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Wilhelm Steinitz vs Emanuel Lasker
London (1899), London ENG, rd 27, Jul-06
Vienna Game: Vienna Gambit. Steinitz Variation (C29)  ·  0-1
ANALYSIS [x]

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sac: 15...Nxg2 PGN: download | view | print Help: general | java-troubleshooting

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Nov-08-03
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: White has little alternative but to sacrifice on move 19 as his K-side was about to collapse e.g.

19.Qc2 g4 20.Nh4 g3+ 21.Ke1 Bg4 22.Rg2 Re7 23.Kd1 Bxe2+ 24.Rxe2 Qh1+ 25.Kd2 Rxe2+ 26.Kxe2 Re8+

This was the Brilliancy Prize game of the tournament; Black's 15th move is a superb piece of calculation by Lasker.

Nov-08-03  Dougy: Trying to figure out why white didn't play:-

17. Kxh3 Qh5+ 18. Kg2 (forced) Qg4+ 19. Kh1 (else 19. Kf2 Bg3#) Qh3+ 20. Kg1 (else 20. Nh2 Qxh2#)

hmmm now what? or have i missed something?

Nov-08-03  Shadout Mapes: <Dougy> pssst, try 17.Kxh3 Qe6+
Nov-09-03  Shadout Mapes: Well, looking over it, it looks like you had the right idea Dougy.

17.Kxh3 Qe6+ (or Qf5+ or Qh5+) 18.Kg2 Qg4+ 19.Kh1 Qh3+ 20.Kg1

Now this trick is 20...Qg3+ 21.Kh1 Re4! and white is ruined.

Nov-14-03  Dougy: Okay i get the idea, not a forced mate, but it'd be about to be turned into one... white's pieces are tripping over each other in defence

Besides i doubt Steinitz is ganna be calculating all these moves.

It's hard to put this on the computer, 'cos it keeps playing for a draw.

May-04-04  LIFE Master AJ: <Reply to everyone> This game won the (FIRST!) brilliancy prize for this event ... is is simply one of the finest games of that time. It is in MANY books.

If you would like to see this game deeply annotated, please go to my web page fro endgames and great players, (http://www.angelfire.com/games4/lif...); and then scroll down the page until you see the listing/link for the Lasker page.

Dec-01-04  Minor Piece Activity: I wonder when the first formal, official "brilliancy prize" was awarded and to who. Anyone know?
Dec-01-04  percyblakeney: Bird vs J Mason, 1876 according to http://www.geocities.com/siliconval...
Dec-01-04  Minor Piece Activity: Thanks. =)
Jan-10-06  LIFE Master AJ: The direct link, for those of you who requested it. (http://www.angelfire.com/games4/lif...)
Feb-05-06
Premium Chessgames Member
  refutor: wonderful game by Lasker
Oct-06-07  RookFile: Lasker played with that wonderful energy for which he was famous.
Oct-06-07  ughaibu: Steinitz' play was an embarrassment to Fischer's praise. I blame Fischer!
Mar-05-08  PinnedPiece: Because of Black's development, after 15 ..Nxg2 it seems like white's goose is cooked.

Wasn't 14 Ng5 was a bit of a blunder? Why didn't the brilliant Steinitz develop other pieces?? Anyone tell what his plan might have been? Fork the...?? what?

And after committing the knight to attacking (f7?) why not use the bishop (15 Bf3) to counterattack the Queen?

Strange choice for a brilliancy prize, I think.

Jun-01-08
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <pinned piece>

Poor Lasker, he hardly ever wins a brilliancy prize and when he does, people complain about it.

<Because of Black's development, after 15 ..Nxg2 it seems like white's goose is cooked.>

Well, yes. It <is> cooked. If it wasn't cooked, then 15....Nxg2 would be an error. And the game wouldn't deserve a brilliancy prize in that case, surely? You can't swash if your opponent doesn't buckle, as they say.

<Wasn't 14 Ng5 was a bit of a blunder? Why didn't the brilliant Steinitz develop other pieces?? Anyone tell what his plan might have been? Fork the...?? what?>

The plan, probably, was 14....f6 15. Bf3 and 16. Ne4, with a quite good game. Steinitz didn't see 14....Nh4 coming.

If he had then played the consistent 15. Bf3, then 15....Nxf3+ 16. Qxf3 Qxf3 17. Nxf3 Bb5 leads to a ending that is somewhere between bad and lost for White. Steinitz had played plenty of those against Lasker already and decided to stay in the middle game -- with the result that he winds up losing a brilliancy instead of an ending.

