Center Game C24

Anthony Edward Santasiere
Carlos Torre

Dimock Theme 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4
Marshall Chess Club, New York, 1924

 


1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Qxd4?!

Santasiere tries to transpose to the Center Game, which is fairly good for White. But he has spent a tempo developing his Bishop to c4, which may not be its best spot, rather than playing Nc3. This gives Black a clear edge.

 

4....Nc6 5. Qe3 Bb4+!?

The Bishop develops with check, clearing the way for speedy castling, after which Black can bring his Rook to the e-file and exploit the awkward alignment of White's King and Queen. The Bishop move has another advantage: White can now choose between 6.Nc3 when his Knight is pinned and cannot defend the pawn at e4 or 6.c3 Ba5! after which the Knight cannot develop to c3 at all and Black gains a clear advantage after 7.Qg3 Qe7!

 

But White should play 6.Bd2 O-O 7.Ne2 with approximate equality.

 

A more aggressive idea for Black had been demonstrated by Leonhardt in a 1903 exhibition game: 5....Ne5! 6. Bb3 Bb4+! 7. c3? Bc5! 8. Qg3 Bxf2+! 0-1

 

6. Nc3 O-O 7. Bd2

Essential here is 7.Ne2, though Black has a clear edge with 7....Re8! threatening both 8....Nxe4 and 8....d5. But at least White might keep material in balance. After 7.Bd2, White simply loses a pawn with inadequate compensation.

 

7....Bxc3! 8. Bxc3 Nxe4!

The Knight is immune, since 9.Qxe4? Re8 wins.

 

9. O-O-O Nxc3 10. Qxc3 Qf6?

Like Capablanca, his fellow Latin American chess player and idol, Torre always preferred simplification when he had any advantage. But the Queen move is poorly considered, since it allows White to weaken Black's pawns and his castled position, after which White will have good targets of attack and a certain initiative. Likely Torre completely underestimated Santasiere's chances of developing an attack on the Kingside with Queens off the board. Best, of course, was simple development by 10....d6 11.Nf3?! Bg4 or 11.Rd3!? Be6 =+ when the extra pawn should eventually tell in Black's favor.

 

The way Santasiere battles back after blundering away a pawn reminds me of one of my own drawn games as White against my late friend Edgar T. McCormick: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Nxd5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.h3!? Bxf3 6.Qxf3 e6 7.c4?! Bb4+ 8.Nc3? (A natural looking move, but one which loses a pawn outright) 8....Nxc3 9.bxc3 Qxd4! (The double pin on the c-pawn prevents it from taking either Black's Queen or his Bishop) 10.Bd2 Qe5+ 11.Be2 O-O (Black must return the pawn but he gains a tremendous advantage after 12.Qxb7 Nd7 followed later by Nc5) 12.Rb1! Bd6 (Perhaps 12....Bc5!? was in order, but Black was still preserving that square for his Knight) 13.Rb5! (This forces Black's Queen to f6, after which his kingside pawns are damaged by the exchange of Queens) 13....Qf6 14.Qxf6 gxf6 15.Rh5! (White ignores the loose pawn at b7 in favor of an attack on the weakened kingside pawns) 15....Nd7 16.Bd3 f5 and now I ran for the draw with 17.Bh6, either winning the exchange or forcing a draw by perpetual check, but I might have tried to continue the attack with 17.g4!? Santasiere's attack on Torre's damaged kingside pawns is quite similar and brings about the same result. The lesson of this game is that even when the second player wins a pawn in the opening, he needs to be careful of White's initiative!

 

11. Qxf6! gxf6 12. Ne2

White's Knight has excellent prospects from this square, from whence it can play Ng3-Nh5, Ng3-f5-h6, or Nf4-d5 to exploit Black's weaknesses.

 

12....Ne5

Black must play very carefully here to mitigate White's initiative, but he may eventually have no chance of exploiting his extra pawn. Black's idea with 12....Ne5 is to secure the f6 square. But the Knight becomes a target for White's pieces, helping them to move to the kingside with gain of time. It is difficult to find a stronger plan, however. If 12....Nd8!? 13.Nf4 c6 14.Nh5 d5 15.Bd3 f5 White can attack with 16.g4! while after 12....Ne7 13.Nf4 Kh8!? 14.Nh5 Ng8 then 15.Rd3-f3. It may well be that there is no perfect defense for Black given his pawn weakness on the kingside.

 

13. Bb3 Ng4 14. Rd4 f5 15. h3 Nf6 16. g4 d6 17. f3 Bd7 18. Ng3 h6 19. Rf4 Rae8 20. Nxf5 Bxf5 21. Rxf5 Nd7 22. g5 Re5 23. Rxf7 Rxf7 24. g6 d5 25. gxf7+ Kxf7 26. Rd1 Nb6 27. a4 a5 28. Rd4 Rf5 29. c4 Rxf3 30. Bd1 Rxh3 31. cxd5 Ke7 32. b4 Rc3+ 33. Kb2 Rc4 34. d6+ cxd6 35. Rxc4 Nxc4+ 36. Kc3 d5 37. bxa5 Nxa5 38. Kb4 Nc4 39. Kc5 Ke6 40. Bf3 Ne3 41. Kb6 Nc4+ 42. Kc5 Ne3 43. Kb6 d4 44. Kxb7 Nc4 45. Ka6 Nb2 46. a5 Nc4 47. Kb5 Nxa5 48. Kxa5 1/2-1/2

 

Notes by Michael Goeller