Members · Prefs · Laboratory · Collections · Openings · Endgames · Sacrifices · History · Search Kibitzing · Kibitzer's Café · Chessforums · Tournament Index · Players · Kibitzing
Mikhail Chigorin vs Isidor Gunsberg
Monte Carlo (1902), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 7, Feb-13
French Defense: Chigorin Variation (C00)  ·  1-0



Get this game explained with Decode Chess
explore this opening
find similar games 32 more Chigorin/Gunsberg games
PGN: download | view | print Help: general | java-troubleshooting

TIP: You can get computer analysis by clicking the "ENGINE" button below the game.

PGN Viewer:  What is this?
For help with this chess viewer, please see the Olga Chess Viewer Quickstart Guide.


Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: Dynamic and inventive play by Chigorin creates a complex middlegame in which he outplays Gunbsberg. Gunsberg has a correct plan of defence but fails to play the precise sequence of moves allowing his opponent to sacrifice with devastating effect.

Chigorin obtains no advantage in the opening from his patented set up. He then creates complications by pushing his <e> and <f> pawns which Gunsberg mishandles. <25...g5?>.

click for larger view

<25... Rxd1> 26. Rxd1 g5 (<26...fxe6?> loses after 27. Qg6+ Kg8 28. Nh5) 27. Nd5 f4 28. Nxe7 fxg3 29. Nxc8 Bxc8 30. Rd6 Nd4 31. Nxd4 cxd4 32. exf7 gxh2+ 33. Kxh2 Rxf7 34. Rxd4 Rf2 =

If <28...hxg5?>, then 29. Nxg5+ Kh8 30. Qe5+ Kg8 31. Nxe6 Rf7 32. Rxd8+ and wins

Gunsberg's whole defence from move 29 misfires as he failed to see Chigorin's N sacrifice. He had to take the B and try to hang on as there was no immediate knock-out blow.

<32.Ng5!> artfully wins Backs' Q.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Tchigorin and Gunsberg were long-time rivals. In 1890, they drew a 23-game match (nine wins each plus five draws). Going into this game, they had played 28 times with each player having won 11 with 6 draws). But this was the first time they contested a French Defense with Tchigorin's favorite (but doubtful) 2. Qe2. Since he regularly got lousy position from this line, why did Tchigorin continued to play this opening variation.

This game supplies a likely answer. Tchigorin must have known that he did not theoretically good positions from 2. Qe2. But what he DID get were complicated positions that he often understood better than his opponents. This is what happened here. By move 20, Tchigorin had achieved a complicated position that probably was not theoretically favorable for White but was one he UNDERSTOOD better than Gunsberg, who thereafter fell apart, after which Tchigoriing tore Gunsberg's position apart with neat tactical strokes.

1. e4 e6
2. Qe2?!

Here we go again.

2... Nc6

Best is the more usual 2...c5. The text, however, was frequenly played and is hardly a mistake.

3. f4

Overplaying his hand. The simple 3. Nf3 was best.

After 3. f4, the position was:

click for larger view

Already a nearly novel position. No wonder it was hard to play against Tchigorin.

3... Nge7

It is hard to explain Gunsberg's reluctance to play the simple 3...d5 immediately.

4. Nf3 d5

click for larger view

5. d5?!

Still playing for complications and disdaining the more normal looking 5. d4 or 5. d3.

5... d4!

click for larger view

6. Qf2

If White spends two of his first seven moves to bring his Queen to f2, the opening has not gone well for him/her.

6... Nb4?!

Gunsberg was understandably anxious to play c5, but this can't be right. But settling on the best plan is not easy for Black when confronted by Tchigorin's exotic play. Perhaps 6...Qd5 or 6...b6 even 6...Ng6 should b considered.

7. Na3

Either this or 7. d3 had to be played. But this need suggests that White's play was flawed, difficult as it is for Black to find an effective counter.

The unusual opening positions was now:

click for larger view

7... c5

In his zeal to play c5, Gunsberg ignored the almost certainly better 7...Nec6.

