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Geza Maroczy vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Munich (1900), Munich GER, Aug-12
Italian Game: Giuoco Pianissimo. Canal Variation (C50)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Oct-15-03  Kenkaku: 25. Nxd1 is a colossal blunder, quite uncharacteristic of player of Maroczy's caliber.
Jul-03-06  notyetagm: Black To Play: 25 ... ?

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Maroczy's previous move was the terrible blunder 25 ♘xd1??. Why is this a blunder? Putting this minor piece on the back rank <INTERFERES> with the communication of the White c1-queen and e1-rook. The White c1-queen is now undefended and lined up with the Black c5-queen through the White c2-pawn.

Therein lies the problem. The only White piece preventing Black from winning a whole queen with ... ♕c5x♕c1 is the White c2-pawn, <BLOCKING> the c-file to cut-off the line of attack of the Black c5-queen at c2.

But if that White c2-pawn <BLOCKS> the c-file, who defends the d3-square against the knight fork 25 ... ♘d3! ? Nobody. With 25 ... ♘d3! Black wins a whole exchange with a simple knight fork due to the pin down the c-file.

<The defensive power of a pinned piece is merely illusory.> The White c2-pawn, <BLOCKING> the c-file to meet the threat of ... ♕x♕, only -pretends- to <DEFEND> the d3-knight forking square.

Jul-03-06  notyetagm: Damn shame: Maroczy loses this game -solely- because his White c1-queen is undefended and lined up with the Black c5-queen through his White c2-pawn.

But such is the nature of tactical errors. No matter how strong you are, if you make a tactical mistake then you lose.

This game is a good reminder that you need to pay particular attention to things being lined up. Things being lined up are as dangerous as things being loose.

Jul-03-06  notyetagm: With 25 ♘xd1?? it looks like Maroczy was planning to activate his knight with a future ♘e3 and then ♘f5.

But this -strategy- contained a major -tactical- flaw which Pillsbury pounced on with 25 ... ♘d3!.

Jul-03-06  RookFile: You play over a game like this, and then look at chessmetrics, which 'reliably' informs us that Maroczy was a stronger player than Petrosian.

Then you grab a beer and get drunk, and wonder why the whole world went crazy.

Jul-03-06  Ziggurat: <You play over a game like this, and then look at chessmetrics, which 'reliably' informs us that Maroczy was a stronger player than Petrosian.> Who says it is reliable? It's inevitable that a rating system like Chessmetrics yields some strange artifacts. Any other rating system assigning retrospective ratings is doomed to absurdities like Suhle being rated higher than Morphy. It's just something we have to deal with.
Jul-03-06  notyetagm: This game is a good reminder that you need to pay particular attention to things being lined up.

<Things being lined up are as dangerous as things being loose because something has to meet the threat because things are lined up by breaking an alignment or keeping a line closed!>

Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Maroczy withdraw from the tournament prize play-off on the advice of a doctor due to exhaustion after this game. His performance in this game seems to back this up.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game--which was to be the first in a series of a six game playoff involving the Pillsbury, Maroczy, and Schlechter who had tied for first place--was a triple tragedy:

1) The usually careful Maroczy committed a dreadful blunder on move 25b which led to his immediate resignation;

2) Maroczy, who was reportedly sick, withdrew from the playoff, accepted a third-place finish, and left Pillsbury and Schlechter to contest a four-game two-way playoff to determine first and second prizes.

3) This game was played on August 13, 1900. The 15th and final round had been played on August 11, 1900. IN between, on August 12, 1900, William Steinitz died. This was thus the first tournament game played in which there was no living former world champion (not counting the time when Steinitz was the first and only official world champion). This remained the case until April 1921 when Lasker resigned his title to Capablanca. Since then, there has always been at least on living world champion. (From 1946 to 1948 after the death of Alekhine, there as a living ex-champion--Euwe--but no current world champion until Botvinnik won the 1948 World Championship Tournament).

Pillsbury and Maroczy had eight head-to-head games before the instant contest, Pillsbury winning three, Maroczy winning two, with three draws.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nc5
4. d3

Trying his hand at the Canal Variation of the Giuoco Piano. A safe but not especially pressing way to proceed as White. Seemingly a safety-first approach by Maroczy to an important contest against so brilliant a tactician as Pillsbury.

4... Nf6
5. Nf3 d6
6. Bg5 h6

Black must anticipate White's threatened 7. Nd5. The text and 6...Na5 are two ways to accomplish this.

