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Clarence Seaman Howell vs Eugene Delmar
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 8, Aug-16
Italian Game: Scotch Gambit (C55)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-28-20  Straclonoor: Contrast game.

White had a lot chances to win.

On 21th move

Analysis by Stockfish 141220:

+- (4.85): 21.Rxg7+ Kxg7 22.Qg5+ Kh7 23.f6 Qxf6 24.Qxf6 dxc4 25.Qh4+ Kg6 26.Ne2 Ra5 27.Nf4+ Kg7 28.Qe7 Rh8+ 29.Kg1 Rb5 30.Qxc7 Rh4 31.Kf2 c3 32.b3 axb3 33.axb3 Rg5 34.b4 Bd7 35.Kf3 Bg4+ 36.Ke3 Rh6 37.Qe7 Rb5 38.Kd3 Rf6 39.g3 Bc8 40.Kxc3 Rh6 41.Nd3 Rf6 42.Qd8 Be6 43.Qd4 Rg5 44.Kb2 Rxg3 45.Ne5 Kh7 46.Nxc6 Rff3 47.b5 Rg5 48.Qb4 Bd7 49.Nd4 Rxb5 50.Nxb5 Bxb5 51.Qxb5 Rf6 52.Qc4 Kh6 53.Qd4 Rg6 54.Kc3 Ra6

On 23th move

Analysis by Stockfish 141220:

1. +- (8.98): 23.Qh4 Bxf5 24.exf5 Qxf5 25.Be4 Qf1+ 26.Kh2 f5 27.Bd3 Qxd3 28.cxd3 a3 29.Ne2 axb2 30.Qd4 Rf7 31.Qxb2 Kh8 32.Rh3+ Kg8 33.Qb3 c5 34.a4 Ra6 35.Qc4 Rh6 36.a5 Rxh3+ 37.gxh3 Be5+ 38.Kh1 Kg7 39.a6 Bd6 40.a7 Rf8 41.Qd5 Kf6 42.Kg2 Ke7 43.a8Q Rxa8 44.Qxa8 Kd7 45.Qd5 f4 46.Kf3 Kc8 47.Qa8+ Kd7 48.Nxf4 Be5 49.Qd5+ Bd6 50.Qf5+ Kc6 51.Ne2 Be7 52.Qe4+ Kd7 53.Qd5+ Bd6 54.Qf5+ Kc6 55.h4 Bh2 56.Kg2 Bd6 57.h5

Black had advantage enough for win in most part of the game


Analysis by Stockfish 141220:

-+ (-5.36): 22...cxd5 23.Nxd5 Ra6 24.f6 Qxg5 25.Rxg5 Kh7 26.fxg7 Rg8 27.Nxc7 Rh6+ 28.Kg1 Rxg7 29.Rc5 Rg4 30.Nd5 Be6 31.b3 Rxe4 32.Nc3 Rd4 33.Kf2 Rd2+ 34.Kf3 Rxc2 35.Nxa4 Rf6+ 36.Ke3 Rxg2 37.Re5 Rh6 38.Kd4 Rh4+ 39.Re4 Rh5 40.Nb6 Bf5 41.Re3 Rxa2 42.Kc3 Rc2+ 43.Kb4 Bg6 44.Nc4 Rc1 45.Nd6 f6 46.Rc3 Rd1 47.Rc7+ Kh6 48.Nf7+ Bxf7 49.Rxf7 Kg6 50.Ra7 Rh4+ 51.Kb5 f5 52.b4

