25 May 2024

Annotated Game #277: A 19th-century lesson from Pillsbury

After my first-round loss as Black, I escaped with a draw as White in the second round after a wild game. I keep learning about move-order tricks and issues in the Stonewall Attack, with this game being another reminder of the one involving a Black Bd6 "targeting" the protected f4 pawn; this is a positional threat for a pawn exchange on d4, since White would be forced to recapture with the c-pawn and reach an unfavorable structure. (The same issue happens with Black in the Stonewall Defense.)

While neither myself or my opponent showed a consistent level of play in this game, during analysis I came across an excellent game from Harry Nelson Pillsbury that illustrated a much higher level of understanding of the position for White; the game score is included in the notes to move 10. A valuable lesson from the 19th century!

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "88"] [GameId "488555916873"] 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 e6 4. Nd2 {the idea is to prevent a symmetrical Stonewall formation from Black, which could happen after an immediate f4.} (4. f4 Ne4 5. Nf3 Be7 6. Nbd2 f5 $11) 4... Bd6 5. f4 c5 6. c3 {a problem with following this move-order is that the Bd6 targets f4, so the e-pawn cannot recapture on d4.} (6. Qf3 $5) 6... Nc6 (6... cxd4 7. cxd4 $15 {Black will be able to take better advantage of the open c-file and greater space available on the queenside.}) 7. Ngf3 O-O 8. Ne5 {now White is back into the standard Stonewall Attack formation. The Ne5 physically blocks the pressure on the f-pawn, eliminating that issue.} g6 {not a bad move in itself, but it makes less sense with the dark-square bishop already developed to d6.} 9. O-O Ne8 10. Qg4 {this is premature.} (10. Ndf3 {the knight is better placed and influences multiple key squares, such as d4, e5, g6 and h4. Here's how Pillsbury handled the rest of one game:} f6 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Qe2 f5 13. Bd2 Rb8 14. Rab1 Nf6 15. Kh1 Ne4 16. Be1 c4 17. Bc2 Qa5 18. a3 Qc7 19. g4 fxg4 20. Ne5 Nf6 21. Rg1 c5 22. Bh4 cxd4 23. cxd4 Bxe5 24. fxe5 Ne8 25. Rxg4 Qf7 26. Rg3 Ng7 27. Bf6 Ne8 28. Bxg6 hxg6 29. Qh5 Rb7 30. Qh8# {1-0 Pillsbury,H-Taubenhaus,J New York Impromptu 1893 (10)}) 10... Ng7 {evidently this was the idea behind moving the g-pawn earlier.} 11. Ndf3 $6 {played one move too late. Now White's pieces are more cramped on the kingside.} (11. Qh3 {the queen wants to be on the h-file for attacking purposes, in any case. Now if} f6 $2 12. Nxg6 $1 $18 {breaks apart Black's defenses, with a discovered attack on h7 threatened.}) 11... Ne7 12. Qg3 $6 {there's nothing to do for the queen on the g-file, so this just loses a tempo.} (12. Qh3) 12... Nef5 13. Qh3 {finally the queen is forced to the better square, but in less favorable circumstances.} c4 $6 {this actually does White a favor, as the bishop after retreating will no longer be available as a target.} (13... f6 {this now works, or at least keeps the balance for Black.} 14. g4 fxe5 15. fxe5 Be7 $15) 14. Bc2 h5 $6 {this unnecessarily weakens the pawn shield and allows White to attack.} 15. Kh1 {a good attacking move, preparing to put the rook on g1.} (15. g4 {immediately, however, is possible and best, according to the engines.} hxg4 16. Qxg4 {followed by Kh1 and possibly Rg1 seems like a better approach than the game.}) 15... Nh6 {now Black can exchange off on g4 and defend.} 16. Rg1 {not a bad idea, but the rook was fine on the f-file and there are better moves available.} (16. e4 $1 {this pawn lever is a key idea in these position-types, threatening to undermine Black's pawn chain while also moving towards opening up the two bishops' diagonals.}) 16... Bxe5 {understandable that Black would want to exchange off an attacker, but it in reality it does nothing for him, and could lead to a greater White attack, in fact.} 17. Nxe5 {this breaks the rule in the Stonewall Attack of recapturing on e5 with the f-pawn, to open up the f-file for an attack. This would also help clear the c1-h6 diagonal.} (17. fxe5 $1 Ngf5 18. Re1 $18 {preparing the e3-e4 blow and anticipating a potential ...Ng4.}) 17... Qf6 $2 {this would allow a winning tactical blow.} 18. Bd2 $16 {maintaining an advantage, but no more than that.