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Mikhail Chigorin vs David Janowski
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 10, Feb-19
Ponziani Opening: Jaenisch Counterattack (C44)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-17-08  Knight13: Two very strong/useful bishops vs two pathetically chased back knights. And we all know that Janowski loved bishops over knights and Chigorin vice versa.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: No wonder Alekhine recommended that the young Arturo Pomar be given a collection of Janowski's best games to school him in the use of the bishop pair.
Oct-30-09  FHBradley:

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No wonder white knights look so pathetic in this game; they don't have any good squares in this position. I wonder whether Chigorin's preference of knights over bishops was so unqualified as to be oblivious to the pawn structure of a given position.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Going into this 10th round game, Janowski and Tchigorin, along with Schlechter and Alapin, were vying for top honors. Janowski was nominally in first place going into this contest with 7 points, but Tchigorin--with 6.75 points with two drawn games to replay (each worth 1/2 a point) seemingly had the inside track. Schlechter, with 6.25 points with one replay (with Tchigorin) outstanding was also very much in contention, as was Alapin (with 6 points plus two replays).

Prior to this game, Tchigorin was one of two players who were still undefeated (Alapin being the other). This game changed all that, and his loss to Schlechter in their replayed game of the next round effectively ended his chances for first place. His final round loss to Mieses left him tied for third behind Janowski and Schlechter.

As for Janowski, he was the only player through 9 rounds not to have drawn a single game (and thus had not had the burden of any replays under the rules in effect at this tournament). That record remained intact through this game (though he finally had to settle for a (105 move) draw with Marshall in the next round.

For whatever reason, Janowski had a hex on Tchigorin. His lifetime record against the Russian was 15 wins, 5 losses, and 5 draws. Much of that, however, came at the end of Tchigorin's career. Going into this game, Janowski's edge was only 6-4 with one draw.

During the period 1895-1900, Tchigorin--on almost any reckoning--was a far greater player than Janowski. But their head-to-head results hardly reflects that. Tchigorin's problems with Janowski began at their first meeting, at Hastings 1895. They met in the penultimate round at which time Tchigorin was in first place a half-point in front of Pillsbury. But then he got crushed by Janowski, and wound up in 2nd, a half-point behind Pillsbury. Similarly here, had Tchigorin defeated Janowski, he quite likely would have won the tournament.

How to explain all this. From the comments on this site, and from the analysis by Mason in the tournament book, it would appear that the answer lay in Tchigorin's love of Knights as opposed to Janowski's strong preference for Bishops. Mason suggests that--as a result of Tchigorin's quirky preference for Knights over Bishops, he was in trouble from the outset here.

I find myself the odd man out. Tchigorin managed quite well with his Knights against most of the top players. And his choice of the Ponziani Opening in the current game had nothing to do with his defeat. While I will try to show this in my notes on the game, a preliminary point suggesting that I am correct comes from Schlechter, who played Janowski two rounds later (in the game that finally decided first place). Schlechter must have known of this 10th round game. Yet he repeated Tchigorin's moves until Janowski varied on move 9. Like Tchigorin, Schlechter allowed Janowski to trade Knight for Bishop on move 7. Obviously, he did not think Tchigorin's loss had anything to do with preferring Knights over Bishops.

In fact, Tchigorin was fine through at least move 29 (Mason's commentary notwithstanding), and for much of the early going was actually better.

Tchigorin lost the game because of a later (move 30) trade of Bishop for Knight followed by his suicidal play beginning with 31. c5? The Tournament Book claims that Tchigorin had mistakenly thought he was better at adjournment (after move 30). Whether it was arrogance (as Mason suggests) or a miscalculation (my best guess), Tchigorin's game quickly went from better, to equal, to bad, to hopeless in the span of just a few moves.

Janowski's big lifetime plus against Tchigorin is most likely explained by the fact that 14 of their 25 games were played after Tchigorin was well past his prime. Janowski ate Tchigorin up at the end of the latter's career.

Anyway, on to the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. c3

Ponziani's Opening, which became a Tchigorin favorite despite what occurred in this game. It was highly favored by Showalter. It is certainly playable, but not a great way for White to fight for an advantage against a prepared opponent.

