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James T Sherwin vs Abe Turner
US Championship (1957/58), New York, NY USA, rd 1, Dec-17
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Chigorin Defense (C97)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Sherwin finished 3rd in the 1957-1958 US Championship which wound up qualifying him for the 1958 Interzonal when Reshevsky withdrew. This game, however, could not have been a proud memory for him.

This was a close and reasonably well played contest through move 33. Then the players appeared to lose their minds. I must assume time trouble was the cause, but have no proof beyond the game score (which--incredible as it seems--I shall assume is correct).

Through move 33, the game appeared to be headed for a draw. Then it descended into some form of alternate reality. Turner missed a drawing line on move 34 and instead gave Sherwin chances. He then blundered on move 35--which in itself could have been enough for Sherwin to win; and then blundered on move 36, walking into a crushing skewer. Turner was toast at this point, but Sherwin missed the obvious win and himself committed a howler on move 37 which converted a clear win into a clear loss. Although Sherwin's game was now hanging, Turner blundered horribly on his 37th move turhing HIS win into a loss (he hung a Rook). Turner followed up with a blunder on move 39, hanging his Knight. When the time control was reached and the dust had cleared, Turner resigned on move 41.


1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Be7
6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 d6
8. c3 Na5

Veering from the usual 8...0-0. But the position soon transposes into a normal closed Ruy Lopez line:

9. Bc2 c5
10. h3 0-0

Back to the normal line en route to a standard Tchigorin Defense.

11. d4 Qc7
12. Nd2 Bd7

click for larger view

Most usual (and arguable best) here is 12...cxd4. The text, however, has had its adherents over the years. It was played by Reti back in 1924 in the New York tournament (against Maroczy), and later became a favorite of Smyslov, Gligoric, Ivkov, and Matanovic, and was also played on more than one occasion by Pachman, Reshevsky, Kholmov, and Karpov.

13. Nf1

The typical way to continue the White form of Lopez pressure, adopted by--among others--Fischer and Tahu.

13... Nc4

Not awful, but sounder are 13...Rfe8, 13...Rfd8, and 13...cxd4.

14. a4

14. b3 is simplest and best.

14... Nb6

Reaching a new position in the Ruy Lopez.

click for larger view

15. dxe5

15. b3 still looks more logical.

15... dxe5
16. axb5

Needlessly releasing the tension and ceding any edge he has enjoyed as White in this opening. Best was 16. Ne3.

16... axb5
17. RxR RxR

click for larger view

The open a-file for his Rook gives Black whatever (in this case small) edge exists in the position. In that sense, Turner--playing Black--can be said to have gotten the better of the opening.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

18. Ne3 g6

18...Ra1 looks attractive, but White would then be fine after 19. Qe2. Turner's move kept the White Knight off f5 (for now--see below!) and was probably best play here for Black.

19. Nh2

True to his attacking style, Sherwin prepares for a King-side storm. This idea, however was going nowhere here.

19... Be6

19...c4 was another good option here for Turner.

20. Nhg4

It would have been sounder for Sherwin to prepare for a possible incursion by the Black Rook via 20. Qf3. 20. Qe2 was also good.

20... NxN
21. hxN

Too keen to attack. 21. NxN was sounder and better. The position after 21. hxN was:

click for larger view

My criticisms of Sherwin's play to this point notwithstanding, he had achieved a playable complex and unbalanced position. I suspect that Sherwin was not unhappy about how matters stood, whatever his theoretical disadvantages.

21... Kg7

Sherwin had never played Turner before this game, so I can't say that he knew his customers. But 21...Kg7 is wimpy. Black had excellent chances on the Queenside with 21...Ra1 or 21...b4 or even 21...c4.

22. Qf3 h6?

Allowing White a fine tactical shot, the position now being:

click for larger view

23. Nd5?

I am astonished that so fine an attacking player as Sherwin missed 23. Nf5! which gives White all sorts of excellent chances after 23...BxN 24. exB. If instead 23...gxN?? Black gets crushed with 24. exf5.

These sorts of lines are always easier for someone sitting at home with all the time in the world and computers ready at hand to check calculations. My guess is that Sherwin who must have at least considered 23. Nf5 spent considerable time thinking about it which may explain the later time trouble I have hypothesized. I thought of 23. Nf5 immediately (whether I would have played it over the board is another matter!) so I am nearly certain that it must have crossed Sherwin's mind.

Sherwin's actual move let Turner off the hook and left White with no advantage at all.

