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Johann Nepomuk Berger vs Amos Burn
12th DSB Congress, Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 14, Aug-09
Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch Defense. Symmetrical Variation (D40)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  profK: 40.Ke2 and 41.Rc2 looks a lot better for white.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: By the time of this 14th (next to last) round game, Burn was out of contention for one of the top three places, but lay only a half-point behind Marco for 4th. He was to have White against Marco in the last round, so two wins would give him 4th prize and a draw here followed by a win in the last round would guarantee him at least a tie for 4th place. Meanwhile, Berger was in sixth place, a point and a half behind Burn but only a half point ahead of Janowski, Cohn, and Wolf.

Berger was a tough man to beat at Munich 1900. He was the only competitor to win a game against one of the top three finishers and had the best record against these top three (having beaten Maroczy and drawn against Schlechter earlier in the tournament and holding Pillsbury to a draw in their crucial final-round game).

In this context, Berger seemed to be looking for a draw despite having White. By move thirty, with the players having Bishops of opposite colors, a draw appeared all but inevitable. But weak play by Berger thereafter allowed Burn to obtain a slightly superior ending, and then unbelievably awful endgame play by Berger allowed Burn to win what should have been a drawn ending.

1. d4 d5
2. e3 c5
3. c4 e6
4. Nc3 Nf6
5. Nf3 Nc6
6. Bd3

Relinquishing any advantage from having the White pieces.

6... Bd6

Burn could have achieved easy equality with 6...dxc4 or 6...cxd4


Berger could have obtained a small edge with 7. dxc5 or 7. cxd5

7... 0-0

Trading pawns (either exchange) would again be a better road to equality for Burn here.

8. dxc5 Bxc5
9. Qe2 dxc4
10. Bxc4 e5

Best. After the text, White (Berger) had at most a tiny edge.

click for larger view

11. Rfd1

11. Ng5 followed by 12. Nge4 was the only way for Berger to keep any advantage. The text, like much of the rest of the first 30 moves in this game, shows Berger's lack of ambition in this encounter. He was obviously satisfied with a draw even though this would guarantee he couldn't finish higher than 6th place.

11... Qe7
12. e4 Bg4
13. Be3 Nd4

13...Rac8 was a good alternative, but Burn decided to try to make something of the pinned White Knight even though this allowed Berger to trade off two pairs of minor pieces.

14. BxN BxB
15. Nd5 NxN
16. BxN

The game already has become sterile and a draw must have seemed likely:

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16... Rac8
17. Rac1

Looking for more exchanges. 17. Rd3 was slightly better.

17... Rc7
18. h3 BxN

This sure makes the position look like a draw, since there were now Bishops of opposite colors. But I see nothing better for Burn.

19. QxB Rfc8

19...Bxb2 does not win a pawn (20. RxR QxR 21. Qb3).

20. RxR RxR

click for larger view

It sure looks like a draw here, but--as Berger was soon to demonstrate--even a Bishops of opposite colors ending with equal pawns and equal chances can be lost with sufficiently sloppy play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

21. Qe2 Qg5

Burn tried to make something of nothing, but for a while this got him nowhere.

22. Qd2 Qf6

Recognizing that a Queen trade was no way to win.

23. Rf1 g5

A desperate attempt to complicate. It led nowhere.

24. Qe2 Kg7
25. g3 Qb6
26. Rb1 h6
27. Kg2 Rc5
28. Bc4 Rc6
29. b3 Rf6
30. Rf1 Qc5

At this stage, neither side had made any significant progress:

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31. Qd2

"?"--(Tournament Book)

Perhaps 31. a4 to be ready for 31...b5 was somewhat better, but I see nothing wrong with the text. The game still seems like a clear draw.

31... b5

This move paid unexpected dividends.

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32. Bd3

Although White should still be able to hold the game with ease after this move, 32. Bd5 was better and it is hard to see how Burn could have made progress after that. The precarious position of the White Bishop on d3 gave Burn a few tricks.

The Tournament Book suggests that 32. Bd5 would run into trouble after 32...Qa3, but Berger would then have been just fine with 33. f4.

