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Ernst Gruenfeld vs Akiba Rubinstein
Merano (1924), rd 3, Feb-06
Semi-Slav Defense: Meran Variation (D48)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Unless I'm badly mistaken, this game is the reason we call it the Meran. Poor Grunfeld. He plays reasonably--and he gets walloped, because reasonable won't work in this variation.
Nov-18-06  Karpova: Another great opening innovation (sure, much more than just an innovation) from Akiba Rubinstein!
Jan-30-07  Archives: <Another great opening innovation (sure, much more than just an innovation) from Akiba Rubinstein!>

The Meran Defense,one of the most complex queen pawn openings, was also entirely Rubinstein's idea, but it was named after a place rather than a person. And of course, all the great players have played this complicated opening (Kasparov, Karpov, Kramnik, Anand).

Developments in the opening are a bit of a tempi struggle and related to the orthodox defense: for years, Black's c6 was considered a wasted tempo since c5 would ultimately need to be played. Capablanca (and Showalter) demonstrated that the tempo lost by c6 was offset by White's extra tempi used moving the king's bishop. Ultimately, the source of White's advantage is Black's "problem child" bishop: the Meran would seem to confound that problem for Black, with the hedgerow of pawns on white squares, but he's often able to free himself and equalize the game.

8.Bd3 a6 9. O-O c5! which was Rubinstein's idea to transpose into a solid defensive variation of the Queen's Gambit Accepted, with the only difference that both Black and White have used an extra tempo to reach the position.

"An enormous complex which embraces a large body of theory. Black's chances are sufficient for equality." BCO2

Aug-26-07  cannibal: <An Englishman: Unless I'm badly mistaken, this game is the reason we call it the Meran. Poor Grunfeld.>

One of the reasons, but not the only reason. If it was just this game, then maybe we'd call it the Rubinstein Variation. The clou is that Gruenfeld himself copied Rubinstein's play just two rounds later (Spielmann vs Gruenfeld, 1924) - and also won!

Aug-26-07  euripides: <entirely Rubinstein's idea>

There's a case for attributing it to Osip Bernstein:

Capablanca vs O Bernstein, 1914

Aug-26-07  euripides: ... or Perlis:

Schlechter vs J Perlis, 1906

Aug-26-07  Karpova: Or Lasker
Steinitz vs Lasker, 1897

Here's a Chess Note by Edward Lasker dealing with the Meran Defense (mainly the false assumption that Tartakover popularized it at Meran 1924 also)

Rubinstein deserves much credit for his hard work on the opening (he contributed so much to opening theory) and he was also the one popularizing it - as <cannibal> mentioned Gruenfeld adopted the opening himself in the same tournament.

Sep-09-10  Murphyman: Never mind all the opening stuff folks.

What about 28. Bxe5 as a move!!??

Think it should be a CG problem of the day someday

Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: [from Sep-05-04]
<An Englishman: Good Evening: Unless I'm badly mistaken, this game is the reason we call it the Meran. Poor Grunfeld. He plays reasonably--and he gets walloped, because reasonable won't work in this variation.>

This is indeed the game generally recognized as the first Meran Defense [Counterattack].

Grünfeld’s <9. 0-0> is plausible (and the second most-often played choice in the CG database, with 125 occurrences at this time), but it is weak. (Black scores 56%, specifically: White wins: 28%; drawn: 32%; Black wins: 40%.) There is just too much happening in the center for it to be advisable for White to castle here.

Grünfeld did at least play <10. a4>, which gets back to a position with a plus score for White amongst games currently in the CG database. It is nevertheless better for White to play <a4> on move <9>, since the pressure against the b5-pawn then forbids <9. … c5>.

[BTW, in the CG database, <9. a4> has scored much better than <9. e4> (by 66.7% to 54.9%): Opening Explorer, but given the size of the sample, this does not prove it is actually the better move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: Interestingly, with <d5> on either move 25 or move 27, Grünfeld would have been doing OK. His <27. f4?> was an instantly losing blunder, giving up material for no compensation.
Mar-31-12  Karpova: Btw, this was not Akiva's first Meran - this one is: Teichmann vs Rubinstein, 1923
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