29 September 2008

Missing Tactics

In the last round of the Eastern Washington Open, I had the black pieces against John Walton. We each missed a chance to gain a decisive advantage and settled on a short draw.

Walton, J -- Stripes, J
Eastern Washington Open, Spokane, 28 Sept 2008

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4
3...Nf6 or c5 would have been sensible

4.dxe4 e5
Abandoning the French for something resembling the Italian, but considerably behind in time was a terrible decision. If White's opening choice was intended to take Black out out his preparation, it succeeded far beyond reasonable expectations. White's lead in time gives him a substantial advantage.

5.Ngf3 Bc5 6.Bc4 Nc6 7.0–0 Nf6 8.Qe2 0–0 9.Nb3 Bb6 10.Bg5 Qe7 11.Rad1 Nd8?

The e5 pawn will fall; I must find compensation.

12...Nc6 is better. Admit error.

13.Rxe5 Nc6

14.Rxe6 fxe6 15.e5+- and White should win

14...Qxf6 15.Rh5 Bg4 16.e5

16...Qe7-+ and Black gains the upper hand

17.Rh4 Bxf3 18.Rxf4 Bxe2 19.Bxe2 Nxe5 ½–½

This game capped a weekend event in which I won no games, the second time I'd fallen to that fate in twelve years of tournament play. However, unlike the weekend in 1998 when I went 0-5, I had no losses this weekend. My tournament consisted of four draws and the "old man" bye Saturday evening. Walton and I split the prize money for second place in B class.

26 September 2008

Objectively Drawn?

Harry Nelson Pillsbury had Black and move in the position below in Halpern--Pillsbury, Manhattan 1893.

Pillsbury went on to win this game, but it seems that Halpern should have been able to hold a draw.

22 September 2008


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21 September 2008

Pillsbury’s Mate

Errors abound. An error made and published will reproduce itself. While assembling my "Checklist of Checkmates," a still unpublished booklet, I presented this position from Laschet-Schaffer, 1997 as an example of Pillsbury's Mate.

I asserted, "Harry Nelson Pillsbury won several games this way in the nineteenth century." Now, I cannot find any games that support that assertion. I must dispute the accuracy of my claim (and revise it before publication).

It is possible that I was thinking of the game Pillsbury-Lee, London 1899 as given in Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate (New York: Dover, 1962 [1953]).

Pillsbury, H - Lee, F [D53]
International Chess Congress London, 1899
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 Be7 6.Nf3 b6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bb5 Bb7 9.Ne5 0-0 10.Bc6 Rb8 11.Bxb7 Rxb7 12.Nc6 Qe8 13.Nxe7+ Qxe7 14.Nxd5 Qe4 15.Nxf6+ gxf6 16.Bh6 Qxg2 17.Qf3 [17.Qf3 Qxf3 18.Rg1+ Kh8 19.Bg7+ Kg8 20.Bxf6+ Qg4 21.Rxg4#] 1-0

Renaud and Kahn state, "Black resigned on his seventeenth move, since a refusal of the sacrifice would have cost him a rook" (131).

Position after White's 17.Qf3

The diagram position and conclusion certainly accord with my assertion that Pillsbury won at least one game with Pillsbury's Mate. Unfortunately, the game score differs in The Book of the London International Chess Congress 1899 (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1900), the official tournament book. There are some differences in move order, an absence of the move 10...Rb8, and 15...Rfd8 instead of 16...Qxg2. After that point the games are completely different.

Pillsbury, H - Lee, F [D51]
International Chess Congress London, 1899
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.Nf3 Be7 6.e3 b6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Ne5 Bb7 9.Bb5 0-0 10.Bc6 Bxc6 11.Nxc6 Qe8 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 13.Nxd5 Qe4 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 15.Bh6 Rfd8 16.0-0 Kh8 17.Qh5 Rg8 18.f3 Qe6 19.d5 Qe7 20.Bf4 Rac8 21.Rac1 Nc5 22.Rfd1 Qd7 23.b4 Nb7 24.Rc6 Rg6 25.Rxf6 Rcg8 26.Be5 1-0

The game score in Renaud and Kahn must be inaccurate, unless the tournament book put forth egregious errors.

A Similar Game

The position below with black to move appeared in Barassi-Ferrari, Trieste 1923. Aside from the position of Black's queen rook, it is identical to that presented by Renaud and Kahn as the final position in Pillsbury-Lee. It bears an even stronger resemblance to Pillsbury-Lee as presented in the tournament book until move 15.

That game did not conclude with Pillsbury's Mate, although it easily could have. Here's the game score as I found it in the ChessBase database.

Barassi, A - Ferrari, R [D53]
Trieste-chB+ Trieste, 1923
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Nf3 b6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Ne5 Bb7 9.Bb5 0-0 10.Bc6 Bxc6 11.Nxc6 Qe8 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 13.Nxd5 Qe4 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 15.Bh6 Qxg2 16.Qf3 {diagram position} 16...Qg6 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.0-0-0 Kh8 19.Rhg1 Qh6 20.Rg3 Rd8 21.Rdg1 f5 22.Qxf5 Qc6+ 23.Kb1 Nf6 24.Rg7 Rf8 25.f3 Qe6 26.Qg5 Qd6 27.Qh6 c5 28.Rxh7+ 1-0

Could it be that Renaud and Kahn mixed up game scores from two games to create one that never existed?

Copying the Error

In How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (1998), Murray Chandler cites Pillsbury's "16-move win over Lee in London 1899" as "the most amazing" example of Pillsbury's Mate (50). On the next page, the diagrams given and alleged to be from Pillsbury's win, show a black rook on a8 as in the Barassi-Ferrari game. Stating that the game lasted sixteen moves, rather than seventeen, also suggests closer correspondence with the later game.

Eric Schiller's presentation of the game in Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom (2003 [1998]) almost matches that in Renaud and Kahn. But Schiller moves the game backward a decade to 1889.

On his Chess History Center website, Edward Winter includes Schiller's error in a catalogue of faults appended to an article that originally appeared in Inside Chess.

Nonsensical game-score: Pages 321-322 have a game 'Pillsbury v Lee, London 1889'. The two did not even meet that year. Ten years later they played a game which opened similarly, but the continuation given by Schiller was in fact what occurred, up to a point, in a different game, Pillsbury v Newman, Philadelphia, 1900. In short, yet another shambles.
Winter, "A Sorry Case,"
Schiller's limited annotations to the game offer the same alternative for Black at move 10 that appears in Renaud and Kahn. Perhaps, it is not entirely a case of plagiarism. Schiller offers an insight at move 16 that is not in The Art of the Checkmate. "It is unlikely that a modern player would be foolish enough to capture at g2, opening up the dangerous g-file, even if the combination itself was not anticipated" (Schiller, Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom, 3rd edition, 323).

The Pillsbury-Newman game cited by Winter deviates on move 17, where Pillsbury played 17.Kd2 instead of Qf3. At least that's how the game score appears in Rhoda A. Bowles, "Mr. H. N. Pillsbury's Chess Career" British Chess Magazine (August 1902), 343.