} (18. g4 $1 {now there is a pawn fork on g5, so things are forced. Black cannot take with the pawn, since the Nh6 would be hanging.} Nxg4 19. Rxg4 hxg4 20. Nxg4 $18 Qe7 21. Nh6+ $1 {picking up the queen on e7 after a windmill tactic on f7 and then ...Nf5, due to the queen checks on the h-file.}) 18... Ngf5 19. e4 {this pawn lever is perhaps not quite as effective as if played in move 16, but it is still good. Black does not respond correctly, in any case.} Ne7 $2 (19... dxe4 20. Bxe4 Nd6 21. Bf3 $16) 20. Raf1 $18 {a strong move, preparing the f-pawn advance, although it could also be played immediately.} (20. f5 $1 {with a discovered attack on the Nh6.} Ng4 (20... Kh7 $2 21. fxg6+ fxg6 22. Bxh6 Kxh6 23. Ng4+ $1 $18) 21. Nxg4 hxg4 22. Qh6 $1 $18 {is decisive, with Bg5 threatened to follow.}) 20... Qg7 21. g4 (21. Qh4 $5 f6 {this appears to largely resolve Black's problems, but White is still winning after} 22. g4 $1 fxe5 23. fxe5 Nxg4 24. h3 {and the knight is trapped, since if} Nh6 25. Bxh6 {deflection tactic on the overloaded Qg7 defender} Qxh6 26. Qxe7 $18) 21... Nxg4 22. Nxg4 $2 {this is a big failure of both imagination and calculation.} (22. Rxg4 $1 {the same idea from the move 18 variation. The Ne5 is a stronger attacker, so the rook sacrifices itself to get the h-file open.} hxg4 23. Nxg4 $18) (22. Qh4 $5) 22... hxg4 23. Rxg4 dxe4 $15 {the next move is the "automatic" recapture, which of course is a blunder.} 24. Bxe4 $4 {the pawn is tactically protected.} (24. b3) 24... Nf5 $2 {here I rushed to exchange pieces, amazed by my good fortune. I recall thinking that I did not wish my opponent to realize his mistake, although it would not have made a difference.} (24... f5 $1 {and the pawn fork decides it.}) 25. Bxf5 (25. Rfg1 $11) 25... exf5 26. Rg3 Bd7 {this is too passive for the bishop and allows my next move.} (26... Be6 $15 {would maintain a small positional advantage, with contested control over the center and Black's better kingside pawn formation.}) 27. d5 $11 {I was proud of finding this, since it appears to weaken White's pawn structure, but in fact seizes central space and equalizes. Black actually cannot get at the advanced d-pawn, which restricts the bishop.} Rad8 28. Qg2 {oriented towards reinforcing the d-pawn.} (28. Be3 {is the more active and better choice.}) 28... Be8 29. Kg1 {the point is to get the king off the long diagonal, so the d-pawn can advance without triggering a ...Bc6 bishop skewer.} Qf6 {attempting to extricate the queen from the g-file pin, but this is too slow. I spot the idea of occupying the long diagonal with my centralized bishop.} 30. Be3 $16 Qd6 {again getting out of the line of fire.} 31. Bd4 $6 $11 {it was not necessary to give up the pawn, and White does not have enough of an attack in response.} (31. Rd1 $16 {simple and best, retaining the pawn.}) 31... Qxd5 32. Qh3 {a mate threat is always nice, except when there is a simple defense like} f6 {and from this point on, neither side should be able to make progress - although it is trickier for Black, as we'll see on the next move.} 33. Re1 {logically occupying the open file.} Qf7 $2 (33... Rd7 $11) 34. Qxf5 {I missed Black's next resource, which is the best defense.} (34. Bc5 $1 {wins material and provides White a winning position. However, this was evidently too simple for me to understand, so instead I go with a more complicated attack.}) 34... Rd5 35. Qc2 Rh5 36. Bc5 $4 {my brain was evidently tired at this point and I went back to what should have been played on move 34. But what has changed about the position?} Rxc5 $19 {oh, that's right.} 37. Rxe8 {a desperate attempt to get a perpetual on Black's king.} Rxe8 38. Rxg6+ Kh8 39. Rh6+ Kg8 40. Qg2+ Kf8 (40... Qg7 $1 {my opponent does not spot this idea, which works due to} 41. Rg6 Rg5 $19 {which is admittedly hard to visualize and find.} 42. Rxg7+ Rxg7 {and the queen is pinned.}) 41. Rh8+ Ke7 42. Qxb7+ Ke6 {by this point we were both short on time and my opponent plays it safe, accepting a perpetual. There is in fact a draw, but not in the line I played.} 43. Qe4+ $2 (43. f5+ $1 {diverting the rook away, leaving the king bare.} Rxf5 44. Qc6+ $11) 43... Kd7 44. Qb7+ Ke6 (44... Rc7 $1 {and the king will have enough of a shield.}) 1/2-1/2

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