In the end

52... Qh3+ 53. Kg7 c5 54. Qxf7+ Kc6 55. Qc4 Qg3+ 56. Kh6 Qd6+ 57. Kh7 Kb6 58. Kg8 Qd4 59. Qe6+ Kb5 60. Qe7 c4 61. Qb7+ Qb6 62. Qg7 a3 63. Qe5+ Ka4 64. Qe4 Qg1+ 65. Kf8 Qc1 66. Qd4 Qe1 67. Kf7 Kb3 68. Qb6+ Qb4 69. Qg1 c3 70. Qb1+ Ka4 71. Qc1 c2 72. Kg6 Qe4+ 73. Kf6 a2 74. Kf7 Qf3+ 75. Kg6 Kb3 76. Qe1 Qc6+ 77. Kh5 c1=Q 78. Qg3+ Ka4 79. Qg4+ Q1c4 80. Qf4 Q4e4 81. Qxe4+ Qxe4 82. Kg5 a1=Q 83. Kh5 Qg1 84. Kh6 Qgg6# Lomonosov TB7

Result - draw...

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: I nearly abandoned the effort to analyze this game as I moved from one catastrophic error to another. As <Straclonoor> recently observed on this site, both side erred drastically, and Delmar had a clearly won game (a piece up) for a major part of the game. How, one might ask, could a tournament player flub so many winning opportunities.

But the game eventually became sufficiently engrossing for me to buckle down and try to analyze what happened. Indeed, I cannot recall another game in which BOTH players executed winning sacrifices while capturing the opponent's h-pawn, let alone one in which this occurred within just a few moves (Delmar playing the "winning" 13...Nxh2 and then blundering away his win with 16...a4? and then achieving a "lost" game with 17...h6?; and Howell returning the favor five moves later with his own "winning" 18. Bxh6 and then blundering away his win with 21. Qg5? and then making what should have been the "losing" 22. Bxd5).

I am not sure whether to believe we have the true score here. Two of the stated sources are periodicals other than the usual. For purposes of my analysis, I will in general assume we have the actual moves of the game.

Going into this game, Delmar and Howell were tied for 3rd-4th with 4-3 a half-point behind Napier. With the draw here, they fell a full point behind Napier (who won his 8th round game against Karpinski). With Delmar defeating Napier in the next (9th) round and then winning his final game, he ended up tied for 2nd prize with Napier. Thus, failing to win his piece up ending here cost Delmar undisputed second place at Buffalo 1901. Howell, by contrast, lost his final two games and ended up in 4th place, exactly where he would have ended up whatever the outcome of this game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6
4. d4

By-passing the more usual 4. Ng5 or the solid 4. d3 or 4. Nc3 (offering a Four Knights' Game). The text, is tricky, but should not lead to more than equality for White with best play by Black.

4... exd4
5. 0-0

5. e5 is also often played here. The choice between the two moves is primarily one of style.

click for larger view

5... d6

Black's only chance to play for an edge is with 5...Nxe4. One gets the sense that Delmar expected 4. Ng5 and was not prepared for the complications after 4. d4.

6. Nxd4 Be7
7. Nc3 0-0
8. Be3

Howell should probably have played 8. h3 to prevent Delmar's next move.

8... Ng4

click for larger view

9. Qe2

9. Bf4 or 9. NxN followed perhaps by moving the e3 Bishop was probably better.

9... Bf6
10. NxN bxN

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11. Bd2

11. Bf4 or 11. Rad1 were much better.

11... Be5

This wound up working splendidly, but only because of Howell's gross error on his next move. Delmar could have retained some advantage with 11...Bd4 or 11...a5. After Delmar's actual 11...Be5, the position was:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

12. f4??

This crazed effort should lose immediately. White would have been fine with 12. h3. But after the text, he was immediately busted:

click for larger view

12... Bd4+

Hard to imagine how Howell missed this retort to 12. f4??

13. Kh1 Nxh2!

click for larger view

14. Qh5

Since 14. KxN??? runs into 14...Qh4 mate, White has nothing better than to submit to the loss of the exchange.

14... NxR
15. RxN

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Game over? Not hardly. The game actually lasted another 66 moves from here, and Black--who has a winning edge in the diagrammed position was dead-lost and facing a winning sacrifice involving the capture of the BLACK h-pawn in just three moves:

15... a5?

15...Qf6 should allow Black to defend against any King-side threats from White. But Delmar chose to put his head in the sand and ignore White's only chances. He was still winning after the text, but not for long.

