Excerpt from Chapter 19 of Amos Burn – A Chess Biography by Richard Forster:

Ostend 1906

The following summer the chess masters were invited back to Ostend for an even greater tourney than the one in 1905.

(...) Despite the evils and the stress, the tournament saw Amos Burn rise once more to his greatest heights. His result and his play were of the first order and evoked universal praise. He could not quite keep up the stern pace of Schlechter and Maróczy (whose chances for first place were only spoilt in the final round when he lost against Bernstein from a winning position), but he showed great resourcefulness and spirit.

Amos Burn has played as finely as ever he did at any period of his chess career (and he was a master long before some of his competitors were born). He has always been remarkable for chess stamina, and while this has again been in evidence, he has in many of his encounters reverted to the more sporting and audacious style of chess of which many years ago he was so brilliant an exponent; his sparkling victories over Forgács and Dr. Perlis are among the gems of the tournament [BCM, August 1906, p. 325].

Burn, who with Teichmann and Bernstein shared the fourth, fifth, and sixth prizes, was the wonder and admiration of all his fellow-competitors. Next to Blackburne, he was the oldest competitor in the tournament, and I do believe that he played the finest chess of his life at Ostend. His tenacity and devotion to the task in hand were really remarkable, and by common consensus of opinion his games were the best in the tournament next to those of Schlechter. He did great credit to English chess, and was generally known as the "Invincible English Bulldog." He might have occupied even a higher position had he followed Schlechter's example of conduct in not allowing himself to be ruffled by trifles and by not placing a nervous and fictitious value on points of no real material import or effect [Gunsberg in The Year-Book of Chess 1907, p. 21].

Burn would probably not have agreed with Gunsberg's last point, as proper playing conditions were always one of his main concerns. In such a long, tense contest it is clear that the older players in particular suffered from inconvenient circumstances, and it is perhaps not by chance that Burn was by far the oldest player to qualify for the final stage. Next in age came Janowski, who was 19 years younger.

Hoffer, the untiring reporter, devoted these lines to Burn's success:

[Burn's] achievement deserves special notice. Having practically withdrawn from the chess world for some years, he could afford to enjoy a well-merited repose and remain satisfied with his record of distinguished successes. But he again entered the arena last year at Ostend and Barmen. It was noticed there that, in spite of advancing age and years of abstention, his powers were not impaired, and on this last occasion he played with increased virility whilst resorting to a style for which he was distinguished in the days before the tenets of the modern school put the break upon all individual bents. In those days Burn was a brilliant player, and he has again shown that masters of his calibre have a resourceful repertoire of their own. He played hard games, like the last one against Teichmann, and sparkling specimens, like those against Forgács and Dr. Perlis. Nobody reading these latter games would imagine that the victor is bearing three score years. Burn's victory is hard earned. He had no lucky wind falls like most of the other players. Against the single instance of a let-off in the game against Maróczy can be placed the game against Marshall, which he could have won easily, and a number of other instances. It is gratifying to record that, failing Blackburne, owing to his early elimination, we had so worthy a representative of English chess amongst the gathering of the world's masters [The Field, 21 July 1906].

Of course, Burn's excellent performance was mainly the result of his highly inspired play, but he could not complain about the pairings. Since in the final all players met each other for a second time, it was decided that they should play with colours reversed from their first game. In Burn's case this eventually resulted in an overall distribution of 17 Whites and only 13 Blacks. Had he not had the first move so often in the final stage, his performance during the last week of the tournament, when great fatigue seems to have set in, might have been different.

However, the games that have survived convey a clear message: at Ostend 1906 Burn had reached another peak in strength and creativity and his sporting success was thoroughly deserved. If he had not tired towards the end, he might well have finished even higher. He and Janowski had held the highest scores of any competitors for several weeks.

