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Clarence Seaman Howell vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 4, Aug-14
Sicilian Defense: Old Sicilian. General (B30)  ·  1/2-1/2



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find similar games 2 more C S Howell/Pillsbury games
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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-04-19  HarryP: This comes down to a draw with Bishops of opposite colors. After the game, Pillsbury suggested 14...Ne8 as possibly better than 14...Rfc8.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Pillsbury pretty much ran through the field at Buffalo 1901 like a hot knife through butter, winning eight games and drawing the other two. This was one of the two games in which he was held to a draw (his other draw was with Pillsbury).

Pillsbury, after adopting an unusual line of the Sicilian, seemed willing to draw when he allowed Howell to reduce the game to a bishops of opposite color ending. But then, Pillsbury seemingly decided he wasn't satisfied with a draw, and tried hard to generate action. The opposite-color Bishops, however, ultimately frustrated Pillsbury's efforts to win.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 d6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Bd7

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5...Nf6 is normal and best. The text was likely an effort to get his opponent out of the books. In this, Pillsbury was unsuccessful, and Howell got the better game.

6. Be3 Nf6
7. Be2 g6
8. 0-0 Bg7
9. f3

Napier preferred 9. f4, but after 9...0-0 10. Bf3 Black has numerous equalizing lines. The text looks better.

9... 0-0
10. Qd2 NxN
11. BxN Bc6
12. Rad1

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12... Qc7

12...Nd7 seems the best road for seeking equality. But Pillsbury was still hoping to complicate. Howell, however, continued to play soundly, and retained his small edge.

13. Nd5 BxN
14. exB

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14... Rfc8

Both <HarryP> on this site and Napier in his contemporary commentary report that Pillsbury said after the game that 14...Ne8 would have been better. Pillsbury's unhappiness with the text, of course, was that it allowed Howell to get bishops of opposite colors. Given that Howell was here somewhat better placed, he might have avoided such simplification had he not suffered from Pillsbury-fear. Objectively, 14...Nd7 was probably best.

15. BxN

This gets Howell Bishops of opposite colors, and perhaps the likelihood of a draw was all he cared about. If he had wanted to try to make something of his small advantage from the opening, he might have played 15. c4 rather than trading off one of his Bishops.

15... BxB
16. c4

No longer sufficient to give White any advantage:

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16... a5

Looking for complications. 16...Qb6+ was probably objectively best, but it was drawish, and Pillsbury now seemingly (and belatedly) decided he didn't want a draw.

17. a4

Pillsbury's move lured Howell to create this weakness for himself. 17. g3 leaves White safe and sound.

17... Qb6+
18. Kh1

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Thanks to Howell's second-best 15th and 17th moves, Pillsbury had some advantage. But how should he proceed?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

18... Rc7

Missing his best chance to exploit his small edge. Needless to say, 18...Qxb2 [18...Bxb2 loses a piece to 19. Rb1] would not win a pawn after 19.QxQ BxQ 20. Rb1.

The only way to try to make something promising happen for Black was with 18...Qb3.

19. Rb1

The game was now even, Pillsbury having relinquished any even small advantage he had enjoyed.

19... Qb3

Too late.

20. Qd1

Anything else would be bad for White. The text, however, solved all his problems.

20... Qe3
21. f4 Qd4

Reluctantly agreeing to a highly-drawish Bishops of opposite colors ending.

22. QxQ

If Pillsbury had White, he night have tried 22. Bd3. But Howell was--not surprisingly--happy to reduce to a drawish ending.

22... BxQ
23. b3

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Many players would abandon the game here as a draw. Pillsbury, however, decided to try to make Howell sweat a bit. Unfortunately for this effort, the position left little scope for effective complications.

23... Kf8
24. f5 g5
25. g4 Kg7
26. Kg2 Kf6
27. Bd3 Rh8

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As was so often the case, Pillsbury here breathed life into what looked like a sterile ending. His plan to generate play on the h-file seems to have unnerved Howell:

28. Rh1

Giving Pillsbury the small opening he craved. Howell would have done better to have ignored Pillsbury's "threat" and played something like 28. Rbd1 or 28. Rfd1.

