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Emanuel Lasker vs William Ewart Napier
Cambridge Springs (1904)  ·  Sicilian Defense: Closed Variation. Traditional (B34)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Aug-16-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: I think a lot on here have forgotten that most of us play our actual games without a computer beside us!!

As played - as an OTB game - it was great game. Stet. Errors are a part of chess always. Or it wouldn't be a game.

Sep-15-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: This is a great game to play through and analyze. Even though it is over 100 years old, there are still not definitive solutions to many of its problems.

One place to start is the position after move 17. White plays 18 h5, and most commentators give the move a "!"

John Nunn writes, "Just when the complications are at a maximum, Lasker suddenly revives his kingside attack, even in the absence of queens. The alternative Nxc8 would have given black a clear advantage."

While Nunn is correct that Nxc8 is not a good alternative for White, he doesn't evaluate f5. On his website analysis of the game, AJ Goldsby writes, "This [h5] is good/best ... and I think it deserves an exclam, although Soltis does not give it one." Goldsby at least mentions f5, "White could play: = or >/= 18.f5!?, ('!') " " with a small advantage. This possibility is not even mentioned by most annotators. And I was one of the first people to point this possibility out. ---> See my old web page that was posted in 1995.)"

Though Goldsby may have been one of the first to point out the move, he doesn't acknowledge its possible superiority to h5. (How can an annotator give an "!" to a move when there is a better alternative?)

Very deep (24 move) analysis by Rybka 2.2 yields:

1. (0.33): 1.f5 Nd5 2.Nxd5 Rxd5 3.Bc4 Rd7 4.f6 Bf8 5.Rd1 Kg8 6.Kf2 Rc7 7.Bb3 Bg4

2. (0.27): 1.h5 Re8 2.hxg6 Rxe7 3.Bc5 Nd5 4.Rxh7+ Kg8 5.0-0-0 Be6 6.Rxd5 Bxd5 7.Bxe7 fxg6

3. = (-0.14): 1.fxe5 Bxe5 2.Bg2 Re8 3.Nxc8 Raxc8 4.Kf2 Na4 5.Bxb7 Rxc2+ 6.Kf3 Bxb2 7.Rae1 Rc3

4. (-0.32): 1.bxc3 exf4 2.Bd4 Bxd4 3.cxd4 Re8

5. (-0.47): 1.Bg2 exf4 2.Bxf4 Re8 3.Kf2 Bd4+ 4.Kf1 Rxe7 5.bxc3 Bxc3 6.Rb1 Be6 7.Rxb7 Bc4+

For the first time in over 100 years, I think we need to consider that White had a better alternative at move 18 for continuing his attack, and that while h5 was a good move, f5 was a better way for White to pursue the initiative.

Mar-04-11  SeanBurdine: After making his 20th move, Lasker had just 3 minutes to make his next 10 moves! He did a superb job of navigating through the time pressure and maintaining his position.
Jul-08-11  Sho: Let's go back to patzer level: kibitzing on this page is worth reading.
Jul-08-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: < SeanBurdine: After making his 20th move, Lasker had just 3 minutes to make his next 10 moves!>

Where did you read this?

Jul-12-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: http://www.lifemasteraj.com/old_af-...

My analysis of this game ...

Dec-24-11  Everett: <Dr.Gridlock> So six one-hundredths of a point per Rybka is enough to declare one move over another? Ridiculous.

As far as people arguing how obsolete this game is, I'll just suffer through analyzing it myself with annotations from GMs like Soltis and Crouch, and get better because of it. For educational purposes, I think many chessplayers miss the boat when they condemn a game due to inaccuracies. The content and potential in each position seems to be a high priority for learning the game at various levels. I think we all know that not every game is the same in regard to the richness in content.

Dec-24-11  King Death: <Everett> Thank you for a vote on the side of sanity and being plain sensible in the battle of man vs. machine.

<Richard Taylor: I think a lot on here have forgotten that most of us play our actual games without a computer beside us!! As played - as an OTB game - it was great game...>

Thank you Richard for another one and I agree.

Dec-24-11  andrewjsacks: Here, Here, Everett. Thank you for the sane and sensible comments.
Dec-25-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <King Death> Thanks! I still study these great games using Fritz but one has to keep realizing it is game, hence error is always present.

e.g. looking at Capablnca vs Lasker in 1914 where Lasker used the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez, the computer kind of mediates between "Lasker is winning here (in fact in much of the game Black has slight advantage) "and Fine and Reinfeld's: "Capablanca misjudged the position completely" (he didn't) and the fact that Lasker played some great chess (without exaggerating his position I don't know if you know the game but even with N on e6 Capablanca wasn't lost - his fault in that game was to change his plan (e.g to sacrifice the exchange as defensive measure)); and he acknowledges that in "Chess Fundamentals".