Ostend 1906: International Chess Congress

Date 5 June–12 July 1906.
Site Kurkasino, Ostend.
Time-limit 16 moves per hour.
Playing hours 10 a.m.–12:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.–7 p.m.
Deposit F 100.
Entrance fee
9 Prizes F 4,000 (plus gold medal), 2,500, 1,500, 1,000, 800, 700, 600, 500, 450 plus consolation money (5,600 F) for non-prize winners (= F 17,650 = ca. £700).
Special prizes
1st brilliancy prizes (F 125) Blackburne–John, Duras–Teichmann, Janowski–Salwe, Swiderski–Marshall.
2nd brilliancy prizes (F 100) Burn–Johner, Maróczy–Blackburne.
3rd brilliancy prizes (F 50) Taubenhaus–Spielmann, Marco–Wolf, Mieses–Janowski, Leonhardt–Süchting, Burn–Znosko-Borovsky, Wolf–John, Swiderski–Spielmann, Reggio–Post, Perlis–Salwe.
Pairings The 36 participants were divided into 4 groups A to D. The first stage consisted of a Scheveningen match between groups A and B and between C and D, the three players with the lowest scores in each group dropping out. Stage two saw groups A vs. C and B vs. D, with the bottom two in each group being eliminated. Stage three (with each group reduced to four players) saw group A vs. D and B vs. C, and finally in stage four the members of each group played against each other. Of these remaining 16 players, the top nine qualified for stage five, a final round-robin tournament, with colours in each game reversed from the previous encounter between the same opponents. Initially, there should have been only the top six in the final round, but committee added three prizes which enabled Janowski, Marshall and Perlis also to go through.
Stages I-IV [ ... ]
Stage V:
            Stages I-IV   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9       Total
1 Schlechter C. 15 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 6 21
2 Maróczy G. 15½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 4½ 20
3 Rubinstein A. 14 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5 19
4 Bernstein O.S. 14½ ½ 1 0 0 1 ½ ½ 0 3½ 18
Burn A. 14 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0 1 4 18
Teichmann R. 13 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 ½ 5 18
7 Marshall F.J. 13 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 3½ 16½
8 Janowski D. 13 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 3 16
9 Perlis J. 12½ 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 1½ 14
Das Schachturnier zu Ostende im Jahre 1906.

Free accommodation was provided for all players. Some sources gave the ninth prize as 400 F, others as 450 F. Slightly differing accounts also exists of the consolation money distributed.
Le Monde Illustré, Paris, 21 July 1906, gave a slightly different final standing (as would result if Burn had beaten Teichmann) – apparently a mistake. No other source found confirms this alternative version (but see BCM, January 1949, p. 14).

(796) Burn – Bernstein 1:0
International Tournament (30)
Ostend 11 July 1906
Queen's Gambit (Slav Exchange) [D10]


Position after move 19

20 Nxd7!

The kind of exchange which is either very good or very bad.

20 ... Kxd7 21 Nxd5!!

Putting an end to the black king's quiet life. The white pieces harass him through until the end of the game.

21 ... exd5 22 Bf5+ Kd6

A sad necessity. After any other king move White wins material with 23 Bxc8 and 24 b3.

23 Qg4!

The fine point of Burn's combination and stronger than 23 Bxc8 Rxc8 24 b3 after which Black can still defend with 24 ... Nb6.

23 ... Rcg8

This odd-looking move is forced; otherwise Black loses material. After the greedy 23 ... Qxb2 24 Rb1 Qxa2 25 Rxb7 he also succumbs quickly.

24 b3! Kc7

The extra piece must be returned, because knight moves allow 25 Qf4 mate, whereas 24 ... Qa3 and 24 ... Qd2 are met by 25 Rc2.

25 bxc4 dxc4

Thus the material balance is restored and a sharp middle-game with opposite-coloured bishops lies ahead. As on earlier occasions, Burn shows himself well-versed in the dynamic battle ensuing from such a configuration. Nevertheless, on his very next move he misses the opportunity to win a pawn by 26 Be4!, when Black cannot simultaneously defend b7, c4 and f7.

26 Rb1?! Qd6 27 a4 g6 28 Bc2

Now 28 Be4?! f5 would force White to play an unclear piece sacrifice.

28 ... f5 29 Qf3 b6 30 g4!

A fine strategic idea. Burn slightly loosens his king's shelter, but greatly enhances the scope of his bishop.

30 ... fxg4 31 Qxg4 g5?

