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Sidney Norman Bernstein vs Attilio Di Camillo
US Championship (1957/58), New York, NY USA, rd 2, Dec-19
Four Knights Game: Scotch Variation. Belgrade Gambit (C47)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A game decided by a blunder by Di Camillo on move 40.

Until Di Camillo's blunder, this was an intriguing contest, with Bernstein trying hard to complicate and DiCamillo seeking solid play even at the cost of missing opportunities Bernstein's temerity provided.

Just as it appeared that a draw was inevitable,time trouble seemingly reared its ugly head. Both sides erred, but on move 40 DiCamillo's blunder lost a bunch of pawns in the ending. He sought refuge by sacrificing a piece to reach at a Rook verses Rook and Knight ending, but Bernstein also had a pawn, and Di Camillo soon had to resign the hopeless struggle.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3

The Four Knights' Game can be sterile and an invitation to draw. But not in the hands of Bernstein.

3... Nf6
4. d4

A more aggressive line than the usual (and drawish) 4. Nb5.

4... exd4
5. Nd5 ?!

The wildest line in this opening.

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5... Be7

The usual and safest line. If Black wants to shoot it out and play for a win, 5...Nb4 or 5...Nxe4 would be for choice.

6. Bf4

More enterprising than the sound and proper 6. Nxd4.

Peter Svidler has tried the text.

6... d6
7. Nxd4 0-0
8. Nb5

Black can easily counter.

8... NxN
9. exN Ne5

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Di Camillo had achieved an entirely acceptable position as Black. But Bernstein still sought to pick a fight.

10. Qd2

With perhaps some notion of eventually castling long. But this all proves illusory. 10. Be2 or maybe just retreating with 10. Nc3 was better.

10... Ng6
11. Be3 c5
12. Be2 a6

Putting an end to any dreams of attack Bernstein may have had.

13. Nc3 b5

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It was probably now time for Bernstein to pull in his horns and strive for at least near equality with 14. 0-0. But Bernstein wanted all.

14. f4?! Re8
15. 0-0 Bf6

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Bernstein's game was now clearly inferior but certainly not beyond repair. But in this position he overstepped once more and this time it could have been fatal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

16. Bf2?

Overlooking the fact that this will soon simultaneously leave the Queen to protect both the e2 Bishop and the f4 pawn, and therefore allows Black to gain material. Bernstein had to play the unattractive 16. Nd1 to deal with all of Black's threats. After the text, Black has a relatively simple combination at his disposal to win a pawn.

16... b4!

Driving the c3 Knight from its protection of the e2 Bishop.

17. Nd1

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17... Ra7?

Whether this was an ill-conceived way to try to guild the lily or a simple oversight it is hard to say. What is clear is that 17...Nxf4 wins a pawn while the text lets White off the hook. Though Black still retained the edge even after 17...Ra7, this proved to be Di Camillo's last chance to win the game.

18. Bd3

Now the Bishop is protected and DiCamillo's moment had passed.

18... Rae7

Black still had strong play, but Bernstein found the best way to lessen the pressure.

19. a3

Well played.

19... a5

19...c4 or 19...Qa5 were better tries to keep White pinned down a bit, but neither move was likely to lead to any real winning chances.

The text, however, pretty much forfeited any seriously effort to accomplish much, and allowed Bernstein the chance for counterplay.

20. axb4 axb4
21. c3

Neutralizing DiCamillo's Queen-side efforts.

21... Rb7

21...bxc3 and 21...Qb6 were slightly better, but White was no longer in any trouble.

22. Ra8

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DiCamillo must have been kicking himself at this point. If anyone, it was now he who had to watch his back (not that he was at any serious risk of losing).

22... Qc7
23. Re1 Rf8

He could also have played 23...Rd8 or (even simpler) 23...RxR.

24. g3

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24... Rb8

Not a fatal mistake by any means, but 24...Bd7 or 24...Ne7 would have been a better way to play for equality.

25. RxR QxR

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26. cxb4

This released the tension and allowed Black to achieve a likely drawn ending. 26. Ne3 was Bernstein's best choice to try to keep Black on the defensive.

26... Qxb4
27. QxQ

Bernstein had nothing better.

27... cxQ
28. BxN hxB

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Winning prospects for either side appear slim, though Black's two Bishops could create mischief and White has to be careful. But beginning here DiCamillo's play seemed to deteriorate (time pressure?), and he was soon in serious danger.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

29. Re4

Practically forced. Sometimes the best way to defend is to make threats, even simple ones.