<Strange choice for a brilliancy prize, I think.>

It got a brilliancy prize because of

(i) the depth and difficulty of the variations after 15....Nxg2 16. Kxg2 Bxh3+ 17. Kxh3 Qf5+ -- as you can see from the kibitzing on this page, even modern players with computers have a difficult time figuring out the variations. You don't give up two pieces just because you're ahead in development.

(ii) because of 17....f6!! -- having sacrificed a piece, Black doesn't take White's rook but instead takes a few moves to deploy his pawns, having accurately determined that White can do nothing in the meantime. 17....f6 is a very rare sort of attacking move, and I suspect the brilliancy prize judges were blown away by it.

But if this game doesn't do it for you, maybe you'll like F J Lee vs Lasker, 1899 or Lasker vs F J Lee, 1899 from the same tournament will suit you better.

Jun-02-08
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: 14 Ng5? - much better is 14.c4 Qe6 15 Bd3 - (he should have followed the principles of Steinitz!)
Sep-24-08  mindmaster: why not the king cut the bishop....
I mean 17. Kxf3 Explain anyone
Sep-24-08  sneaky pete: 17.Kxf3?! .. would allow 17... Qxf3. As for 17.Kxh3 .. see the earlier posts.
Sep-25-08  mindmaster: oops.... it has to be 17.Kxh3
Dec-09-08
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Hoffer: <With this brilliant game [played in the 27th round] Lasker ensured the first prize, and won the gold medal presented by the Ladies' Chess Club for the most brilliant game.>
Dec-09-08  whatthefat: This is a really beautiful game by Lasker. I analyzed the game in some detail a while ago with the help of Fritz, and found that Lasker made no significant inaccuracies. The depth of the ...Nxg2 sacrifice is quite impressive (including the idea of ...f6), and it indeed seems to be completely sound.
Nov-04-10  Ulhumbrus: 17...f6!! supports the pawn attack 18...g5.
May-12-15  ToTheDeath: What a fantastic conception, two piece offers in a row, followed by a sustained attack with pawns and heavy pieces to kill the White king. Steinitz found many clever and resourceful moves to defend but Lasker was having none of it.
May-08-17
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A spectacular game by Lasker that unquestionably deserved the Brilliancy Prize it received.

Before turning to Lasker's spectacular combination beginning with 15...Nxg2 (which I will address in a subsequent post), it is important to examine the preceding play that allowed Lasker to unleash his fireworks.

As in the prior two rounds, Steinitz played his favored 4. d3 line in the Vienna Game. Unlike Pillsbury and Mason in those prior two games, Lasker played 4...Nc6 rather than 4...d4. And two moves later, Lasker played the seemingly unambitious 6...Ng6 (instead of the theoretically better 6...Nc6). What was Lasker doing?

My theory (Lasker not being here to answer our questions) is that Lasker was seeking: (i) a solid position that gave him at least equality; and (ii) an opportunity to engage in a battle of ideas with Steinitz. After 8...QxN, Steinitz had a d-pawn in the center while Lasker had better piece play. As soon became apparent, Lasker intended to win the game by winning the battle of ideas (piece play vs. strong pawn center). As also soon became apparent, Lasker's thinking was better than that of Steinitz, who rigidly adhered to his concept of controlling the center with pawns in the face of a situation in which flexibility was essential.

Lasker's 9...Bg4 was perhaps less accurate than 9...Be7, but--as Soltis notes in his book on Lasker--Lasker was going for a crush here, not just for play against the d-pawn.

With his 10...0-0-0, the battle lines were drawn. Steinitz should most definitely have simply played 11. 0-0. But for Steinitz it was critical to support his center with 11. c3. This move, however, handed Lasker a big advantage and allowed him to play 11...Bd6. This move, as Soltis has also noted, is usually bad in King's Gambit type positions, but Steinitz' position is "too loose" (to quote Soltis) to play the thematic c4-c5.

After 11...Bd6, Steinitz finally castled (12. 0-0), but now Lasker played 12...Rhe8, leaving the position as follows:


click for larger view

Hoffer in the Tournament Book pronounces Steinitz' game lost here. This is surely an overstatement. What is clear is that Lasker had much the better game and Steinitz was forced to play 13. h3. Had he tried 13. c4, he would have lost to 13...Qh5, and 13. Bd3 would have come to grief after 13...Nh4. Meanwhile, Steinitz could not move his Queeen to b3 or a4 because his e2 Bishop would then be hanging.

