|KEG: Post II
Returning to the actual game, after Mortimer's 5...h6?, the position was:
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Lasker here played:
Why this strange move. Assuming that Lasker was not prepared to play 6. Bxf7+, why not play something solid such as 6. 0-0 which would have given Lasker a comfortable advantage?
Here is my take: In a long tournament, avoiding long games saves time and effort. And at Paris 1900, draws were replayed. Many of the contestants therefore had to play extra games. For example, Mason had to replay seven games because of this rule. He therefore played 23 games in this tournament. By contrast, Lasker had only one drawn game to replay before the final round (by which time he had clinched first place).
Lasker's strategy in this tournament seems to have been to play sharp lines to avoid long games and draws. So he sometimes played off-beat sharp moves such as 6. g4?! here. Lasker did not play moves that put him in real danger of losing.
As I have learned from painful experience playing grandmasters and other very strong players, sharp unexpected moves are intimidating. Imagine Mortimer's reaction on seeing 6. g4?!
As will be seen,Lasker made several theoretically second-best moves in this game. But none of them put him in any real danger of losing. And they elicited some serious errors from Mortimer. So...Lasker's strategy paid dividends. And he won another short game here. This was important, given that: (i) Lasker had not had his bye round, so staying fresh was an important task; and (ii) Lasker's three remaining opponents were Showalter, Pillsbury, and Tchigorin. So a fast game allowing him to rest up for the battles just ahead were important.
With the d5 square covered, Bxf7 was no longer a threat.
If 6...Ngf6? Lasker would have had the better game with 7. g5! (though Rosenthal's claim that this would yield him a winning position was a major overstatement).
7. h3 or 7. Nbd2 were--theoretically--better. The text, though not ideal, is consistent with Lasker's plan, and did not put him at any major risk.
7...Qc7 was much better.
Better was 8. a4 to prevent b5. But Lasker has correctly judged that b5 was not part of Mortimer's mental data-base.
Mortimer does not understand the position.
Launching a King-side attack.
Giving Lasker a target. Once again, 9...b5 was better. Remarkably, Black's b-pawn remains on b7 until the end of the game.
A coffee-house move that works like a charm here. Had Lasker been playing a stronger player, he would no doubt have played the better and sounder 10.Be3
The seemingly obvious 10...gxh4 was best and would have given Mortimer the advantage. Rosenthal's claim in the Tournament Book that 10...gxh4 would have given Lasker the better game is simply wrong. Rosenthal claims Lasker would have played 11. g5 [11. Bd2 is better]. Had Mortimer replied 11...hxg5 to 11. g5, Lasker would indeed have had excellent chances after 12. Bxg5. But 11...h3 or 11...b5 would have given Mortimer the better game.
11. Bd2 Nb6
12. Bb3 Be6
13. 0-0-0 was better
13...0-0-0 was preferable.
14. Rh1 was better.
He could have played 14...Ne7 or 14...0-0-0
15. QxB Ne7
16. Qd3 was better.
The position was now:
click for larger view
For all of Lasker's coffee house moves, there is nothing wrong with his position here.
What followed vindicated Lasker's strategy, as I will show in my next post. Mortimer lost the thread at this point and made some very poor moves. Once Lasker got a significant advantage, he played with his usual precision and gave Mortimer no chances. No more messing around for Lasker after Mortimer's next move. Withing about 5 moves, the game--as I will show in my next post-- was essentially over.