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Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Tarrasch World Championship Match (1908), Munich GER, rd 6, Sep-02
French Defense: Rubinstein Variation (C10)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-10-06  Grega: Grega: Hello, folks!
Check this: What if white replies 11 h5 and shows will to sacrifice 2rooks+bishop for queen and positional advantage, considering disconnected rooks, weak king, advanced pawn and black's poor pawn structure. I just made analysis and it is extremely complex and not necessary bad for white. Then arises typical Lasker/Tal position that may favor white despite being down with material, or am I wrong?

I play such specalutive sacrifices OTB and it mostly works (I'm 1900++)

I would like to her others' opinion too, beacuse I don't have an engine, and position deserves someone who is a keen analyser.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Fritz is not impressed after 11...hxg5 12. hxg6 Rxh1+ 13. Kd2 Rxa1 14. Bxf5 and now Black can castle or try 14....Bb4+ 15. c3 Rxa2! 16. cxb4 Rxb2+ 17. Bc2 g4 18. Ne1 Rxb4 with 0-0-0 to follow. But it's a good idea -- I'd hate to face it if I were Black!
Aug-10-06  Grega: Thanks, keypusher and I agree with you; with help of strong local master I discovered plenty of ways for black to equalize. But I still think that white has many resources and in case of mistake the punishment by white follows immediatelly. The most likely white should go for advancing pawn and struggle for perpetual.

Ouf course, that dubious combination wouldn't bring milk and butter against Lasker, but it would garantee lively play.

Aug-10-06  Grega: Well, an example of unsound (as kibitzers pointed) but succesful sacrifice is also Tal vs R Skuja, 1955
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Game Six

Part I

<Tarrasch’s comments, translated to the best of my ability, are in plain text; my/Fritz’s comments are in brackets.

Lasker plays the French for the only time in the match and gets an ugly position, though he is able to simplify quickly to an only slightly worse ending. As his notes reveal, however, even after simplification Tarrasch believes his advantage is all but decisive, and continues to grind forward. Lasker misses several good defensive moves, and gradually gets into a genuinely bad position. Near the second time control at move 45, Tarrasch misses first a beautiful win, then a prosaic one. A few moves later, the contestants agree to the first draw of the match. Lasker remains on top, 4-1.>

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4

This variation of the French Defense, in which Black gives up the center, in my opinion is completely inadequate. With proper play Black never achieves a satisfactory development.

4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+

The tempo that Black gave his opponent must always be returned, for example after 5. Bd3 Nxe4 6. Bxe4 Nd7 7. Nf3 Nf6 8. Bd3. But with the text move White loses two tempi, namely in that, with his knight, which has made two moves already, exchanges itself for a knight that has moved only once, and furthermore, that the black queen is developed or the black g-pawn is brought to f6. Nevertheless the exchange here is correct, because the black queen is vulnerable on f6, so that Black must at least give back a tempo with …h6, or else, if the pawn retakes, the weakening of the black kingside gives White full compensation for the tempo sacrificed, especially since White intends to castle queenside.

5….Qxf6 6. Nf3 Bd7

Instead of this Black should prevent Bg5 with …h6. The black bishop aims at c6, to menace the square g2 in combination with the queen, but White can advantageously parry this threat with an attack of his own.

7. Bg5

One might expect 7. Bd3 here, when Black must respond …h6, because with …Bc6 he would lose his queen by the original combination 8. Bg5 Bxf3 9. Qd2!. White nevertheless rightly thinks that he can take immediate advantage of Black’s failure to play 6…h6.

7….Qg6 8. Bd3 f5?

Instead of this the queen should go to h5, whereupon he could after …f6 retreat the queen to f7, although the weakness of the e5 and e6 points would make it easier for White to break in here and in an endgame. The threat on g2 is perhaps the motivation for the text move.

9. h4!

Not only to protect the bishop (and so threatening to win the queen by Ne5) but also to drive the queen away from attacking g2 and to create a strong forward post on h5.

9….Nc6 10. Qe2

Here g4 came into consideration, but I thought this overaggressive move would fall flat. Equally mistaken was the idea of winning the queen with 10….Be2, because the black queen would with 10…h6 11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. Bh5 hxg5 13. Bxg6+ Nxg6 succeed in selling its life dearly.


This this new weakening of the pawn formation, with the g-pawn left backward (which, however, is difficult to avoid) means Black must castle long. And after 10….Be7 11. Bxe7 Nxe7 12. Ne5 Qxg2 13. 0-0-0 Black has big problems.