32... a6
33. Qe2 Qc3
34. Qc2

"?"--(Tournament Book)

Once again, I don't understand the Tournament Book. White should certainly be able to hold the Bishops of opposite colors ending if Black trades Queens, and should also be fine if Black tries to avoid it with 34...Qa5.

34... QxQ
35. BxQ

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The Tournament Book notwithstanding, this still looks like a draw to me.

35... Rc6
36. Bd3 Rc3

This looks a tad scary, but Berger should have been able to hold the position with ease.

37. Rd1 Kf6
38. Kf3

38. Rd2 was simpler. as was 38. Bb1, but White is still in no real trouble.

38... Ke7
39. Rd2 Kd6
40. Kg4

The text is better than profK's suggested 40. Ke2, which leaves White OK but under a bit more pressure after 40...Kc5.

40... Kc5

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The game was still a pretty clear draw at this point. But starting on his next move, Berger's play was unimaginably bad. It took a few blunders from the above-diagrammed position, but Berger managed to maneuver himself into a lost position very quickly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

41. Kh5?

This sortie by the Black King was unnecessary and probably fatal. Quite apart from the loss of the f-pawn, the text is the first step towards the loss of the White e-pawn and Black's winning advance of his own e-pawn.

profK's 41. Rc2 also loses the f-pawn, but after 41...RxR (41...Kb4 may be even better) 42. BxR Bxf2. White would retain decent chances to hold the Bishops of opposite colors ending.

But best of all was 41...Bc2. Black here also wins a pawn in many variations, but White with Bishops of opposite colors seems to have the draw in hand, e.g., 41. Bc2 Kb4 42. a4 bxa4 43. bxa4 Ra3 44. Rd3 Ra2 45. Bd1 (or 45. Bb3) Rxf2 46. Kh5 Rf6 47. Rb3+ Ka5 48. Rb7.

After the text (41. Kh5?), the position was:

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41... Bxf2

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42. RxB?

From bad to worse. Berger was in trouble after his bad 41st move, but now he goes from the fire pan into the fire. He had to play 42. Rc2! The Bishops of opposite colors ending would then be at best very difficult to win (e.g., 42. Rc2 RxR 43. BxR Bxg3 44. Kxh6 Bf4 45. Kg7 Kb4 46. a4 bxa4 47. bxa4 Kc3 48. Bd1 Kd3 49. Kxf7 Kxe4 50. Be2 a5 51. Ke6 leaving:

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Maybe there's a way for Black to win this position, and maybe there is a better line for Black than the one I give above, but I have not been able to find a clear win for Black. After Berger's actual move (42. RxB?), the Bishops of opposite colors go off the board and Black has good chances of winning the Rook and pawn ending.

Back to the actual game:

42... RxB

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43. Rg2??

Incredible. Berger's one and only chance was to swallow his pride and retreat with 43. Kg4. White could then make Burn's task very difficult and just might be able to hang on after that (e.g., 43. Kg4 Kd4 44. Rxf7 h5+ (Black's only chance to play for a win) 45. Kxg5 Rxg3+ 46. Kh4 (not 46. Kxh5 Rxh3+ followed by 47...Rh2) Rd3 47. Ra7 Kxe4 48. Rxa7 Ke3. This is probably still a win for Black. But after the text Black simply picks up the White e-pawn and marches his e-pawn down the board:

43... Kd4
44. Kxh6

44. Rf2 is arguably better, but the outcome would still not be in doubt.

44... Kxe4

click for larger view

The rest was easy.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

45. Kxg5?

This only made Burn's task easier, but the "better" 45. Re2+ or 45. Rg1 did not hold out any real hope.

45... Kf3

The rest was a massacre.

46. Rc2

46. Rg1 might have prolonged the game, but it would not have saved it for White.

46... e4

The Black e-pawn advanced, and there was nothing Berger could do to stop it.

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47. g4 e3
48. Rc7

Hopeless, but so was everything else.

48... f6+!


49. Kxf6

Berger was not a pawn ahead, but it did him no good:

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49... e2
50. Re7 Re3

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