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Alexander Alekhine vs Akiba Rubinstein
San Remo (1930), San Remo ITA, rd 14, Feb-02
Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Main Line (D63)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Oct-07-05  notyetagm: 13 ♘xd5!, a wicked <discovered pin> against the loose c7-square.
Oct-07-05  who: Alekhine must have known that Rubinstein would walk into that trap. Otherwise he would have simply won a pawn with 12.Bxe4 where 12...dxe4 13.Nxe4 wins a pawn and
12...Bxg5 13.Bxh7+ also wins a pawn.
Aug-26-06  whatthefat: I was wondering why not 12.Bxe4 winning a pawn, and with the threat of Bxh7+. White then has a clear advantage. Was 12.Bf4 purely a cheap trap? If so, how could Alekhine possibly expect it to work, in light of the game <pawntificator> mentioned: Euwe vs Rubinstein, 1928. More to the point, how <did> it work?!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: Three mistakes in a row at moves 11 & 12.

Rubinstein's 11...Ne4 allowed 12.Bxe4 and a loss of a pawn. MCO 10 gives 11...Nf8 as Black's best move with continuations given where Black was able to reach equality.

Then Alekhine's 12.Bf4 allowed 12...Ndf6, and White's advantage is much less than after 12.Bxe4.

Finally, 12...f5, and Rubinstein has a lost position.

At move 26, Alekhine could have maintained his winning position with a queen move, 26.Qb3 or perhaps 26.Qf3. Instead, he must have thought he could finish the game off quickly with 26.Nxc6 bxc6 27.Rxc6. However, Rubinstein could have put up stiff resistence with 27...Rd7! and if 28.Rxa6 f4.

Alekhine included 7 of his wins at San Remo 1930 in his book, "My Best Games of Chess". This game was not one of them.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Then Alekhine's 12.Bf4 allowed 12...Ndf6, and White's advantage is much less than after 12.Bxe4.> This could have been intentional decision from AA's part. In fact, after 12.Bxe4 dxe4 13.Nxe4 Bxg5 14.Nexg5 Nf8 white has an extra Pawn but on the other hand black's position has become freer and all white's pressure disappeared. It is not easy to say whether the Pawn would be certainly sufficient for win and that is why Alekhine could prefer to keep position more complex though materially even.
Jun-12-09  Bridgeburner: <whatthefat: I was wondering why not 12.Bxe4 winning a pawn, and with the threat of Bxh7+. White then has a clear advantage. Was 12.Bf4 purely a cheap trap? If so, how could Alekhine possibly expect it to work, in light of the game <pawntificator> mentioned: Euwe vs Rubinstein, 1928. More to the point, how <did> it work?!>

A great question, and I think the answer is in the history of their last few games. Their 1922 game in Hastings marked a turning point between the two (see Rubinstein vs Alekhine, 1922), where Rubinstein for whatever reason appeared to get his move order wrong and lost a game he should have won.

I theorize that Alekhine's powerful (one might almost say demonic) presence combined with Rubinstein's pathological shyness and his well documented problems, exerted a decisive influence after that time.

If you go to my collection of <Rubinstein plays Alekhine> (below), you'll see that apart from a short anomalous draw, Rubinstein played like a rabbit caught in the spotlight after the Hastings game.

Alekhine knew his man and perhaps the written contempt that he expressed toward him in later writings, purportedly on behalf of the Nazis, sprang from around this time. I imagine he exuded that confidence (or maybe a sense of sneering superiority) to Rubinstein who seemed to consistently play into Alekhine's expectations.

I'm sure there's a psychological term for this sort of dominance.

Almost as remarkable as the trap, later in this game Alekhine plays the inferior <26.Nxc6?>, apparently hoping as <Pawn and Two> mentions a couple of posts earlier, to finish the game off quickly when a queen move almost anywhere equates to an easy routine win.

So what happened, after <26.Nxc5 bxc6 27.Rxc6>:

click for larger view

instead of defending the Knight and the f-pawn with <27...Rd7>, he plays the fatal <27...Ne4> immediately returning the win to Alekhine that he had almost let slip, restoring the status quo. Superficially, the two positions are similar with White having four pawns for the piece, but after <27...Rd7>, Black's pieces are well placed and active.

