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Alexander Alekhine vs Edward Lasker
New York (1924), New York, NY USA, rd 16, Apr-08
King's Indian Defense: Four Pawns Attack (E76)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-14-06  PKNJ: Wow -- Edward Lasker meets an Alekhine Four Pawns Attack head on and winds up two pawns ahead in an almost empty endgame, but can't win because his bishop is the wrong color for both of his pawns!
Aug-14-06  PKNJ: So I have two questions. If you're exchanging pieces in a middle game and looking ahead, do you generally prefer to get bishops for knights whenever you can, or try to keep a knight around for situations like this? And how far ahead do you think Alekhine saw the draw?
Dec-19-06  notyetagm: In his new book covering the Four Pawns Attack, IM Tim Taylor points out an elegant petite combination that would have won the game for Lasker!

Position after 39 ♖a7:

click for larger view

Here Lasker played 39 ... ♘d4+? and only managed to draw. Instead IM Taylor gives 39 ... ♗c5! and Black wins.

(VARIATION) Position after 39 ... ♗c5!:

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The tactical point of this move is that the passed Black a2-pawn is protected by the <Rook Endgame Skewer> because the Black c5-bishop now controls the f2-<SKEWERING> square. That is, 40 ♖xa2?? ♖f2+ and 41 ... ♖x♖. White then has nothing better than to move his threatened a7-rook, keeping it on the a-file to cover the a1-promotion square. Taylor gives 40 ♖a4.

Black then plays 40 ... ♗d4!, gaining control of the a1-promotion square of the passed Black a2-pawn while continuing to control the f2-<SKEWERING> square to indirectly defend the Black a2-pawn by that <Rook Endgame Skewer>. As Reinfeld wrote in one of his instructive books, in regards to 40 ... ♗d4!, <Notice the immediate decisive effect of gaining control of the promotion square>.

(VARIATION) Position after 39 ... ♗c5! 40 ♖a4 ♗d4! :

click for larger view

White then has to sacrifice his c1-bishop for the passed Black a2-pawn with 41 ♗b2 ♗x♗b2 42 ♖x♙a2 and Black has won a piece for a pawn.

39 ♖a7 ♗c5! 40 ♖a4 ♗d4! is the win that Edward Lasker missed.

Dec-19-06  notyetagm: <CONTINUED FROM ABOVE>

This petite combination that Lasker missed (39 ... ♗c5! 40 ♖a4 ♗d4!) is a great example of Nimzowitsch's teaching that <the passed pawn is a criminal which must be kept under lock and key>; that is, it must be <BLOCKADED>.

If a passed pawn is -not- <BLOCKADED>, then there is often a -tactical- means to force its promotion or to win material to prevent this promotion. Here it was the unfortunate position of the White e2-king on the same rank as the passed Black a2-pawn which made it tactically possible for Black to defend his passed pawn (♖x♙a2?? ♖f2+ and ... ♖x♖). Then simply gaining control of the promotion square (40 ... ♗d4!) gave Black a winning material advantage (♗ for ♙).

<Passed pawns must be blockaded!>

Dec-20-06  who: <notyetagm> thanks. That's a very nice combination.
Dec-20-06  notyetagm: <who: <notyetagm> thanks. That's a very nice combination.>

You're welcome.

I was shocked when I saw this elegant, straightforward winning line pointed out by IM Taylor but missed by such strong players as Edward Lasker and Alekhine(!).

Just goes to show you that chess is just not an easy game. :-)

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