So this is useful use of computers, as long as we also try to evaluate without them first, as Dennis Monokrouosos advises.

Dec-25-11  Penguincw: The Sicilian was still popular back then.
Dec-26-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: Updated engine analysis, Part 1 of 2:

Well, I would love to be able to evaluate master-level games without the use of machines first but my skill level is such that I doubt that I would come to the correct conclusions on my own. The best that I can say in my defense is that I treat machine analysis as skeptically as I treat human analysis, so I always review the machines' analysis first before I try to reach even a tentative conclusion. And, knowing the engines' propensity for doubtful evaluations the longer the line, I try to slide forward at selected points when in my judgment the engine's evaluations are questionable. Most of the time the engines are correct at these selected points but often enough, they're not. Given my skill level this is probably the best I can do in my search for "chess truth" but then again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG2c....

So, as a confirmed engine head by necessity, and with some time on my hands (a bad combination), let me update <DrGridlock>'s analysis comparing 18.f5 and 18.h5 with a somewhat more recent version of Rybka (4.1) and somewhat deeper search (d=27). Here's the position after 17...Kh8:


click for larger view

For what it's worth the engine analysis ran for 22 hours on a 4-core, 2.66 GHz, 32-bit Intel Q9400 computer with a 1 GB hash table. Rybka's evaluations and lines:

A. [+1.08] 18.f5 gxf5 19.bxc3 Be6 20.Bh3 f4 21.Bxe6 fxe6 22.Bc5 Bf8 23.Ke2 Re8 24.Bd6 Bxe7 25.Bxe5+ Kg8 26.Rad1 Red8 27.Kf3 Rac8 28.Rhe1 Rd5 29.Rd3 Kf7 30.Kxf4 Rcc5 31.Re4 Ra5 32.a4 Bf8 33.Bf6


click for larger view

Here White clearly stands better with his advanced k-side majority and the initiative, although I suspect that part of Rybka's evaluation advantage might be due to White's useless extra pawn. Re-starting the analysis from this position results in an even better evaluation of White's positions by Rybka, although at a lower search depth: ([+1.63, d=21): 33...Kg6 34.Rxe6 Rxa4+ 35.Rd4 Rdxd4+ 36.cxd4 Kf7 37.Re3 Rc4 38.Rb3 b6 39.c3 Ra4 40.Ke5 Ra5+ 41.Ke4 Ra2 42.c4 Rh2 43.Ke5 Kg6 44.Rb5 Ba3 45.c5 bxc5 46.dxc5

B. [+0.63] 18.h5 Re8 19.hxg6 Rxe7 20.Bc5 Rd7 21.Rxh7+ Kg8 22.bxc3 exf4 23.Bc4 b5 24.Bb3 Bxc3+ 25.Kf2 Rd2+ 26.Kf3 Bb7+ 27.Kg4 Bd5 28.Rah1 Rg2+ 29.Kxf4 Bxb3 30.cxb3 fxg6 31.Be7 Rf2+ 32.Kg3 Rf7 33.Rxf7


click for larger view

After 33...Kxf7 I do agree with Rybka's evaluation that in these lines White stands better after 18.f5 than after 18.h5. Black seems to get much more counterplay in this line and with the symmetrical pawn structure probably has good drawing chances. Starting from this position Rybka considers White's advantage to have been reduced ([+0.20], d=27): 33...Kxf7 34.Bf6 Rc8 35.Rh7+ Ke6 36.Rb7 Bxf6 37.gxf6 Kxf6 38.Rxb5 Rc3+ 39.Kg4 Rc6 40.Ra5 a6 41.Ra4 Ke5 42.Kg5 Kd5 43.Kh6 Ke5 44.Rg4 Kf5 45.Rg5+ Ke4 46.Rg1 Kd4 47.Rd1+ Ke4 48.Rd2 Ke3 and it's hard to see how White can make any progress.


click for larger view

If you chart the difference in evaluations between 18.f5 and 18.h5 you'll see that it steadily increases from [+0.01] at d=18 to [+0.45] at d=27. So certainly Rybka 4.1 considers 18.f5 to be superior to 18.h5.