The Tournament Book raises question about the prospects for Black after 7...d3 8. c3, but Black's game if now 8..Nbd5 9. Qd4 Nf5 10. Qxd3 BxN 11. bxB Bd7, while definitely playable, is nothing to cherish.

8. c3 Nbc6
9. Bb5

click for larger view

While hardly Fischer random chess, this position casts both sides on their own resources. All in all, Tchigorin, who enjoys whatever edge exists at this point, was probably not displeased.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

9... a6!

Why do I give this seemingly poor move an "!" ? After all, 9...Nd5 (and probably 9...Bd7) were surely better. But against Tchigorin, who preferred Knights to Bishops, the text led to:

10. BxN+ ?

This looks dreadful. 10. Nc4! was strong (if 10...axB?? 11. Nd6+ followed by 12. Nxf7), and even 10. Be2 was better than the text. But this kind of exchange was bread and butter to Tchigorin.

10... NxB

click for larger view

By any objective standard with which I am familiar, White is now worse (whereas he would have been better placed after 10. Nc4). But Tchigorin had his two Knights, and was most likely happy with the situation.

11. Nc2

11. 0-0 or even 11. b3 looks better than this, but, as always, Tchigorin had his own ideas. And it is easy for me to say all this since I am typing merrily away on my computer and not sitting across the board from Tchigorin.

11... Be7

Gunsberg seems to have been intimidated and played passively rather than trying to go after Tchigorin with 11...d3 or 11...b5. Even 11...b6 looks superior to the text, but Gunsberg now seems happy just to have survived the opening.

The position was now:

click for larger view

12. b3

Contrary to the analysis by the Tournament Book, 12. cxd4 was surely better. If then 12...cxd4 White could play 13. d3 with an approximately equal game. Of course if White continued 13. Ncxd4, he would get crushed--as the Tournament Book pointed out--by 12...Bc5.

12... dxc3

"?"--(Tournament Book).

I see nothing terribly wrong with the text. The Tournament Book is correct that 12...d3 is a good alternative (as was 12...0-0), but Black is entirely OK after the text as well.

13. dxc3 0-0

Perhaps even better was 13...Qd3! (14. Qd2 Qg6 [or 14...QxQ+ 15. BxQ] 15. 0-0 0-0 and Black is probably better.

14. 0-0

click for larger view

14... Qd3

The Tournament Book was probably correct that the multi-purpose 14...Qc7 was stronger, but the text was certainly also OK.

15. Bb2 b6

Playable, but 15...Qf5 or 15...Qe4 or 15...b5 were likely somewhat better.

16. Rad1

16. Ne3 immediately looks like a better way for White to untangle his forces.

16... Qg6

16...Qf5 or 16...Qe4 were perhaps more accurate.

17. Ne3 a5

In his zeal to play Ba6, Gunsberg created a hole on b5. It was probably best just to continue with 17...b5 (or maybe 17...Rb8)

The position was now:

click for larger view

18. Rfe1

A needless reshuffling. 18. Nd2 (eyeing c4) was a better way to try to punish Gunsberg for his somewhat rash 17...a5.

18... Ba6

Having said "A," Gunsberg should have said "B" and played 18...a4 with about equal chances.

19. Bc1?

An over-refinement. 19. f5 immediately, or maybe 19. c4, would have given Tchigorin the sort of attacking prospects he loved (and that he soon got in this game thanks to Gunsberg's upcoming weak play).

19... Rad8

19...Bd3 was a good alternative.

After 19...Rad8, the position was:

click for larger view

For all the ups and downs of the game to this point, Gunsberg had achieved a decent (even if not superior) position. But this sort of position with complex attacking potentials was much more to Tchigorin's liking. It is remarkable how quickly from here Tchigorin managed to outplay Gunsberg and blow him off the board.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG>, ever see 2....Be7 in response to Chigorin's idea, as played in L Day vs I Kourkounakis, 1980, a game annotated by the winner many years ago in <Chess Canada>? In the 1980s, I tried it at least once.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious>2...Be7 was apparently the brainchild of Tarrasch, who played it six times in his match against Tchigorin. It was later played by Alapin, including in his game against Tchigorin at Monte Carlo 1901.