16. Rf3

This ended up working excellently, but only because of Delmar's feeble play. 16. f5 was the best theoretical chance for White here.

After 16. Rf3, the position was:

click for larger view

One doesn't have to study the board for very long to see that White's only possible counter-play involves a King-side attack. That can all be neutralized with 16...g6. 16...Be6 and 16...d5 both also are sufficient to win. But Delmar sallied forth on the Queen-side with:

16... a4?

Not Howell's attack became serious after:

17. f5!

click for larger view

17... h6??

Incredible. Black's win is already gone, but he would be able to stave off defeat with 17...Qf6. But after the text:

18. Bxh6!

click for larger view

Now it was time for Howell to play a winning minor-piece sacrifice with a capture of the opponent's h-pawn.

Quite a reversal of fortune!

But this was just the beginning of the wild swings in this game. Within just four moves, Howell turned his winning position into a losing one; then Delmar blundered on his 22nd move handing Howell the game again; until the latter blundered again on moves 23 and 24 giving the winning advantage back to Black, who had a clear win from move 24 until move 71, when he blundered for the last time and allowed Howell to escape with a draw.

I got punch-drunk just watching this bizarre contest.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

18... d5

This is Black's best chance, but he is lost with best play on all lines from here. If 18...gxB Black gets crushed after 19. Rg3+ Kh7 20. Bxf7!

After 18...d5, the position was:

click for larger view

19. Rg3

This is sufficient to win, but White has many other winning lines here, including 19. Rh3; 19. Bd3; and 19. exd5. These are all fun lines to examine. The strongest and most spectacular line is 19. Nxd5 cxN 20. Rh3 Bxf5 (the only chance) 21. exB Re8 22. Be3 f6 23. Qh7+ Kf8 24. BxB Re1+ 25. Kh2 Qd6+ 26. Rg3 dxB 27. Qxg7+ Ke8 28. Qh8+ Kd7 29. QxR Re7 30. Qxa4+ and White with his extra piece and extra two pawns should win easily.

The text, however, should also win.

19... Qd6
20. Bxg7 BxB

click for larger view

As <Straclonoor> pointed out on this site a few weeks ago, Howell could have won here with 21. RxB+ (see his post for the winning variation). But here Howell erred and gave away the win with:

21. Qg5? Qe5

click for larger view

Howell's win was gone, but he could probably have still saved the game with:

22. Bxd5?

This left:

click for larger view

Now, as <Straclonoor> has shown, Delmar can win with the simple 22...cxB. But here Delmar erred once again, this time with:

22... Bd7?

click for larger view

This lemon turned a win for Black into a loss. As <Straclonoor. was demonstrated, White can now win with 23. Qh4. but he flubbed his chances once again with:

23. Bc4?

Now Delmar could have been fine with 23...Rfe8. But he got himself back in hot water once again with:

23... Ra5?

click for larger view

This last move by Delmar was not necessarily fatal, but Howell could now have made his life miserable with 24. Qh4! But instead, Howell blundered yet again, and this time his error should definitely have been fatal:

24. Nd1?

click for larger view

Howell was almost certainly lost now. But matters quickly got even worse for him:

24... Re8
25. Qg6?

25. Nf2 was White's only real chance here. After the text, he was fated to be down at least a piece and the game was seemingly over:

click for larger view

Howell was now dead lost in all variations. Indeed, he remained hopelessly lost for the next 35 moves, but hung in there--and was rewarded when, as we will see, Delmar eventually threw away what should have been a certain win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Posr IV

25... Rd5!

The simplest.

26. BxR

White has nothing better.

26... cxB

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With his White square Bishop gone and no pin on Black's f-pawn, White's attack was over. Black's material edge must have seemed certain to prevail. But Howell soldiered on:

27. Qg5 Kf8

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28. Ne3

28. Rd3 was probably a better chance, but White's task seems hopeless.

28... Bf6?

