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William Ewart Napier vs Clarence Seaman Howell
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 5, Aug-14
Queen Pawn Game: General (D00)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: After a listless opening as White, Napier produced a tactical and positional masterpiece, exploiting Howell's cramped King-side beautifully and relentlessly pounding Howell into a mating net and submission.

From move 18 on (and despite a slight hiccup at move 22, Napier's attacking scheme is a delight to play over.

1. d4 d5
2. e3 e6
3. Bd3

Slightly off-beat, but completely sound though not yielding White much of an advantage.

3... c5

The most aggressive line for Black against this opening.

4. c3

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A line favored by Showalter which he played several times in his match against Janowski. Napier likely got the idea from his compatriot. It doesn't promise White much, but avoids prepare lines from Black and is safe though passive.

4... Nc6
5. f4

Showalter's continuation. It sets up a Stonewall formation. I prefer the simple 5. Nf3, but the text is hardly a mistake.

5... Be7

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6. Nd2

A novelty but not a good one. It is dreadfully slow, but leaves no weak points and is OK if White's ambitions do not exceed surviving the opening intact.

6... Nf6
7. Ngf3 Ng4
8. Qe2 f5

Setting up his own Stonewall formation, and seemingly fixing the center pawns. As the game went, however, the presence of this pawn on f5 was used as a springboard by Napier to pry open the g-file. But that, of course, lay in the future, and there was nothing wrong with 8...f5.

9. 0-0 0-0

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10. Ne5

Premature. 10. b3 or 10. dxc5 were better.

10... Nh6

Beginning his self-destruction on the King-side. Howell would have been fine (and arguably even better) with 10...NgxN or 10...c4.

11. Qh5?!

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A wild effort to build an attack on the King-side. Though this effort ultimately succeeds , Napier's Queen could have wound up badly out of play against stronger opposition.

11... NxN
12. fxN?!

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This looks plainly wrong, but in light of what soon transpired, it absolutely helped Napier win by opening lines for his intended attack. Objectively, 12. dxN was correct. With better play by Black, the text could have proved a mistake. But if Napier were still with us today I bet he would chuckle and suggest we look at what actually happened in the ensuing struggle.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

12... Bd7
13. Nf3 c4
14. Bc2 Nf7
15. Bd2 Be8
16. Qh3 Kh8
17. Kh1

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Napier's King-side attack hasn't gotten much off the ground at this point. His position is not all that bad, but he had no reason for optimism at this point. But beginning here, Howell clogged up his King-side something fierce, and Napier's attack soon ran amok.

17... Rg8

Not fatal in itself, but the beginning of a bad plan that strangled his own King. With 17...Rc8 or 17...Rb8, Howell would have had somewhat the best of the contest. He could also have played 17...Nh6 or 17...g6 and been OK.

18. g4!

Napier knew just what to do here:

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Howell was not in any serious jeopardy yet. After 18. g4, he should have known what was in the works and taken effective counter-measures.

18... g6

So far so good.

19. Rg1

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19... Bc6

An inaccuracy that added some fuel to Napier's engine. With 19...Bd7, Howell would have been fine.

20. gxf5 exf5

Needless to say, 20...gxf5? would lead to big trouble for Black after 21. RxR+ QxR 22. Rg1 Qe8 23. Be1 and it is doubtful that Black can hold off the White forces on the Kings-side. What all this means is that Howell had to allow Napier to obtain a protected passed pawn on e5.

The game at this stage was certainly not anywhere near lost for Black, but now he was facing serious threats and would have to defend with great skill.

21. Rg2

Continuing to build up on the g-fiile:

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21... Qf8?

It wouldn't have been pretty, but Howell had to play 21...Bd7. Although seemingly not recognized by the players, Black was probably lost after the text (which further buries his King), the position now being:

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White to play and win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

22. Rag1

Missing the win with 22. e6 (22. e6 Nd6 23. Rag1 Bf6 24. Rxg6 RxR 25. RxR and White, up a pawn with a vicious attack must win.

This was the only second-best move by Napier in completing his combo. From here on, he played flawlessly.

22... Qh6!

The only way for Black to stay in the game.

23. Qg3

His winning chances would evaporate if he traded Queens.

23... Qh5
24. Bd1!

A lovely way to continue the attack. The position was now:

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24... Raf8?

Further burying his King. The best chance was 24...Rg7 (or maybe 24...Qg4).

From here, Napier had Howell tied up in knots and gave him no chance to recover.

25. e6!

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25... Nd6
26. Qe5+ Rg7
27. Ng5!

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Black is busted.

27... Qh4
28. Be1!

I love these sort of quiet deadly moves.

28... Qh6
29. Bf3

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29... BxN?

Black was probably lost anyway, but this leads to an immediate catastrophe. The only chance lay in 29...f4 or else a waiting move such as 29...a6 or 29...Kg8. Now, Black was dead.

30. RxB

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30... Ne4?

This only hastened the end. But the "better" 30...Ne8 or 30...Nc8 would only have delayed the end.

31. BxN fxB?

Even worse then 31...dxB, but by this point Howell must have been shell-shocked.

The position after 31...fxB was:

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From here, the finale was pretty...and inevitable.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

32. e7!

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From this point, every move by Napier was a picture.

32... Rfg8

Hopeless, but 32...Rf3 33. e8(Q)+ BxQ 34. QxB+ Rg8 35. Qe5+ Qg7 36. Bg3 was not much of an improvement.

33. h4

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The fastest way to finish off the attack.

33... Bd7

33...Be8 might have prolonged the game by a few moves, but would otherwise have made no difference.

34. Rf1!

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I love these quite killer moves.

34... Be8
35. Rf8

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What a picture!

35... a6

The need to make such a nothing waiting move reflects Howell's total helplessness to stop Napier's assault.

36. Qf6

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Mate is inevitable.

The threat ot 37. RxR+ KxR 38. Qf8 mate is amusing. Black can delay it a few moves only by useless sacrifices.

What a finish!

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