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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Georg Marco
"The Logical Song" (game of the day Sep-06-2022)
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 12, Jun-08
Queen's Gambit Declined: Pillsbury Attack (D55)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jan-31-05  aw1988: This game I simply cannot comprehend. Where does black go wrong?
Jan-31-05  euripides: <aw> c4 leaves White a free hand on the king's side by releasing the central tension. The delayed Nbd7 means that before Black can exchange the knight White is in a position to retake with the f pawn. Black could firm up the king's side with Re8 and Nf8, instead of consuming more time of the queen's side with b5 and a6. As it is, white has too much scope for the attack and plays it very sharply.
Dec-11-06  Mendrys: According to Chernev, 6...b6 was a common "solution" to black's problem child white squared bishop in the QGD. Pillsbury shows quite forcefully that this is no real "solution"
Dec-11-06  shalgo: Yes, 6...b6 is an inferior move order. But 6...h6 7.Bh4 b6 (the Tartakower variation) is black's best line in the QGD.
Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: 25...Ke8 is a no go because of 26.Qg8# (same with 25...Ke6 because of 26.Qxg5#)
Jul-31-07  syracrophy: Pilsbury - Marco
Paris, 1900

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 ♘f6 4.♗g5 ♗e7 5.e3 O-O 6.♘f3 b6 7.♗d3 ♗b7 8.cxd5 exd5 <Another option is 8...Nxd5 to exchange some pieces> 9.♘e5 ♘bd7 10.f4 c5 11.O-O c4? <It was important to keep the central tension. Indicated was 11...cxd4 12.exd4 Ne4!=> 12.♗c2 a6? <A too slow counterattack> 13.♕f3! b5 14.♕h3 g6 <The threat was 15.Nxd7 Qxd7 16.Bxh7+! Kh8 17.Bf5+ winning the queen. There were no better options:

a) 14...h6 15.Bxh6! gxh6 16.Qxh6 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Ne4 18.Nxe4 dxe4 19.Rf3! with decisive attack

b) 14...Nxe5 15.dxe5! Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.Rad1! Qe8 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Rd7 wins the black bishop>

15.f5! b4 16.fxg6! hxg6 <In case of 16...bxc3 17.Rxf6! Nxf6 18.Bxf6 fxg6 19.Qe6+> 17.♕h4! bxc3 18.♘xd7! ♕xd7 19.♖xf6! a5 <Marco tries a defense with the rook on the third rank, but its noy too late...> 20.♖af1 <More decisive was the immediate 20.Bxg6! fxg6 21.Rxg6+ Kf7 22.Rf1+ Ke8 23.Rxf8+ Kxf8 24.Qh5! with fast mate, because if 24...Qf7 25.Re6+ is deadly> 20...♖a6 <20...Qe8 is also useless: 21.Rb6! Bxg5 22.Qxg5 Bc6 23.Rf6! Rc8 24.Bxg6! with total destruction of the king's home> 21.♗xg6! fxg6 22.♖xf8+ ♗xf8 23.♖xf8+! <The key of the whole combination!> 23...♔xf8 24.♕h8+ ♔f7 25.♕h7+ ♔f8 <If 25...Ke6 26.Qxg6#; 25...Ke8 26.Qg8#> 26.♕xd7 <And mate in a few moves...> 1-0

Aug-13-07  xeroxmachine: I love to play in the style pillsbury this just a typical "pillsbury ttack-game". Where black go wrong? he simply plays to passive and mess up with small moves on the wrong side of the table. Its just dream to play when black is passive and you get time to build up an attack.
Jul-10-08  madlydeeply: Here's a little knowledge for the "guess the movers" Pillsbury loved to play Ne5 and f4. Oh, is this known as the Pillsbury attack?
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A wonderful game in which Pillsbury yet again demonstrated his incredible prowess on the White side of the Queen's Gambit Declined. The game has been the subject of a good deal of commentary much of which is excellent. Best of these commentaries may well be that of syracrophy back in 2007 on this site.

While syracrophy and others have elucidated much of the brilliance of this game, there are some points which warrant further consideration. In any case, this game is a source of great pleasure to play over and to analyze.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. e3 0-0
6. Nf3 b6

This move has been criticized and seems inferior to the more usual 6...h6 or 6...Nbd7. But let's not overdo the point. Outstanding as Pillsbury's play was in this game, he did not refute 6...b6, and this move by Marco remains a reasonable variation. Marco lost because of his later errors [and Pillsbury's genius], not because of this move.

7. Bd3

An interesting transposition. Pillsbury's usual move here was, and probably the best move is, 7. cxd5. However, and as is pointed out by Sergeant/Watts in the book of Pillsbury, since Marco did not take the c-pawn on his next move and cause Pillsbury to lose time recapturing with his Bishop, the move order here made no difference.

7... Bb7
8. cxd5 exd5

The older move, 8...Nxd5, was perhaps a bit better, but there is nothing significantly wrong with the text.

