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Mikhail Chigorin vs James Mason
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 11, Feb-21
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Anderssen Variation (C77)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-08-05  paladin at large: The unassuming looking 57. b3 is a fine move, leading to exchange of queens and rooks and clearing the way for an advantageous ending - but I am not sure it was worth the work!
Apr-26-06  soberknight: Mason played another 144-move contest vs. Mackenzie.
Feb-07-13  Mostolesdude: the rook is trapped!......(1st comment in more than 4 years,, go me!!)
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: At first glance, 77...Rd1 was the losing move. No idea why Black took the Rook off the 5th rank.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Great patience by Chigorin - he takes 52 moves after capturing the final black pawn to entrap the Black rook.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <soberknight: Mason played another 144-move contest vs. Mackenzie.>

In so doing, Mason thereby created the basis of the Jacqueline Susann novel <Once Is Not Enough>.

Wonder whether Mason was also the inspiration for Susann's <The Love Machine>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: Was 97...Rg6 really played? White simply plays 98.Bxg6 and wins.

139...Ka8 is the losing move. Black can play 139...Kb7 140.Bd5 Rg5 141.a6+ Kc7 and draw.

After 139...Ka8, best may be 140.a6 Rg5 141.Kb6 Rb5 142.Kc7 Rd5 143.Be2 Rg5 144.Bf3 Rg3 145.Bd5 Re3 146.Kb6 Re6 147.Bc4 Rf6 148.Bb3 Rd6 149.Bf7 Rf6 150.Bh5 Rf4 151.Be8 Ra4 152.Ne7 Ra3 153.Bd7 Rb3 154.Kc7 Re3 155.Nc8 Rc3 156.Bc6 Rxc6 157.Kxc6 Kb8 158.Kb6 Ka8 159.Nd6 Kb8 160.Nb5 Ka8 161.Nc7 Kb8 162.a7 wins for White.

142.Be4 should draw. White wins with 142.Be6.

Now 142...Rb2 loses as the rook gets trapped. Black can draw with 142...Re1.

After 144.Bc2 Kb7 145.Kc4 and 146.Kc3 wins the rook.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I'll bet it was 97...R-N7.
Oct-19-15  tjipa: I wonder if this has been thoroughly analyzed in some endgames book or Chigorin's games collection. Definitely feels like there was monstrous shuffling to and fro without much sense, until the luck struck in the end. A kind of Carlsenesque game.
Jan-19-17  Straclonoor: <tjipa: I wonder if this has been thoroughly analyzed in some endgames book or Chigorin's games collection> In two - both in Russian language. 'Mikhail Chigorin' by Mikhail M Yudovich Sr. (endgame only) and '120 selected games of Chigorin' by N.Grekov
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A long, sometimes tedious, but also often fascinating marathon struggle in which Tchigorin finally came out on top after 144 moves.

Tchigorin had been undefeated for much of the tournament, but had just lost two games (to Janowski and Schlechter) going into this contest against Mason.

Tchigorin pressed hard for a win throughout the game, often getting into trouble, and then in what most spectators and other contestants thought was a dead drawn ending. How Tchigorin extricated himself from trouble and then persevered and finally managed (with a little help from Mason) to win is a story worth recounting in detail.

The analysis here by <wwal> of the endgame is generally excellent, and I was persuaded to scrap some of my initial conclusions about the ending after reading his post on this site.

The score is almost certainly fouled at move 97, but that does not detract from the analysis of the balance of this game.

By winning this extended struggle, Tchigorin kept himself in contention for a top finish, and as late as the final round he still had a mathematical chance to win the tournament, and he would have finished 2nd had he won his final round game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. d3

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This Steinitz favorite (though not as popular of late as compared with 5. 0-0) was used successfully by Bobby Fischer in his game against Smyslo at the 1965 Capablanca Memorial. It looks harmless at first sight, but--as Fischer proved--can turn into a strong weapon for White unless Black is careful.

5... d6

5...b5 immediately is the main alternative. 5...Bc5 is also good.

6. c3

Fischer's choice as well. It was played by Steinitz and Showlater and ---interestingly--by Mason on at least four occasions. Also good are 6. c4; 6. 0-0; and 6. BxN+. The text was recently played by Fironzja against Carlsen.