The remaining moves by Rubinstein are extremely lackadaisical, like he's just going through the motions.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Jun-12-09  sleepkid: <Bridgeburner: ...Alekhine knew his man and perhaps the written contempt that he expressed toward him in later writings, purportedly on behalf of the Nazis, sprang from around this time. I imagine he exuded that confidence (or maybe a sense of sneering superiority) to Rubinstein who seemed to consistently play into Alekhine's expectations.>

Discounting the allegedly Nazi-influenced papers, some of Alekhine's later writings concerning Rubinstein are actually complimentary (though he is objectively critical when Rubinstein makes a poor move).

Jun-12-09  Bridgeburner: <sleepkid>

Thanks. I was definitely theorizing about this, but I still see it as a possiblity. Having said that, I feel on firmer ground about the psychological dominance Alekhine exercised over Rubinstein during their last five or six games.

This game is Rubinstein sleepwalking into disaster. Why on earth would a player of any knowledgeable caliber play <11...Ne4>, simply giving away a pawn without compensation? Let alone engage in the extraordinarily weak and I daresay pliant play Rubinstein displayed in the latter stages of this game?

Maybe there's a distinction to be made between Alekhine the man and the chess player across the board on the one hand, and Alekhine the chess analyst and author on the other. Perhaps reminiscent of later decades when we contrast Fischer the snarling anti-Semite and general all round oddball with Fischer the brutally honest chess player and analyst seeking absolute truth on the chess board.

There are many stories of Alekhine's arrogance, his overbearing attitude, and his alcoholism. A person such as this may not feel especially charitable or tolerant toward the shy eccentricity displayed by Rubinstein. I've found that some aggressive personalities can't seem to help themselves when confronted with vulnerable people, and I suspect Rubinstein was quietly cowed into complete submission.

Jun-13-09  sleepkid: <Bridgeburner> Agreed.

While Alekhine may have written some complimentary things about Rubinstein's play at some points, this doesn't discount him possibly bullying or having an arrogant attitude towards Rubinstein during their actual match play.

There are many anecdotes about Alekhine that have made the rounds. Whether all of them are true or not is hard to say. Alekhine was a tremendous chess player, and at times, so far ahead of his peers, that his ego could have been somewhat overbearing. This sort of behaviour on his part often led to others creating negative portrayals of him, and in fact, exaggerating or fabricating stories about him. Chess players tend to be overly dramatic, for one reason or another.

An anecdote about Alekhine's bullying of Rubinstein sticks out in my mind, but I cannot recall who wrote it (perhaps William Winter in "Kings of Chess"? Or maybe a book published by Murray? I can't recall off the top of my head.)

Apparently, at some tournament, Alekhine and Bogolyubov, on a drunken lark, went to Rubinstein's hotel room and banged on the door shouting that they were the police, and for him to open the door. Rubinstein apparently fled the hotel and the tournament.

Have you come across this story? Any information as to it's veracity, or what tournament it might have been?

Jun-13-09  Bridgeburner: <sleepkid>

I can't say I know anything about this incident. Maybe someone else might know? These pages are wonderful; sometimes you get responses years later...

Alekhine was a tremendous player all right, one of the best ever (in my top five list anyway) but he's never been accused of being a nice person.

Jun-13-09  sleepkid: Well, all I can say with certainty is that the incident is recounted in a book I read once.

Alekhine is one of my favourites as well. Though he was not an especially admirable human being.

Jun-14-09  Bridgeburner: <Karpova>

Good to see you back in circulation. Do you know anything about the incident described by <sleepkid>?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: As noted, Alekhine's 26.Nxc6? was a serious error. After 26...bxc6 27.Rxc6, Rubinstein would have had good drawing chances with 27...Rd7!.

Analysis by Fritz shows the following:

(.33) (25 ply) 28.Qf3 f4 29.R1c5 fxe3 30.fxe3 a5, (.07) (21 ply) 31.Rd5 Nf7 32.Rcc5 Rxd5 33.Rxd5 Qc7 34.Rc5 Qe7, or (.07) (21 ply) 31.Ra6 Rf8 32.Qg3 Re8 33.Qxg5 Qxg5 34.Rxg5 Nc4.

