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Arturo Reggio vs Carl Schlechter
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 13, Feb-27
Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Fianchetto Variation (D66)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game looks a bit like an example of Chess Professional against Chess Amatuer.

But the stakes were higher here. This game was played in the final round at Monte Carlo 1901. Schlechter had been eliminated from contention for first place as a result of his loss to Janowski in the prior (12th) round, but was in a hot battle for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places with Tchigorin and von Scheve. As a result of Schlechter's win here coupled with Tchigorin's loss to Mieses and von Scheve's draw with Winawer in this same last round, Schlecther ended up in 2nd place. Having tied for first at Munich 1900 with Pillsbury (the last major tournament before Monte Carlo), Schlechter now had to be viewed as a possible World Championship contender (especially since Tarrasch had not played in any significant tournaments since Vienna 1898).

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 Be7
5. Bg5 0-0
6. e3 Nbd7
7. Rc1 c6
8. Bd3 dxc4
9. Bxc4

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Thus far, a fairly standard Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined. Black's position is passive but solid. Had Schlechter been seeking a draw, he likely would have played the usual 9...Nd5. But Schlechter needed a win given the tournament standings, so he sought complications.

9... b5

This move had been introduced by Charousek in an 1895 game against Maroczy (won by Maroczy) and was tried by Showalter in a match game against Pillsbury in 1897 (a game won by Showalter).

If Schlechter was seeking complications, he got them. Ultimately, Reggio (whose initial reaction to the text was fine (contrary to the critical commentary of his play in the Tournament Book), but he began to go astray in the unfamiliar position beginning on move 18 and in a few moves later dug a hole for himself from which he was unable to emerge.

10. Bd3

One of several reasonable continuations for White here, the others being 10. Be2 (probably best) and 10. BxN.

10... a6

The Tournament Book stated that Schlechter could have played 10...Nd5 here. But after 11. NxN BxN (11...cxd5 may be slightly better) White gets a powerful and arguably winning edge with 12. Nb4 (far better than the Tournament Book's equalizing 12. NxB QxN.

Either the text or 10...h6 or 10...Bb7 were the best options for Black.

After 10...a6, the position was:

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11. Ne4

Reggio was out of the running by this time in the tournament,so he apparently was satisfied with a draw. White has a most a tiny edge in the above position. If he wanted to play for a win, he might have tried 11. 0-0 and kept his powder dry; or alternatively he might have tried 11. Ne4 or 11. a4.

11... NxN
12. dxN Nd7
13. BxB QxB
14. f4

Once again seeking the safest lines. 14. 0-0 was the only serious way for White to try for an advantage.

After the text (14. f4), the position was:

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14... f5

"Hardly good. 14...Rd8 should have been played. The Black Knight could then at any time from f8 have given sufficient defensive strength to the King's wing." (Hoffer)

Absurd commentary. Schlechter's move was a good effort at counter-play. The main alternative was 14...c5. By contrast, Hoffer's suggested 14...Rd8 would have given Reggio strong play with 15. Ne4.

With the White pawn on e5 controlling d6, Schlechter recognized that he had to play aggressively. After 14...f4, the position was complicated and unbalanced, just the sort of position in which the better player is highly likely to prevail:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

15/ exf6 e.p.

"This exchange is the great mistake committed by White. Castling to be followed by Qh5 and eventually g4 would have given White a strong attack, and was at any rate the best opportunity White possessed." (Tournament Book)

What nonsense.

One can argue about the relative merits of the text and 15. 0-0 (after which Black would play 15...c5 with about equal chances). But to say that Reggio's 15th move was what lost the game for him is over the top. With the text, Reggio forced Schlechter to choose between accepting an isolated e-pawn (with 15...Nxf6 or 15...Qxf6 or to open his King to attack on the g-file. The text also allowed White play on e4.