While 2...c5 is probably best, your move is also good, and the fact that Tarrasch played it repeatedly against Tchigorin speaks volumes about its merits.

I should probably have mentioned the possibility of 2...Be7 in my annotations here, so thank you for mentioning this important alternate line.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

20. f5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

click for larger view

While 20. f5 is strong and arguably best, 20. Nd2 also has its points.

What is most important, however, is that even after the text Black still has excellent play and the game--viewed objectively from afar--was still developing and very much in doubt. But Gunsberg was sitting opposite Tchigorin, one of the greatest attacking geniuses in the history of chess. His forthcoming play suggests he was terrified.

20... exf5

20...Qh5 was also sufficient--theoretically--for approximate equality.

21. Nd5

click for larger view

Whatever its actual merits, White's position looks formidable, and Gunsberg soon panicked.

21... Qe6
22. c4

click for larger view

22... h6

22...Bb7 or 22...Bc8 or maybe 22...a4 were likely better, but the game was still far from lost for Gunsberg at this point.

23. Qg3 Kh7

Black had to play this or 23...Qg6 because of the potential Bxh6 otherwise.

24. Nf4

Here Tchigorin missed the stronger 24. Bb2, giving Gunsberg chances.

24... Qc8

24...RxR was simplest and best for Black here.

25. e6!

click for larger view

25... g5?

Tchigorin's aggression finally caused Gunsberg to crack, and what followed after this blunder was little more than target practice for Tchigorin.

The Tournament Book (after correctly pointing out that 25...fxe6 would get crushed by 26. Qg6+), stated that "other moves also produced nothing." This was earlier refuted by <Chessical> on this site, who pointed out that Black should simply play 25...RxR, after which Black can survive (e.g., 26. RxR Bf6 27. Rd6 a4).

After the text, things just went from bad to worse for Gunsberg:

26. Nd5

click for larger view

26... fxe6?

If Gunsberg wanted to play on, his only even small chance to offer resistance lay in the sacrific 26...RxN.

After the text, the roof truly fell in on poor Gunsberg.

27. NxB NxN

27...RxR 28. NxQ RxR+ 29. NxR RxN 30. Nf3, leaving White with Queen for Rook and two pawns, was also hopeless.

After 27...NxN, the position was:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

28. Bxg5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

The text does indeed win--as do several other moves--and it is flashy, but best of all was 28. Nxg5+ (e.g., hxN 29. Qxg5 RxR (29...Ng8 30. Bb2 is not much better) 31. QxN+ Kg6 32. RxR followed by 33. Rd7).

After 28. Bxg5, the position was:

click for larger view

28... RxR

<Chessical> has shown how Black gets demolished after 28...hxB. I have nothing to add to his analysis.

29. RxR

click for larger view

29... Ng8

As the Tournament Book points out, 29...hxB also loses after 30. Nxg5+ , though Black might hang on just a bit further with 30...Kh6 instead of the Tournament Book's 30...Kh8? 31. 31. Qe5+ winning the house (31...Kg8 32. Nxe6 Rf7 33. Rd3! Ng3 34. Rg3. But in fairness, White also wins after 30...K6 31. Qh4+ Kg7 32. Qh7+ Kf6 33. h4 b5 34. Rd6 bxc4 35. Rxe6+ QxR 36. Qh6+ Ng6 37. NxQ KxN 38. QxN+ and White with Queen for Rook and out of play Bishop should win without difficulty.

30. Bh4

"Threatening Ne5 followed by Rd7+." (Tournament Book).

But much stronger and faster than the text was 30. Ne5. But, yet again in fairness, this was the final move before the time-control, and not even Tchigorin could be expected to see everything over the board. His choice also wins, just not as quickly.