This didn't blow the win for Delmar, but 28...dxe4 was simplest. Now, Howell had a glimmer of hope:

click for larger view

29. Qg8+

29. Qh6+ Bg7 30. Qg5 transposes back to the earlier position, giving Black a second chance to find the decisive dxe4.

29... Ke7
30. Nxd5+ Kd8
31. Qg4

click for larger view

31... Rh8+

31...Qxb2 seems simplest for Black. But the text should also win:

32. Rh3 RxR+

The position now with White to recapture was:

click for larger view

33. gxR

33. QxR looks like the only slim chance for White. After the text, the game surely seemed over.

33... Qxb2
34. NxB QxN

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Delmar had--with some help from Howell--weathered the storm and resignation by White seems to be in order. But, adhering to Tartakower's later adage that "No one ever won [or in this instance drew] a game by resigning, Howell decided to battle on based on his sole remaining trump card: his passed h-pawn.

As the sequel demonstrated, whatever the theoretical merits of this idea, in practice it led to some very exciting play.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

35. h4?!

35. Qg8+ might look sounder (ask any computer), but Howell now had a one-track mind, and had decided to stake all on the h-pawn, even if it meant loss of all his other pawns.

35... Qa1+
36. Kh2 Qxa2

Delmar started gobbling White pawns while Howell continued to go for broke with his h-pawn:

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37. h5?!

Undaunted, Howell adhered to his desperate plan.

37... Qxc2+
38. Kh3

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38... Qc1

38...a3 would have been a crusher, but Delmar's move should also have won.

39. Qh4+ Ke8
40. Qg3

40. Qf6 was "better." But Howell remained on target. All he cared about was his h-pawn:

40... Qh1+
41. Kg4 Qxe4+
42. Kg5 Qxf5+

42...a3 should also win easily. But the text certainly seems decisive:

click for larger view

Howell had now lost four of his five pawns. But his h-pawn was still standing. The game was theoretically lost (Fritz and Stockfish rattle off forced mates for Black about this point), but Howell retained his single-minded focus:

43. Kh6 Qf6+
44. Kh7 Bf5+
45. Kg8

click for larger view

Why didn't Howell resign here, I hear you cry. The sequel provides the answer. Over the board, all sorts of miracles can occur, as happened here.

45... Kd7

45...Qe7 or 45...a3 (46. Qxa3 allows mate in three after 46...Qg5+). The text of course should also win easily. But in real life over the board play, Howell still had hope.

46. Qg2 Qd8+?

The text wins but gave Howell's h-pawn life. 46...a3 looks like fini for White.

47. Kg7 Qc8?

47...Be6 was the killer. The text was--yet again--a winner as well, but now the h-pawn got on the march again:

48. h6

click for larger view

Howell still would require about a half-dozen miracles to survive. But he was still breathing and decided to hang in there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

48... Ke7
49. Qg5+

Obviously forced.

49... Ke6

49...Ke8 was simpler. But the game was still clearly won for Black.

50. Qf6+ Kd5
51. h7

Mission accomplished for Howell. Delmar had to give up his Bishop. But did this really give White any chance.

51... Bxh7
52. KxB

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All hail Howell for holding on for so long. But Queen and three pawns versus Queen is an easy win, isn't it?

52... Qh3+
53. Kg7 Qe6

53...Qg3+ seems to finish off White, but even after the text, the game was still over, right?

54. Qf3+

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54... Kc4?

Incredible. White now loses his c-pawn. This could have been avoided with the seemingly obvious 54...Kc5. 54...Qe4 should also finish off White, despite loss of the Black f7 pawn. The game was also still won for Black after the text, but it was now getting dicier.

As Fine/Benko note in Basic Chess Endings, Queen and two pawns nearly always win against a lone Queen. The trick, as that text goes on to note, is to escape the inevitable cascade of Queen checks. This sort of ending is thus not that easy to win in practice, and Delmar was not up to the task.