28... h5!

Suddenly, the game got exciting. Make no mistake, the position was still a clear theoretical draw. But Pillsbury had created tension, and Howell seemed ready to falter.

29. h3 Rcc8

Pillsbury might have obtained better chances with 29...hxg4 30. hxg4 Rh4!

30. Rbf1

Howell continued to play like a deer in the headlights, and gave Pillsbury some chances to complicate. Safer for White was 30. Kf3 or 30. Be2.

30... Be5

Again by-passing the chance to play 30...hxg4 31.hxg4 32. Rh4.

31. Be2 hxg4
32. hxg4

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32... Bf4

32...Rh4 was the best chance to create serious problems for White.

33. Bd1 Rce8
34. Re1

Missing the fully equalizing 34. Rh5 (since if then 34...RxR 35. gxR Kxf5 White's extra pawn will not avoid a draw after 36. h6 Rh8 37. h7). The position now, though highly drawish, gave Pillsbury a tiny chance to press his opponent:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

34... RxR

Pretty much giving up any serious winning chances. The best hope for concocting something out of nothing lay in 34...Rh4.

35. RxR

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Time to agree to a draw? Not with Pillsbury at the board. Even in this lifeless position, he managed to inject at least a soupcon of action:

35... Ke5

The King is an attacking piece in the ending. So Pillsbury's monarch went out to do battle, and allowed Howell's Rook to operate on the h-file and on its seventh rank.

36. Rh7 Rf8
37. Kf3 Kd4

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38. Ke2!

A nice defensive move. It prevented 38...Kd3.

38... Kc3

38...Be5 might have given him somewhat better chances to try to make something happen.

39. Rh3+ Kb4
40. Kd3 b6

40...Be5 was perhaps a slightly better chance to complicate.

41. Ke4 Be5

Better late than never.

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42. Bc2

Making needless problems for himself. A draw looks inevitable after 42. Kd3.

42... Re8

The only slim chance lay in a true Bishops of opposite color ending after 42...Rh8 (or 42...Bf6 followed by 43...Rh8).

So now, is the game drawn.

43. Bb1?

Crazy (though probably not theoretically losing) play. White is just fine after 43. Bd1 or 43. Kd3.

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43... Ka3

43...Rh8 (allowing the trade of Rooks) or maybe 43...Rc8 were the best (albeit remote) chances to press for a decisive result.

44. Bc2

Undoing much of the damage of his 43rd move.

44... Kb2
45. Kd3 e6

The following exchange only brought Howell closer to the draw he sought.

46. fxe6 fxe6

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

By this point, chances to win for either side were remote. But Pillsbury wasn't ready to give up on the game yet.

47. Bd1 exd5
48. cxd5 Bf4
49. Kc4

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49... Rc8+

This ended all chances for White to seek a win. The best (slim) chances lay in 49...Re4 or 49...Re1.

50. Kb5!

Now it was Pillsbury who had to take care. He still, however, had a tactical trick up his sleeve.

50... Rc5+
51. Kxb6 Rxd5
52. Bf3

52. Be2 was even safer.

52... Be3+
53. Kc6

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53... Rd3

Simpler was 53...Rc5+ since if then 54. Kxc6 Rc3 sets a nasty trap (55. Bd5?? Bf4+ wins). But Pillsbury had a different version of this trap in mind.

54. Bd5!

Howell was wide awake.

54... Rc3+

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55. Bc4!

Now 55. Kxd6?? loses to 55...Bf4+.

55... Ka3

A wild final effort to mix it up. Black had an easy draw with 55...Bf4.

56. Kd5

Still not falling for the trap (56. Kxd6?? Bf4+) but making no effort to play for a win (as Pillsbury would doubtless have done had he been playing White here) with 56. Rh8 followed by 56. Kxd6. Pillsbury should never have given Howell this chance, but even had Howell won a pawn his winning chances with Bishops of opposite colors would have been very slim.

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White wins a pawn after 56...Bd2 57. RxR BxR 58. Kxd6, but it would still be a draw.


1/2 --- 1/2

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Oops, apparently I can't count. The last post was Post IV.

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