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Theodor von Scheve vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Monte Carlo (1902), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 7, Feb-13
Queen Pawn Game: Krause Variation (D02)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: After <12...Bxc5>:

click for larger view

One can't but have the feeling that maybe, just maybe, White has misplayed the opening.

Dec-08-15  Howard: Did you notice that Black did much, much better in this event than White ? Probably no accident
Oct-06-17  Serpentin: Apres 3..Cf6 je suggere aux blancs 4.c4!? plutot que de se cantonner sur le gain du pion... Par la suite les blancs sont fatalement restreint.

Beau coup que ce 20...Cf3!. il est malaisé ici de donner la qualité (Rh1) Apres la prise en f3, les blancs sont démoli!

Jan-05-19  Nairaboi: White played the opening abysmally and paid for it.3.d×c5 was the beginning of white's woes which relinquished the center to black.
Apr-12-20  jerseybob: <Nairaboi: White played the opening abysmally and paid for it.3.d×c5 was the beginning of white's woes which relinquished the center to black.> 3.dxc5 is playable, as HNP demonstrated in his 1904 game against Marshall(in this data base). The real mistake was white's attempt to keep the pawn. You've got to wonder just whom Von Scheve thought he was playing, but he found out soon enough!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A quick crush by Pillsbury which--with Janowski's loss in this same 7th round--put Pillsbury very much back in the hunt for 1st place (he eventually was just nosed out by Maroczy).

von Scheve had been successful as White at Monte Carlo 1901 (he tied for third--the best result by far in his career) by playing 1. d4 and seeking small slow advantages. But here, against Pillsbury, he went overboard in seeking to hold onto a gambit pawn, got an awful position, and then got blown away by a classis Pillsbury attack.

1. d4 d5
2. Nf3 c5

A form of Queen's Gambit by Black.

3. dxc5

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Some on this site have criticized this White position, but--as <jerseybob> has correctly noted--this can't be bad (though it is hardly my cup of tea). White's position here is essentially that of Black in the Queen's Gambit Accepted with 2. Nf3 thrown in. For whatever it's worth (and in openings it's not worth much) both Fritz and Stockfish rate White as slightly better after 3. dxc5. More significantly, this move was played by Lasker and Alekhine, and was favored by Salo Flohr.

If von Scheve fancied this line, that's fine for him. He lost this game not because of 3. dxc5 but because he focused on hanging onto the gambit pawn at the expense of development.

3... Nf6
4. Nc3

A natural and unambitious developing move that cannot be faulted. But 4. c4 seems more enterprising.

4... Nc6
5. a3

"?"--(Tournament Book)
"?"--(Sergeant-Watts in their book on Pillsbury [hereafter "Sergeant-Watts"])

While 5. Bf4 and 5. e3 look more promising to me, a3 here for White, like a6 for Black against the Queen's Gambit, is entirely logical and playable. This move, like 3. dxc5, was not why von Scheve lost the game.

In any case, 5. a3 left the position as:

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5... d4

"!"--(Tournament Book)

Whatever the theoretical evaluation of the position, it is hard to imagine many decent players prefering to be White here:

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6. Na4?

Awful. White would still be fine with 6. Na2, and even 6. Nb1--recommended by the Tournament Book--was better than the text.

6... e5?

Hard to believe from Pillsbury. With 6...Qa5+ 7. c3 b5 he would have had much the better game. But now, von Scheve had an excellent opportunity to turn the tables, the position now being:

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7. b4?

The natural 7. e3 actually gives White the better game here. And even 7. c3 (recommended by the Tournament Book) was better than the text.

7... e4

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A very strange position indeed. It is hard to figure out who is theoretically better--everything considered--but I definitely would want to be Black here, especially had I known what von Scheve was going to play next.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

8. Ng1?

A horrible move. Just horrible. It doesn't lose, but that's about the nicest thing I can say about the move. 8. Nd2 is obviously best.

In order to get a notion of just how ugly 8. Ng1, have a look at the resulting position:

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Nice King-side development by White!

8... b5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

9. Nb2

A sad necessity. Everything else loses. As was pointed out in the Tournament Book, if 9. cxb6 e.p. Black is dead after 9...axb6 since: (a) if 10. Nb2 Bxb4+ 11. Bd2 BxB+ 12. QxB 0-0 Black's pieces are poised to spring into action and crush White; (b) if 10. c4 Ne5 is murder; and (c) if 10. e3 (best) Black still rolls with 10...Bg4.

After 9. Nb2, the position was:

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In this position, Pillsbury erred. Instead of the very strong 9...a5, which would have given him much the better position, Pillsbury played the plausible but inferior:

9... Nd5

This move forced von Scheve to play:

10. e3

But now, von Scheve, for all his mistakes was suddenly very much back in the game:

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10... Nc3

Pillsbury presumably thought that this move justified 9...Nd5. But now von Scheve had his own chances...not to mention his extra pawn.

11. Qd2

Obviously forced.

11... a5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

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It was in this complex and double-edged position that von Scheve collapsed. He I will discuss in my next post on this play from here to the end in a fog. On the other hand, Pillsbury, who had not played entirely cleanly to this point, now exploited the chances von Scheve presented and demolished the White position in just a few moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

12. bax5?

"The whole maneuver of trying to defend the gambit pawn is faulty." (Tournament Book)

Despite all his prior foibles, von Scheve would have been OK with 12. Ne2 (the natural move)(e.g., 12. Ne2 axb4 13. Nxd4 Bd7 14. Bxb5 NxB 15. NxN after which White is probably even a bit better).

After the text, the roof fell in on von Scheve.

12... Bxb5

This left the position correctly identified by <Phony Benoni> as a clear indication that von Scheve had misplayed:

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At this point I am comfortable in pronouncing von Scheve lost.

13. Ne2

Too late!

13... NxN
14. BxN Rxa5

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15. exd4?

He had nothing better than castling, though even that held little hope of salvation.

15... Nxd4
16. 0-0

16. Bd1 or 16. c3 were better, though I would not have ventured a plugged nickel even with those moves against Pillsbury.

16... 0-0

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17. Rd1

17. Bd1 might have offered more stubborn resistance.

17... Qb6

Good enough, though 17...Qh4 or 17...Qc7 were probably even stronger than Pillsbury's move.

18. Bf1

I was constantly amazed in playing over this game how many times and in how many ways von Scheve managed to make his position worse without completely scuttling the game. The only plausible tries were 18. Kh1 or 18. Rb1, though in fairness to von Scheve these were probably not going to give him much chance to save the game.

18... Bg4

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Things certainly did not look good for von Scheve here.

19. Re1

Another hopeless attempt, but suggesting alternatives is almost certainly a futile endeavor.

19... Rd8
20. Qc3

This was immediately catastrophic. But 20. Bd3 or 20. Nd3 would not have been much fun for White.

After 20. Qc3, the position was:

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Now Pillsbury's closing fireworks began.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

20... Nf3+ !


A beautiful finishing combination.

"The long prepared mine is being exploded now." (Tournament Book)

"Pillsbury finishes the game in great style." (Sergeant-Watts)

21. gxN

Hopeless, but so is everything else.

The position was now:

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21... Bxf3

This of course wins. Pillsbury could also have won with the brutal line: 21...Bxf2+ 22. Kh1 Bxf3+ 23. Bg2 b4! 24. Qc4 (nothing else is any better) BxB+ 25. KxB BxR

22. Bh3

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22... Qg6+

White is in a mating net from which there is no escape.

23. Kf1 Qh5

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A classic lesson on how NOT to play the White pieces and on how to demolish such dreadful play.

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