55. Qf4+ Kb3
56. Qxc7

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56... Qg4+

56...f5 also wins.

57. Kf8

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57... Qc4?

Making his task more difficult. He should just have played 57...f5. 57...Qb4+ was also better than the text.

58. Qg3+ Qc3

I like this move, which exploits the position of the White King at f8. (If now 59. Qb8+ Black ends proceedings with 59...Qb4+.

59. Qf2 f6!
60. Kf7

60. Qf5 looks like the only chance.

60... a3

60...Qc7+ would avoid the check by the White Queen on b6 and should end the game. And if then 61. Kxf6 a3 (since any check by White on the third rank would run into 62...Qc3+).

After the text, it was not clear whether the win was still there for Black, the position now being:

click for larger view

I said earlier in my analysis of this game that the game remained won for Black until Delmar's weak 71st move. I now see that I was wrong. The diagrammed position was in fact no longer a theoretical win for Black. My earlier comment was correct only to the extent that, in light of Howell's error on move 71, Delmar had a chance to win with a better 71st move. But from the above position until Howell's mistake on move 71, the game was probably a theoretical draw. The White Queen was now so strongly positioned that the win was almost certainly gone for Black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

Even if the game is a theoretical draw for White because of the ability to harass the Black King with repeated Queen checks, that does not mean keeping the draw is easy. In fact, Howell faltered on move 71 and might have lost had Delmar seized his chance.

61. Qb6+ Ka2
62. Qf2+ Qb2
63. Qf1 Qc3
64. Qe2+ Ka1
65. Qf1+ Ka2
66. Qe2+ Ka1
67. Qf1+ Ka2

click for larger view

Howell could here have claimed a draw by triple repetition. This identical position was reached after Delmar's 63rd and 65th moves. Recognizing it is a bit tricky because the position was reached via Qc3 by Black on move 63. Bobby Fischer had a fabulous ability to spot these opportunities. Howell missed the possibility here, and had to struggle on for another 14 moves before he achieved a draw.

68. Qf2+ Qb2
69. Qf1 Qd4
70. Qe2+ Kb3

click for larger view

Howell still had a theoretical draw in hand, but here he erred:

71. Qb5+?

He had to play 71. Qf3+. The text could have cost Howell the game, the position now being:

click for larger view

71... Kc2?

Queen and Pawn endings are monstrously difficult to calculate over the board. Here, Black can win with 71...Kc3! If then 72. Qa5+ Qb4 or 72. Qf5 Kb4 73. Qb1+ Kc5 and White can not check on the c-file because Black can then play Qc4+ winning. After the text, by contrast, Howell was back in business.

72. Qe2+

72. Qc6+ also leads to a draw.

72... Kb3
73. Qf3+

Avoiding repeating the losing option of his 71st move with 73. Qb5+.

73... Kb4
74. Qb7+

click for larger view

74... Kc5?

This hangs the a-pawn (via a skewer) and ends any practical winning chances Black may have had. Delmar might have been able to press for a win with 74...Kc3. After the text, Howell had a easy draw once he scooped up the Black a-pawn.

75. Qa7+

click for larger view

Oops. Delmar could not defend both the a-pawn and the Queen, and thus the win was gone.

75... Kd5
76. Qxa3

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VIII

Queen and Pawn versus Queen endings are drawn with exceptions not applicable here. Delmar are lost his chances. Nonetheless, he fought on hoping for a miracle that was not to be. Instead, having lost two of his three pawns since he enjoyed a Queen and three pawns against Queen ending, Delmar soon tossed away his final pawn:

76... f5

Unlike the advanced a-pawn he had possessed before, Delmar's remaining f-pawn gave him no serious practical chances for victory.

77. Qa8+ Ke5
78. Qh8+ Kd5
79. Qa8+ Kd6
80. Qd8+

click for larger view

80... Kc5

The game was drawn anyway, but this drops the remaining Black pawn.

81. Qc8+

click for larger view

1/2 --- 1/2

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