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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Carl Schlechter
Munich (1900), Munich GER, Aug-14
Russian Game: Modern Attack. Center Variation (C43)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: 17...e3! puts Harry in deep trouble. So I guess Rf2 is bad. 17.Rd2 would allow Kf2.
Premium Chessgames Member
  profK: Wow after move 14 how does white loose this??? But he does!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Black has a definite advantage at move 14.
Dec-12-13  parisattack: Accurate and incisive play by Schlechter, indeed. But Pillsbury hardly recognizable.
Dec-13-13  MarkFinan: PA. I have to agree with you about white here. I went through this game last night and I didn't know if it was just me as I was in a strange mood anyway, so I thought id wait until someone else said something. Black plays well but white is poor.. here.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Those two Bishops were murder against ole Pills.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: With Maroczy having dropped out of the three-way playoff after losing his opening game to Pillsbury, Munich 1900 reduced to a four-game playoff between Pillsbury and Schlechter.

Based on the previous games between these two competitors, Pillsbury must have seemed the clear favorite. Schlechter had defeated Pillsbury in their first meeting at Hastings 1895, nearly spoiling Pillsbury's chances of winning (he bounced back to win his final three games to take first-place anyway). In their next eight games, however, Pillsbury had won three with the other five games being drawn. After this four-game playoff match, Pillsbury won three straight (before winning one and drawing one in the 1903 King's Gambit Tournament in Vienna).

But this record notwithstanding, Schlechter was a tough opponent, especially in match play. Apart from this playoff, Schlechter played eight matches. He drew six of these eight matches: against Marco (1893); Janowski (1896); Alapin (1899); Teichmann--in a very short match in 1904; against Lasker in a 1910 World Championship match that Schlechter nearly won; and against Tarrasch in 1911. IN the other two matches, Schlechter slaughtered Janowski in 1902 (six games to one with three games drawn); and lost his final match in a close contest with Rubinstein in 1918 when Schlechter was reportedly in his final illness.

In short, the Pillsbury-Schlechter head-to-head record did not change the fact that Schlechter was always a tough opponent in match play.

In the opening game of this playoff match to decide first/second place at Munich 1900, Schlechter exploited a Pillsbury blunder on move 17 and wiped Pillsbury off the board. As TheFocus so aptly put it on this site many years ago, Schlechter's two Bishops "were murder against ole Pills.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6!

Using Pillsbury's weapons against him. Pillsbury had employed the Petroff's Defense with considerable success in the early rounds at St, Petersburg 1895-1896 (winning his opening two games in this tournament against Lasker and Tchigorin).

3. d4

Pillsbury chose this aggressive line against the Petroff in lieu of the more usual 3. Nxe5. This can transpose back to the 3. Nxe5 lines, as it did here.

3... Nxe4

3...exd4 is also a reasonable choice. It avoids transposition back to the 3. Nxe5 lines. Schlechter seemed satisfied to pursue this more staid version of the Petroff.

4. Bd3

4. Nxe5 looks somewhat better, but the text is the overwhelming choice in this position.

4... d5

Ready to enter the "normal" Petroff variations.

5. Nxe5 Nc6

5...Nd7 is normal here. 5...Bd6 and 5...Be7 also look good. The text has gotten less of a workout, but was played by Smyslov and was a favorite line of Yusupov.

6. NxN bxN

click for larger view

7. Qe2

"!"--(Tournament Book)

I nothing especially clever about this maneuver. The pin and threat to win a pawn is easily countered. 7. 0-0 or 7. Nd2 were both better. Showalter played the text in his game against Marshall at Paris 1900 and prevailed, but not because of the opening.

7... Qe7

7...Be7 or 7...Be6 were much better.

8. 0-0 g6

Schlechter's handling of the opening here was questionable. 8...Nd6 and 8...Nf6 both look much better.

After 8...g6, the position was:

click for larger view

By any reckoning, Pillsbury had much the better game at this point. But he then squandered his edge with needless exchanges rather than strengthening his position:

9. BxN

9. Re1 or 9. c3 were better.

9... QxB

9...dxB, though messing up his pawn structure while Queens were still on the board, was probably better.

10. QxQ

Pillsbury should have kept the Queens on the board, thus retaining his advantage, with 10. Qd2.

10... dxQ

click for larger view

The endgame, though not as good an option for White compared with where he stood before, still favored Pillsbury because of the broken Black pawn structure on the Queenside. But Schlechter had one major plus--the two Bishops--which he soon used with devastating effect.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11. Re1

11. Bf4 would probably have elicited 11...Bd6 allowing Pillsbury to swap off a pair of Bishops (thus avoiding the coming attack by Schlechter with the two Bishops). The downside of 11. Bf4, of course, is that Schlechter would have been able to clean up his mangled pawn structure. This probably explains Pillsbury's not unreasonable decision. With the text, he threatened to win a pawn before Schlechter could organize a defense of his advanced e-pawn.

11... f5
12. f3

Continuing to harass the pinned Black e-pawn.

12... Bg7

The alternative was 12...c5 which could have led to 13. fxe4 fxe4 14. Nc3 (better than 14. Rxe4+ Kd7) cxd4 15. Nxe4 Bg7 16. Ng5+ Kd7 17. Ne6 leaving White much the better ending despite Black's two Bishops. The text acquiesces to at least the temporary loss of a pawn, but left Schlechter with nearly compensating counterchances.

13. c3 0-0

13...c5 was a viable possibility, but White would still be better after 14. dxc5 0-0 15. fxe4 fxe4 16. Nd2 (Black's Bishops would fully compensate for the lost pawns after 16. Rxe4 Bb7).