Indeed, after Schlechter chose (reasonably enough) to play:

15... Nxf6

White was certainly not significantly worse in any way:

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16. 0-0 e5

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17. f5

"The White pawn at f5 is of no value whatsoever, whereas the Black pawn at e5, giving support to pieces at d4, is of importance. That is why White should have continued by 17. Qf3, and eventually Bb1, Rd1, etc., playing for defense rather than attack. After the text, White's game against Schlechter is hopeless." (Tournament Book)

More bizarre commentary from the Tournament Book. 17. f5 may or may not be best (Fritz and Stockfish both like it), but it was hardly any kind of mistake and Reggio's game was hardly hopeless after this move. Moreover, to say that the White pawn on f5 was of "no value whatsoever" is incredibly wrong. Indeed, as the game went, the presence of this pawn on f5 limited the scope of Black's Bishop and helped keep Reggio in the game even after his upcoming (real) mistakes.

As for 17. Qf3, Black (if anyone) would have the edge with either 17...Bg4 or 17...Bb7 or 17...exf4.

After the wrongly maligned 17. f5, the position was:

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17... c5?!

Although not commented on in any of the commentaries I have seen on this game, the text was in fact Schlechter's winning mistake.

On paper, 17...Rd8 was best, and 17...e4 was also good from a theoretical standpoint.

The text is more of a Tal move: complicated and putting pressure on the opponent without being a true losing move. It threatened (and eventually led to) a pawn charge on the Queen-side, and obviously unnerved Reggio. It left the position as follows:

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After White's very un-Schlechter-like move, Reggio could have seized the moment with 18. Ne4 or 18. Be4 (neither of which would have been possible had Schlechter played 17...Rd8 or 17...e4.

But Reggio saw ghosts, and got himself into trouble with:

18. e4?

Now Schlechter went to work and quickly outplayed and overwhelmed his less experienced and less talented opponent:

18... c4!

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Reggio was probably not theoretically lost yet, but the Black Queen-side pawns had become terrors, and--as will be seen--Reggio was not up to offering the sort of stiff resistance that would have been necessary to have any chance as White against Schlechter in this position.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

19. Bc2

"Correct, even though 19. Bb1 appears better." (Tournament Book)

All three Bishop moves (Bc2, Bb1 and Be2) have their points. In any case, White is on the ropes (but probably not lost).

After 19. Bc2, the position was:

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19... Bb7

The Tournament Book spent a good deal of time analyzing 19...b4, correctly noting that it was bad but claiming that White would then be better after 20. Ne2, and overlooking the fact that Black would then be back in business with either 20...Rd8 or 20...a5 or even 20...Bb7 (the Tournament Book only considered 20...Qc5+--and even then Black would be better).

The only real alternative to Schlechter's 19...Bb7 was 19...Qc5+. In either case, White is getting strangled.

20. Qf3

Another weak move by Reggio. 20. Qe1 or 20. Qe2 were better.

20... Rad8

Schlechter slowly consolidated his advantage. It is always a pleasure to watch his careful and relentless positional play.

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21. Rcd1?

Awful. This, and not the earlier moves is where Reggio lost any real chance to save the game. He should have sat tight with 21. h3 or 21. Rfe1 or 21. Kh1 or 21. Qe3 or maybe 21. a3. Trying to contest the d-file was a mistake, as a look at the position now reveals:

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Schlechter now had a variety of winning plans. He could have played 21...b4. He could have played the simple 21...RxR followed by 22...Rd8. But Schlechter had another strong idea:

21... Rd4

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22. a3

"It is clearly bad to exchange Rooks; the Black pawns advancing to victory." (Tournament Book)

22... Rfd8

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Amazing how quickly Schlechter has taken control of the board since his courageous 17...c5!?.

Realizing he was in big trouble, Reggio went for a haymaker:

23. g4?!

Might as well go for broke.

23... Rd2

23...h6 was also very strong. But who would want to try to hold the position now after 23...Rd2 against so fine a technician as Schlechter:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

24. g5?!

Now the game is definitely gone for Reggio. The best chance to offer sustained resistance lay in 24. Rf2. Even 24. RxR was better than the text, which left:

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It is easy to understand Reggio's desperate desire to complicate, but the text simply loses a pawn while allowing Schlechter to trade down to a fairly easy win:

24... RxB
25. gxN Qxf6
26. RxR+ QxR

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27. Rd1

As the Tournament Book notes, 27. Rf2 would lose to 27...Qd4 (and 27...Qd3 would be even more decisive). But the text was no improvement.

