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Mikhail Chigorin vs Emanuel Lasker
St. Petersburg (1895/96)  ·  Italian Game: Classical Variation. Giuoco Pianissimo (C53)  ·  0-1
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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-25-05  azaris: 35. c6? begins a bizarre desperation attack.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Giving up the c pawn and f pawn is too much. Chigorin does get his knight to f5 but at too great a price.

Lasker would be better but perhaps not winning after 35 Qh4 Bxg5 36 Qxg5 b3 37 f6 g6 38 Ra1 Qb8 39 c6 Qc7 40 Nf1 with ideas of Nd2 restraining the b pawn. White has threats on e5 and g7 that limit Black. I don't see a clear way for Black to win this.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part I

A few comments from Mason and Pollock's tournament book and also from Shredder. This was the first game of the third cycle (though Steinitz vs Pillsbury, 1895 was played the same day). Lasker was coming off his second straight loss to Pillsbury, while Chigorin, after opening the tournament with a win over Steinitz, had managed just one draw against four losses. Notes from Mason are in plain text; comments from Shredder or me are in brackets. The marks after the moves are mine (or really Shredder's) except the last two exclamation points, which are Mason's.

<At move 4 Chigorin decided against trying to improve on Chigorin vs Lasker, 1895, and an original and complicated opening resulted.>

After 8....Nd7

A systematic comparison of the openings in this tourney, at least so far as they are similar, would be highly instructive to the student. Presumably representing the best as currently known, in their various directions, it appears how greatly principle may be safely modified in detail; where both parties equally enter the filed of experiment and compromise, -- each falling in somewhat with the plans of his opponent, in order the better to forward his own. This is not a model <Giuco> by any means; but, no doubt, it was well suited to the occasion, and to the feelings of the players at the time.

<Lasker's ...Nd7 is reminiscent of Chigorin's penchant for the same move in the Ruy Lopez (see, e.g. Lasker vs Chigorin, 1896 from the fourth cycle); one might almost suspect Lasker of playing on his opponent's psyche, if the world champion's scrupulously correct play did not forbid such a notion. In fact Chigorin's slow Nbd2, Bb3 and h3 invite ...Nd7-c5 hitting b3 and d3.>

After 10....d5?!

<One gets the sense Lasker really wants to win this game. 11....0-0 or ....Ne6 should lead to quiet equality.>

11. Qe2?

<A very Chigorinian move, viz. his famous 1. e4 e6 2. Qe2. But now White is a little worse. Instead Shredder likes White's pressure on the e-pawn after 11. exd5 Qxd5 12. Ne3 Qd6 13. 0-0 0-0 14. b4 Nd7 15. Re1. If 15....f6? then 16. Nf5 and -- surprise! -- Black loses his queen.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II

After 11....d4 12. c4?!

<Shredder likes 12. Ng3 0-0 13. 0-0 =, not worrying about the possible ...dxc3.>

12....f6?! 13. Bd2 Ne6?! 14. Ng3 b5

<A powerful positional idea, but Shredder liked it much better back on move 12, when White cannot retaliate by getting his bishop back on the long diagonal.>

15. cxb5! axb5 16. Bb3 Ne7?

<Black should not have been afraid to castle into a pin, because after 16....0-0 17. 0-0 Ne7 or ...Kh8 White is just slightly better. But the text allows 17. Nh5!, when 17....0-0 is met by 18. Nxe5 fxe5 19. Qg4, threatening mate and the knight on e6. >

17. Nh4?

The position is a strange one, and the wanderings of the Knights on both sides, very curious. Inasumch as Black must first commit himself on the King side by Castling or otherwise, if there is any advantage that way it probably lies with White.

17....Nc5 18. Bc2 Be6 <Now Black is the master of the long diagonal.> 19. Nh5 0-0 20. g4?

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On the other hand, <White's> Queen side is weak. P - QKt4, driving off the knight, before venturing on this, would not increase that weakness, and seems commendable here. The exchange of Bishop for Knight a little later is comparatively unfavorable.