6... Be7

6...g6 is most popular. 6...b5 is also good for Black. Smyslov played the text against Fischer.

7. h3

As so often in the Ruy Lopez, this move is useful here for White. Fischer played 7. Nbd2. Most usual is 7. 0-0. The text, however, serves both offensive and defensive purposes, and I like Tchigorin's choice.

7... Bd7

OK, though 7...b5 or 7...0-0 may be best.

8. Nbd2 b5
9. Bc2

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While this exact position has not (to my knowledge) been reached in any other games, it is similar to many Ruy Lopez formations and looks ominously (for Black) like the beginning of the sort of "Spanish torture" by which many players have been crushed.

9... d5?!

Mason, rather than submitting to the usual Lopez pressure, decided to take the bull by the horns and attempt a counter-punch. 9...0-0 or 9...h6 appear indicated, but it is hard to admiration for Mason's effort to make a fight of it rather than sit back and wait to see how Tchigorin intended to try to strangle his army.

10. Qe2

Much as Tchigorin liked playing Qe2 as White, and though White retains the edge after the text, 10. d4 was much better and seems to give White excellent prospects. 10. exd5 was also stronger than the text.

10... dxe4
11. dxe4

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Despite avoiding the stronger 10. d4, Tchigorin retained an edge (though slight) even after his less ambitious play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: Mason had chances to give up his rook for the last white pawn, leaving Tchigorin to mate with knight and bishop.

Did the best players then all know how to mate with knight and bishop? Or in this case was the black king on squares that would have made it simpler?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <saffuna>I am quite sure Tchigorin knew how to mate with Bishop and Knight. But this ending, as I will attempt to show, was especially difficult. Among other things, since Tchigorin's pawn was a Rook's Pawn, there were all sorts of problems, including the risk of advancing his pawn prematurely and allowing Mason to draw by trading Rook for Bishop and leaving White in a classic drawing situation with Knight and advanced a-pawn with the adverse King guarding the Queening-square and White having no way to avoid stalemate.

There were other stalemate problems for Tchigorin to address as well.

I will do my best to work through these in my coming posts on this very difficult game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11... Bd6
12. Nf1 Be6

12...0-0 or 12...h6 or even 12...Ne7 were probably better, but the text was also quite playable.

13. Ne3 Ne7
14. Ng5

The beginning of a doubtful scheme by Tchigorin. He could have slowly built his game with 14. 0-0 or 14. a4.

14... Bd7

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15. g4?!

Tchigorin would still have been just fine after 15. 0-0, but he somehow thought he could just blow Mason away with a coffee-house King's side attack.

15... h6?

Missing his chance to get the better game with 15...Bc6 or 15...0-0 and needlessly creating weaknesses in his pawn structure.

16. Nf3 Bc6
17. Ng2

Having said "A" (15. g4) Tchigorin might as well have said "B" (17. g5) immediately. The text gave Mason an opportunity to regroups.

17... Ng6

Not the way. 17...Qc8 or even 17...a5 or 17...Qb8 were better.

18. g5 hxg5
19. Bxg5

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19... Qd7

Solid, but 19...b4 was a chance to seize the initiative.

20. Ngh4 NxN
21. NxN

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21... Nh5

Chances would have been about even with 21...Nh7

22. 0-0-0

Tchigorin's plan was now obvious: All-out assault on the King's side. The questions were:(a) how to accomplish this for White; and (b) how to defend for Black.

22... g6

Either this or 22...f6 was--sadly--necessary.

23. Nf3

Getting sidetracked. Tchigorin should either have gotten on the open file with 23. Rhg1, or gotten his King to safety with 23. Kb1.

23... Qc8

The idea of bringing his Queen to d7 to gang up on White's e-pawn was not terrible, but 23...f6 looks better, putting the question to the White g5 Bishop when White had no Rook on the g-file.

24. Qd3

24. c4 had to be considered here.

24... f6
25. Bd2

25. Be3 was clearly better.

25... g5

Mason might also have regrouped with 25...Qd7.

The position was now:

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The game was still very much in the balance. But beginning here, Tchigorin--in his zeal to win--got sloppy and brought himself to the brink of defeat.

Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: <keg> I agree the ending was difficult with the rook pawn.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

26. Bb3

This hardly aided Tchigorin's King-side attack. 26. h4 or 26. Rhg1 were better.