3... Nf6

3...d5 is a better way for Black to try to seize the initiative. The text is also often played,

4. d4 Nxe4

4...exd4 is probably best, but the text is most usual.

5. d5

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5... Nb8

"The interesting sacrifice 5...Bc5!? leads to unclear play after 6. dxN Bxf2+ 7. Ke2 bxc6 [7...Bb6 is much better and leads to better chances for Black than does 7...bxc6] 8. Qa4 f5.' (Cherniaev and Meynell ["C/M"] commenting on Janowski's game with Schlechter two rounds later in their book on Janowski).

6. Bd3

The simple 6. Nxe5 may be best, as pointed out by Sittenfeld in the Tournament Book. 6. Nxe5 is also the choice of MCO-13. One problem with the text is that it allows Janowski to trade Knight for Bishop. Needless to say, this was not a problem for Tchigorin. The text is actually not bad at all, and was played--as already noted--two rounds later by Schlechter with full knowledge of what happened in this game and of the fact that the Knight for Bishop trade was likely to follow.

6... Nc5

"This move seems very strong and preferable to Nf6." (Sittenfeld)

7. Nxe5 NxB+
8. NxN

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So Janowski has traded Knight for Bishop. But is Tchigorin's game all that bad as so many commentators seem to think? Schlechter obviously didn't think so; nor do I. Fritz gives White a small edge. Stockfish gives Black a tiny edge.

All in all, it is hard to believe anyone would strongly prefer Black's undeveloped game at this point. I don't play the Ponziani. But if I could be guaranteed this position, I might change my mind. The advanced d-pawn is not so weak as to overcome the obvious fact that White is better developed. Indeed, none of Black's remaining pieces has yet moved.

8... Be7

"8...d6 is also playable." (C/M)

9. 0-0

"9. Qg4 deserves attention." (C/M)

But not much attention. C/M's line of 9...0-0 10. Bh6?! [This leads to trouble, 10. 0-0 is good enough for equality] Bf6 11. d6 [11. Be3 is better] leaves Black better placed after either the awkward looking 11...cxd6 or 11...Nc6.

9... 0-0

Janowski varies here with 9...d6 in his game with Schechter, suggesting that Janowski--like Schlechter--did not think there was anything so great about the result of the opening here for Janowski against Tchigorin.

10. c4

"The QN could be developed via d2 and there was no need to support the d-pawn this early. Chigorin wishes to do battle but does not find the best way." (Mason).

"10. f4 or 10. Qf3 followed by Re1 and Nbd2 were better." (Tournament Book).

The position after 10. c4 was:

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There were other possible approaches for Tchigorin on his 10th move, but the text was certainly not bad or a mistake.

All this questioning of Tchigorin's judgment smacks of the worst form of Monday-morning quarterbacking. Yes, Tchigorin eventually lost this game. But nothing to this point was the reason, and using the game as a vehicle to impugn Tchigorin's judgment is--in my view--absyrd.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Or should I say, "absurd."

10... d6
11. Nc3 Nd7
12. Re1 Re8

Less dynamic than one might expect from Janowski (maybe 12...Bf6 or 12...Nb6 or 12...Ne5) but OK.

13. Bf4

He might have anticipated Janowski's next move with 13. b3, but the text was not bad.

13... Nb6

"!"--(Tournament Book)

I fail to see anything brilliant about this move, or any reason to think that Janowski's position was in any way superior:

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If anything, White is slightly better here.

14. b3 Bf5
15. Qd2

15. Qf3 is perhaps a tad better, but this is mainly quibbling. Both sides have played well to this point, and the game was one I would expect either of these great players to have won against most opponents. And I bet they both were happy and comfortable. Janowski had his beloved two Bishops, and Tchigorin had his Knights.

15... Nd7

"This Knight gives great service to Black, but it would be less good if White had not lost so much time with his pawns." (Mason)

Really? Here was the position:

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Janowski's Knight was reasonably poised to hop to c5 or e5 or to get to the King-side via f8. But it hardly dominated the board. Nor was it superior to Tchigorin's Knight on d3. (which also controlled both c5 and e5.

