The top British players F.D. Yates and Sir George Thomas played many games against each other during their careers. Chessbase gives a total score of 12 wins, 12 draws and 9 losses for Sir George Thomas out of a total of 33 games, starting in 1918 and finishing in 1932, the year of Yates’ death. That’s a lot of games, but presumably nowhere near complete. For example, the Belfast Newsletter of June 18th, 1914 refers both to a game at the Kent County Congress which Sir George Thomas won, and to a match of 5 games which Yates won 3-1 (the 5th game did not need to be played) with 2 wins and 2 draws. Wikipedia gives a lifetime score of (+13−11=13) but no indication of where the statistics have come from. It makes me think a little of the Hebden-Arkell rivalry of modern times… ah there’s a book to be written about that too!
In the Collection of F.D Yates’ Best Games, published posthumously, Sir George wrote the following fine tribute to his erstwhile rival:
As a frequent opponent of F.D. Yates over a period of many years, I had plenty of opportunity to appreciate the strength and subtlety of his game. He was not a player to whom it could be easy to attach any particular label in the matter of style; for though he was, in the main, aggressive, he was seldom in any hurry to attack in the early stages of the game. Indeed, for a player whose ultimate end was combination rather than positional play, he possessed an unusual stock of patience, and was ready to take immense pains in preparing for an attack before actually embarking on it; once the attack was really launched, however, he could press it with great vigour, daring and imagination. His greatest strength lay unquestionably, in the middlegame; and it was this which gained him most of his more striking victories. The quality of his talent, at its best, was sufficiently proved by the list of great players whom he defeated at one time or another. A whole-hearted fighter, he never gave way to dejection under a run of ill success; and was as dangerous an opponent when things were going badly for him in a tournament as when in the running for first prize. His many sterling personal qualities gained him a wide measure of popularity abroad as well as at home, and while his untimely death is of course a peculiarly heavy blow to English chess, the regret occasioned by it is world-wide.”
Yates selected 3 wins against Sir George Thomas for his book, but here we shall examine Sir George’s win against Yates in the 1921 British Championship. Yates had a rather eventful British Championship, winning his first 3 games, before suffering successive losses against Saunders and Sir George Thomas. However, he finished with a winning streak of 6 consecutive games to secure the 1921 British Championship, 1 point ahead of Sir George. A playable version of this game is available at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.html
Yates,F.D. – Thomas,George Alan
British CF–14 Championship Malvern College/ Worcestershire (5), 12.08.1921
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 Qc7 11.Nbd2 Nc6 12.Nf1 cxd4 13.cxd4 Bg4
[The Yorkshire Post of August 15th 1921 printed this game with bare comments. It claimed that 13…Bg4 was a novelty, but this is incorrect.]
14.d5 Nd4 15.Bd3 Nh5
[An improvement over the 15…0–0 played against Capablanca, which led to one of Capablanca’s famous victories! 15…0–0 16.Be3 Rac8 17.Bxd4 exd4 18.a4 Qb6 19.axb5 axb5 20.h3 Bxf3 21.Qxf3 Nd7 22.Rec1 Nc5 23.b4 Na4 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.e5
Black’s play has been fairly disastrous: the knight is offside on a4, as is the Black queen on b6 while the looseness of the rook on c8 gives White the opportunity for a strong central break 25…g6 (25…dxe5 26.Qf5) 26.e6 Rf8 27.Ng3 Qb7 (27…fxe6 28.Qg4 is very unpleasant 28…exd5 29.Bxg6 hxg6 30.Qxg6+ Kh8 31.Nh5) 28.Nf5
A very nice move! 28…fxe6 29.dxe6 Qc7 30.Qc6
…and another great follow-up
30…Qd8 31.Nxe7+ Qxe7 32.Bxb5 Nc3 33.Qd7 Qxd7 34.Bxd7 with a winning position. 34…Rb8 35.e7 Kf7 36.Re1 Re8 37.Bxe8+ Kxe8 38.Re6 d5 39.Kf1 Nb5 40.Ke2 Nc7 41.Re5 Na6 42.b5 Nb4 43.b6 d3+ 44.Kd2 Kd7 45.e8Q+ Kd6 46.Qe7+ Kc6 47.Qxb4 1–0 (47) Capablanca,J-Dus Chotimirsky,F St Petersburg 1913]
[16…Bxf3 17.gxf3 Nf4
was Rubinstein’s improvement a few years later and it’s a really strong one. The knights on f4 and d4 hold White’s position in a vice. I searched long and hard for a way to develop something for White but found nothing… and my engine was even less impressed than me!
(18.Rc1 Qa5 Threatening …Qxe1 (18…Qa7 19.Bxf4 exf4 20.e5 dxe5 21.Rxe5 0–0 22.d6 Bxd6 23.Rd5 winning a piece (23…Rad8 24.Rxd4) was the tactical sequence that got me interested in trying to make 18.Rc1 work, but there are many better paths along the way including 18…Qa5 and 20…0–0!) 19.Bd2 Qb6 20.Bb1 Bg5 is an excellent position for Black)
(19.Bb1 Qa7 (19…Bf6 20.e5 is not the way to go!) )
Black is clearly better. However, we see that Caissa is capricious but fair. Yates was better against Thomas and lost; he is much worse against Rubinstein but won. It’s a little tough on Rubinstein though!