26... Qb7

This double attack in the White e-pawn was easy enough to meet. Mason should have kept the White Bishop from occupying e6 with 26...Qd7 (followed gy 27...0-0-0.

27. Rde1?

Utterly misguided and tangling up White forces horribly. the simple 27. Bd5 would have led to an appromixately equal game. But now:

27... 0-0-0
28. Be6+ Kb8

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29. Qe2?

Tchigorin might still have salvaged the situation and retained attacking chances with 29. h4. After the text, Mason had three excellent (and probably winning) plans:

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29... Ng7?

Hard to believe. Instead of this lemon, Mason could have played:

A) 29...b4 with superb chances of a Queen-side invasion (b3 and Ba4 could follow); or

B) 29...Nf4, pretty much forcing 30. BxN gxf4 after which White's position, at best, would be pitiful; or

C) 29...Qb6 (with Nf4 coming).

The text (29...Ng7) let Tchigorin off the hook (and not for the last time in this game), and only chased Tchigorin's Bishop to a better square.

30. Bg4

All of a sudden, Tchigorin's game had gotten new life:

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30... Rdf8?

Giving up any chance to play for an edge. In fairness to Mason, this was the final move of the time control, so he may not have had sufficient time to evaluate the likely best line: 30...Ne8 31. Nxg5 fxN 32. Bxg5 Rc8 33. BxR QxB (leaving Black with two minor pieces for Rook and two pawns but with much the superior prospects because of his two Bishops.

If Mason lacked the time on his clock to enter the above thicket, he could have retained some advantage with 30...Be7 or 30...b4. After the text, Tchigorin was just fine:

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This position is hard to assess. What is clear is that--in the coming phase of the game--neither side found the best lines.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

31. Rhg1

Missing his best chance of equalizing through active counterplay: 31. h4!

31... Rc8
32. Nh2

This plan to expend three moves to bring his Knight to g3 can't be right. Probably best to conceded his last move was bad and just play 32. Rh1.

32... Bc5

Having played the doubtful 29...Ng7, he should have tried the indicated 32...Ne6.

33. Nf1

Relentlessly following his poor plan of repositioning his Knight. Given Mason's lost move, 33. Be3 was simplest and best.

33... Re7

By-passing yet another opportunity to play Ne6.

34. Ng3

Still fixated on his poor idea. He had many superior options: e.g., 34. Qf4; 34. b4; 34. Be3 to name just a few.

After the text, let's see what Tchigorin has accomplished with his Knight thumpings:

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Not much. White certainly has no advantage here.

34... Bd7

Mason also appears to have been in a fog (and seeing ghosts in his concern about Nf5 by White). Yet again, Ne6 was best for Black.

35. Rh1

And now the Rook goes back to h1. 35. Be3 or 35. Rd1 were much better.

35... Qb6
36. Be3 Qc6

Another mystery move. Mason would have had somewhat the better chances after trading Bishops (either pair!) or 36...Ne6.

37. Rd1

37. BxB(c5) was probably best.

37... Be6

37...Ne6 or 37...BxB+ were better.

38. Kb1

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Play had been a bit loopy for the last several moves, but everything had balanced out and chances in this complicated position remained about even. The question now was, who would initiate the seemingly inevitable trade(s) of Bishops.

38... Bf7

Not Mason, although he probably should have done so.

39. Rd2

Not Tchigorin, though 39. BxB was best.

39... Bg6

And now it was Mason's turn to spurn the indicated Bishop trade.

40. BxB


40... QxB

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All of a sudden, it was Mason's position that looked more vulnerable. But could Tchigorin take advantage?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

41. Rhd1

This was one way to proceed. But 41. Qf3 looks even stronger.

41... Ne6
42. Rd5

42. Qf3 was still best. 42. Bf5 and 42. a4 were also probably superior to the text.

42... Qc6

Keeping the pressure on f2 with 42...Qb6 was better, especially now that Tchigorin's dark-square Bishop was off the board.

After 42...Qc6, the position was:

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43. Qd2

Tchigorin could have avoided Mason's coming shot with 43. Qe3. If then 43...Nd4 44. Rd3 (But obviously not 44. cxN? QxR).

The text gave Mason the opportunity to seize the initiative with a neat dombo:

43... Nd4!