16. Rac1

"The Russian champion was in a bad position. [KEG--huh???]. This is clearly a further loss of time [It turned out that way, but was far from inevitable at this time--KEG]. Black will not exchange his Bishop for the Knight. as a result this Rook move is useless as the continuation shows." (Mason)

Oh come on! Tchigorin's position was not "bad" here.

16... Nf8
17. Re2 Ng6
18. Bg3

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The game still looks pretty much in the balance to me.

18... h5

"Janowski plays well, probably encouraged by the passive [???--KEG] play of his opponent." (Mason)

I like 18...h5 and agree that Janowski had played well, but the rest of Mason's rant was nonsense.

19. h3 h4
20. Bh2 Kh7
21. Rce1

So as it turned out Tchigorin lost a move with 16. Rac1. That's the closest I can come to criticizing Tchigorin's play to this point.

21... Bg5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"Black has achieved the better position through the powerful Bishop pair." (Mason):

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Reasonable minds might disagree about the evaluation of this position (Fritz and Stockfish both give White a bit of an edge.

However one comes out on where the game stood at this point, the notion that Janowski had played brilliantly while Tchigorin had played like a dolt just won't wash.

Perhaps most importantly, I would have wagered that both players were happy as larks with how the game stood here. Janowski's Bishops were working nicely in tandem. But Tchigorin had his Knights and space and center controls with his pawn chain.

The game was decided by what occurred a few moves down the line. Had the players replayed the game from this point, it is hard to know who might have prevailed on a replay.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

22. Qd1

"If 22. RxR BxQ Black wins a piece." (Mason)

True enough.

"22. Bf4 would block the Bishop." (Mason)

Yes, but Janowski would then have simply played 22...RxR with about equal chances.

Tchigorin's move maintains the tension on both sides. It sure looks like best play to me.

22... RxR
23. QxR

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"White controls the e-file but cannot profit from it." (Mason)

Come what may, Mason was unable to say anything nice about Tchigorin in this game;or to stop praising Janowski's supposed "brilliance."

In reality, the game was still interesting and unbalanced with the result very much in doubt.

23... Bh6

This can't be right. 23...Qd7 was best.

24. Ne4

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"The White pieces are badly placed and the Black ones are generally superior. However, the draw was again possible if White had not been so set on winning..." (Mason)

So at last Mason noticed what was actually happening. For all of Janowski's supposed brilliance and for all of Tchigorin's supposed fumbling, Mason admits that--with best play--the game would likely end in a draw. All in all, an acknowledgment that most of his prior analysis was looney.

In fact, 24. Ne4 was not best for Tchigorin here. Best was either 24. Qf3 or 24. c5.

24... Qd7
25. Qf3 Re8
26. Kf1 a5
27. a4

"Better 27. Nc3." (Mason)

Nonsense. This would lose any edge Tchigorin still enjoyed after 27...BxN+.

27... b6
28. Re2

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28... f6

"!"--(Tournament Book)

Huh? 28...f6 was not a blunder. But worth a "!"? Hardly. There were better ways to play for equality (e.g., 28...Re7; 28...Qc8; 28...BxN).

The position was now:

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Tchigorin was certainly not worse here, and it remained hard to guess how this game would end.

From this point, however, misjudged the position, got in trouble,and blundered into a hopeless situation all in a small number of moves.

In my next post on this game, I will examine where Tchigorin actually went wrong.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

29. Ke1?

Hard to understand. With 29. Ne1 followed by 30. Nc2, Tchigorin would have been fine. The text tangles up his own forces. But his overall situation was not all that bad---yet.

If 29. Ne1 Ne5 (not best, to be sure), then Tchigorin would have been had some real threats after 30. Qh5.

29... Ne5!

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"Black has not made a mistake. The exchange if the Knight increases the advantage." (Mason)

Mason was correct that trading off the Knight was good for Janowski, but there was more than one way for Tchigorin to initiate this trade.

30. BxN?

Definitely the wrong way. Perhaps Tchigorin's preference for Knights led him badly astray here. More likely, he thought he could launch a Queen-side attack if Janowski recaptured with the d-pawn. If so, he badly misjudged the result.

30... dxB!

If 30...fxB, Tchigorin would have had much the better chances. But Janowski correctly recognized that he would be fine after capturing with his d-pawn.

