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William Ewart Napier vs Louis Karpinski
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 8, Aug-16
Sicilian Defense: Four Knights Variation (B45)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Another feeble performance by Karpinski at Buffalo 1901. After drawing his first two games, Karpinski had lost his next five. His (entirely needless) loss in this game placed in in last place at 1-7, a half-point behind Marshall. When Marshall won their ninth round game, Karpinski's last place finish was assured. His loss in the final round to Pillsbury left him at 1-9 (with eight losses in his final eight games).

By contrast, Napier sat in second place going into this encounter. With Delmar and Howell (who had been a half-point behind) drew their game this round, Napier found himself alone in 2nd place and the only competitor with a mathematical chance to catch Pillsbury. Napier lost his game in the following round, and ended up sharing 2nd prize with Delmar.

The instant game was hardly a gem. Weak opening play by Napier allowed Karpinski to reach a slightly favorable endgame with Bishops of opposite colors. Once the Rooks were off the board, a draw seemed likely (after Karpinski made no effort to build on his small advantage).

The reduced material endgame seemed tough to lose, but Karpinski was up to the task, first blundering away a pawn (which might not have been fatal with Bishops of opposite colors) and then a piece (by falling into a fairly obvious forking combination).

For much of the game, Napier appeared to be waiting around for Karpinski to blunder. He was not to be disappointed.

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 Nc6
3. Nf3 e6
4. d4 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Nf6
6. Nbd5

Thus far an opening that could be played by a grandmaster today.

6... Bb4

6...d6 is more prudent, but the text is also well-known and still widely played. It tends to cede the two Bishops to White.

7. a3 BxN+
8. NxB d5

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9. Bd3

9. exd5 is simpler and better. The text, however, later became a favorite of deFirmian, and was played by Fischer, Carlsen, and Caruana.

9... dxe4

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10. Bxe4?

10. Nxe4 is obviously better. The text allows Black to achieve a slightly better endgame.

10... QxQ+
11. KxQ NxN
12. NxN 0-0

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White is somewhat worse because of the loss of the right to Castle. Still, he should be able to hold this otherwise fairly balanced ending with decent play. But is this a way to play for a WIN by White (which Napier surely wanted as White against the last-place Karpinski? Perhaps he figured an ending would be the safest way, since he would not have to worry about some tactical accident, and perhaps thought he could just hand around and wait for Karpinski to blunder.

Karpinski, as will be seen, seemed to seek nothing more than a draw.

13. Be3 b6

Had Karpinski wanted to play for a win, 13...f5 or 13...e5 might have been the way to proceed.

14. Kc1

Napier decided to castle Queen-side the slow way! His plan worked more effectively than might have been expected, in part because of Karpinski's limited ambitions:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

14... Rd8

With 14...f5 followed by Ba6 and f4, Karpinski would have had prospects (albeit small) of winning. But as will soon be apparent, Karpinski's ambitions were limited to trading off Rooks and reaching a completely drawish opposite color Bishops minor piece ending.

15. b3

Continuing with his plan to castle long the slow way.

15... Bb7

15...e5 or 15...f5 would still have been more enterprising. But Karpinski was likely satisfied that the game was winding down to an ending even he could be expected to draw.

16. f3 Rd7

Again by-passing e5 or f5 and looking to double Rooks on the d-file in preparation for wholesale trades.

17. Kb2

Napier had thus succeeded in his "castling" scheme:

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17... Rad8
18. Nc3 Kf8
19. Rad1 RxR

Pretty much announcing that a draw was the limit of his ambitions.

20. RxR RxR
21. NxR

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This sure looks like a draw. But even seemingly dead-drawn endings can be mangled.

21... Ba6?

Not a losing move in itself by any means, but the beginning of a bad plan that gets his own Bishop buried and out of play. The Tournament Book only slightly exaggerated when it said that Karpinski effectively played much of the next phase of the game effectively a piece down (even before he later blundered away his Knight and was TRULY a piece down in every sense).

22. c4!

Limiting the scope of Karpinski's Bishop and beginning the process of trying to exploit his Queen-side pawn majority.

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22... Ne5
23. Kc3 Nd7
24. a4 Ke7

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25. a5

Over-eager play by Napier. 25. b4 (or maybe 25. Kb4) was a better way to build up Queen-side pressure.

25... Kd6?

Hard to understand. Black is fine after 25...bax5

26. axb6

26. b4 was stronger.

26... axb6
27. Kb4

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Napier had frittered away most of his edge and a draw now was no tall order for Black. But from here Karpinski fell apart and lost first a pawn and then his Knight. In the diagram above, it is hard to see how Karpinski might have done all this.

Stay tuned!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

27... Kc6
28. Nf2

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28... Ne5?

Loses a pawn. Karpinski had a slew of decent options, all of which should have allowed him to hold a draw with ease: e.g., 28...Bb7; 28...f6; 28...e5. But now:

29. Bd4!

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This left Karpinski with a choice between allowing 30. BxN, which would have left him with an isolated and hopelessly weak doubled e-pawn or giving up the g7 pawn. Karpinski, not unreasonably, chose the latter option.

29... Ng6
30. Bxg7

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Is this position a theoretical win for White. The answer is not clear. One thing is for sure, winning would be a formidable task with the opposite color Bishops. This game does not answer the question, since Karpinski soon blundered again.

30... Bh4
31. Nd3

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Did Karpinski miss this possibility. Now, White either wins the Black f7 pawn or is able to defend his own g-pawn. Black remains down a pawn in either case.

31... Nxg2

Probably the best chance.

32. Ne5+ Kc7
33. Nxf7

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Winning for White would still be a chore.

33... Ne1
34. Ng5 Kd7
35. Kc3 Bb7
36. f4

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Karpinski still had practical chances to save the game. But those chances would soon be gone after his horribly weak upcoming play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

36... Nf3
37. Nxh7 Nxh2
38. Bd4

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38... Kc7??

This loses a piece and is fatal. Karpsinski had to play 38...Kc6. He obviously did not like blocking his b7 Bishop which had been out of play for much of the ending. But the text allowed a tactical refutation, since his King and Knight were now situated in the same diagonal, the position after 38...Kc7?? being:

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White to move and win.

39. f5!

Game over:

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Play as he might, Black must lose his Knight.

39... exf5

This allows a killing Bishop fork, but if he tried to avoid the fork with 39...Nf3, he would still lose the Knight after 40. f6 Nh4 (the only way to stop the White pawn from Queening) 41. f7 Ng6 42 f8(Q) NxQ 43. NxN.

40. Be5+ Kc6
41. BxN

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Karpinski now managed to eliminate one of White's pawns, but it was not enough.

41... b5
42. Kb4 bxc4
43. bxc4

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An amateur might still blow the win for White, here, but against Napier there was no chance.

43... Kd7
44. Bf4 Kc6
45. Nf6 Bc8
46. Ne8

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