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Samuel Reshevsky vs Harold Morton
US Championship (1936), New York, NY USA, rd 1, Apr-25
Gruenfeld Defense: Three Knights. Vienna Variation (D95)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-02-16  suenteus po 147: Starting at the end, Reshevsky wins because of his material advantage in pawns, and puttig Morton into zugzwang. So where did Morton go wrong? I'm not familiar with the Gruenfeld then or now, but everything seems kosher until Morton's 15th move. Give the option to exchange queens, Morton declines, but in doing so he gives Reshevsky the excuse to castle his king to safety. Morton also abandons the c-file which becomes decisive in empowering Reshevsky to dictate play on the seventh rank. I'm not sure I understand Morton's declining the queen exchange in the position since things looked pretty equal. As it stood, the series of maneuvers and exchanges after Reshevsky attacks the c-file and seventh rank ends up forcing Morton to drop two loose pawns and then simplifies down to the endgame he resigns.
Apr-02-16  RookFile: I think he was afraid of a later Nb5 from white. But you're right, 15....Qxb3 16. axb3 e5! 17. dxe5 Nd7 and black has no worries.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This opening round game in the 1936 US Championship paired the ultimate winner (Reshevsky) against the ultimate last-place finished (Morton). In fact, Reshevsky got off to a poor start in this tournament, scoring only one win and one draw in the first four rounds, From there, however, Reshevsky finished with nine wins and two draws in his final eleven games to finish first by half-point.

This game was a harder fight than the final standings might suggest. As <suenteus po 147> and <Rookfile> pointed out on this site more than three years ago, Morton was fine until he declined to trade Queens on his 15th move. From that point, Reshevsky took charge, posted his Rook on the 7th file, and wore down Morton. Morton had some chances even after his error on move 15. but he was under pressure the rest of the way, and was definitely lost after his poor 27th move, though Reshevsky--who was out of form at the beginning of this tournament--allowed Morton to hang around for longer than should have been required.

1. d4 Nf6
2, c4 g6
3. Nc3 d5

The Gruenfeld Defense, against which Reshevsky seemingly had difficulty in finding a way to obtain an advantage.

4. Nf3 Bg7
5. e3

5. Qb3 is more frequently played. Both that and 5. cxd5 appear better ways for White to play for an advantage. The text does not yield much more than equality. 5. Bf4 is another good choice for White here.

5... 0-0
6. Qb3

Not as effective after 5. e3 has been played.

6... c6

6...dxc4 is perhaps best, but the text is also fine and gives Black a decent game.

7. Bd2

Surprisingly unambitious play from Reshevsky. It is, however, more than adequate for equality, and Reshevsky apparently sought no more, confident he could outplay his opponent.

7... b6

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"The slight weakness at c6 occasioned by this move is not easy to exploit." (Alekhine commenting on Botvinnik-Winter, Nottingham 1936).

7...e6 looks simplest and best, but there is nothing seriously wrong with the text (or with 7...dxc4).

8. cxd5 cxd5
9. Bb5

Botvinnik played 9. Ne5 against Winter, which is probably best. 9. Rc1 also seems to be a good choice for White here.

9... Bb7
10. Rc1

Careful play by both players has resulted in an unbalanced position with approximately even chances.

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10... Ne4

Well-played by Morton. Black appears to have little to fear at this point.

11. NxN dxN
12. Ne5 Bd5
13. Bc4 BxB
14. NxB Qd5

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Morton has achieved at least an even game. From here, however, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Morton erred and was in serious trouble for the balance of the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

15. Qa3

Although this move worked like a charm, it is far from clear that it was best. Had Morton exchanged Queens, Reshevsky--though certainly not lost--would have had the worst of the position.

15. 0-0 looks best. If a Queen trade was to be offered, 15. Qa5 was likely the better way to try this.

After 15. Qa3, the position was:

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15... Qg5?

In evaluating the merits of this move, <suenteus po 147> has put it best:

"Everything seems kosher until Morton's 15th move. Given the option to exchange Queens, Morton declines, but in doing so he gives Reshevsky the excuse to castle his King to safety. Morton also abandons the c-file which becomes decisive in empowering Reshevsky to dictate play on the seventh rank."

This comment was well extended by <RookFile>:

"I think he [Morton] was afraid of a later Nb5 from White. But you're right. 15...QxQ 16. axQ e5! 17. dxe5 Nd7 and Black has no worries."

RookFile's line looks best to me, and leaves Black nicely situated.

After the (vastly inferior) text [15...Qg5?], the position was:

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Morton was hardly lost at this point, but a series of questionable choices soon led to his demise. In a difficult position such as this one, the inferior side need not blunder to lose; a few second-best moves can lead to disaster, as happened here.

16. 0-0!

As noted by suenteus po 147, Reshevsky castled his king to safety before undertaking action on the c-file.

16... Nd7

The alternative was 16...Bxd4?! which might have led to interesting play: 16...Bxd4?! 17. h4! [17. exB QxB 18. Qd5 Na6 19. Nc4 with about equal chances] Qh6 18. Qd5 Bxb2 19. QxR BxN [not 19...BxR 20. RxB and Black is a piece down] 20. Qxe4 BxR 21. RxB and White--though temporarily a pawn down--has much the better chances.

17. Rc7!

This Rook was to remain on the 7th rank for the next 22 moves, leaving Morton's position in knots. A great defender such as Korchnoi might have been able to hold this position. For most mortals, however, Black was here in big trouble:

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In fairness to Morton, his play from here--though far from flawless--was tenacious, and he made Reshevsky work hard.