20.Nb3 0–0 21.Nxd4 Bxd4 22.Qd2 Qe7 23.Rac1 Qf6 24.Rc2 g6 25.Rec1 Rfb8 26.b4 Re8 27.Kh1 Kg7 28.Bf1 Reb8 29.Rc6 Be5 30.Bh3 Ra7 31.Bc8 Rba8 32.Rc7 Qd8 33.Rxa7 Rxa7 34.Rc6 a5 35.Ba6 axb4 36.Qxb4 Qh4 37.Kg2 Qg5+ 38.Kh1 f5 39.exf5 Qxf5 40.Kg2 Qd3 41.Qxb5 Qxb5 42.Bxb5 Rxa2 43.Bd3 Rd2 44.Be4 Kf6 45.Rc2 Rd1 46.Re2 Bd4 47.Bc2 Rc1 48.Re6+ Kg5 49.Re2 Bc5 50.h3 Ra1 51.Kh2 Ra3 52.Kg2 Rc3 53.Be4 Rc4 54.Kh2 Rd4 55.Kg2 Kh4 56.Kh2 Rb4 57.Kg2 Rb7 58.Bd3 g5 59.Bf5 h5 60.Be6 Rb1 61.Bf5 Rd1 62.Be4 Rd4 63.Kh2 Rd1 64.Kg2 Bd4 65.Bc2 Rc1 66.Bf5 Be5 67.Rd2 Ra1 68.Be6 Bc3 69.Rc2 Ba5 70.Rb2 Rd1 71.Rb7
Rubinstein has tried without success to win a completely drawn position. But now he tragically oversteps the mark.
Ouch ouch ouch!! The Black king on h4 is getting mated!
72…Bb6 73.Rxb6 hxg4 74.hxg4 Rb2 75.Rc6 Rb1 76.Rc4 Re1 77.Re4 Rxe4 78.fxe4 Kxg4 79.e5 f3+ 80.Kg1 Kf5 81.e6 1–0 Yates,F-Rubinstein,A Moscow (Russia) 1925]
17.gxf3 Bc8 [Strangely enough, in their book “The Unknown Capablanca”, Hooper and Brandreth attribute this idea to Yates! I wonder whether this is true or just a misunderstanding!]
18.a4 Rb8 19.axb5 axb5 20.Ra7 Qd8 21.Ng3 Nf4
[22.Bf1 0–0 23.Qc2 ignoring the knight on f4 looks like a stronger idea: it’s not clear how Black is expecting to develop any pressure on the kingside (you see the difference with Rubinstein’s idea in which the knight on f4 is well-supported by the knight on d4). However, I understand Yates’ idea completely: with a rook already on the 7th rank, he is looking to open up the position and include his knight and rook on e1 in the mix.]
22…exf4 23.Nf5 Bh4
[An ingenious and confusing move from Sir George. The exchange of the dark-squared bishop for the knight on f4 and White’s open kingside open a range of tactical possibilities. 23…Bh4 eyes the f2 square and casts a sidelong glance at the now unprotected rook on a7.]
[The start of a disastrous path. White had 2 better choices than this move:
a. 24.Nxh4 Qxh4 25.e5 0–0
(25…Qg5+ 26.Kh1 dxe5 27.Bxb5+ Rxb5 28.Qa4)
26.e6 fxe6 27.dxe6 Re8
(28.Be4 Bxe6 29.Bc6 Qg5+ (29…Rec8 30.Qxd6 (30.Rxe6 Qg5+ (30…Rxc6 31.Qd5) 31.Kf1 Rxc6 32.Ree7 was my line. White should be better) 30…Bc4 31.Ree7 is my engine’s even stronger idea) 30.Kh1 Bh3 31.Rg1 Re5 Wow!! Never occurred to me! 32.Rxg5 Rxg5 33.Qxd6 Bg2+ 34.Kg1 Bh3+ is a draw by repetition)
28…Bb7 29.Be4 d5 30.Bd3
was my idea of best play. I thought White should have an edge but my engine was not impressed. (30.Bxd5 Qg5+) 30…Bc8 31.e7 Qg5+ 32.Kh1 Rb6 A very nice idea, looking for …Re6 33.Qc1 Re6 34.Rxe6 Bxe6 35.Qc6 Rxe7 36.Rxe7 Qxe7 37.Qxb5 is about equal;
b) 24.Bxb5+ Rxb5 25.Qa4 Bxf2+ 26.Kxf2 Qb6+ 27.Qd4 (27.Nd4 0–0 is winning for Black 28.Qxb5 Qxd4+) 27…Rxb2+ 28.Re2 Rxe2+ 29.Kxe2 Qb5+ 30.Kd2 Bxf5 31.Ra8+ Ke7 32.Rxh8 Bd7 looks better for White despite my engine’s assessment of 0.00!]
24…0–0 25.Nxh4 Qxh4 26.Bxb5
[A terrible blunder, maybe out of confusion at not being able to find a decisive continuation earlier]
26…Bh3 27.Kh1 Rxb5
28…Rc5 29.b4 Rc3 30.Qb2 Rfc8 31.b5 Qh5 32.Qe2 Qg6