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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Siegbert Tarrasch
"Doughboy is Afraid of Nothing" (game of the day Aug-09-2021)
Hastings (1895), Hastings ENG, rd 2, Aug-06
Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Pillsbury Variation (D63)  ·  1-0



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Given 54 times; par: 74 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Dec-10-18  HarryP: Bogoljubov-Alekhine, Hastings 1922
Dec-10-18  HarryP: Fine gave 45.K-h1 three exclamation marks.
Feb-17-19  cunctatorg: What an immortal piece or art, what a masterpiece!!!

By the way compare H. N. Pillsbury's results vs. Frank Marshall and vs. Carl Schlechter and then compare their results vs. Emmanuel Lasker!... Compare also Pillsbury's results against Em. Lasker!!

To be honest Dr. Tarrasch had a fine score against Harry Nelson, there was a tie!... But Pillsbury was seriously ill (and most probably, often not in good mood) after, say, 1899...

Sep-02-19  Phony Benoni: The Alekhine - Capablanca match 1927 contained a long string of colorless QGDs, all duly published by Hermann Helms in the "American Chess Bulletin". In the December issue, after nine of these games, Helms finished off the year by printing this game. I's almost as if he was saying, "Hey! Joe! Al! <This> is how you play a Queen's Gambit!"
Sep-02-19  RookFile: It's funny, if black plays 29....Rf7 he appears to be much better and then may go on to win. If it had played out this way folks might have been saying that Tarrasch showed the truth about the queen's gambit and Pillsbury's amateur attack was doomed to fail.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

<According to Reuben Fine in "The World's Great Chess Games" (1951), Irving Chernev thought this was the second greatest game ever played.>

That is what Chernev said in his introduction to the Dover reprint of Pillsbury's Chess Career by Sergeant and Watts.

"It is, in my opinion, the 2nd greatest game ever played..."

(before you ask it is Alekhine - Bogoljubov, also at Hastings, 1922.)


Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Fantastic game!
Aug-09-21  Phony Benoni: Too bad we couldn't have used it three days ago. It may be the greatest game ever played on August 6th.

<Sally Simpson> Just for the record, I think you mean Bogoljubov vs Alekhine, 1922

Aug-09-21  Brenin: A good game, but rather over-rated, in view of some weak play by both sides. Apparently the pun is all about Ben and Jerry's ice-cream. It took me several minutes on the internet to find the story behind it.
Aug-09-21  Cheapo by the Dozen: <Brenin>'s discovery surprised me. I had guessed that, besides the Pillsbury Doughboy, there was also some reference to the brave US soldiers of WW1.
Aug-09-21  RookFile: There were some mistakes, but to suggest that there is weak play here is a little over the top. Yes, we know Tarrasch probably should have won the game or at worst drawn.
Aug-09-21  Brenin: <Cheapo>: Until today I was unaware of the Pillsbury Company or their Doughboy advertising campaign. Even the word "doughboy" is rarely used in the UK, though I was vaguely aware that it denoted a common soldier (why?). I discovered that "What's the Doughboy afraid of?" was a slogan used by the ice-cream makers Ben and Jerry (well-known in the UK) in a campaign against alleged bullying behaviour by their rivals Pillsbury.

<Rookfile>: I meant "weak" by the normally high standards of these two players. A highly memorable game, certainly, but it wouldn't make my top ten, let alone my top two.

Aug-09-21  GlennOliver: Black's 51. ... c2 is essentially an honourable resignation, allowing White to complete a fine game.
Aug-09-21  sudoplatov: Some comments on the game and issues in the thread. Stockfish (local) suggests that 21...Qd5 is much better than 21...Qf7. However later the Rookfile's suggestion of 29...Rf7 is also highly rated by Stockfish.