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Now it was Tchigorin who was in peril. He didn't dare play 44. cxN because of 44...QxR. Even worse for Tchigorin, the move 45 time control was approaching. Yet Tchigorin found the only move to keep his game afloat:

44. Ka1!

Now came a series of exchanges that yielded a small plus to Mason:

44... Bxe4
45. NxB QxR

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Time control had passed,but Tchigorin still had to weave his way out of jeopardy. 46. cxN? would have been fatal after 46...QxN. But the pin on the Black Knight saved the day for Tchigorin.

46. Ng3 Rd8
47. cxN exd4

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Tchigorin had emerged with Knight and Bishop for Mason's extra Rook and extra two pawns. The position is still probably holdable for White, but Mason was definitely on top. In his next two moves, Tchigorin did not rise to the occasion:

48. a3

This was no time for prophylaxis. 48. Nf5 was best.

48... d3!

Well played by Mason:

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49. Kb1?

Unbelievable from Tchigorin. He either should have played 49. Nf5 or else made room for his Bishop on the first rank with 49. Rf1 or 49. Rg1.

Mason took immediate advantage:

49... Re5!

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Things certainly looked grim for Tchigorin here, and Mason may well be said to have had a strategically won game at this point.

But it was here, in this difficult moment, that Tchigorin's genius suddenly came to the fore, and the way in which he outplayed Mason and obtained the better game is instructive and pleasing to behold.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

With 50...f5 coming from Mason, 50. Bh5 superficially seems to be indicated. But Tchigorin looked deeper into the position, and discovered practical chances that Mason (as the sequel shows) had not imagined.

50. Rc1!

Making room for his Bishop on d1.

50... f5
51. Bd1 f4?

Imagining his pawn advance on both wings will quickly overwhelm Tchigorin, Mason missed the superior 51...Rd6 or 51...Rd7.

52. Nf1!

It required both great courage and superb judgment for Tchigorin to hunker down to the defense like this in such a situation:

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Defending the White position here looks like a thankless task. But just watch Tchigorin's magic at work.

52... Qd6?

At first glance, this move doesn't look all that bad. But Tchigorin quickly demonstrates that the loss of time ruined Mason's winning attack. Just watch how Tchigorin repositioned his pieces and turned the tables:

53. Qc3! c5
54. Nd2!

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54... c4

Mason's steamroller still seemed to be rolling. But...

55. Bf3!

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All of a sudden, the position looks double-edged. And Tchigorin's ace in the hole has yet to be played.

55... Rde8
56. Ka2 R8e7
57. b3!

"The unassuming-looking 57. b3 is a fine move, leading to the exchange of Queens and Rooks, and clearing the way for an advantageous ending."

This comment by <paladin at large> on this site (apart from the suggestion that the resulting ending was truly "advantageous" for White, says it all. A glance at the board reveals the amazing resurrection of Tchigorin's chances:

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57... cxb3+
58. Kxb3!

Far better than 58. Nxb3 Rc7 59. Qd2 RxR 60. NxR Re8 61. Qxd3 QxQ 62. NxQ Rd8 with a much better ending for Black than the one he reached in the actual game.

58... Rc7

Now for the saving simplification Tchigorin had forseen:

59. QxR+ QxQ
60. RxQ KxR
61. Be4 Kb6
62. Bxd3

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A very difficult ending for both players has been reached. Material is theoretically even, and both sides have chances.

Remarkably, the game was not even one-half over. In what followed, the most notable feature is Tchigorin's zeal to play for a win. On the face of it, while White is OK, how many players would expect to be able to win this ending from the White side?

Tchigorin's eventual victory is a testament to his creativity and to his determination.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

62... a5

If 62...Re1 63. Nf3 Rh1 64. Nxg5 a5 65. Kc3 Ra1 66. Kb2 Rg1 was another interesting line, but--like the text--seemingly destined to end in a draw.

63. Ne4!

A strong post for the Knight, and one that blocks the Black Rook's access to White's first rank.

63... Kc6
64. f3

Securing the Knight. The Knight on its fine post.

64... Rd5
65. Kc2 Re5
66. Kc3 Rd5
67. Bc2

Trying to avoid repeating the position. But there seemed to be no prospect of winning:

click for larger view

67... a4

Now the Queen-side pawns were pretty much locked in place.