<Now White begins to get himself into serious trouble.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part III

20....Bb6! 21. b4 <White has no really good answer to the threats to a2 and b3.> 21....Nb3! 22. Bxb3 Bxb3 23. 0-0 Bf7

Taking the pawn would be hazardous. There would be B-R6 with strong attack; in the course of which the Pawn or more would be very soon returned. Presently, when the threatening Knights are disposed of, the capture is in order, after which White slowly but surely goes to the wall.

<Surprisingly to me, 23. 0-0 and 23....Bf7 are both Shredder's first choice.>

24. Nf5?

<Attractive and again, very Chigorinian. But Shredder strongly prefers 24. f4.>


<And Lasker responds with a suitably Laskerian, pragmatic, cut-the-Gordian-knot kind of move, part of a forcing maneuver in which Black exchanges one of his opponent's knights and drives off the other, while simultaneously winning the pawn on a2. But the White pawn left at f5 gives White durable attacking chances, with with f5-f6 a constant threat after f2-f4 and fxe5. Simpler for Black is 24....Bxh5 25. Nxe7+ Qxe7 26. gxh5 Qe6, forking a2 and h3 and answering 27. Qg4 with ...Qxg4+ and ...Ra3, when at least one of White's weak pawns will fall.>

25. gxf5 Qe8 26. Ng3 Rxa2 27. Rxa2 Bxa2 28. Kh2!

<Now 28. Bh6 Bf7? 29. Qg4 is strong for White, but 28....Qf7 is fine for Black.>

28....Bf7 29. Rg1 Kh8 30. Qg4 <30. f4 at once is better> 30....Rg8 31. f4 c5?

<Looks good, but the simple ...exf4 and then ...c5 leaves White without the attacking resources he has in the game.>

32. fxe5 fxe5 33. Bg5! Bd8

Fearing P-B6 which would, indeed, be very dangerous.

<Just how dangerous is shown by 33....c4 34. f6 Bd8 35. Qh4! g6 36. Bh6 cxd3 37. Qg5 Bb3 38. Rg2 Qd7 39. Bg7+ Rxg7 40. fxg7+ Kg8 41. Qxe5 with a very complicated position, though Black is still better.>

34. bxc5 b4

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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part IV

35. c6?

Keeping up the attack for what it is worth. But the defence is adequate, and Black's diversion, by means of his passed Pawn, secures him the victory.

<As Tamar pointed out four years ago, pitching the QBP is more courageous than sound. It seems almost as if Chigorin disliked regaining his lost pawn, and felt obligated to gambit it back. Also as Tamar pointed out, 35. Qh4 is much more promising. After his 35....Bxg5 36. Qxg5 b3 f6 37. Ra1 Qb8 39. c6 Qc7 40. Nf1 line, no clear win for Black is apparent to me or to Shredder. A possible Black improvement is 36....Qd8 37. Qxd8 Rxd8 38. Rb1 b3 39. Ne2 Rc8 40. Nc1 Rxc5 41. Nxb3 Rb5 42. Nd2 Rxb1 43. Nxb1 Bh5 threatening ...Be2. But I suspect there are plenty of better moves for White in that line, e.g. 38. Ra1 Rc8 39. Ra7 Kg8 40. f6 or 40. Rb7.>

35....Qxc6 36. Bxd8 Qxd8 37. Qg5

If 37 Kt-R5, then 37....Q-KR3, or 37.....R-KKt sq; and there would be no possibility of Kt (or Q) x P, without speedy loss.

37....Qf6 38. Qc1 Qe7 39. f6 gxf6 (Shredder prefers 39....Qxf6, but the text is good enough) 40. Nf5 Qf8 41. Qc7 Rc8 42. Qb6 Bg6 43. Nh4 Be8 44. Nf5 Bd7 45. Nh4

Here the attack comes to an abrupt conclusion. 45 Kt-Q6 would be slightly better. Black could not reply 45....R-B3, because of 46 Q-Q8! But he could check, and play B-K3, with an ultimately winning advantage.

45....Qh6! 46. Qd6 Qxh4 47. Qxd7 Qf4+! Resigns.

<It's a forced mate: 48. Kh1 Qf3+ 49. Rg2 Rc1+ 50. Kh2 Qf4+ 51. Rg3 Rc2+ 52. Kh1 Qf1+! 53. Rg1 Qf3+ 54. Rg2 Qxg2#.>

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