29... Bg4

Trying for active play. But 29...b3 or 29...Bh3 were better ways to seek to hold the game.

30. Nf3!


30... Bf3

30...Bh3 was more accurate.

31. Rxb4

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So Bernstein had won a pawn, but Black can still hold with careful play thanks to his two Bishops. But DiCamillo became seduced by the prospect of having the White King in a mating net, and lost his way.

31... Ra8?

This was not necessarily fatal, but it was an indication of DiCamillo's misjudgment of the position. He would likely have been fine after 31...Re8 (e.g., 32. Kf1 Re4 33. RxR [of 33. Rb3 Re8] BxR 34. b3 [the only real chance for White] Bf3 35. b4 Kf8 36. b5 Ke8 37. Be1 Bd4 38. Bd2 Kd7 39. Ke1 f6 and Black with his two Bishops should hold easily]

32. Be1!

The best chance for White.

32... Ra2

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33. Bc3?

Wasting time and missing his best chance (33. Kf2 Bh1 34. Nd1 Ra1 35. Nc3 and Black will have to sweat to draw). Now Black's task was greatly eased.

33... BxB

Obviously forced.

34. Rb8+

This intermediate move, in lieu of an immediate 34. bxB, accomplished nothing against decent play by Black.

34... Kh7
35. bxB Re2

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Now Black wins back the lost pawn and a draw is in sight.

36. Nc4 Bxd5

36...Rg2+ 38. Kf1 Rxh2 38. Nxd6 Bxd5 is another way to draw.

37. Nxd6

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Black now has a pretty easy draw with 37...Rg2+ 38. Kf1 [Not 38. Kh1 Rxg3+ and mate next move] Rxh2. But DiCamillo was either in horrible time trouble or grossly misjudged the position.

37... Rc2?
38. c4 Be6

Not 38...Bxc4? 39. Rc8 Bb3 40. RxR BxR 41. Nxf7 and White easily wins the minor piece ending.

Even after the text, White had winning chances:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

39. Rb7

39. Re8 was the best chance. But even then I couldn't find a win (e.g., 39. g5 40. fxg5 Kg6 41. Rg8 f6 42. Re8 Bh3 43. Rh8 Be6 44. gxf6 Kxf6 45. h4 Ke5 46. Nb5 Rxc4 47. Rh5+ Bf5 48. RxB+ KxR 49. Nd6+ Kg4 50. KxN Kxg3 after which White loses his last pawn.

In any case, the text seems to hold out no real prospect of success.

38... f6

Forced but sufficient.

40. Ne8

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Now all DiCamillo had to do was play 40...Kg8 (or 40...Rc1+ and then 41...Kg8). White then cannot win the g7 pawn since if 41. Rxg7 Kf8 winning a piece or 42. 41. Nxg7?? Bf7 winning the game.

But here DiCamillo blundered away the game with:

40... Bh3??

Now White could take the g-pawn with check, and the game was--for all practical purposes--over.

41. Rxg7+ Kh6
42. Rxg6

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As will be seen, DiCamillo still had one little trick up his sleeve, but it soon proved hopeless.

42... Kh7
43. Rg7+ Kh8
44. Rg8 Be6

Seemingly worried about hanging his Bishop on an h-file skewer. But actually hoping for a forlorn miracle.

45. Rf8

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45... Bxc4

Black plan was to remove as many of White's pawns as possible, even at the cost of his Bishop, and try to draw a Rook and Knight versus Rook ending. This is hopeless, but so was his position.

46. Rxf6+ Kh5
47. h3 Rc1+
48. Kf2 Rc2+
49. Ke3

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49... Rc3+?!

His final wild hope.

50. Kd4 Rxg3
51. KxB Rxh3

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Oops. Bernstein had one pawn remaining. Rook and Knight versus Rook can pose winning problems even for great grandmasters. But with pawn to boot, the win is easy.

52. Kd4

52. Rf8 or 52. Kd6 were faster, but the win was also not in doubt after the text.

52... Rh1
53. Nd6 Kg4
54. Nc4

Again missing a faster route, but it hardly mattered.

54... Re1
55. Ne5+ Kg3
56. Rf8

56. f5 was faster, but by this point DiCamillo had had enough.

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