On material values, I developed a rather complicated scheme for LACHEX. I couldn't easily capture the relative values of Q vs RR or Q vs NNB or NBB or R vs BB or Rvs NN, etc. So I tried Q=9, R=5, P=1, B=3.1875, and N=3.125. Then I had the bonus: BB gets +.25. Other matters were handled by quasi-material values and positional values that depended on other things. By using several hash tables: entire position, K+Ps, Ps alone, etc. Some positional scoring didn't need computation, just a table look-up.

There was also some change in positional evaluation based on opening-middlegame vs ending, etc. It was things like Q+R is never an ending, QBB gets +1 ("attack point") QR gets +1, RR or QRR still +1, QN gets +2, Q gets +1, QNN +1, etc.

Moving pieces to the Center or towards the King got bonuses (B, N, R, B in "Kings Field" get +1, Q get +1, the sum is cubed.)

This was for positional evaluation. Also +.25 for having the "move" (Zugszwang handled by search). Reversed positions differed by .5 so tempi sort of got counted.

The root position got an extensive evaluation assigned to moves, not resulting positions. This allowed ranking of moves before the search. Searching good moves first vastly improves the speed of alpha-beta.

Most of this was "tuned" from several thousand tactical and strategical puzzle and game positions. These also had things like 1.e4 e5, 2.Nf3 Nc3, 3.Bb4 a3 having a preference for 4. Ba4 rather than Bxc6 whereas 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4 e6, 3.Nc3 Bb4, 4.a3 Bxc3 was preferred.

We also used error-correcting codes for hashing which engendered fewer collisions in the hash table. We would saturate about 18 plys (1980s) whereas random has tables saturated about 16 plys for the same table size.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: I hadn't realized that Pillsbury played this game on my birthday! (OK, my birthday minus 65 years.) I'm beaming with pride!
Aug-09-21  Cheapo by the Dozen: <Brenin>,

Probably the most famous reference to the Pillsbury Doughboy marketing character was in the original film Ghostbusters. However, no doubt for trademark reasons, the reference wasn't clear, so unless one was familiar with him from ads one wouldn't have made the connection.

I actually incorrectly recalled that character as being the actual Pillsbury Doughboy before web search cleared that up for me.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: This game is noteworthy because of the uniqueness of 45 Kh1. It is both because that is the only winning move plus that everything else loses badly.

Here is a good example why that is. Say white plays 45 Kh2 instead, below.

click for larger view

Now it is Black to play and win. To me it is worth the effort to find out what is wrong with 45 Kh2.

Aug-09-21  sudoplatov: There were the "Light Crust Doughboys" with Bob Wills (sponsored by Burris Mill run by future governor W. Lee Pappy O'Daniel); later wills formed the Texas Playboys.
Aug-09-21  Phony Benoni: <Brenin: A good game, but rather over-rated, in view of some weak play by both sides.>

And it's a good thing there were mistakes. Accurate chess is so boring.

In judging the greatness of a game, accuracy from both players is an important factor. Few like games where one player just Rolls Over And Dies. (What we we used o call "Hitting the ROAD".) But when neither player takes a chance, the result will likely be a sterile draw. If that's the best chess has to offer, I'm off the to Tic-Tac-Toe site.

Chess doesn't become interesting until the players are willing to take a few well-considered risks to upset the balance. Unfortunately, computer analysis us implanting the idea that such actions are "mistakes" and take away from the quality of the game.

I eagerly await the day when some super mega engine completely solves chess, and presents us with The Perfect Game. carefuly calculated down to the last gadzillionth of a centipawn.Hopefully, computers will then abandon chess as being too simple a problem to warrant their attention, and we can have our game back.

What impact will The Perfect Game have on our chess? It will become just another Cheap Opening Trap. The knowledgable will avoid it, the unwary will fall into it. But even the victims need not worry. The supporting analysis will be too vast to be written down, the labyrinthine variations beyond the capcity of the human mind.

In other words, the situation in the AD (After Databases) years will be no different than in the BC (Before Computers) years. If we couldn't comprehend or remember the analysis of human GMs, how will we be able to use the even more complicated computer analysis?

