss in my next post, Cohn can defend himself and obtain equality.

Jul-22-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Cohn continued his fine defense with:

26... Ne6.

The Tournament Book claims that 26...c6 was equally good, but after 27. Qf5 Ne6 [and not the Tournament Book's dreadful 27...g6?? which loses instantly to 28. Qd3] 28. Re7 Schlechter would still have pressure and much the better chances. The text (26...Ne6) was unquestionably best.

Cohn's fine defense notwithstanding, Schlechter still had ideas on how to continue his attack.

27. g6!

27. Qd5 was also good, but Schlechter's move deserved the "!" it received in the Tournament Book since it posed difficult problems for Cohn to solve.

The position was now:


click for larger view

27... c6!

As the Tournament Book correctly notes, 27...fxg6 loses to 28. Qd5! Qe8 29. Bxc7 [but not the Tournament Book's 29. Be5 which lets Black escape and even emerge with the better chances after 29....RxR 30. KxR Kh7].

Also bad for Black would have been 27...NxB+? which would have lost to the following spectacular combination 28. RxN c6 [and not the Tournament Book's suicidal 28...fxg6 29. Qd5+ Kh7 30. Qd4 Rg8 31. Rff7] 28...c6 29. Qxh5 fxg6 30. Rxg7+!! [a pretty Rook sacrifice] KxR 31. Qe5+ Kg8 32. Rh4!! [a fabulous "quiet" move] Rf2+ ! (the only way to escape mate) 33. Kg3! (or 33. KxR Qf5+ 34. QxQ gxQ 35. Rf4 with a won Rook and pawns ending) Rf3! 34. KxR Qf5+ with a similar winning Rook endgame.

Cohn's 27...c6! avoids all of the above pitfalls.

28. Qxh5 fxg6
29. Qd1

Forced!

29... NxB+
30. RxN

If 30. exN Black holds with 30...Rd8.

30... RxR
31. exR

This left:


click for larger view

The dust has settled and Cohn has a defensible position and a draw was the legitimate result. But as I will discuss in my next post on this game,the battle was not yet over and there was excitement yet to come.

Jul-22-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

Chess is a tough game. Even after negotiating his way through the thrilling complications to a drawn endgame, there were still pitfalls for Cohn.

31... Qf8?

31...Qe8! would have given Cohn command of the e-file and saving responses to anything Schlechter might have tried. But after the text, Schlechter suddenly had winning chances, the position now being:


click for larger view

Amazingly, Schlechter now has the very strong 32. Qd6! at his disposal. This move would have forced Cohn to choose between a tough Rook ending that he might or might not have been able to hold (32...QxQ 33. RxQ and Black will have to work hard to achieve a draw) or 32...Qe8 after which Schlechter could have--at the very least--made his sweat after 33. Re7.

But Schlechter let Cohn off the hook with:

32. Qd4 Re8

The Tournament Book gave Cohn a "!" for clever pawn sacrifice, but 32...b5 or 32...Kh7 were as good or better than the text.

After 32...Re8, the position was:


click for larger view

The finish was now predictable:

33. Rxb7 Re7
34. RxR QxR
35. Qe5 Qd8
36. Qe6+

This left:


click for larger view

Schlechter agreed to halve the point here. He might have played on a bit and make Cohn prove he could hold this endgame.

1/2 -- 1/2

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Featured in the Following Game Collection[what is this?]
Round 2 (Tuesday, July 24)
from Munich 1900 by Phony Benoni


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