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Johann Nepomuk Berger vs Heinrich Wolf
Munich (1900), Munich GER, rd 3, Jul-26
Colle System (D05)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Chess can be a cruel game. One slip can undo everything.

In this game, Berger--though having White played only for equality. Wolf tried to create complications, got an inferior position as a result, and then slowly and methodically outplayed Berger until he (Wolf) had good winning chances by move 21. But then he gave away his advantage with a poor 22nd move and then blundered away the game on move 24.

1. d4 d5
2. e3

Berger tried to avoid sharp lines and sought only equality in the opening.

2... Nf6
3. Bd3 e6
4. Nf3 c5
5. c4 Nc6
6. Nc3 dxc4
7. Bxc4 Be7

Avoiding the symmetrical equality he would get with 7...cxd4

8. 0-0 0-0

8...cxd4 trying to saddle White with an isolated d-pawn might have been better.

9. cxd5

Berger was happy to trade Queens.

9... Qa5

A little finesse that is entirely playable but gives White a small edge. 9...Bxc5 or 9...QxQ were theoretically better, but made a draw more likely which obviously was not to Wolf's liking.

10. e4

10. Qe2 would give White a fully satisfactory (and slightly better) position, but the text frees the c1 Bishop and was the most active option.

10... Qxc5

Winning back the pawn.

11. Qe2 Ng4

11...Ne5, 11...Rd8, and 11...a6 all seem somewhat better, but Wolf wanted to mix it up. Berger's weak handling from this point justified this strategy (for a while at least).

12. h3

12. Bf4 was better.

12... Nge5
13. NxN QxN

If Wolf were satisfied with playing for a draw, 13...NxN or 13...Nd4 would be better choices.

14. f4 Qa5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Berger was certainly better at this point. Wolf's Queen was poorly posted, Berger controlled the center, and Wolf still had the problem of how to develop his c8 Bishop. But from here Berger seemingly lost his way (for at least a while).

15. e5?

Misguided and needlessly creating weaknesses. 15. Be3 and 15. Rd1 were better.

15... Nd4

Wolf took immediate advantage of Berger's tentative play.

16. Qe4 Bd7

Wolf might here have tried 16...b5 or maybe 16...Rd8 or even 16. Nf5. Instead, he offered a pawn to get his c8 Bishop into play, the position now being:

click for larger view

Should Berger here have taken the b7 pawn? I will discuss this issue and the consequences of Berger' choice in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

The simple answer to the question with which I ended my last post is: certainly not. 17. Qxb7? would be bad for White, but not for the reason given in the Tournament Book. If 17. Qxb7? Wolf would have seized the advantage with 17...Rfd8 (and not the Tournament Book's suggested 17...Qc5 which would allow Berger to get approximate equality with 18. QxB Nc2+ 19. Kh2 QxB).

But the significance of Wolf's pawn sacrifice on his 16th move was yet to come.

17. Bd3

A reasonable move by Berger.

17... Nf5

Berger (correctly) didn't grab the b7 pawn on his last turn, so Wolf tries the sacrifice a second time, perhaps counting on Berger again not taking the pawn.

18. Kh2

What was correct on his last move was a mistake here. Berger could have played 18. Qxb7. With the text, Wolf now gets excellent winning chances.

18... Bc6

Not giving Berger a third chance to nab the b7 pawn.

19. Qe2

The alternative was 19. Qc4. Both moves have their pluses and defects. On either move, Wolf was better.

19... Rfd8

A good way to augment his growing control of the board. A riskier and more aggressive option was 19...b5, but Wolf quite reasonably adopts the simpler method of obtaining the better game.

20. Be3

Berger should surely have tried to mess up Wolf's hair a bit with 20. BxN. The position was now:

click for larger view

20... Bb4

A strange choice, especially when he had two excellent moves to choose from: 20...NxB and 20...Nd4.

21. Bd2?

Very weak. 21. BxN would have gotten Berger right back in the game. Now, Wolf has a very strong response...

21... Nd4!

Wolf clearly has all the play here.

22. Qe3

The position was now:

click for larger view

This may not be quite a win for Black, but Wolf undoubtedly was the one with winning chances. But...

22... BxN?

Why on earth did Wolf play this? With either 22...Qb6 or 22...Rd7 his attack could continue unabated. Now, however, chances are suddenly about even.

23. BxB Qd5

Did Wolf think this threat would get him somewhere? I still can't explain his 22nd move.

24. Rf2

Now White has everything defended:

click for larger view

Wolf had by this point lost any hint of an advantage, But there was no reason for him to lose. As I will show in my next post on this game, however, Wolf here gave up not just his advantage but the entire game with his next move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

After 24. Rf2, White's threats should have been painfully obvious to Wolf: (a) a build-up on the d-file with a potential pin of the d4 Knight; and (b) a check (and Bishop sacrifice) on h7. There were numerous ways for Wolf to meet these threats and maintain the balance. But perhaps because he had just blown all of his advantage with his poor 22nd move, Wolf now blundered with:

24... Rac8??

This move solves none of Black's problems (either 24...Nb5 or 24...Nf5 would have been sufficient) and allowed Berger to clean up quickly.

25. Rd2!

All of a sudden, Wolf had no defense:

click for larger view

Wolf could perhaps have limited the damage to loss of Queen and pawn for Rook and Bishop with 25...Nb5 26. Bxh7+ [26. Ba5 may be even stronger] KxB 27. RxQ RxR. His actual move made things even worse:

25... Qc5?

This made matters easy for Berger:

click for larger view

26. BxN RxB
27. QxR QxQ
28. Bxh7+ KxB
29. RxQ

This left:

click for larger view

Berger was now up a pawn plus the exchange and had an easily winning position. Wolf sulked on for another twenty moves, but never had a ghost of a chance. What followed is of little interest, especially since Berger made heavy weather of what should have been routine. But even his clumsy technique was more than adequate to win here:

29... Bd5
30. Rd2 b5
31. a3 Rc4
32. Rf1 a5

Wolf's desperate efforts to create chances on the Queen-side, while superficially scary-looking at some points, were futile.

33. Kg3 b4
34. axb axb
35. Re1 Kg6
36. Red1 Kf5
37. Rd4 Rc2

This was as close as Wolf came to creating any real prospects for himself:

click for larger view

38. R1d2 b3
39. h4

Unless Berger lost his mind here and traded Rooks (losing instantly), he was in no danger.

39... g6
40. Kh3 Be4
41. g3 Rc1

Since there is no real mating net, this was hopeless.

42. Rb4

42. Rd1 was simpler.

42... Rc2

Now with c4 available for his b4 Rook, Berger can trade Rooks.

43. RxR bxR
44. Rc4

Wolf could comfortably have resigned here:

click for larger view

44... g5
45. hxg Bd3
46. g4+ Kg6
47. Rc5 Kg7
48. Kg2 Kf8
49. Kf2


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