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Louis Karpinski vs Clarence Seaman Howell
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 1, Aug-12
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation Berlin Wall Defense (C67)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A forgettable game.

Karpinski had finished first in the "Third Class" tournament at Buffalo 1894. But now he was in the big time--the "Cup Contest"--and he was clearly outclassed. He drew his first two games, and then lost his remaining 8, finishing in dead last place. Howell finished 4th (out of six), ahead of only Marshall and Karpinski. He scored three wins and one draw (this game) against Marshall and Karpinski and lost four and drew two against the top three finishers (Pillsbury, Delmar, and Napier).

For most of this game, neither player appeared to strive for more than a draw. For much of the game, a draw seemed the logical result. In fact,Karpinski blundered on move 47 and Howell could have won, but neither Howell nor Napier (who commented on the game in the American Chess World seemed to notice.

Actually, the one truly interesting moment in the game came on move 35 where Howell avoided a plausible looking move that could have led to an amazing help-mate.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6

The Berlin Defense, which was very much in fashion at the time.

4. 0-0 Nxe4
5. d4 Nd6
6. BxN dxB
7. dxe5 Nf5
8. QxQ+ KxQ

click for larger view

A well-known position in the Berlin. It was reached three times in the 2000 Kasparov-Kramnik match and was also well-known at the time of this game.

9. Rd1+

The usual move (played by Kasparov in all three games in his match against Kramnik) is 9. Nc3.

The text is also fine. It has been played several times by Kamsky, and--remarkably enough--four times by Stockfish in its match against Alpha Zero (White managed only two draws in those four games).

9... Ke8
10. Nc3 h6
11. b3 Be7
12. g3

Played in 2003 by Topalov in 2003, but hardly to be recommended. 12. Ne2, 12. Ne4, and 12. Bb2 are good options. The text was rightly questioned by Napier in his commentary on this game.

12... Be6

12...b6 look more promising.

13. Bb2 Rd8
14. RxR+ KxR

click for larger view

The game was already looking drawish. White had the better pawn struture, but Black had the two Bishops.

15. Ne2


15... Bd5

If Howell were playing for a win, he might have tried 15...g5 immediately.

16. Nd2 g5

Better late than never. Howell, might also have considered 16...c5 here.

17. c4 Be6
18. Ne4 Kc8
19. Rd1 Rd8
20. RxR+ KxR

click for larger view

A quick draw was certainly in the air. For whatever reason, the game dragged on for another 32 moves even though, as will be seen, neither side appeared to have any interest in a true struggle.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

21. Kf1

White might at least have tried to make something happen with 21. g4 instead of this nothing move.

21... c5

Howell, playing against the weakest opponent in the field, should at least have tried to create problems on the Queenside with 21...b5. He did, after all, have an extra pawn there. If White tried to avoid undoubing Black's pawns, Howell might have obtained some slight chances after 22. Nd2 (22. cxb5 allows Black to get rid of his doubled pawns) Kd7 23. Bc3 bxc4 24. Nxc4 Bc5 25. Nc1 Nd4 26. Nd3 Bh3+ 27. Ke1 Nf3+ 28. Ke2 Ng1+. Still probably not enough to win, but at least a fighting chance against a very weak opponent.

22. Ke1 Ng7
23. Kd2 Bf5
24. Ke3 Ne6
25. f3 b6
26. Bc3 Bf8

Apparently waiting to reach the move 30 time control.

27. Bb2 Bg7
28. Ba1

A strange post for the Bishop. But both players just seemed to be marking time.

28... Ke7
29. Bb2 Nd8
30. Bc3 Nc6

click for larger view

Now that move 30 had been reached, perhaps someone would try to make something of the position.

31. f4

An idea of sorts.

31... g4

Locking up the Kingside rather than trying for some sort of complications with 31...gxf4 or 31...a5 or 31...Bg4.

32. Nc1

So much for enterprise!

32... Ke6
33. Nd3

A trap perhaps?

click for larger view

Had Howell carelessly played 33...Ne7, Karpinski would have had mate in two with 34. N(either Knight)x c5+ bxN Nxc5 mate. A neat little help-mate.

But nothing this exciting was going to happen in this game.

33... Bg6
34. Ndf2 h5
35. Ng5+ Ke7
36. Nge4 Ke8
37. Nd3 Ne7

click for larger view

Thus far, this endgame had been a colossal bore. But beginning here Karpinski began to play weakly, and might have been punished had Howell been awake.

38. Nef2

The first of a number of sloppy moves by Karpinski that could have led to trouble (though this one by itself was hardly fatal). Better were 38. Ndf2 or 38. Ng5

38... Nf5+
39. Kd2 Ke7
40. Bb2

40. b4 was much better and should lead to a draw.

40... Ke6

Black had various chances here,perhaps 40...Nd4 being his best shot.

41. Ne4 a5

Locking up the Queen-side, and leading further towards a draw.

42. a4 Ke7
43. Ndf2 Nd4!

A sign of life. Maybe there would be a struggl after all.

44. BxN


44... cxB
45. Kd3 c5
46. Kd2 Ke6

click for larger view

Karpinski was already beginning to sled on thin ice. Here he committed what should have been a fatal blunder.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

In his commentary on this game, Napier had nothing to say about the balance of the game, which featured extremely shoddy play by both sides.

I can sympathize. By this stage, I was nearly bored to tears by this game. But it was hre that Howell could and should have won the game.

47. Ng5+

Karpinski would likely have been fine had he simply continued to sit tight (with, e.g., 47. Kd1 or 47. Kc1 here). The text, by contrast, was, a potentially losing blunder, since White no longer had a Knight on e4, the position now being:

click for larger view

47... Ke7?

Missing his chance. With 47...Kf5! (now that White could no longer respond with Nd6+) Black should win, e.g. 48. h4 (White cannot retreat with 48. Nge4 in light of 48...Bxe5! 49. fxB Kxe5 50. Ng5 f6 after which the White Knight is trapped) gxh3 e.p. 49. Nxh3 f6 50. exf6 Bxf6 and now Black's two Bishops and protected passed pawn rule the board e.g., 51. Kd3 Be7 52. Kd2 Be8 53. Kd3 Bc6 54. Kd2 Bg2 55. Ng1 h4! 56. gxh4 Bxh4 57. Nd3 Ke4 57. Nd3 Ke4 58. Ne2 Bf1 59. Nec1 Kf3 after which Black wins the White f-pawn and ultimately the game.

After the text, however, Karpinski was able to undo the damage of his last move with:

48. Nge4

The once again looked like a draw (although Black still had better chances).

48... f6
49. exf6+ Bxf6

Now White had a seemingly easy road to a draw:

click for larger view

Now all Karpinski had to do was play 50. NxB. But...

50. Kd3?

Now, Howell had some prospects again:

50... Ke6
51. Nd1 Be7
52. Ndf2

click for larger view

In this advantageous (even if not theoretically winning) position, Howell inexplicably agreed to a draw.

Oh well, at least this meant the game was over.

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