Or (.21) (25 ply) 28.Rxa6 f4, (.35) (25 ply) 29.exf4 Ne4 30.Qb5 Rde7 31.Qb6 Qxb6 32.Rxb6 Nd2 33.f3 gxf4 34.Rf6, (.46) (23 ply) 34...Re1+ 35.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 36.Kf2 Rb1 37.b3 Rb2 38.Rxf4 Rxa2, (.33) (24 ply) 39.Ke3 Nxb3 40.Rg4 Rd2 41.h4 Rd1 42.h5 Na5 43.Ke2 Rb1 44.Rg5 Nc6 45.d5, (.10) (24 ply) 45...Nd4+ 46.Kd3 Nb5 47.g4 Nd6.

Improvements can probably be found in these variations, but Black certainly appears to have good drawing chances.

After his incorrect sacrifice 26.Nxc6?, I suspect Alekhine had some anxious moments waiting for Rubinstein's 27th move. Luckily for Alekhine, Rubinstein did not find 27...Rd7!

Jun-14-09  WhiteRook48: fine endgame play
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Wow. Five pawns ahead (that's equal to a rook!).
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <Penguincw: Wow. Five pawns ahead> Four pawns, actually. And after <46...Rxa3> only three. But that's enough, even for David Howell.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: < whiteshark: <Penguincw: Wow. Five pawns ahead> Four pawns, actually. And after <46...Rxa3> only three. But that's enough, even for David Howell. >

Oh. The pawns were taken. That's an easy win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: AA plays coffehouse chess here: a series of disconnected tactics, all imaginative but some better than others. I agree with Honza's comment from 2007 (!) that 12.Bf4 may be objectively best. If he wins a pawn on e4 instead, he loses both initiative and Bishop pair, anathema to AA.

<Penguin> Try this classic example of pawn power: it also comes down to five pawns for a Rook, with the unique matching of Rppp-vs-pppppppp.

Gufeld vs Kavalek, 1962

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: Here is some insight from <Alekhine> on the somewhat mysterious way he seemed to convert a losing position into a win, via a mess of not-so-sound tactical complications.

Alekhine cites a passage from <Reti's> "Masters of the Chess Board" in his annotations of this game.

In "Masters of the Chess Board" <Reti> writes:

<"Most chess players in a poor position make the mistake of <<<attacking impetuously>>>, at all costs, and without any regard for the positional requirements of the situation. The usual result is they lose still more quickly... Accordingly, the psychologically correct procedure for a player... in a bad position is as follows: he must strengthen... strong points and lines to which he is positionally entitled to lay claim, so that his opponent... finds real obstacles in his path which cannot be easily overcome.">

From this position, White to move, Alekhine gives these notes:

click for larger view

<"It is clear at first sight, that theoretically speaking, White has a won game, but... In another way, which could be said to be against Reti's <<<"prescription">>> for the player in an inferior position, I decided to oppose his method by a system also based on psychological considerations... >

[Alekhine means he will launch a vigorous attack instead of positionally consolidate]

"Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games, 1902-1946"
Skinner and Verhoeven,
pp. 376-77

Apr-21-12  Karpova: Donaldson and Minev simply speculate that the game score might be inaccurate with regards to the strange moves 11...Ne4? 12.Bf4? (which sounds more plausible than some other speculations here).
Apr-21-12  JohnDahl: No, Alekhine says (in his notes for La Nacion newspaper) that he rejected winning a pawn by 12.Bxe4 fxe4 13.Nxe4 because of 13...f6 14.Bf4 Nf8 or Nb6 when <it does not seem to me easy to play for White, because of the domination that Black exercises over the white squares in the centre.> He even gives 12.Bf4!
Apr-22-12  Karpova: Thanks, <JohnDahl>! So <Honza Cervenka> was correct while the psychological speculations have no foundation.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: This game shows Alekhine's competitive nature. It was played in the penultimate round, and Alekhine was assured of first place, but he played a speculative sacrifice with 26. ♘xc6, rather than the simpler option of retreating the Queen.
Jul-03-16  pensiveyaks: Richard Reti explained in his book :Masters of the Chess Board ,that Rubinstein was prone to blunders because he learnt to play Chess late (at 18).He compared Rubinstein to an orator ,always looking for the right kinds of words to use.While he said that Chess was the mother tongue of Jose Capablanca.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: A sample size of two. It's not exactly a scientific theory.
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