"Black allows his opponent a pawn majority on the Queen's side. White had little time in which to turn this into a favorable game." (Mason)

After 30...dxB, the game was adjourned in the following position:

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Tchigorin reportedly thought he was better here. This may explain his next overaggressive move, after which he was lost:

31. c5?

"?"-(Tournament Book)

Tchigorin would have had a playable--if difficult--game after 31. Qh5 (correctly favored by Mason). But now:

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"This advance compromises his position seriously and it is doubtful whether he cold save the game afterwards." (Hoffer)

This says it all.

"This move would win is Black replied 31...Qxd5." (Mason)

Well--duh--31...Qxd5?? would have been a beginner's mistake. It loses the Queen after 32. Nxf6+. Tchigorin couldn't have counted on Janowski to have fallen for that transparent sort of trap.

31... Bg6

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"Black now demonstrates the win in an interesting and instructive style." (Mason)

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32. c6?

Continuing with his hopeless plan and allowing Janowski to rip the White pieces to shreds. Tchigorin might still have been able to make a fight of it with 32. Nc3 or 32. cxb6 (though, as Hoffer suggested, Tchigorin was probably lost now whatever he did).

32... Qe7

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"The Queen move threatens an eventual Qa3." (Mason)

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

33. Nb2?

Tchigorin was not himself after adjournment in this game. He was pretty much busted already, but the text made matters a lot worse. He probably had nothing better than making way with 33. Kf1, though he would then have been in major trouble following 33...f5. Perhaps he should have thrown caution to the wind with 33. g4?!

33.... f5!

Janowski was not in his element with his two monster Bishops.

34. Nd2

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I've heard of good Bishops and bad Knights, but this was ridiculous. And it soon got even worse for Tchigorin's feeble Knights.

34... Qc5

This was murder, but 34...e4! was probably even more immediately devastating.

35. Qd3?

Tchigorin seems punch-drunk at this stage. His best try was probably 35. Nd1 (awful as that looks), but in fairness to Tchigorin everything was hopeless for him at this point.

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35... e4

This certainly does the job, but 35...Bh5 was simplest. But perhaps Janowski (the all-time lover of Bishops) didn't want to win the exchange. In this position, he may have thought his g6 Bishop was stronger than Tchigorin's e2 Rook.

36. Qc4 Qd6
37. Nd1?

Tchigorin had nothing better than the (also hopeless) 37. Qd4. But the text left an amusing position:

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In case you thought Tchigorin's Knights couldn't look more feeble, how does this diagram make them appear? But wait, it got worse for Tchigorin's horses:

37... Bh5


38. Nf1?

38. Ne3 was the only real alternative to resignation. But had Tchigorin played that, we would have been deprived of a chance to view the following position:

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Janowski's Bishops were now so all-powerful I bet he was almost sorry to win the exchange here with:

38... BxR
39. KxB f4!

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In this dreadful position, Tchigorin should have spared himself the coming massacre.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

40. f3?

Just awful, but Tchigorin must have been playing on momentum here, and perhaps praying for a miracle that was not to be forthcoming.

40... Qg6!

A sledge-hammer blow.

41. Nf2

Hopeless, but it is hard to suggest a decent move for White here.

41.. Qxg2

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What followed for Tchigorin from here was not pretty.

42. fxe4 f3+
43. Ke1 Bf4!

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44. Ng4 Qxh3

44...f2+ would also have been a killer.

45. Nfe3 BxN

Janowski must have been sad to part with his final Bishop. But a win is a win.

46. BxN Qg3+
47. Kd1

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Playing this out could not have been much fun for Tchigorin.

47... f2

Even faster would have been 47...h3 or 47...Qg1+

48. Ke2

48. Kd2 or 48. Kf1 might have allowed Tchigorin to prolong the agony a bit.

48... Qg1

Janowski may have been enjoying himself too much to pull the trigger with the cruel 48...h3

49. Nf1

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An interesting puzzle (autopsy might be the better word): How many different ways could Janowski win from this position?

49... Qg2

The slow boat. Janowski still deferred playing h3. What follows after the text is painful to watch:

50. e5 Rxe5+
51. Kd2 Qxd5+

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In this completely hopeless position, Tchigorin finally decided to call it a day.

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