9. Ne5

9. 0-0 immediately was theoretically best, but I wouldn't want to try to persuade Pillsbury of this. Putting his Knight on e5 when playing the White side of the QGD was a Pillsbury specialty. He was so effective with this maneuver that the thought of his doing anything else seems absurd. This game is yet another in the collection of Pillsbury brilliant victories after playing Ne5 in the QGD.

9... Nbd7

9...Ne4 is a good alternative, but the text was certainly reasonable. After all, Marco does have to develop his b8 Knight.

10. f4

A good argument could be made for 10. Bf4, but the text is a move Pillsbury knew well. As with 9. Ne5, I cannot imagine him playing anything else here.

10... c5

Marco said after the game that 10...Ne4 "came into consideration," and indeed Schiffers played 10...Ne4 against Pillsbury at Vienna 1898, but --while I too prefer 10...Ne4, there is nothing wrong with the text.

11. 0-0 c4

Much ink has been spilled over this move, which has been universally condemned (e.g., by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book, by Sergeant-Watts in their book on Pillsbury, and by Marco himself. The move is also criticized by euripides and syracrophy in their respective comments on the game on this site, both of whom quite properly contend that Marco's move unduly releases the central tension and allow Pillsbury a "free hand" on the King's side.

But once again, let's not go overboard, the move is not all that bad, and Marco had--if not equality--a quite playable game even after 11...c4.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Does Pillsbury have the better game here? Of course. Does he have anything close to a won game? Most certainly not.

Given that 11...c4 was not best, what was? Rosenthal, Sergeant-Watts, and syracrophy all advocate 11...cxd4 with further exchanges in mind. Was that better than the text? Very likely. Would Pillsbury still have had the better game? Of course.

The best move here was 11...h6. After that move, neither 12. BxN nor 12. Bh4 seem to give Pillsbury any significant advantage.

12. Bc2

Perhaps 12. Bc2 was best.

12... a6?

"So as, after Qf3 (threatening Nxc4) to be able to protect the c4 pawn with b5." (Marco).

Marco's comment notwithstanding, this move was a serious mistake (and his first truly bad move in the game). As syracrophy aptly notes, this move is a "too slow counterplay." Best for Marco here was 12...h6. After the text, he faces--at the very least--loss of a pawn.

Pillsbury's reply now was obvious--and quite powerful"

13. Qf3!

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marco is clearly walking a tightrope here. Pillsbury threatens 14. Nxc4. How should Marco have dealt with this threat?

I will discuss this key issue in this game in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  ChessHigherCat: <KEG> I'll stay tuned to see what happens, it looks like a real mine field!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Was Marco lost after his 12...a6? and Pillsbury's powerful 13. Qf3!

Probably not, as I will attempt to show. But he most certainly was lost after his next move:

13... b5?

Marco is trying to stop 14. Nxc4. But the remedy was worse than the disease.

According to Marco, he had foreseen the game through 16...hxg6 but had missed Pillsbury's excellent 17th move.

On this account, Marco seems to be conceding that he was lost after 13...b5. Did he have anything better?

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book and Alapin in his analysis (quoted by Marco) both opt for 13...Re8. This does not save the c-pawn, but it just might have saved the game. A likely continuation might have been 13...Re8 14. Nxc4 Ne4 15. BxN dxB 16. Qg4 Nf6 17. BxN BxB 18. Ne5 b5 19. Qd7 QxQ 20. NxQ Be7 21. Nc5 Bc6 leaving the position as follows:

click for larger view

Pillsbury would be up a pawn here, but Marco would have had the two Bishops. Is this position a win for Pillsbury, perhaps but probably not. Obviously more analysis is required. One thing is for sure, 13...Re8 as recommended by Rosenthal and Alapin for far better than Marco's 13...b5, which led to total disaster.

In any case, back to the actual game.

14. Qh3 g6

This move was a sad necessity, but Marco had no alternative. As Tartakower-DuMont and syracrophy (on this site) have shown, 14...h6 gets crushed by 15. Bxh6! And 14...NxN gets crushed--as syracrophy has also shown here--by 15. dxN Ne4 16. NxN dxN 17. Rad1 Qe8 (17...BxB 18. RxQ BxR is slightly better for Black than syracrophy's line, but also hopeless) 18. BxB QxB 19. Rd7.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Here Pillsbury played the universally acclaimed:

15. f5!

"A fine break-through." (Tartakower-DuMont).

For quite a while I thought Marco had a possible defense to 15. f5 and that perhaps Pillsbury should have just strengthened his already overpowering position with 15. Rad1. But lengthy analysis supplemented by a deep search by Fritz 15 has convinced me that Pillsbury's move is a winner in all variations.

15. Rad1 probably also wins, but Pillsbury's move is absolutely best. Black has no defense.

15... b4

15...NxN was better, and for quite a while I mistakenly thought Marco might have escaped with this move. But after 15...NxN 16. dxN Ng4 17. f6! Bc5 18. QxN Pillsbury would be up a piece with a clearly won game.

