KEG: Not a very good game, but one containing a neat and possibly saving Queen sacrifice by Mortimer.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. b4 Bb6
It is often said that the best way to refute a Gambit is to accept it. But Lasker and others often declined to take the pawn in the Evans Gambit to avoid prepared variations. Almost a century later, Kasparov demonstrated that Black can still face nasty tactical problems after 4...Bb6 5. a4, but in 1900 Showalter's 4...Bb6 was a reasonable choice against a much weaker opponent whose only chance was to score an early KO punch in a prepared variation.
As played by Kasparov against Piket at Amsterdam 1995.
"This [is the] new main line, after Black's disaster in Kasparov-Piket after 5...a5" (Michael Rohde). Remarkably, Showalter plays what was considered the best line based on analysis in and post-1995!
Not best. 6. Nc3 and 6. Ba3 (Michael Rohde's line) are now seen as better. Perhaps best of all is the simple 6. Bb2. In none of these lines, however, can White hope for much more than equality, and Mortimer's move is hardly fatal.
7. d3 d6
7...d5 is more forceful and better.
Inferior to 8. Nbd2 or 8. 0-0. Showalter could now get the better game by simply trading Bishops and giving Mortimer doubled e-pawns.
This is the first of a series of five moves in which both Mortimer and Showalter fail to exchange Bishops. Curious.
Why not 9. BxB?
Why not 9...BxB?
Is he trying to persuade Showalter to trade Bishops (as Showalter should have)? 10. BxB was best.
Again failing to trade Bishops.
Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says that Mortimer should have played 12. Nf1 here, but that would have allowed Showalter to get the better game with 12...Bg4 13. Ne3 Bh5 whereas the text is at least good for equality. Best would have been 12. 0-0.
A needless weakening move and the beginning of a bad plan of a pawn advance on the King's wing. Best was 13. Nc4 or 13. 0-0.
Precipitous and missing his chance to play 13...Bh3
"Weak. Correct was 14. Qe2 Bg4 15. h3" (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book). But if 14. Qe2, Showalter could play 14...Bh3. Best for White here was 14. 0-0, castling while he can still safely do so.
Showalter now has the better game and the only real attacking chances.
Weak. Mortimer should have played 15. exd5.
Black's attack begins. Mortimer is now in serious jeopardy and would have had to play very well to hold the game.
Rosenthal recommends 16. c4 followed by c5, but that does not seem to be any better than the text. Mortimer should probably have tried to generate some counterchances for himself with 16. Rc1, although he would still suffer from his prior poor play.
Now Mortimer is lost. Rosenthal claims that 17. Qf1 was the "only move" for White here, but I don't see how that would have helped at all. Mortimer should have probably tried to run for the hills with 17. Kc1.
Crushing. The game is now won for Black.
Creating new problems for himself as Showalter demonstrates with his next move. Comparatively best, though hardly giving much relief for White, was 18. Bd1.
Immediately exploiting White's last move.
Having said "A," Mortimer decides to say "B."
Much better would have been 19...Qe7, though Showalter still has a won game.
The position was now as follows:
Things certainly look bad for Mortimer here, but he had a final chance to make a fight of the game that I will discuss in my next post on this game.