68. Bd3 Kb6
69. Kc2 Re5
70. Kb2 Ka5

Threatening 71...b4.

71. Kc3

Holding the fort!

71... Rd5
72. Bc2 Kb6
73. Bd3 Ka5

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74. Be2

Trying to avoid repeating the position.

74... Bb6
75. Bd3 Ka5

Perhaps Mason overlooked that the position had now been repeated three times. If the rules were as they are today--and this is less than fully clear to me--Mason could have claimed a draw at this point.

76. Bc2 Kb6
77. Kb1?!

This can only be explained as an effort to avoid a draw by repetition of the position. Tchigorin probably rejected 77. Kb4 because of the likely draw after 77...Rd4+ 78. Kc3 Rc4+ 79. Kd2 Rd4+ 80. Kc3 Rc4+

The position was now:

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77... Rd1

" At first glance 77...Rd1 was the losing move. No idea why Black took the Rook off the 5th rank." User <Ohio Chess Fan> on this site.

I respectfully disagree. The text looks fine (in fact, best) to me, and forced Tchigorin to play with great care. Black was most definitely not lost after this move. If anything, he was slightly better.

78. Ba2 Rc1+

This got Mason nowhere. He had no true winning line here, but more interesting would have been 78...Rg1 79. Be6 Ka5 80. Bg4 Rg2 81. Be6 Rg3 [a Rook sacrifice that White obviously could not have accepted] 82. Nd2.

79. Kb2?!

Still trying to lure Mason into troubled waters. 79. Kb4 is simpler, but likely to lead to a draw very shortly.

79... Rf1?!

This loses a pawn, and seems to make a draw inevitable. 79...Rg1 was the only real chance to keep some significant advantage.

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80. Nxg5 Rf2+

Exciting but ultimately leading only to a draw was 80...Re1 81. Bf7 Ka5 82. h4 b4 83. h5 Rh1 84. Ne6 Rh2+ 85. Kb1 Rh3 86. Nd4 Rh1+ 87. Ka2 Th2+ 88. Ka1 bxa3 89. Nc6+

81. Ka1 Rg2
82. Ne6! Rg3
83. Bd5

Tchigorin could also have played 83. Nxf4 immediately.

83... Rxh3
84. Nxf4

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Tchigorin had now secured a pawn, and--nominally--enjoyed a slight material edge. But the position seems a dead draw. But the game was about to take some surprising routes that--after some sloppy play by Mason-- allowed Tchigorin to win another pawn.

But could this position be won by either side?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VIII

84... Rh7

Needlessly making trouble for himself. A draw seems to be there for the asking after 84...Rh1+.

85. Nd3!

The best way to make progress for White. The move both prepares the advance of the White f-pawn and also initiates threats to pick up the Black Queen-side pawns.

85... Rd7

More sloppy play by Mason. 85...Rh2 or 85...Rh5 were better.

86. Be4 Re7
87. Kb1

87. Kb2 or 87. Nb4 were more direct and would have made life more difficult for Mason.

87... Kc7?

Because White's only pawn on the Queen-side is a Rook pawn, this may not theoretically lose. But the planned abandonment of his Queen-side pawns can hardly have been best. Almost any Rook move would have been better.

88. Bg6

Why not simply 88. Kb2 or 88. Kc2?

88... Rg7
89. Be8

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89... Rg3?

Now Black loses both his pawns. Perhaps Mason thought the resulting position was a book draw. Maybe he was even right. But, over the board, he gave Tchigorin hope and--as will be seen--at least practical (if not theoretical) chances to win.

Mason should have played 89...Rg8 since 90. Bxb5? might now even lose (or at least lose the Bishop) to 90...Rb8. After 90. Bf7 Rg3 91. Bd5 Kd6 Black should be able to hold the game. In any case, this would be better than what occurred.

90. Bxb5 Rxf3
91. Kc2

Now the a-pawn must fall.

91... Kb6
92. Bxa4

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Can White win this ending. At best, it is very difficult. Since he had a Rook pawn, Tchigorin had to be careful not to advance the pawn too far prematurely, lest Mason obtain a book draw by sacrificing Rook for Bishop (since a Knight and excessively passed Rook pawn is a draw if the opposing King can reach the corner).

In addition, there are various ways--as we shall see--in which Black can get stalemated. Moreover, Tchigorin had to worry about the 50 move rule, i.e., he either had to capture a piece or move his pawn by move 142.

