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James Mason vs Isidor Gunsberg
"The Best of the Best" (game of the day Oct-06-2016)
6th American Chess Congress, New York (1889), New York, NY USA, rd 6, Mar-30
Italian Game: Giuoco Pianissimo (C50)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: See the journey of black Knight after Mason's 19th move, which produced a weakness on d4: Nf6-h5-g7-e6-d4 and see Knight's effectiveness on that post in cooperation with heavy pieces. It is very instructive.
Jun-09-04  iron maiden: "Best game prize, 1889?" What happened to the daily pun?
Premium Chessgames Member It's not always a pun! Usually, but not always. But if you insist, how's this:

"Mason Jarred"

Jun-09-04  JSYantiss: *groan*
Jun-09-04  weary willy: Hey, I want one of those fancy avatars
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Was 19.g3 forced? If yes, then it appears that Mason was already lost, which is remarkable, given that this looks like such a "quiet game." Perhaps White should not have played 15.ef5 and instead allowed doubled K Pawns?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <An Englishman> 20.g3 was not forced but quite comprehensible move. It prevents Nf4.
Jun-09-04  Calli: Apparently, White can defend with 24.Ng2! Raf8 25.Ref1 covering the weak spots, at least for the moment.

Yep, Nb3! cemented Mason's loss ;->.

Jun-09-04  Calchexas: *groan* stop it already...

BTW, I think the entire time this was going on, I'm like, 'Alterman Wall...set up an Alterman Wall...'

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: This is an odd exception to the rule that three defenders stop three attackers;black's neat cut-off of white's queen by his knight is neat!

James Mason may have had to "Journey to the center of the earth" to see such a fine ending. Or go "North-By -Northwest" double ha ha!!

Jun-09-04  Chesspatch: Question: Why 18 ... g6 and not Nh5 immediately? Is there a trick I don't see? And also, what's the immediate threat of a knight sitting on f4? Thanks, good day.
Jun-09-04  Andrew Chapman: <Why 18 ... g6 and not Nh5 immediately?> He needs g7 free for the knight's tour to d4.
Nov-07-05  korger: Does anyone know any reasons why this game was awarded the brilliancy price in the 1889 NY Congress, as opposed to Showalter vs Gossip, 1889?

Though this is a solid game, there's nothing extraordinary about it, let alone "brilliant." Compare this to those spectacular fireworks which Gossip has unleashed upon his opponent, and I just cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that the dice were heavily loaded in Gunsberg's favor when the committee made their decision.

I know that Gossip was very unpopular whereas Gunsberg enjoyed the support of many benefactors, but their chess should not be judged by their personality or social background. This is an outrage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <there's nothing extraordinary about it, let alone "brilliant."> 29...Nb3!! is a neat shot with a beautiful interference+pin geometrical motif after 30.Re2 Rxf2+ 31.Rxf2 Nd2+! and all the game was also positionally very comprehensive. I like Gossip's combo very much and I know that many people would prefer that game instead of this one but I think that the quality of this game is higher. Shovalter against Gossip made several very weak moves and also Gossip did not act perfectly all the time (for example, see his Ne5-g4-e5 manoeuvre in moves 18 and 19). That could have been decisive for the tournament committee, especially under influence of ideas of ruling Steinitz's positional school.
Nov-08-05  Calli: The Gossip game is a fine combination but almost a helpmate by Showalter! There is the great ending, but very little of interest in rest of the game. My favorite game of NY 1889 remains Max Weiss vs W Pollock, 1889 It also won a prize.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Calli> Yes, that game is a little gem. And of course, this game is no showy fireworks before its ending but I don't think that the rest of the game lacks interest. Gunsberg's play was very powerful here and his exploitation of weakness d4 makes this game quite worthy as an instructive material for chess students.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: The paralysing move 28...Qe3 reminds me of Leko's 25...Qd3 versus Kramnik. It is like watching a bridge collapse.