17... Rfd8


18. Nb5

This looks very strong. Arguably even better were 18. Qc4 or 18. f4.

Stockfish here begins a reassembly project with 18. Nb1.

18... Ne5

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Nicely exploiting the pin. But 18...Nc5 was probably even better.

19. dxN RxB
20. Nd6!

Not 20. Rxa7 RxR 21. NxR Bxe5 and suddenly Black holds the cards and is dictating play.

20... Rf8!

Morton hung on grimly. This move was forced, but Morton was not yet lost.

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

21. Qb4!

A powerful move combining attack and defense.

Reshevsky's monster Rook on c7 plus his dynamically placed Queen had Morton on the very brink of defeat.

21... Rd5

Morton continues his stubborn resistance. The text was probably better than the more one-dimensional 21...Re2.

22. Nc8!

With Reshevsky's Knight joining the party, only heroic defense could hope to survive.

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22... Rex5

As good as anything. 22...Kh8 would transpose to what occurred in the game.

23. Nxe7+ Kh8

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Loss of a pawn for Black was now inevitable. But how should Reshevsky go about effecting the capture.

24. Nc6

Sometimes the simplest move is best. Here, 24. Rxa7 would have avoided allowing the counterchances the text permitted.

24... Rc5

24...a5 or 24...Rb5 allowed tighter defense. The text allowed Reshevsky to start grabbing pawns:

25. Qxe4 Bxb2

25...Qf6 was much better. 25...a5 also might have slowed the Reshevsky express.

26. Rxa7

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26... Rc8

Seeking counter-play on the c-file looks natural, but 26...Qf6 or 26...b5 or perhaps 26...Bg7 offered better chances. After the text, Reshevsky should have had the game in hand:

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27. Nd4?

Giving Morton one final chance to remain in the game. 27. Ne7 would have posed insolvable problems for Black. 27. Nb4 was also much better than the text, which allowed Morton chances to resist.

27... Rc1?

How tempting it must have been for Morton to switch from being a punching-bag to creating some attacking chances. But the text was in fact a mistake from which Morton never recovered. He had to work at creating a fortress with 27...Qg6 or perhaps 27...Kg8. The text allowed Reshevsky to nab the Black f-Pawn, the position now being:

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The text did allow Morton to fight on two pawns down and create some superficially exciting threats, but from this point Reshevsky never relinquished his stranglehold on the Black position and the win was no longer in doubt.

28. Rxf7 Qc5
29. Ne2

All of a sudden, Reshevsky had everything covered (with his Knight controlling the c1 square). For all practical purposes, the game--though still requiring some work from Reshevsky--was over.

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

29... RxR+

29...Qc2 30. QxQ RxQ was arguably better, though after 31. Ng3 White still would have the game well in hand.

30. KxR

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30... Qh5

A futile effort to create counter-play.

31. Qb4

31. g4 was the sharpest and fastest winning line [31...Qb5 (not 31...Qxh2 32. Nd4!) 32. a4! Rc1+ 33. Kg2]. But the text was more than adequate.

31... Bg7

Obviously forced.

32. Qd6!

Clever play. It combines attack while also defending h2 and d1 (thus eliminating Morton's "threat" of 32...Rc1+ 33. NxQ Qd1 mate.

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32... Qb5
33. f3

This gives Reshevsky's Queen the room if needed to avoid further mating threats by Morton. But 33. f4 was even stronger.

33... Re8
34. Kf2 Qb2

Desperately seeking means of attack, but nothing effective was available:

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35. Qd5

This covered all bases for White.

35... Qa3
36. Qb3 Qc5

Trading Queens would have left him two pawns down with no further chances of resistance.

37. Rb7!

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Reshevsky continues to put on a clinic on just how devastating a Rook on the 7th can be.

37... Qh5
38. Qf7

38. h3 would have made the finale easier for Reshevsky, but the text (though allowing an obvious response) didn't really spoil anything.

38... Qe5

39. Qf4

39. e4 was simplest.

39... Qd5

This was hopeless, but trading Queens or 39...Qc5 or 39...Qe6 were not going to save the game either.

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

40. Rb8

This Rook had been on the 7th rank since move 17 wreaking havoc in the Black camp. Reshevsky here decided to trade it off to bring the game closer to completion. In fact, 40. Qc7 was stronger and a faster route to victory, but--once again--Reshevsky's method did not imperil his win.

40... Qe6

40...Qg8 would have amounted to pretty much the same thing.

41. a4

Reshevsky could also just have played 41. RxR+.

41... h6

This only hastened the end, but Black was lost anyway.

42. RxR+ QxR

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Reshevsky remained two pawns up, and Morton had no compensating attack. He could have resigned here.

43. Qe4 QxQ

Hoping against hope that Reshevsky's resulting isolated doubled pawns in the center would give him chances to draw. If this was Morton's hope, this plan would soon be crushed.

44. fxQ

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44... Bf8

If Morton wanted to play on, 44...Bf6 would have given him a better chance to prolong the inevitable.

45. Nf4!

Reshevsky made quick work of this ending.

45... Kh7
46. e5

46. Nd5 would also have done the trick.

46... g5

A final shot at creating complications.

47. Nd5 Bc5

With his Bishop tied to the defense of the Black pawn on b6, Morton was finished:

click for larger view

48. e6 Kg6
49. g4!

Cute! Black's King must retreat, and White cleans up quickly.

click for larger view


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