The text, however, is even worse.

16. fxg6 hxg6

As syracrophy has pointed out, 16...bxN lands Black in a mating net with 17. RxN!

The position was now:

click for larger view

According to Marco, he had foreseen this position all the way back on Move 11 when he played 11...c4. He thought Pillsbury here would have to play 17. Ne2 and that he (Marco) would have a playable position. Pillsbury, however, had seen farther and had a much better 17th move in mind as I will discuss in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Pillsbury's finish was brilliant and brutal:

17. Qh4!

"Singling out Black's weak point" (Tartakower-DuMont).

17. Nxg6! also wins (17...fxg6 18.Bxg6 and Black's days are numbered). But Pillsbury's move is even prettier.

17... bxN

"Other moves do not help." (Marco).

Black is beyond hope, whatever he does." (Sergeant-Watts).

As Rosenthal has pointed out, if 17...NxN (even worse than the text) Pillsbury would have won with 18. dxN bxN (18...Nh5 might be slightly better, but nonetheless hopeless) 19. exf6 (or 19. RxN!).

18. NxN QxN

If Marco wanted to play on, he had to try 18...Nh7, though after 19. BxB QxN 20. bxc3 his position would still be beyond hope.

After the text the position was:

click for larger view

Pillsbury now finishes neatly.

19. RxN! a5

"Marco tries a defense with the Rook on the third rank, but it's now too late." (syracrophy).

20. Raf1

"More decisive was the immediate 20. Bxg6 [which forces mate]." (syracrophy).

20... Ra6

20...Qe8 might have slighly prolonged the game, but, as syracrophy says, it would have been "useless."

"In this position [i.e., after 20...Ra6], as some magazines have reported, Pillsbury should have announced mate in eight moves." (Marco).

21. Bxg6!

"A fresh exploit." (Tartakower-DuMont).

21... fxB
22. RxR+ BxR

"Only now did White announce mate in six moves." (Marco).

"Of course Black did not wait any longer for the horrible finish." (Marco). [23. RxB+ KxR 24. Qh8+ Kf7 25. Qh7+ Kf8 (if 25...Ke6 26. Qxg6 mate, if 25...Ke8 26. Qg8 mate) 26. QxQ (and mates in two).]

Bravo Pillsbury!!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <KEG> Thank you for the detailed analysis!

<shalgo: Yes, 6...b6 is an inferior move order. But 6...h6 7.Bh4 b6 (the Tartakower variation) is black's best line in the QGD.>

Not sure about this. What is the difference? I played the Tartakower many times with 6...b6 (I believe 6...b6 is officially the Tartakower variation, with or without h6), but I generally would also play the moves Marco didn't make: h6, Re8, Ne4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Fusilli>I am delighted that you found my analysis to be of use.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: A very pretty attack - 17 Qh4 is very clever move - tougher to find than the concluding tactics.
Oct-22-21  RookFile: If you want to learn how to play the queen's gambit this is a good choice for game #1 to study.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: I'm familiar with the Logical Song but I don't see a nexus to this game. Regardless, it's a nice tune.

Supertramp -The Logical Song

As there have been no comments today and precious few lately, I have to wonder where everyone is. The supposed GOTD fans who can't abide a lower quality game for the sake of a higher quality pun have been MIA lately. I mean, they insist this is the gathering point, and they need a strong game to discuss, but I ain't seeing much gathering lately....

Sep-06-22  Brenin: Great game, weak pun (Chernev's book?), good song.
Premium Chessgames Member
  al wazir: 18...Nxd7 19. Bxe7 Qe8 makes the win a little harder.
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: In my day, Black's Queen side pawn formation after 8...exd5 was considered almost always inferior, no matter how the rest of the position appeared. These days, Super-GMs routinely use the a7, b6, c7, d5 pawn formation. Chess marches on--fortunately.
Sep-06-22  nalinw: Must be Chernev's book .... I suppose that is some connection .....
Premium Chessgames Member
  Teyss: <syracrophy> <KEG> Many thanks for your great analyses.

<OhioChessFan> With such thorough and relevant comments there isn't much to add. I think CG is right to sometimes unearth relatively famous games enlightened by analyses so we can brush up our classics and technique. Sometimes it's also good to have "fresh" games we can bite into.

Now, since you're talking about lack of comments in general you have a very valid point but it's a vast debate.

Re. the pun: <Lawrence: In "Logical Chess Step by Step" Irving Chernev says that this game more than any other showed the world the tremendous potential of the Queen's Gambit.> And Pillsbury wins playing a Pillsbury, logical indeed. So game 10/10, pun 7/10.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: 21.Bxg6 forces quick mate but 21.Rxa6 Bxg5 22.Qxg5 Bxa6 23.Rf6 wins too.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: Classic game. If either player was known for being a hobo the pun would take a step up.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Teyss: <Check It Out> 👍 Or we could say Marco got very much tramped on.
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