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William Ewart Napier vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 2, Aug-13
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Morphy Attack (C78)  ·  0-1

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-27-15  poorthylacine: For me, it's really difficult to win this complicated endgame; a way should be after for instance 36.b4, 36...Rd2+ 37.Kf1 d5+! ...
Nov-01-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Pillsbury and Napier were the two winners in Round 1 at Buffalo 1901. So this second round game would determine the leader.

Pillsbury seemed in trouble for most of this game. He allowed Napier to reduce to and ending in which White (Napier) had the better chances, and then repeatedly took risks to complicate even though his (Pillsbury's) position was inferior. In the end, Pillsbury's tactics worked out; Napier blundered and Pillsbury quickly racked up a win a few moves later, taking the lead in the tournament he held for the balance of the event.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Be7
6. Nc3

6. Re1 has been more fashionable for the last century, but the old 6. Nc3 is perfectly sound and leaves White with a small edge and a solid safe position.

6... b5
7. Bb3 d6
8. d3

8. a4 or 8. a3 or 8. Re1 or 8. Nd5 are all argueably better ways to play for an advantage, but Napier was satisfied with obtaining a safe position with as few complications as possible, perhaps a decent plan against a tactical demon such as Pillsbury.

Interestingly, this same move was a Pillsbury favorite, but probably for different reasons; i..e, Pillsbury was always happy to trade down to an ending, confident that he could prevail in any endgame in which he was not significantly worse.

8... Bg4.


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One of the sharper lines for Black. Most usual here is 8...0-0. Perhaps best for Black is 8...Na5. While relishing the endgame, Pillsbury also fancied his chances in a tactical middle-game shoot-out.

9. Be3

9. h3 is theoretically best. But Napier initially seemed reluctant to weaken his pawn structure. That all changed very quickly, however.

9... Qd7

9...Na5 (or maybe 9...Nd4) seems best.

10. Nd5

10. h3 was once again probably best. But Napier wanted to trade off the Black Bishop on e7.

10... Na5


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11. NxB

We know from Napier's comments after the game that it was here that he changed gears and decided to embark 12. Bd2, even though this would result in doubled f-pawns.

Napier also said that he wanted to force Pillsbury to play 11...QxB so that his Queen could not come to h3 quickly after the coming exchanges he (correctly) envisioned would result after 12. Qd2.

The text move is fine. Napier's plan---not so much.

11... QxN

Playing 11...KxB to frustrate Napier's plan would be cutting off his nose to spite his face.

12. Qd2

All according to Napier's (misguided) plan. Better were 12. h3 or 13. Bd2.

12... NxB
13. axN BxN
14. gxB


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So this is the position Napier hoped to reach. From where I sit, any advantage lies with Black. However, Pillsbury's upcoming reckless play quickly turned that all around and put him in jeopardy.

Nov-02-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

14... Nh5

Needlessly seeking complications when he already had the better game. 14...0-0, or maybe 14...Qe6, were better.

15. f4

Napier claimed that this was "the only move to acquire any freedom," but he could simply have played 15. d4 with decent chances.

The position now was:


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15... exf4

As Napier noted after the game, Pillsbury here had a draw it he wanted it with 15...Qh4. (e.g., 15...Qh4 16. fxe5 Qg4+ etc.). As usual, however, Pillsbury was playing for a win.

16. Bxf4 Qf6

Again by-passing the sound, safer, and better option. Here, best for Black was 16...0-0; and both 16...NxB and 16...Qd7 were also better than the text,

17. Bg5 Qf3

17...Qxb2 would lead to trouble for Black after 18. d4, as Napier pointed out.


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18. Qe3

Instead of offering to trade Queens, Napier could have played for the advantage with 18. Qd1.

18... QxQ

18...Qg4+ was simple and would give Black at least even chances, instead of the inferior endgame he obtained after the trade of Queens. But Pillsbury liked endgames with imbalances. He probably was happy to play this kind of ending even though he almost certainly knew it tended (theoretically) to favor White.

19. BxQ


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19... Kd7
20. Ra5 Kc8

Napier said that 20...Kc6 21. c4 would have been bad for White. That seems correct, but the text was probably even worse for Black. 20...f5 was Black's best chance.

21. c4 c6


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This ending doesn't look like any fun for Black. With 22. Rfa1 Pillsbury would have been serious pressure. But Napier let him off the hook with:

22. d4 Nf6

Still playing with fire. 22...Re8 was better.

23. f3 Kb7
24. Kf2


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Napier was obviously better at this point. It is interesting to watch how Pillsbury gave Napier just enough rope to hang himself.

Nov-02-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

24... Ne8

Another strange move by Pillsbury, again trying to lure Napier to trouble.

25. Rg1

Napier called this a "poor move," but it doesn't look all that bad to me. Significantly, Napier didn't say why the move was bad or suggest any alternatives.

25. Bf4 or 25. d5 were arguably better, but the text looks just fine.

25... g6
26. Bf4


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26... Rd8?

Much of Pillsbury's play to this point had been strange, but hardly losing. This last move, however was a clear error that should have lost the game for Black. Pillsbury would have been OK with 26...f5 or 26...Rf8.

27. cxb5?

Napier called this move "The beginning of White's troubles." While the move hardly loses, the move Napier recommends--27. d5--should win: i.e., 27. d5 Nc7 (or 27...cxd5 28. cxd5 axb5 29. Rxb5+ Kc6 30. Rxd5 Rb8 31. Rd3) 28. dxc6+ Kb6 29. Rga1 bxc4 30. bxc4 Kxc6 31. Rc1 f5 32. exf5 gxf5 33. b3 Rhe8 34. Rd1 Rf8 35. b4 Rf7 36. h4 Rdd7 37. h5

27. Rc1 also probably wins.

After the text, most of Napier's edge has vanished.

27... cxb5
28. Rga1 Nc7
29. d5 f5

"!"--(Napier)

With this fine move, Pillsbury was pretty much out of the woods. But he was still playing for a win, so action heated up again quickly, the position now being:


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30. Ke3 Rhe8

Simpler methods for maintaining rough equality were 30...h6 or 30...Rhf8. But that, of course, was not what Pillsbury wanted.

31. Kd4

31. Rd1 would have been much better, and might have made Pillsbury regret his over-eager play. The game was now again pretty much even.

31... Rd7

But Pillsbury was not willing to let well enough alone, and continued to play recklessly. He would have been fine with 31...fxe4 or 31...Rf8.

The text, however, proved to be a "winning mistake" for Pillsbury for it lured Napier to his demise, the position now being:


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32. exf5??

Rightly called a "gross blunder" by Napier. He would have had the better chances with 32. Rc1 or 32. b4. But now, he was finished off with dispatch by Pillsbury:

32... Rf8!


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33. Bg3 Rxf5
34. Ke3 Re7+

Pillsbury could also have just played 34...Rxd5

35. Kf2 Rxd5


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0-1

<poorthylacine> on this site claimed on this sight a few years ago that the win for Black seemed "difficult" to him, but the line he gave was excellent and quite decisive: 36. b4 Rd2+ 37. Kf1 d5 [37...g5 would be faster, but the suggested 37...d5 would also have been more than sufficient to close out proceedings.

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