23... BxN
24. exB

Now the question was whether Sherwin's passed isolated d-pawn was a strength or a weakness:

click for larger view

24... Qd6
25. Qe2 c4

An interesting (and I believe sound) pawn sacrifice:

click for larger view

26. Be4

If instead 26. Qxe5+ QxQ 27. RxQ Black would develope a dangerous attack with 27...Ra1. Sherwin rightly avoided this thicket.

26... Bg5
27. BxB hxB

click for larger view

The position was still unbalanced and both sides had about equal chances. A draw was not unlikely, but there was plenty of play left to explore on the board--assuming the players had sufficient time on their clocks to consider the possibilities. As will be seen, the players spent the next several moves jockeying for opportunities, until (probably because of time pressure) all hell broke loose beginning on move 34.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

28. Qd2 Kf6

28...Ra2 Bb1 would not have accomplished anything.

29. Re3 Kg7

By no means a bad move, but 29...Nd7 or 29...Ra1+ may have been more promising.

30. Re1 Qf6
31. g3 Rd8
32. Rd1 Nc8
33. Qe3 Nd6

Seemingly poised to head for a draw with NxB.

34. Ra1

This plan of operating on the a-file may not look all that promising, but Turner's response changed all that, the position now being:

click for larger view

Thus far, this game--despite my quibbles--had been reasonably well played with no drastic mistakes other than Sherwin's missed oportunity on move 23. But now all that changed.

In the above diagrammed position, Turner could have made life easy for himself with 34...NxB. With the minor pieces off the board, his road to staying safe would have been clearer. Instead, he decided to try something wild (and unsound) on the Queenside:

34... Rb8?

This move was bad not just in itself (Black was hardly lost) but because of the misguided plan Turner had in mind and for which this was the first step.

35. Ra6!

Suddenly, Sherwin had attacking chances. With Black's Knight pinned, NxB was not longer in the cards. All was not lost yet, but Turner had to play defense, the position being:

click for larger view

35... b4?

Now Black was in trouble. He would have had a defensible position with 35...Rb7 or 35...Qe7 or 35...Rd8. But now, he was in trouble. And, once again, the move--bad as it was--revealed a more serious problem, a horrendous intended follow-up.

36. cxb4

What else?

The position was now:

click for larger view

At this point, the game entered the realm of the surreal. The Black Rook obviously can't recapture on b4---right? He might still be able to put up a fight with 36...Rb5 or 35...Rb7.


36... Rxb4??

click for larger view

This obviously runs into a killing skewer: 37. Qa3. It's quite simple, Black loses a piece and the game, right?

37. Qc3???

I nearly lost it when I saw this move. All of a sudden, instead of an elementary win, White was now dead lost, the position now being:

click for larger view

Turner now had at least two ways to win. The most spectacular was 37...Qxf2+ 38. KxQ NxB+ 39. Ke3 NxQ 40. bxN Rb3 with a won Rook and pawn ending.

But this is all nonsense, since the clear and obvious win was with the most obvious move on the board: 37...NxB (e.g. 38. RxQ NxQ 39. Rc6 (39. Rd6 Rxb2) Nxd5 leaving Black up a piece (and about to win a pawn or two to boot).

But that's not what happened.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

37... Qd8???

Instead of winning, Turner hung a Rook.

click for larger view

38. QxR NxB
39. Qxc4

click for larger view

Turner was down the exchange and a pawn. Sherwin had two dangerous passed pawns, so the game was over. But Turner probably had too little time left to assess the situation, and instead of resigning he hung his Knight:

39... Nd2??
40. Qd3

click for larger view

A beautiful example of a Queen dominating a Knight (which here had no moves).

Turner may still have had insufficient time to recognize just how lost he was, and perhaps by momentum played:

40... Qc8

He then resigned after Sherwin's 41st move:

41. Rc6

click for larger view

With the move 40 time control reached, Turner now conceded the obvious:


A finale that (to put it mildly) did not reflect the actual strength of the players.

Nov-01-20  Granny O Doul: Clearly a mortal game, but I think it fairly likely that 37. Qc3 is a typo for 37. Qa3. I haven't seen Sherwin this century but maybe someone could ask him.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Granny O Doul> You could be right, since the remaining moves would have been the same. That would explain Sherwin's reported howler and Turner's 37...Qd8, though not his other blunders.

For better or worse, I have dealt with the score as it has come down to us. If Sherwin can confirm your suspicion, that would be great.

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