Dec-26-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: Updated engine analysis, Part 2 of 2:

With chess analysis, like with surgery, it's wise to get a second opinion. So here's is what Houdini 1.5a has to say at d=33 also after 22 hours:

A. [+0.40] 17.f5 Ne4 18.f6 Bf8 19.h5 Ng3 20.Rh2 Nxf1 21.Kxf1 gxh5 22.Nxc8 Raxc8 23.c3 h6 24.Rxh5 Kh7 25.Rh4 Kg6 26.gxh6 Kh7 27.Ke2 Rc6 28.Rf1 a6 29.Rf5 Re8 30.a4


click for larger view

So Houdini takes a completely different approach from Rybka and in the end evaluates the resulting ending position as nowhere near as good for White as Rybka evaluated its resulting ending position, in spite of White also being a pawn up and without a broken pawn structure. But Black has no counterplay and is slowly strangled. Starting from this position, Houdini evaluates this line as best for both sides with White's advantage increasing: ([+0.64], d=31): 30...Bd6 31.Rg4 Bf8 32.a5 Ree6 33.Rh4 Red6 34.Rg5 Rxf6 35.Rxe5 Rfe6 36.Rxe6 Rxe6 37.b4 Re7 38.Kd3 Rc7 39.Bf4 Rc6 40.Rh5 Re6 41.Be3 Rd6+ 42.Ke4 Rd7 43.Rd5 Re7+ 44.Re5 Rd7 45.Rh5 Re7+ 46.Kd4 Kg6 47.Rg5+ Kh7 48.Bf4 Bxh6


click for larger view

And after 49.Rh5 Re6 White can force a won K+P ending, and Houdini indeed considers 49...Kg7 to be a better practical choice than 49...Re6 although this may be a (far) horizon effect since Houdini might recognize 49...Re6 as lost for Black. If this is true then this is indeed a testament to Houdini's positional evaluation capabilities!

B. [+0.15] 17.h5 Re8 18.f5 gxf5 19.Nxc8 Nd5 20.Nd6 Nxe3 21.Kf2 f4 22.h6 Bf8 23.Nxe8 Rxe8 24.Kf3 Be7 25.Bd3 Bxg5 26.Rag1 f6 27.Rh5 b6 28.Rhxg5 fxg5 29.Rxg5 Re6 30.b3 Rxh6 31.Rxe5 Rh2 32.Re8+ Kg7 33.Rc8 Nd5 34.Rd8 Nb4 35.Rd7+ Kf6


click for larger view

Again, Houdini takes a completely different approach than Rybka and in the end evaluates the position as only slightly favorable for White. And, starting from this position, Houdini considers best play by both sides to result in a draw by repetition at d=36: 36.Bxh7 Nxa2 37.Kxf4 Nb4 38.Rxa7 Nxc2 39.Kg3 Re2 40.Rd7 Nb4 41.Kf4 Rh2 42.Be4 Rh4+ 43.Ke3 Ke5 44.Re7+ Kd6 45.Rf7 Nd5+ 46.Kd3 Nb4+ 47.Ke3 Nd5+


click for larger view

Interestingly, if you chart the difference in evaluations between 18.f5 and 18.h5 you'll see that it steadily increases from [+0.13] at d=21 to only [+0.22] at d=33, less than Rybka's, although Houdini eventually evaluates the continuation after 18.h5 to be drawn. So Houdini 1.5a also considers 18.f5 to be superior to 18.h5.

What does all this mean? Well, from a practical perspective, not much. 18.f5 and 18.h5 are clearly the best moves by White in this position and both Rybka 4.1 and Houdini 1.5a evaluate 18.f5 as somewhat better than 18.h5 at the search depths that I allowed the analyses to run. While the long lines I gave above are obviously not forced (and long computer analysis lines should not be given any credibility unless the moves are forced), in both cases it looks like 18.f5 provides White with better practical chances than 18.h5. And Houdini's lines, compared to Rybka's lines, are generally evaluated to be less advantageous for White.

I'm sure that Lasker evaluated 18.f5 and, for something maybe as simple as personal preference, chose instead 18.h5. And he certainly didn't have 22 hours to assess them! I should indicate that after 6 minutes of calculation Rybka considered the difference between the 2 lines to be only [+0.03] and after 10 minutes of calculation only [+0.01]; effectively equal. Houdini considered the difference between the 2 lines to be only [+0.17], after almost 8 minutes of calculation only [+0.13], and after 13 minutes of calculation only [+0.11]; also effectively equal for all practical purposes. So, if you were to restrict Rybka and Houdini to OTB-level calculation times, they would be hard pressed to consider one of the moves to be significantly better than the other, although both of them would have selected 18.f5 over 18.h5. Should we consider 18.f5 a matter of "personal preference" for the engines? And, since Lasker won the game in spite of pretty good play by Napier, it's hard to fault Lasker's choice under the circumstances.

Dec-26-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: <Everett> Read through my post again, this time with some care.

My point was NOT that .06 evaluation points makes one move (f5) superior to another (h5) and that all understanding of this position should be hung on this difference.

My point WAS that there are two moves of nearly equal merit, one of which (f5) has never been historically analyzed as being on par with the other (h5).

Additional analysis from <AylerKupp> confirms that there is understanding to be gleaned from following the trees following these two continuations.