After 13...0-0, the position was:

click for larger view

14. Bf4

This pretty much relinquishes any effort to exploit Black's vulnerable advance center pawns. The Tournament Book claimed that 14. fxe4 would be bad for White, but the variation it gives is flawed: 14. fxe4 fxe4 15. Rxe4 (weak, White keeps pressure and develops his game with 15. Nd2!) 15...Ba6 (another poor choice by the Tournament Book, Black has equal chances after either 15...c5 or 15...Bb7) 16. Re1 (again giving up White's edge; 16. Nd2 was much better) 16...Rae8 and Black's Bishops sweep the board fully compensating for his awful Queen-side pawn structure.

Best for Pillsbury here would thus have been 14. fxe4 or--perhaps more simply--14. Nd2. White's failure to develop his b1 Knight will soon doom Pillsbury's chances.

14... c5


I agree that 14...c5 is strong. 14...Rb8 was another good possibility. After the text (14...c5) the position was:

click for larger view

The contributors on this site appear to have reached conflicting evaluations of this position:

"Wow, after move 14, how does White lose this???" (profK)

"Black has a definite advantage at move 14." (The Focus).

The truth may lie somewhere between these two views. White can win a pawn, but Black's Bishops are poised to rule the board. I'm not sure which side I would prefer to play here, but White obviously needs to be careful, as Pillsbury, who was lost within three moves, soon learned to his chagrin.

15. dxc5 Rb8
16. Re2?

White's game would have been fine after 16. b4 or 16. b3. But Pillsbury overlooked the danger posed by Schlechter's two Bishops, and got careless. He could also probably have survived with the text, but the text allowed Schlechter's threats to mount, and Pillsbury was now living on the edge.

16... Ba6!

All of a sudden, Schlechter's Bishops became scary monsters.

click for larger view

Remarkably, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Pillsbury had only one saving move here; a move he did not find.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

17. Rf2

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"17. Rf2 is bad." (Calli)

As both the Tournament Book and Calli on this site correctly recognized, the text is a fatal mistake that cost Pillsbury the game. It blocks access to f2 (as Calli point out) and left Pillsbury--with his b1 Knight still undeveloped--in hopeless shape.

But 17. Rd2, suggested by both the Tournament Book and by Calli, is also a losing move here, since it blocks Nd2 and leaves White in big trouble after 17...Rfe8!

The one and only saving move was 17. Rc2! This leaves f2 available to the White King, d2 available to the White Knight, and allows White to stay in the game.

After 17. Rf2?, the position was:

click for larger view

Black to move and win:

18... e3!

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"17...e3 puts Harry in deep trouble." (Calli).

From this point on, Schlechter seized his opportunity and gave Pillsbury no chance to save the game.

The position was now:

click for larger view

18. Bxe3?

Pillsbury struggled hard after his error on move 17, but his desperate attempts to create complications got him nowhere against Schlechter's precise play. Relatively best at this point, but insufficient to save the game, was 18. Rc2 (e.g., 18...Rfe8 19. Na3 Bd3 20. Rcc1 (20. Bxc7 Rb7 was relatively best for White, but obviously hopeless) Rxb2 21. Bxc7 e2 22. Bg3 Bh6 23. Re1 Bd2 [or 23. f4 Rc8]).

18... Rfe8

click for larger view

White is busted.

19. Bd2

Pillsbury should have tried to get his Knight into the game with 19. Nd2 or 19. Na3, but it was by now too late to hold back the Schlechter juggernaut.

19... Rxb2
20. Na3 Bf8!
21. Be3

click for larger view

Black to play and win:

21... RxB!

"!"--(Tournament Book)

22. RxR Bxc5
23. Kh1 BxN

click for larger view

It might superficially appear Pillsbury--with Rook for two Bishops--was still in the game. But Schlechter's two Bishops were too powerful, as Schlechter quickly demonstrated.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

24. Rb8+ Kf7
25. h4

25. Ra8 or 25. Rh8 might have made Schlechter's task somewhat more difficult, but would not have changed the outcome. Undoubtedly aware of all this, Pillsbury tried to complicate and drum up threats of his own.

25... Bc5

25...h5 or 25...Kf6 or 25...Bd6 may have been faster roads to victory, but the text was plenty good also, and began the process of weaving a mating net around Pillsbury's King.

26. c4

Perhaps intending to set a trap for Schlechter, i.e., 26...Bxc4 27. Rc1 winning a piece. But the fly in the ointment is that this "trap" doesn't work, since in th above variation Schlechter could just have played 27...Bd6 with impunity since 28. RxB would run into 28...Re1 mate!

Since the "trap" is flawed, Pillsbury should probably just have played 26. Rd8 or 26. Rc1 of 26.Rb3, though none of these moves would have done much good in the long run.

26... Rc3!

While, as shown above, Schlechter would have played 26...Bxc4, the text was even stronger.

click for larger view

27. Rd1

Desperation! 27. Rab1 would have allowed Pillsbury to hang on a little longer.

27... Rxc4

Why not!

28. Rd7+

28. g3 would have served no purpose other than prolonging the game.

28... Ke6
29. Rxh7

Obviously not 29. Rxc7 Rxh4 mate.

After 29. Rxh7, the position was:

click for larger view

29... Rc1+
30. Kh2 Bd6+
31. g3

31. f4 was the only way to prolong the game.

31... Rc2+
32. Kh1

click for larger view

Schhlechter's Bishops rule!

32... Be2

This spells fini for Pillsbury, but 32...Bf1 was even faster and more brutal.

33. Rb3 Bxg3

33...Bf1 was an even faster way to finish off the game.

34. h5

Now Schlechter's mating net snaps shut, but other moves were also hopeless.

34... f4!

click for larger view


Mate is inevitable.

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