In my mind, I like to imagine The Perfect Game has already been played. We just didn't recognize it.

Imagine two patzers named George and Fred, enjoying a game while sitting on a park bench during their lunch hour. At the end, George said "That was a good game, Fred", and Fred said, "Yes, it was fun. Got time for another one?"

And they set up the pieces and started a new game and forgot all about what just happened. Which was a great triumph for humankind.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Phony Benoni> Well said.

<Chess doesn't become interesting until the players are willing to take a few well-considered risks to upset the balance. Unfortunately, computer analysis us implanting the idea that such actions are "mistakes" and take away from the quality of the game.>

One of the exciting developments of the past few years, first with AlphaZero and then with recent iterations of SF, is that computers have gotten quite dynamic. This is Stockfish v. Leela ChessZero, but it looks more like Morphy vs. Amateur. Stockfish (Computer) (kibitz #340)

Aug-10-21  Z truth 000000001: Ahhh, to forget, all regret....
Aug-10-21  sudoplatov: There may be a veritable plethora of perfectly played games.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: There is a strong consensus that chess is a draw with best play by both sides. So perfectly played games with look like these games: Game Collection: Drawing lines. Here's one of the prettier such games: So vs Nepomniachtchi, 2020 A game like the present Pillsbury-Tarrasch game, having ended decisively, can't be "perfectly played." The loser must have played at least one mistake.
Nov-26-22  tbontb: A see-saw struggle where after 40....gxf6 (better Nxf6) Black Tarrasch lost a fine game he might have won even earlier (eg. 38.....fxg5 39.Qg5 Nf6 looks clearly good for Black). 31.Nc1 was perhaps too optimistic but White Pillsbury risked all and deservedly won on the day.
Feb-19-23  generror: This game is pretty awesome. Pillsbury, a complete nobody, after losing his first big international game against Chigorin, wins his second game in a dramatic opposite-wing-race against The Great Siegbert.

Pillsbury plays a really interesting and quite modern and dynamic Queen's Gambit Declined and goes for a kingside attack while Tarrasch seeks his chances on the other side. <28.Ne2?> is bad because now Black would have been close to winning after <28...c3! 29.bxc3 bxc3 30.Rc1 c2> (D).

click for larger view

Stockfish says it's about -3, and to me that open b-file looks very inviting for the black rooks to come down to b1 (they're not of much use double on the e-file anyway).

Stockfish doesn't approve much of the following moves by both players, so Pillsbury stays on the brink of losing after <31.Nc1?> (<31.Nf4> would have equalized).

After <35.g4>, however, his attack finally gains some momentum, but the Great Siegbert unwisely chooses to ignore it, and although Fine's annotations show some fanboyism, I do agree to him that from here on, Pillsbury plays admirably. You really need nerves of steel to play <38.Ng4!> and especially <39.Rg2!> with your lone knight against a mass of enemy advanced pawns and pieces.

After <38...Bxb3?>, Stockfish gives Pillsbury a slight advantage, but <40...gxf6??> is completely losing. Fine says <40...Nxf6 41.Ne5> is "no improvement" -- but boy is he wrong, because now Pillsbury could have won immediately with the insane <41...Ne5!! Nxe5 42.dxe5> (D).

click for larger view

Now White, in addition to <Kh1> and <Rfg1> as in the game, threatens <e6> followed by <Qxf6#>, and there's just no way whatsoever Black can stop this. (No, not even the Great Siegbert!)

But the text move is also forcing a win, and Pillsbury's finish is really neat, especially <44.Qg3+!>. Most annotators rave about <45.Kh1> ("!!!") but personally I find that one quite obvious; and, I mean, what else *could* you play?

It sure is a fine and dramatic chess game; not the second-best ever in my book because there's just too many flaws, but of course, I'm not an American in need of hero worship. I'm just another average humanoid alien writing stupid posts on the internet in order to kill some time until he can finally go to where I belong. (We don't have chess on Ifnkovhgroghprm-4!)

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