Dec-26-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Everett> 0.01 is enough for one engine to declare one move "superior" to another. After all, they have to go by something. Does that mean that one move is superior to the other? No, not in any practical sense. And it's not unusual in a case like that that the engine's evaluation of which move is "superior" flip flops at each search ply, so a lot depends on the depth at which you stop the analysis, which is typically arbitrary; it all depends on when you run out of time or patience.

I personally don't consider an engine's evaluation of one move to be truly superor to another move unless they differ by 0.50 or more, and even then the 2 move's relative evaluations may change abruptly as the search is done just one ply deeper. Others will likely have different thresholds. So how deep should one let an engine search before one has confidence in their evaluation? I wish I knew! The only thing I do know is that it depends on the engine and the type of position, which of course is no help at all.

Dec-26-11
Premium Chessgames Member
  profK: I first played through this game at the age of ten. It was an inspiration.
Mar-04-12  shallowred: I have one comment about this game and the analysis of it over the years:

WOW

Mar-04-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  NM JRousselle: Richard Taylor,

I wanted to thank you for you many contributions to this site. Whenever I see a post of yours, I make sure to read it. Your posts not only bring sound analysis, but your posts show the human element in the game. Keep up the great work. Many of us at this site are enriched by your presence here.

Mar-06-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: < NM JRousselle: Richard Taylor,

I wanted to thank you for you many contributions to this site. Whenever I see a post of yours, I make sure to read it. Your posts not only bring sound analysis, but your posts show the human element in the game. Keep up the great work. Many of us at this site are enriched by your presence here. >

That is very kind!

I just played a very interesting game last night and lost but I now have three pages of analysis of the game. I blundered in position where I had a winning advantage.

The point is though, that one can still find richness, even in a game one has lost!

May-26-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Naniwazu: I would have to agree with Soltis on this game being overrated. White's early kingside thrusts with his h-pawn just seem premature.
Aug-05-12  LoveThatJoker: Guess-the-Move Final Score:

Lasker vs W Napier, 1904.
YOU ARE PLAYING THE ROLE OF LASKER.
Your score: 51 (par = 46)

LTJ

PS. Par is now 47.

Nov-23-13  jdc2: An analysis of move 18 using Stockfish 4 64, 2.1Ghz, 2 cpu, 1024MB hash

Evals are for h5 and f5 in that order:
Time
1:15 .88 vs .78
1:43 .88 vs .62 after 26 ply
2:30 .86 vs .56 in middle of 27th ply
4:33 .84 vs .70 1st move of 29th ply
6:58 .86 vs .78 beginning of 30th ply (721 meganodes) another few minutes up to 951 meganodes and completing 30 ply: .84 vs .74

18. h5 Re8 19. hxg6 Rxe7 20. Bc5 Rd7 21. Rxh7+ Kg8 22. bxc3 exf4 23. Bc4 b5 24. Rxg7+ Kxg7 25. gxf7 Rxf7 26. Bxf7 Kxf7 27. a4 bxa4 28. Rxa4 Kg6 29. Rxf4 Bf5 30. Be3

18. f5 Ne4 19. f6 Bf8
20. Bg2 Ng3 21. Rh2 Nf5 22. Bc5 Re8 23. O-O-O Nxe7 24. fxe7 Bxe7 25. Bxe7 Rxe7 26. Rd8+ Kg7 27. Be4 h6 28. h5 gxh5 29. gxh6+ Kxh6 30. Rh8+ Kg7 31. R8xh5 f5 32. Bxf5 Bxf5 33. Rxf5 Kg6 34. Rf1 Rg7 35. Kd2 Rd8+ 36. Ke3 Rd4 37. Rg2+ Kh7 38. Rfg1 Rxg2 39. Rxg2 Kh6

I don't know who's more amazing, Lasker or Stockfish.

Dec-18-13  LoveThatJoker: GOTD: Immaculate Emanuel

LTJ

Jun-02-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <DrGridlock> <How can an annotator give an "!" to a move when there is a better alternative?>

I think even engines will do this, if a set of a few moves all bump the eval by a big differential.

A good move is a good move. Just because there's a marginally better move doesn't detract from that (and in fact, the "best" move may jostle back-and-forth depending on how deep you let the engine go).

Jun-22-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  Terminal B: Thanks to all of you for your analysis, and your comments on the man vs. machine issue.

I was delighted when I first discovered the Cambridge Springs games. I lived near Cambridge Springs and often played golf there, long before I ever knew that any chess tournament of any caliber had ever been played there. To me, all of the games there are a treasure.

But, if you have not already seen it, this game is also analyzed very nicely by Fred Reinfeld and Reuben Fine in their book "Lasker's Greatest Chess Games 1889 - 1914", published in 1935. Even their annotations suggest that Lasker had a bit of luck on his side.

Analysis before the age of the machine of course, but very enjoyable. As Dr. Hsu, the developer of Deep Blue, once said: "[these machines] are just our tools."

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