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Samuel Tinsley vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
London (1899), London ENG, rd 23, Jun-30
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation (C67)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: Interesting, hard fought battle. It comes down to the Black king getting to the White pawns much easier than the White king can get to the Black pawns.
May-01-16  RookFile: If you told somebody that Carlsen had black he would probably believe you. The game has a completely modern look to it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <RookFile: If you told somebody that Carlsen had black he would probably believe you. The game has a completely modern look to it.>

Maybe if he was playing a simul. White's position doesn't look very modern, or White very competent, after 23 moves.

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Bad sign for Pillsbury that it took him that long to beat Tinsley.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Bad sign for Pillsbury that it took him that long to beat Tinsley.>

That's a silly comment, really, since Black had a won position after 30 moves. But there was nothing modern about Samuel Tinsley. He scored +4-19=4 in this event and played some of the worst-looking openings you'll ever see, even by 1890s standards. Here here with Black after 18 moves against Lasker.

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May-05-16  RookFile: Well, the position for white on move 23 isn't bad. Necessary is 23. Nxg6 hxg6 24. Kg2. At the first opportunity, white looks to trade rooks, and a draw is agreed. Black has the initiative, but with careful play white should hold this. White didn't play this way, and Pillsbury did what he needed to do.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RookFile>
23. Nxg6 <fxg6> 24. Kg2 Rde8 25. Qc4+ Kh8. It looks to me like White's in a little bit of trouble, although perhaps not quite lost yet.
May-05-16  RookFile: 23. Nxg6 fxg6 24. Kg2 Rde8 25. Rd2 followed by Rf1. White plans to follow up with b3 and c4. He just needs to avoid doing something stupid and eventually there should be rook swaps that lead to a draw.
May-05-16  RookFile: By the way, I was looking at your notes. I once saw an expert play 1. h4 at the US Open in multiple games. Crazy, right? The games would go something like 1. h4 e5 2. h5 d5 3. h6 Nxh6 4. d4 exd4 5. Bxh6 gxh6 6. Qxd4 and somehow, white was able to win his games. Yes, it's all nonsense, but evidently, it is a good surprise weapon at the class level.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RookFile>
23. Nxg6 fxg6 24. Kg2 Rde8 25. Rd2 <Rf7> (threatens ...Bf4) and I think White needs to do a bit more than merely <avoid doing something stupid>. If 26. Qf2 probably 26...Ref8 and even <...Bg3> is in the air.
May-05-16  RookFile: 23. Nxg6 fxg6 24. Kg2 Rde8 25. Rd2 Rf7
26. Qf2 Ref8 27. Rad1 Bg3 28. Qe2

White plays Bf2 soon and his defenses
will hold.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: < RookFile: If you told somebody that Carlsen had black he would probably believe you. The game has a completely modern look to it.>

I think it is rather the other way around, that the Berlin Ruy is 19th Century chess. To think that all Pillsbury and Lasker had to do was play 3..Nf6 and be on equal footing theory-wise is remarkable. Ah, but what about q-pawn openings. Why, the QGD Lasker variation, of course, worthy of being the opening of choice for game 12 in the 2010 WC. Strange but true.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RookFile>
Then we agree that White is probably not quite lost yet after 23. Nxg3, although it looks to me like Black has fair chances to torture White's kingside weaknesses for a while.

I take your point about <1. h4> and I have replaced the joke in my profile.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Just to return to my own particular bugbear, why I refuse to regard this game as modern: yes, the Berlin has come back.

But this goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Nxe5 and White has given up the bishop pair and gotten nothing in return. Not the kingside pawn majority nor the lead in development that White gets after 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+.

Now you could say, this is just Tinsley. But Leopold Hoffer did the tournament book, and he was one of the leading annotators of the day, and he also thought 7.Nxe5 was better than 7.dxe5.

We've all seen that ending a thousand times, it feels like, since the Kasparov-Kramnik match, and most of us don't of us don't love it. But White is still trying to gain an advantage. Which, plain and simple, he isn't trying to do after 7.Nxe5.

It's not like Catalans are modern and the Berlin is old-fashioned. Or it's not quite that simple. There have been a lot of strategies elaborated since 1899, but as <Everett> pointed out,our opponent can prevent us from carrying many of them out. But the critical difference is that modern players are less likely to make moves for no reason at all, as Tinsley did here. They'll go for the Berlin ending and try to make the best of it, or play 4.d3 and put the struggle off for later, or maybe they'll just try to make a draw, and unfortunately there have been quite a few paths marked out for that. But they won't just take the white pieces and play right into an inferior middlegame.

May-10-16  RookFile: I think that Nxe5 was directed against the bishop on c8. He didn't want ...Bg4 happening. In the queen's gambit, white sometimes tries to make it hard for black to develop the c8 bishop to a good square. Evidently the strategy doesn't work here. The irony for white is that Pillsbury's effective play allowed ...Bg4 anyway.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: I must agree with keypusher that Tinsley's play in this Berlin Defense is far from "modern." Although Tinsley's opening play here was light-years better than most of his (often pathetic) opening efforts in the London 1899 tournament, his 7. Nxe5 (instead of the clearly better 7. exd5) gave away any advantage he enjoyed on the White side of Ruy Lopez.

I looked back at Kasparov's match with Kramnik, and Kasparov played 7. exd5 in all four games (Games 1, 3, 9, and 13) in which this opening variation arose.

Tinsley's 7. Nxe5 was sufficient to obtain equality, but that is not the goal in the "modern" Ruy Lopez theory.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Quite apart from the modernity of the opening, or lack thereof, Pillsbury appeared to play this game on autopilot. He was not as sharp or precise as usual, but more than good enough to defeat the overmatched Tinsley.

Tinsley's unambitious opening play left him about even chances through nine moves, but his 10. Ne2 (instead of 10. Nf3) and 12. Be3 (once again failing to play Nf3) gave Pillsbury an advantage he never relinquished.

Tinsley's 20. Red1 was very bad (20. Rad1 was much better), but Pillsbury carelessly failed to give his Bishop a flight square with 20...h6, instead playing the inferior 20...Bd6.

Tinsley's 22. f3 created needless weaknesses. He should have played 22. Bf4. But Pillsbury's Bishop retreat with 22...Bg6 was inferior to 22...Bc6.

Thus, RookFile and beatgiant seem clearly correct in saying that Tinsely was not lost before his 23rd move. As RookFile and beatgiant have also shown, had Tinsley played 23. NxB (or in my opinion even 23. Kg2) instead of his actual 23. Qg2? he would have had a playable though inferior game.

Pillsbury's 23...Rde8 (instead of the better 23...Rfe8) could have let Tinsley back in the game. But Tinsley erred with 24. Re1 (instead of the better 24. Qd2 or even 24. NxB, a move unfairly dismissed by the Tournament Book) and 25. Bf2? (why not 25. Nf5) left Tinsley lost for good.

Pillsbury's 25...Bf4 was sufficient to maintain his winning advantage, but 25...g6 would have been more precise. In any case, Tinsley's 26. RxR followed by the trade of the other pair of Rooks allowed Pillsbury to reach a position in which his genius could shine. Pillsbury's 28...g5! was the finest move in this otherwise forgettable game, and allowed him to smash open Tinsley's king-side, win a pawn, and eventually reach a clearly winning Bishop and pawn endgame.

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