7. Be3

This looks doubtful, since it allows Black to "mess up White's hair" with 7...BxB. White has two good ways to proceed here: 7. BxN and 7. Bh4. But contemporaries in the era in which this game was played disagreed. Schlechter played this against Lasker at Paris 1900 (in a game eventually won by Lasker), and the move was a favorite of Albin and the brilliant, mercurial Charousek.

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7... Bb6

Though, as noted above, 7...BxB seems best, the text was the most frequent response to 7. Be3 back in the days this variation was played.

8. Qd2

Giving Black another chance. Maroczy should either have played 8. BxB or else played to avoid the exchange of his c4 Bishop with 8. a3 or 8. a4.

8... Be6

8...0-0 or 8...BxB were theoretically best, but Pillsbury probably preferred to try to keep more pieces on the board.

9. Bb3

He still should have exchanged Bishops (in this case, both pairs). 9. 0-0 or 9. a3 were also better than the text.

9... Qd7

Assuming Pillsbury did not want to initiate the exchange of minor pieces, he might have castled.

10. BxB(e6)

Maroczy finally decided to begin simplifying exchanges.

10... QxB
11. 0-0 Ne7

Struggling to create complications in an increasingly barren-looking position. 11...Ba5 or 11...0-0 look theoretically best.

12. BxB axB

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13. d4

Taking advantage of Pillsbury's eccentric 11th move, Maroczy assumed the initiative (for a short while, at least).

13... Ng6
14. dxe5

14. Rad1, 14. a3, and 14. h3 were all reasonable alternatives.

14... dxe5

Pillsbury at his best. He realized that the superficially better 14...Nxe5 (keeping his pawn structure intact) would have led to problems after 15. Nd4.

After 14...dxe5, the position was:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

15. Rad1 0-0

The game at this stage was pretty much in the balance.

16. Kh1

Needless and a sign that Maroczy was not in good form for this game. 16. g3 was the best way to shore up White's position. 16. a3 or 16. h3 were other possible prophylactic possibilities. The waste-of-time text, however, was hardly fatal.

16... Kh7

16...Qc4 or 16...b5 were better tries to seek the initiative.

17. Ng1

This move was part of a doubtful idea of Maroczy to protect his King-side and e-pawn via f3. Only again, hardly fatal, but yet another sign that Maroczy was out of sorts in this game (as later demonstrated by his blunder on move 25).

17... Qc4

17...Rfd8 and 17...b5 were other ways to try for an advantage in light of Maroczy's tentative play.

18. f3 Nf4

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The initiative at this point lay squarely with Pillsbury, but Maroczy's position remained defensible.

19. Rfe1 Qb4

19...Qc5; 19...b5; and 19...Ne6 were all better tries.

20. Qc1 Rfd8
21. a3 Qc5

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22. Nge2

"22. g3 now instead of two moves later would have been better." (Sergeant/Watts).

While Sergeant/Watts' comment is reasonable, there was nothing terribly wrong with Maroczy's move.

22... N6h5

I would have expected 22...Ne6 from Pillsbury avoiding further exchances. After the text, a draw appeared likely.

23. NxN

23. g3 could have led to interesting complications (and may have been what Pillsbury hoped Maroczy would play. 23. g3 could also have led to a quickie Knight sacrifice and perpetual check , i.e., 23. g3 Qf2! 24. gxN Qxf3+ etc..

23... NxN
24. g3

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24... RxR

Pillsbury had a spectacular way to force a draw here: i.e., 24...Qf2! 25. gxf4 Qxf3+ with perpetual check.

After the text, and with Maroczy to recapture, the position was:

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25. NxQ??

"??"--(Tournament Book)

"Inexplicable, except that the preceding tournament had staled him."

The game would have been level after 25. RxR. The Tournament Book's proposed 25. QxR, though not best, would also have left Maroczy with good chances to hold the game. After the text, however...

25... Nd3!

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Catastrophe! A horrible way for Maroczy to end his otherwise fine play at Munich 1900.


Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

I need to correct my comment that this game was played the day AFTER Steinitz' death on August 12, 1900. Most sources give the game as having been played on August 12, 1900, the same day on which Steinitz died. Thus, the first game played after Steinitz' death (depending on the time of day of Steinitz' death) may have been the first playoff game between Pillsbury and Schlecter played on August 14, 1900.

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