27... Rd2

This wins, but 27...Qf6 was the real killer. Now, Schlechter had to spend a little more time closing out the game. (In fairness, with a move 30 time control, time pressure may have been a factor, and Schlechter may have preferred to take the simplest line).

28. RxR QxR

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29. Qf2

Reggio had no option and had to submit to trading Queens. But Schlechter wanted to arrange the most favorable manner of achieving this trade.

29... Qd4

"Black plays the game with great skill." (Tournament Book)

29...Qg5+; 29...Qc1+; and 29...Qd3 were probably even stronger.

30. h4?!

More desperation on Reggio's part. Or maybe he wanted to pressure Schlechter before he made his 30th move.

30... Kf7
31. Kf1 QxQ+
32. KxQ

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This pawn up ending is a winner for Black. But his Bishop has limited scope, so he still had some work to do.

32... g6

The final maneuver allowing the advance of the Black King. White must reply fxg6+ [actually, 33. Kg3 is equally good--KEG] or permit Black's Bishop to enter the game. The maneuvers of the Bishop are instructive. White seeks a draw, but the Black pawns on the Queen's side are too strong." (Tournament Book).

33. fxg6+ hxg6

A small inaccuracy by Schlechter which somewhat extended the game. 33...Kxg6 was better ("the King is a fighting piece in the endgame").

Even with the text, there was little doubt about the ultimate result:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

34. Ke3 Ke7

Schlechter's idea of approaching the Queen-side with his King should win, but the simple and multi-purpose 34...Ke6 was simplest and the fastest way to win.

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35. Kf3

Reggio decided here to try to attack on the King-side with his King, but quickly recognized this didn't work.

While the game was lost anyway, 35. Ne2 or 35. Nb1 or maybe 35. a4 offered the stiffest test for Schlechter.

As the Tournament Book noted, 35. Nd5+ loses immediately to 35...BxN 36. exB Kd6 37. Ke4 a5 since White is then in Zugwang and loses the King and pawn ending forthwith.

35... Kd6

Daring Reggio to head for the King-side with 36. Kg4, which loses to (for example) 36...Bc6 37. Kg5 (assuming White continues with the doomed plan) a5! 38. Kxg6 b4! 39. axb4 axb4 40. Na2 Bxe4+ 41. Kf6 (nothing else is better) c3 42. b3 (obviously if 42. bxc3? b3 and the Black pawn Queens in two moves) Nh7 and wins easily.

36. Ke3

Reggio wisely abandoned his plan of invading on the King-side, but now the game is over.

36... Bc8

"This move removes all of White's chances." (Tournament Book)

36... Kc5 followed by followed by 37...a5 was immediately decisive. But Schlechter was not in a hurry. After the text, the Bishop can eye the Queen-side and Black is done for:

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37. Kf3

37. Nd5 was the only chance to complicate (slightly) Schlechter's task. Now Schlechter eliminates that possibility, and Reggio could safely have resigned.

37... Be6

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38. Ke3 Kc5
39. Nb1 a5

Now the Black Queen-side pawns roll. White is helpless.

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40. Nd2

Equivalent to resignation. 40. Nc3 might have slowed Schlechter down a tad, though it would hardly have saved the game.

40... Bg4

Schlechter could have played 40...b4 immediately, but the text also did the trick.

41. Nb1 b4


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42. Nd2 Bd1

42...c3 was faster. But perhaps the 45-move time control was a factor. The game score suggests that Schlechter awaited move 45 to land the crucial blow, so maybe he was running short on time.

43. axb4+ axb4
44. Nf1 Bc2

Still apparently waiting to satisfy the move 45 time control before marching his pawns to victory.

45. Ng3

45. Nh2 might have extended the game a bit.

45... Bd1

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With the 45-move time control reached, Schlechter made short work of what was left of Reggio's forces.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

46. Kd2 Bg4

Back on track. Reggio could have safely resigned here.

47. Ke3 c3!

White has no defense:

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48. bxc3 bxc3
49. Kd3 Kb4

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50. Kc2 Kc4
51. Nh1 Bf3
52. Nf2 Kd4

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Reggio should have spared himself the rest.

53. Kc1 Bxe4
54. Nh3 Bf5
55. Ng5 e4

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