An unfortunate decision which deprives Black of all counter-play on the king's side and cedes total control of the light squares to his opponent. Correct is 31 ... h5, after which White does not have such a free hand on the king's side as in the game.

32 Be4 Kb8 33 g3! Ka7 34 Kg2

In Karpovian style Burn has cleared with his last two moves the way for the transfer of the king's rook to the queen's side, where Black's position soon becomes critical. Mainly as a result of his 30th move he has not only a sounder pawn structure but also the vastly superior bishop.

34 ... Rb8 35 Rhc1 Rhc8

Settling for a pure defensive battle. The attempt to obtain counter-play with 35 ... h5 36 Qf5 h4 is easily fended off after 37 Rxc4 hxg3 38 fxg3 (or even 38 Rbc1!).

36 Rc3 Rc7 37 Rbc1 b5

Virtually forced, since after 37 ... Rbc8 38 Bf5 the c-pawn must fall. The battle takes on a rather unusual form now, reminiscent of the future Botvinnik Variation in the Semi-Slav Opening. Black's pawn duo on the queen's side must shelter the king, but it may at any time also become a dangerous attacking weapon.

38 axb5 axb5

Position after move 38(see diagram)

39 R3c2!!

An excellent move, threatening to double his rooks on the a-file with devastating effect.

39 ... Qa6

The other way to oppose White's plan is 39 ... Kb6, but then White has 40 Ra2! Ra7 41 Rb2! (threatening to take the c-pawn) Ra4 (if 41 ... Rc7 42 Qf5). Now 42 Qf5 can be met by 42 ... Ka6, but 42 Bf3! offers a multitude of promising attacking possibilities.

40 Qf5 Ba3!?

The bishop is intended to help the advance of the pawns. The immediate 40 ... b4 runs into 41 Rxc4! Rxc4 42 Qd7+ Kb6 43 Qe6+! and wins.

41 Ra1 b4 42 Qe5!!

Another most powerful stroke, revealing the fragility of Black's position.

42 ... Rbc8

The only move. After 42 ... Qb6 43 Rca2! (threatening 44 Rxa3+) or 42 ... Rcc8 43 Qe7+ Kb6 44 Rb2! Black's position collapses. It is amazing how little value the connected passed pawns have in these lines.

43 Bf5! Qb7+

Or 43 ... Qc6+ 44 d5 etc.

44 Kg1 Qc6

A sad necessity. If the attacked rook moves, White answers 45 Rb2!, with the deadly threats 46 Rxa3+ and 46 Rxb4.

45 Bxc8 Rxc8 46 Qe7+ Kb6 47 Rxa3!

Burn's technique is impressive. At the first opportunity he returns the exchange to continue the attack on Black's king.

47 ... bxa3 48 Qxa3 Ra8 49 Qb4+ Kc7 50 d5!

Avoiding the last sly trap 50 Rxc4?? Ra1+ 51 Kh2 Rh1 mate.

50 ... Qxd5 51 Rxc4+ Kd8 52 e4!

It is still not too late to fall for 52 Rd4? Ra1+.

52 ... Qd1+ 53 Kg2 Ke8 54 Rc7 Qd8 55 Qb5+ Black resigned.

An exceedingly fine attack by Burn in, it may be noted, round 30.

Years later Bernstein related the following anecdote, but whether it referred to this game or one of his other two losses against Burn is not known: "I have always been a sworn enemy of draws, and many games I have spoiled by playing too sharply 'for a win.' In one tournament the old master Burn, with whom I had very friendly relations, had offered me a draw on the 12th move. I declined, played for a win and ended up in a dead-lost position. Jokingly I now offered a draw to Burn myself. Giving me a witty look from behind his spectacles, he replied, pulling together his bushy eyebrows: 'If you had accepted my draw offer then, I would have accepted yours now.' Upon which I resigned the game at once."

[The Field, 14 July 1906] [1]

From Amos Burn: A Chess Biography © 2004 Richard Forster by permission of McFarland, Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640, USA, www.mcfarlandpub.com

[1] Anecdote by Bernstein in Turnierprogramm 37. Schweizerisches und Internationales Schachturnier, Zürich 1934 (Zurich, 1934), p. 13.