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Herman Steiner vs Alexander Kevitz
US Championship (1936), New York, NY USA, rd 1, Apr-25
Torre Attack: Wagner Gambit (A46)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Quite an exciting game to play over.

Some hesitating play by Steiner allowed Kevitz to launch a brilliant and crushing attack, giving up a pieces for two or three pawns and a clear winning position. But then, perhaps because of time pressure, Kevitz missed chances to close out the game quickly, then threw away his winning chances (on move 26) and then blundered away the game entirely (on move 28).

Steiner was the happy recipient of this amazing turn of events. Sometimes, just hanging in there does the trick.

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 e6
3. Bg5

A reasonable alternative to the more usual 3. c4.

3... c5
4. e4

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An off-beat line favored first by Marshall and later by Steiner (who played it at least five times including this game). It allows Black a fairly easy equality after 4...cxd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6.

Needless to say, Steiner's victory in this game had nothing to do with his choice of opening.

4... Qa5+?!

This move was later adopted--also against Steiner by Reuben Fine (in a game Fine ultimately won) and by Broderman (in a game in which Steiner prevailed). It allows White to get a good game with the simple 5. Qd2.

5. Nbd2

Steiner also played this in his game against Fine. When he played Broderman a year after the Fine game, Steiner improved with 5. Qd2.

5... cxd4

Neither Kevitz here nor Fine in his game against Steiner chose to enter the wild thicket of 5...Nxe4 6. b4 Qxb4 7. Rb1 NxB (Black has another dicey road to equality with 7...Qa5 or 7...Qc3) 8. RxQ NxN+ 9. QxN cxR leaving Black with Rook, Bishop, and two pawns for the sacrificed Queen in a highly unclear position.

6. BxN gxB
7. Nxd4

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Steiner had the sounder pawn structure. Kevitz had the two Bishops. An interesting struggle seemed in the making.

7... Nc6

7...f5 was a good alternative.

8. Nb3

Very tentative play by Steiner. 8. NxN; 8 c3; and 8. Nf3 were all better than the text.

8... Qe5
9. c3

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9... d5

Eager to attack. But 9...f5 as played by Fine against Steiner looks like Black's strongest choice here and yields Black a small edge.

10. Qe2 dxe4
11. Qxe4

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11... Bd7

With two Bishops and a chance to operate on the open g-file, Black should consider playing an endgame after 11...QxQ+. 11...f5 also was to be considered.

12. f4

Both side seemed keen for a tactical slugfest.

12... Qc7
13. Be2

Preferring not to brave castling long and instead looking to castle short with about even chances.

13... f5
14. Qe3 Ne7
15. Nc4

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Beginning here, the fight heated up.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

15... Bc6

15...Nd5 was better. The attack on the White g-pawn and the opening of the d-file is of less importance than centralizing the Knight and play on the g-file. But White's next move turned all that topsy turvy.

16. Qd4?

Steiner was already in trouble after this move, whereas he would have been fine with 16. Nd4. Perhaps, Steiner thought Kevitz would fall for a simple trap, the position now being:

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16... Ng6!

16...Bxg2?? would get crushed by 17. Nd6+. But after the text, Steiner was in serious jeopardy.

17. 0-0 Rg8

Kevitz played this portion of the game superbly. He was no poised for a murderous attack.

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18. g3

He had nothing better than 18. Rf2.

18... Rd8

Suddenly, and thanks to White's weak play, the open d-file was important.

19. Qe3 Bh6!

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20. Kf2?

20. Rad1 was the only real chance to survive the looking Black assault.

20... Nxf4!

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White is busted.

21. gxN?

Sheer suicide. He would still be lost after the better 21. Qe5, but he might have been able to resist for at least a while.

21... bxf4
22. Qh3 Bxh2
23. Nd4

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23... Bg3+

This wins, but the fastest and most brutal line was 23...Rg2+ 24. Ke1 Bg3+ 25. Kd2 Rh2 after which White would have to give up Queen for Rook to stay in the game even a little while.

24. Ke3 b5!
25. Qxh7

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Kevitz still had the game very much in hand. But from here he faltered badly, first making the win more difficult (his 25th move); then blowing the move entirely (move 26); and and the blundering away the game (move 28).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

25... Rg6?

With 25...Rf8, Black could have proceeded to rip the White position to shreds. The text gave Steiner at least some practical chances, the position now being:

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26. Nd2?

Awful. White would have had a fighting chance with 26. Rad1. Keeping the extra piece was far less important than getting the White King to safety. After Steiner's actual move, the game should have been over, the position now being:

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Black to move and win.

26... f4+?

Missing 26...e5 which pretty much ends White's chances of resistance.

After the text, Steiner was able to flee to safety and the win for Black was gone.

27. Kd3 e5

Too late!

28. Bh5

The saving move, the position now being:

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28... Re6?

From here on, Black was lost. He could have saved the game with 28...exd4 or 28...Rg5. But now, he gets massacred:

29. Qg8+ Kd7
30. Qxf7+ Re7
31. Qf5+ Kd6
32. NxB KxN+
33. Kc2

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33... e4

This only speeds the end, but 33...Qd7 would at most prolonged the game.

34. Nxd4 Re5

By this point, Kevitz seemed to be playing like a deer in the headlights. But 34...Qe5 would only have extended the game a few more moves.

35. Qg6+ Kb7

35...Rd6 would not have been much better.

After 35...Kb7, the position was:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

36. NxB

36. Rad1 would have been faster, but this trade also leaves White in complete control and Black helpless.

36... fxN

The intermediate move 36...Rd6 might have slightly lengthened the game.

37. Rf7

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Kevitz could have safely resigned here.

37... Re7
38. Bf3+

38. RxR obviously also wins immediately.

38... Kc8
39. Qa6+

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39... Kb8

39...Kd7 40. Re1 would also not have been any fun for Black.

40. Qxb5+ Kc8

The only way to avoid a quick mate was with 40...Qb6. But that was also obviously hopeless.

41. Bg4+

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A terrible missed opportunity for Kevitz.

Premium Chessgames Member
  NM JRousselle: This game was a lucky escape for White. 26... e5 looks crushing. I'm sure Black missed lots of other winning continuations.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <NM JRousselle> It was a lucky escape indeed. The Tournament Book suggests time pressure may have been a factor.

And as you point out, Kevitz could have won more simply even before missing 26...e5.

After 26...f4?, the win was gone.

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