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Geza Maroczy vs Jackson Whipps Showalter
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 10, Aug-04
French Defense: Steinitz. Bradford Attack Variation (C11)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-20-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: What was shaping up as an interesting game came to a sudden end when Showalter blundered away a piece on move 23.

Maroczy came into this 10th round game a half-point behind Pillsbury and Schlechter. Since Pillsbury and Schlechter both won their 10th round games, Maroczy needed a win to remain within a half-point of the lead.

Showalter came into this game tied for 6th with Janowski and a point and a half behind Maroczy. His loss here ended his chance of achieving a high prize at Munich 1900.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. e5

The Steinitz Variation. Although Maroczy was known as a great defensive and end-game player, he could mix it up tactically when necessary and played variations like 4. e5 here when the occasion demanded. Here, Maroczy needed a win, so he by-passed the normal and solid 4. Bg5.

4... Nfd7

"After 4...Nfd7, the fixed pawn center gives Black sufficient counterplay by means of c5 and f6." (Gligoric in his book on the French Defense). This explanation highlights why 4. Bg5 is the usual move against the Classical French.

5. f4

"The most natural move which Steinitz himself preferred." (Gligoric).

5... c5!

The best way to combat the Steinitz Variation. It gives Black approximately even chances.

6. dxc5

6. Nf3 is most usual here. It can lead to "sharp variations" according to Gligoric. 6. Nf3 is nonetheless probably best. But 6. dxc5 can also lead to sharp play for White, and has been played by--amongst others--Pillsbury in his win against Lasker at Nuremberg 1896; by Pillsbury against Albin at Budapest 1896 (a game Albin won and that may well have cost Pillsbury first place); by Pillsbury in his 1898 match against Showalter; by Tarrasch four times in his 1905 match against Marshall (2 wins for White and 2 draws); and by Bobby Fischer at Curacao 1962 (Fischer won).

6... Bxc5

The alternative (6...Nc6) is preferred by Gligoric.

7. Qg4

Playing the same sharp line with which Pillsbury had lost to Albin at Budapest 1896. Janowski lost with this move against Alapin at MOnte Carlo 1901 (a loss which almost cost Janowski first place). Maroczy played this again in his win over Napier at Monte Carlo 1902. 7. Qg4 was also Fischer's move in the game against Benko cited above.

7. Nf3, however, is probably safest and best. But Maroczy was playing for a win here, and this is likely the explanation for his choice.

7... g6

7...0-0, as played by Benko against Fischer, is probably best.

The position was now:


click for larger view

8. h4?!

Maroczy continued to court complications. 8. Bd2 or 8. Nf3 were both good for equality.

8... h5

8...Qb6 would have been more testing for White.

9. Qg3 Nc6

He could also have played 9...Qb6.

10. a3

A needless precaution. 10. Bd2 was better.

10... BxN

I do not understand why Showalter decided to trade off his nicely developed Bishop for Maroczy's Knight on g1.

10...a6 or 10...Ne7 were better.

11. RxB

The position was now:


click for larger view

So far, a closely contested game in which Maroczy had been the aggressor. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, Showalter quickly brought about an endgame, which was usually a bad idea when the opponent was Maroczy. In this contest, however, the decision to reduce to an endgame is not why Showalter lost.

Jan-20-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11... a6

11...Nd4 and 11...Ne7 were also good options for Black here.

12. Qf2

"!"--Tournament Book.

This does prevent 12...Nd4 and anticipates Qb6, White could also have played 12. Bd2 to be able to castle long. 12. Rh1--getting the Rook off the a7..g1 diagonal and freeing the Queen from defending the h4 pawn was also a possibility.

12... Qb6

Black avoids a number of tactical problems by getting the Queens off the board, but White gets a noticeably better endgame. On balance, 12...b5 looks better.

13. QxQ

Maroczy at Munich 1900 always seemed happy to get to the endgame. In addition, trading Queens here looks best.

13... NxQ

That White has the better chances in this endgame is clear from the following diagram:


click for larger view

White has the two Bishops and Black's Bishop is a miserable specimen at this point. But how can White make progress?

14. Be3

"!"--Tournament Book.

14. Bd3 was also good, but Maroczy's move posed awkward questions for Black. Showalter responded with the reasonable:

14... Nd7

The question, is whether Showalter, rather than further clogging up his position, should have played 14...d4. As the Tournament Book's analysis shows, White gets a good game after 14...d4 as follows: 15. Bf2 dxN 16. BxN cxb2 (inferior is--again citing the Tournament Book's notes-- 16...Ne7 17. bxc3 ["!"--Tournament Book] Nd5 18. Bd4 ["!"--Tournament Book] Nxf4 19. c4 ["!"--Tournament Book and White is much better) 17. Rb1 with a small edge for White.