After 30. Bh4, the position was:

click for larger view

30... Rf7?

Gunsberg's best chance to present practical problems for Tchigorin lay in 30...f4!

After the text, Black loses his Queen and the game was over, though Gunsberg played on for a while.

31. Rd8!


31... Rg7

There was nothing better. The position was now:

click for larger view

32. Ng5+

"Artfully winning the Queen." (<Chessical>)

32... hxN

Even worse would have been 32...RxN 33. BxR Qb7 34. Qd6 hxB 35. Rd7+ QxR 36. QxQ+ after which Black's remaining forces (Bishop and Knight) cannot prevent White's lone Queen from wiping out his pawns.

33. RxQ BxR
34. Bxg5

click for larger view

The game was now obviously over.

I will cover the balance of Tchigorin's destruction of the Black army in my next and final post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

34... Bb7

This only speeds the end. 34...a4 or 34...e5 might have enabled Gunsberg to prolong his suffering.

35. h4

A mild inaccuracy by Tchigorin. 35. Qh4+ is faster.

35... Nf6
36. Qe5

click for larger view

36... Ne4

36...Nd2 is the only way to prolong the game, but it would not have changed the outcocme.

37. Qxe6 NxB

Nothing else is much better.

38. Qxf5+ Kh6
39. Qf6+

click for larger view

39... Kh7
40. hxN Be4

The fastest way to lose. But the "better" 40...Bc8 41. Qh6+ Kg8 42. Qxb6 Bf5 43. Qxa5 followed by 44. Qxc5 would not have been any fun for Black either.

41. Qh6+

click for larger view


After 41...Kg8 42. Qe6+ pick up the Bishop.

NOTE: Create an account today to post replies and access other powerful features which are available only to registered users. Becoming a member is free, anonymous, and takes less than 1 minute! If you already have a username, then simply login login under your username now to join the discussion.

Please observe our posting guidelines:

  1. No obscene, racist, sexist, or profane language.
  2. No spamming, advertising, duplicate, or gibberish posts.
  3. No vitriolic or systematic personal attacks against other members.
  4. Nothing in violation of United States law.
  5. No cyberstalking or malicious posting of negative or private information (doxing/doxxing) of members.
  6. No trolling.
  7. The use of "sock puppet" accounts to circumvent disciplinary action taken by moderators, create a false impression of consensus or support, or stage conversations, is prohibited.

Please try to maintain a semblance of civility at all times.

Blow the Whistle

See something that violates our rules? Blow the whistle and inform a moderator.

NOTE: Please keep all discussion on-topic. This forum is for this specific game only. To discuss chess or this site in general, visit the Kibitzer's Café.

Messages posted by Chessgames members do not necessarily represent the views of, its employees, or sponsors.
All moderator actions taken are ultimately at the sole discretion of the administration.

This game is type: CLASSICAL. Please report incorrect or missing information by submitting a correction slip to help us improve the quality of our content.

Featured in the Following Game Collections[what is this?]
Santasiere's "My Love Affair With Tchigorin"
by Resignation Trap
French Defense: Chigorin Var (C00) 1-0 KEG annotates!
from g-pawn/file action-reaction Fredthebear's ECO C by fredthebear
Santasiere's "My Love Affair With Tchigorin"
from Published Games by Year & Unconfirmed Source 28 by fredthebear
Round Seven
from Monte Carlo 1902 by suenteus po 147
0ZeR0's Favorite Games Volume 12
by 0ZeR0

Home | About | Login | Logout | F.A.Q. | Profile | Preferences | Premium Membership | Kibitzer's Café | Biographer's Bistro | New Kibitzing | Chessforums | Tournament Index | Player Directory | Notable Games | World Chess Championships | Opening Explorer | Guess the Move | Game Collections | ChessBookie Game | Chessgames Challenge | Store | Privacy Notice | Contact Us

Copyright 2001-2021, Chessgames Services LLC