As is clear, Lasker had won the battle of ideas in this game. Steinitz, as Soltis points out, had achieved everything he strove for in this kind of opening, including a strong center, a Queenside majority, and no weaknesses. Yet Lasker controlled the board. In my view, Steinitz' unhappiness at this turn of events likely explains the catastrophe that was to befall him.

After 13. h3, Lasker retreated with 13...Bd7. A case can be made that 13...Be6 was better, but Lasker obviously wanted to keep the e-file open for his Rook.

After Lasker's 13...Bd7, Steinitz played his losing move: 14.Ng5? Many have asked why Steinitz would make such a misguided move, especially given that he immediately returned the Knight to f3 on his very next move. Both keypusher and Reinfeld-Fine have suggested that Steinitz probably only expected Lasker to respond 14...f6, after which Steinitz could have played 15. Bf3 followed gy 16. Ne4. In fact, even this would not have given Steinitz anything close to equality.

My theory is that Steinitz remained convinced that Lasker's play was wrong and was looking for a refutation. On his view, there had to be some sort of winning attack. Indeed there was, but not for him!

Lasker, of course, did not play 14...f6, but instead played 14...Nh4! Now Steinitz was in serious trouble. 15. Bf3 would have lost to 15...NxB+ 16. QxN (if 16. NxN Bb5 wins) QxQ 17. NxQ (better than Reinfeld-Fine's 17. RxQ) Bb5 18. Re1 RxR+ 19. NxR Re8.

So Steinitz buried his pride and played 15. Nf3, apparently not suspecting the brilliant combination Lasker was about to unleash.

May-09-17
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Lasker's combination beginning with 15...Nxg2!! was brilliant. Much of the brilliance of this sacrifice has already been addressed on this site by Shadout Mapes, whatthefat and (most notably) keypusher. I have just a few points to add to what has already been said so well here.

1) 15...Nxg2!! was the one and only winning move at Lasker's disposal after Steinitz' 15. Nf3.

2) Lasker's 17...f6!! was (as keypusher has noted) the crown gem in this combination. Having now gone through approximately 90% of all the games in London 1899, I believe that 17...f6!! was not only the best move in this game; it was the best move in the entire tournament. I love it!

3) Steinitz could have defended better at some points after 15...Nxg2!!, but he had no way to save the game.

Steinitz had no alternative to 16. KxN, and his 17. Kf2 was also "best." As already shown here, had Steinitz accepted Lasker's second sacrifice with 17. KxB, he would have been crushed immediately with 17...Qf5+ (17...Qh5+ is equally decisive).

After Lasker's 17...f6!!, Steinitz could have offered somewhat better resistance with 18. Rh1 (though that "better" move would have run into 18...Qf5 as shown by Reinfeld-Fine in their commentary on this game).

After 18. Rg1 g5, Steinitz' 19. Bxg5, though allowing him to continue the game for a while, was inferior to the "better" 19. b3.

After Lasker's excellent 21...Bf4, 22. Re5 (strange as it looks to give up the Rook this way) was "better" than Steinitz' 22. Rh1.

4) After Steinitz gave up the exchange with 22. Rh1, what followed was a desperate effort by Steinitz to save a shattered position. Analysis of whether Steinitz' remaining moves were "best" seems pointless.

5) After Steinitz' 14. Ng5?, Lasker's play was good as gold. Even extended searches by my computer can not identify any significant improvements in Lasker's combination. The closest thing to an "improvement" I can spot in Lasker's play after Steinitz' 14. Ng5+ is that 27...Bg4 would have been even move decisive than Lasker's actual 27...Re7. (which was also a winning line). And I perhaps 28...Rf7 would have been even better than Lasker's 28...Bg4. But this is mere quibbling.

5) There was a cute trick at the very end of the game. After Lasker's 28...Bg4, Steinitz tried a neat swindle with 29. Rg5. The position after this move was:


click for larger view

Had Lasker been careless and played 29...QxN, his win would have been gone and he would have had to fight for a draw after 30. BxB+ (as Reinfeld-Fine have noted). Chess can be cruel. A brilliancy can be spoiled with one lapse. Lasker, however, had no such lapses in this game, and simply played 29...Qc2+, and after 30. Kg3 BxB Steinitz threw in the towel

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