Kramnik vs Leko, 2004

click for larger view

May-09-08  whiteshark: "For winning this game Mr. Gunsberg was awarded the special price of $50 donated by Messrs. Frank Rudd and Fred. Wehle for the best game of the tournament."

from the tournament book

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: As whiteshark said, the tournament committee awarded this game the best-played game prize. That was a highly controversial decision. Soltis writes that "there were many raised eyebrows" when the tournament committee awarded the prize to this game rather than Showalter-Gossip, cited by korger. Soltis, Chess to Enjoy, p. 197. It may have been a sort of extra consolation prize for Gunsberg, who finished third at 28.5 points, just half a point below the tournament co-winners Chigorin and Weiss (easily the greatest triumph of the latter's career). G.H. Diggle wrote, "Gossip was, of course, the last man to keep quiet about this decision, and for once he had considerable public sympathy on his side." G.H. Diggle, "The Master Who Never Was," British Chess Magazine, January 1969, p. 1, at p. 2. Calli referred above to Weiss-Pollock, a very nice game that won the brilliancy prize. (Very nice game by Pollock, that is; Weiss obviously had an off day.)
Feb-05-10  backrank: Very nice methodical and instructive play by Gunsberg in exploiting the weakness d4 created by White's positional blunder 19. c4. Observe how towards the end, White's moves choices become more and more limited.
Oct-20-10  sevenseaman: ,,,29. Nb3, an excellent exploitation of opportunity, aim being to have one defender less for f2 point; instructive.
Jan-16-15  poorthylacine: Le Lionnais annotated this game in the following way, as typical example of the "wholes theory":

"8.a4: creates on b3 a whole which will be exploited 21 moves later; 18..g6!: creates on f6 and h6 tywo wholes in the castling; but it is not grave, as long White has no more black color bishops; 19.c4: creates on d4 a grave central whole;
19...Nh5: begins the trip towards the whole d4;
20. g3: creates on f3 and h3 two wholes in the castling; and it is very grave, because Black has still the dark color cases bishop; 20...Bh3: occupation of a whole in the castling; White does no more control his own camp. 25...Nd4: occupation of the central whole. White does no more control his own camp.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: A great win by black. The knight causes havoc for white's communications on the second row.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <CG> -- < But if you insist, how's this: "Mason Jarred" >

Mason often was, apparently. I recall references to him playing in 'an hilarious condition' and falling asleep during play.

Yet he was capable of playing extremely well. His loss here was partly a result of Gunsberg's tactical blows -- but also because he badly misplayed the opening, allowing Black to gain space and initiative via exchanges in a way no modern player would permit.

Feb-04-23  SymphonicKnight: That this game won the prize for Best Game of this gigantic tournament shows how far chess had come to value accurate positional play during the reign of Steinitz as World Champion while he was living in America. It is true that perhaps Showalter-Gossip may have won the Brilliancy Prizes of the past due to the astonishing combination that concluded the game, but by 1889 the "Modern" school of Steinitz had grown to be appreciated by those awarding best game prizes and Steinitz himself may have been an advisor in the judging.

The accuracy of Gunsberg in winning was about 96 to Mason's 86, while Gossip's was about 87 to Showalter's 74. The game which received the second award in this tournament, which was possibly named a brilliancy award, was given to Pollack in Weiss-Pollack, with an accuracy of 91 for Pollack and 76 for Weiss. These are from the chesscom Review tool at 22 ply.

Gossip's win is great as a brilliant and deep puzzle rush combination stemming from blunder, Pollack's as a humanly difficult combination to assess but nevertheless startling, and Gunsberg's game as a gem in accuracy and judgment at the time. Decisive games themselves tend to have lower accuracies, and so Gunsberg's logical theoretical play at such an accuracy made a great impression on those who had been taught such strategy by Steinitz, and on Steinitz himself, as he writes in his great tournament work, "The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress : containing the games of the international chess tournament held at New York in 1889," 'Winding up with a master coup of extraordinary depth and beauty. The whole game is a splendid specimen of Mr. Gunsberg's strategical skill in open positions' -- Steinitz

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