In what follows, Tchigorin carefully avoided these pitfalls while also avoiding a draw by triple repetition.

My best guess as to what happened between here and move 130 (when he finally advanced his a-pawn to a4) was that Tchigorin decided that this game (which was already in its second day) needed to be adjourned again so he could think this over at length. The Tournament Book says that Tchgorin wanted the benefit of the "aid of midnight oil."

92... Ka5
93. Bb3 Rg3
94. Kc3

94. Nb4 looks more direct, but Tchigorin had probably already decided to adjourn without moving his pawn.

94... Rh3
95. Bc2 Rg3
96. Kb2 Rg4
97. Nc1

Subtle maneuvering to avoid repetition of position:

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Here the Tournament Book gives Mason's move as 97...Rg6??? As <wwall> has noted, this can't be correct (surely Tchigorin would just have played 98. BxR.

I have no idea what Mason actually played here. Since his Rook would up in g4 on his next turn, I give (i.e., guess) that Mason played:

97... Rg3
98. Na2 Rg4

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The bad news is that the game lasted another 46 moves from here. The good news is that the spectacular finish makes it worth following the upcoming tedious play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IX

99. Nc3 Rg2
100. Kb3 Rg3
101. Be4 Re3
102. Bd5 Rh3
103. Bc6

The only notable theme at this point is Tchigorin's effort to avoid repeating the position as he tries to keep the game going until he can adjourn again.

103... Rh6
104. Bb5 Rh3
105. Be2 Re3
106. Bd1 Rh3
107. Bc2 Rg3
108. Kb2 Rh3
109. Na2 Rh4
110. Nc1

Now varying the position by some Knight wanderings.

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110... Rh2
111. Nb3+ Kb5
112. Nd4+ Kc4
113. Nf5 Rh3
114. Nd6+ Kc5
115. Ne4+ Kc4
116. Nf2 Rh2
117. Nd3 Kb5
118. Nc1 Rg2
119. Na2 Rh2
120. Nb4 Kc4
121. Nc6 Kb5
122. Ne5 Rg2

Sloppy. 122...Re2 would have slowed Tchigorin (had he truly been trying to win before adjournment).

123. Kb3

Preparing the advance of the a-pawn in due course (i.e., after adjournment):

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123... Rg3+
124. Bd3+ Kc5
125. Kc3 Kd5
126. Nc4

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126... Kc5
127. Nb2 Rg4

While it probably didn't matter, Mason should surely have retained the pin on the Bishop with, e.g., 127...Rh3. The text eased Tchigorin's task in making progress with his a-pawn.

128. Bc4! Kb6
129. Kb4 Rg5

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At or about here, the game was adjourned for a second time,and Tchigorin had time for a long night's study before resuming for the third day of play in this game.

The 50 move rule (assuming it was in force at the time) was now looming. No piece had been captured and no pawn had been moved since move 92 (i.e., 37 moves ago). Tchigorin therefore had to decide when to play a4, and how far he dared push this pawn without allowing Mason a simple book draw by trading Rook for Bishop.

According to the Tournament Book, "everybody" other than Tchigorin thought the game was a draw. "Everybody" may have been correct as a matter of theory, but as the sequel showed White had--at a minimum--all sorts of practical chances of winning.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post X

130. a4

Tchigorin at last tried his only shot:the advance of the a-Pawn.

130... Rg4
131. a5+ Ka7

click for larger view

So far so good, but this is as far as the a-Pawn can advance without risking the book draw positions with an advanced a-pawn (i.e., after Mason trades Rook for Bishop).

132. Na4 Rg1
133. Nc3 Rg4

Mason could only adopt a waiting strategy, and wait for Tchigorin to commit himself.

134. Nb5+ Kb7
135. Nd6+ Ka7
136. Nc8+ Kb7
137. Ne7

click for larger view

137... Ka7?

Needlessly allowing Tchigorin to make progress. 137...Re4 or 137...Rg7 offered more stubborn resistance.

But even after the text, there is no clear win for White.

138. Kb5 Rg7
139. Nc6+

click for larger view

139... Ka8?

As <wwall> on this site has pointed out, 139...Ka8 was "the losing move."

The question is whether Mason could draw with 139...Kb7. Let's see.