Both 14...Nd7 and 14...d4 have their points. Showalter's move is perhaps sounder, but I always prefer active play and would opt for 14...d4.

15. Bf2

White has several reasonable plans available. 15. Ne2 and 15. 0-0-0 are the beginning of two such other plans.

15... Ne7

15...f6 is--as Gligoric has noted--one of the themes of Black's play against the Steinitz Advance variation and was probably best here.

16. Nd1

This move, characteristic though it was of Maroczy's remarkable powers of defense and anticipation, seems to go one step too far in its caution. 16. Bd3 and 16. b4 both seem better. 16. 0-0-0 was also to be considered. After Maroczy's 16. Nd1, the position was:


click for larger view

Maroczy may still have some advantage here, but the line-up of his pieces does not look very impressive with only his Bishop having advanced beyond the first rank!

16... Nf5

While Showalter's move was not terrible, the thematic 16...f6 still looks best.

17. c4

I guess Maroczy played 16. Nd1 so he could play 17. c4. But I am still not all that impressed by White's position. 17. Ne3 or 17. Be2 look better than the text.

17... dxc4

The Tournament Book devoted considerable analysis into the possibility of 17...d4 here. Like the text, it seems to result in approximately equal chances.

A) If then 18. Bd3, Black is fine after 18...Nc5, although the follow-up line given of 19. BxN (14. Bc2 was better and sufficient for equality, the text seems to allow Black to get the better game) 19...exB (19...gxB would be better).

B) The crucial line after 17...d4 begins with 18. b5, and if 18...a5 19. b5 and White is somewhat better. This appears to be best play after 17...d4.

18. Bxc4 b5
19. Bd3 Bb7
20. Rc1 Rc8

Black should perhaps first play 20...f6

21. RxR BxR
22. Ne3

This left:


click for larger view

White still has a small edge but Black should probably be able to hold the game. From here, however, and as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Showalter erred and then blundered and was dead lost after his 23rd move.

Jan-21-19  Straclonoor: <he could mix it up tactically when necessary and played variations like 4. e5 here when the occasion demanded. Here, Maroczy needed a win, so he by-passed the normal and solid 4. Bg5.> 4.e5 - Steinitz variation - solid positional move like 4.Bg5.

Yes, Maroczy played a lot games with this variation black&white.

I.e. - R T Whitehead vs Maroczy, 1923

Jan-21-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Straclonoor>Quite right. Maroczy did play this variation when seeking to avoid a draw (e.g., his game against Napier at Monte Carlo in which his win provided the margin he needed to edge out Pillsbury and Janowski for first place). Maroczy is known as a strategist, but he could slug it out in a tactical duel when he needed to do so.
Jan-21-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

22... Nc5

"?"--Tournament Book.

While this was not the most prudent choice (22...Bb7 or 22...Ke7 were better), it was not the reason Showalter lost this game, so I'm not sure it deserved the "?" it received in the Tournament Book.

23. Bb1

"!"--Tournament Book.

The poison in this clever move was apparently overlooked by Showalter:


click for larger view

White threatens 24. NxN unleashing a discovered attack on the Black Knight on c5 (this Showalter obviously noticed) and also begins the process of restricting the squares available to that same Black Knight.

It is here that Showalter made his fatal blunder:

23... Na4

"??"--Tournament Book.

Showalter should have played 23...Nb3 (23...Nb7 also saves the piece, but is less active and inferior).

The winning move here is so lovely I give another diagram:


click for larger view

24. Nd1!

The Black Knight on a4 is now trapped, since the White Knight on d1 both protects the b2 pawn and prevents Black's Knight from escaping to c3 after 25. b3. It is remarkable that Maroczy was able to pull this off with all of his pieces on his first two ranks.

24... Bb7
25. b3

Black now loses his Knight. The balance of the game is of little interest other than to see how quickly and efficiently Maroczy finished off the game.

25... Nc5

If Showalter wanted to play on, 25...Nxh4 was better than the text.

26. BxN Nxh4
27. Kf2 Nf5
28. Nc3 h4

A desperate and futile bid to make something out of nothing.

29. Be4

Blocking Showalter's only strong piece--his b7 Bishop.

29... BxB
30. NxB h3

Black is quite lost anyway, so criticizing this last move may be pointless. To be able to survive for even a little while Showalter had to get his King and Rook out of the box.

31. Rd1!

This left Showalter in a bind from which there was no escape:


click for larger view

With mate in one threatened [32. Nf6 mate], Showalter had no time for 31...h2 or 31...hxg2.

A nice finish by Maroczy.

1-0

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