After 139...Kb7, then 140. a6+ Kc7 141. Nb4 Rg5+ 142. Bd5 Rh5 143. Kc5 Rf5 White cannot make progress, since 144. a7 allows Black to reach a book draw with 144...RxB+! 145. KxR Kb7 146. Nc6 Ka8 and we have reached the standard Book draw in Knight and Rook Pawn against King endings.

Similarly, if 140. Bd5 Kc7 141. a6 Rg5 142. Nb4 Rf5 White can make no progress since 143. Kc5 Rh5 144. a7 RxB+ leads to the same draw as in the previous variation.

Thus, wwall is correct, 139...Ka8 was a losing move, leaving the position as follows:

click for larger view

Tchigorin now had a theoretical win. But--over the board--the ending remains difficult, and both sides erred.

The winning line was now: 140 a6 Rg5+ 141. Kb6 leaving:

click for larger view

With White's Bishop controlling g8, Black could only resort to desperation tactics to try to avoid the inevitable, e.g., 141...Rd5! [a Rook sacrifice White cannot accept since it would leave Black in stalemate] 142. Ba2! (142. Ne7 also wins] Rb5+ ! [another cute Rook sacrifice which, once again, White cannot accept] 143. Kc7 Rd5! [yet another Rook sac which once again cannot be accepted] 144. Ne7! Rh5 145. Bd5+ Ka7 146. Nc6+ [giving up the precious a-Pawn to reach a cute winning finish Kxa6 147. Bc4+ Rb5 [forced] 148. Nd4! and White wins the Rook and the game (assuming he knows how to mate with Bishop and Knight).

But instead of the winning 140. a6, Tchigorin played:

140. Bd5!

click for larger view

Here, my analysis diverges from that of <wwall> since I am unable to find a theoretical win for White.

I will discuss this issue in my next post on this game, and cover what <wwall> has correctly identified as the final losing blunder by Mason that permitted Tchigorin to emerge victorious in this marathon contest.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post X!

140... Rb7+

The best way to exploit Tchigorin's last move, and probably (theoretically) sufficient to draw.

141. Kc5 Rb1

click for larger view

142. Be4

<wwall> claims a win for White with 142. Be6. I don't see it. If. 142. Be6 Re1 [142...Kb7 also likely is good enough, though White can set a nasty little trap with 143. a6+ after which Black must play 143...Ka8 (or maybe 143...Kc7) but definitely not 143...Kxa6?? 144. Bc8+ Rb7 145. Nd8 and wins] 143. Bc8 [I see nothing better] Re8 144. Ba6 after which, try as I might, I have been unable to find a winning line for White.

After Tchigorin's actual 142. Be4, the position was:

click for larger view

This position is probably a theoretical draw, but over the board it is hard for Black to find his/her way through the maze. In any case, Tchigorin's persistence paid off when Mason erred with:

142... Rb2

As <wwall> has pointed out, Black can draw with 142...Re1 [e.g., 143. Bd3 Re3 144. Ba6 Rb3 after which attempts to make progress for White appear to be futile , e.g., 145. Bb5 Kb7 146. a6+ Kc7 147. Bc4 Rh3 148. Bd5 Rh6 149. Nb4 Kb8 150. Kb5 Rf6].

But after the text (142...Rb2), the position was:

click for larger view

Now, incredibly, the Black Rook can be trapped! Quite a feat by Tchigorin on a mostly open board:

143. Nb4+ Ka7

143...Kb8 leads to the same finale.

144. Bc2!

click for larger view

A magnificent finale by Tchigorin! The White King can now calmly move down to c3 and capture the Rook. Meanwhile, the a-Pawn has not advanced too far, so the King, Knight and a-Pawn ending is still a win for White (as it might not be if the pawn were even one square further advanced).

I wonder whether Tchigorin foresaw this possible winning position while he was burning the midnight oil between the second and third sessions of this game.


Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After being shown a definitive six piece database by Grandmaster Susan Polgar, I must correct two points in my prior analysis:

1) <wwall> was correct and 139...Ka8 was a losing move; and

2) contrary to my statement, <wwall> was again correct and White had a win with 142. Be6.

Simply put, on these two crucial points in the game, <wwall> was correct and I was wrong.

Fascinating endgame!

BRAVO <wwall>

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