11. Bf4

11. h5 is prohibited since of course comes the response 11….hxg5 12. hxg6 Rxh1+, etc. Instead of the bishop-retreat would some masters recommended d5; but after 11…hxg5 12. dxc6 Bxc6 13. Ne5 Qf6 White has lost a pawn and lacks a convincing followup, thus 14. Bb5 Bxb5 15. Qxb5 c6 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. Qxc6+ Kf7 18. Qxa8 fails by Bb4+ winning the queen; and the move 14. h5, recommended by many, after 14….Bd6 15. Ng6 (or 15. Nxc6 bxc6 followed by …Kd7) 15….Rh6 with …0-0-0 and …Be8 comes to nothing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II

11….0-0-0 12. 0-0-0 Bd6 13. Be5!

13. Bxd6 was of course bad, since White would strengthen the Black pawn center, especially the e5 square. Black sooner or later would with …e5 advance and get the better game.

<Fritz actually prefers 13. Bxd6, although it thinks Black is fine after 13….cxd6 14. h5 Qf6 15. Bb5 Rae8.>


Black is embarrassed for a good move.

<Fritz thinks Black could equalize comfortably here with 13….Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. dxe5 (after 15. Qxe5 Qxg2 is quite playable) Bc6. Obviously Tarrasch thought his position was better than it really was; I think Lasker may have shared Tarrasch’s opinion.>

14. h5

Causes the complete crippling of the kingside and prepares the later attack on the g-file.

14….Qf7 15. c3

To prevent …Nb4.

click for larger view


The black pieces stand unpleasantly crowded together, so Black looks to free his game by exchanges.

<Fritz’s view of the Black’s position remains far more positive than Tarrasch’s: 15…Nxe5 was better a couple of moves ago, but here it is still brings about near-equality.>

16. Nxe5 Bxe5 17. Qxe5 Qf6 18. f4

The text move is the best; White gives up the frontal attack on the pawn, but the pawn at e5 limits the black game and the main attack on the g-file will follow. Also, after 18…Rde1 (with the intention of retaking with the rook after …Qxe5), ….Qg5+ and …Qxg2, although White would maintain a positional advantage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part III

18….Qxe5 19. fxe5 Re7

If instead Black plays …Bc6, 20. Be2 could follow (with the intention of Bf3), because if 20….Bxg2 21. Rhg1 and Rxg7, when White has the much better game, now that the pawns on h6 and e6 are under direct attack and White controls the only open file.

20. Be2 Bc6 21. Bf3 Be8

If Black takes the bishop, so White’s cause is advanced, as Black achieves White’s goal of opening the g-file (which White would sooner or later achieve by g4).

<I thought this note was strange at first. Since White can indeed open the g-file himself, I couldn’t see any downside to Black getting rid of his bad bishop by 21.…Bxf3 22. gxf3. Although White is obviously better here, I didn’t see how Black could lose, since he can double rooks on his second rank and adequately defend g7 and e6. But Fritz found some semi-promising plans: 22….Rd5 23. f4 (White would like to keep this square free for the king, but needs to protect his spearhead at e5 from the threat of …c5) 23….b5 24. Kc2 c5 25. dxc5 Rxc5 26. Rd4 because of the weaknesses at e6 and on the g-file.

However, Fritz found an alternative to exchanging or retreating the bishop on move 21: 21….Bd5! Now there doesn’t seem to be any way for White to make progress. Bxd5 is a dead draw; b3 and c4 can always be met effectively by …b5.

In any event, Black’s position is perfectly defensible after 21….Be8.>

22. Rdg1

White’s plan is clear; but Black cannot prevent it. Black cannot change the position in any fundamental way.

click for larger view

<In fact, here and for the next several moves, Black can achieve complete equality with …c5, e.g. 22…c5 23. dxc5 Rc7 24. b4 b6! 25. Rd1 bxc5 26. Be2 Bc6 26. Ba6+ Bb7 27. Bxb7+ Rxb7 28. Rxd8+ Kxd8, etc.>

22….c6 23. Rh2 Kc7 24. Kc2

The king cannot cross the d-file, because Black would then have a chance to play the …c5 freeing move.

24….Kb6 25. b4(!)

Prevents the advance of the c-pawn. Lasker therefore said that he should have played …a5 before the king-move.

<With this move White begins to get a real advantage.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part IV

25….Kc7 26. g4 fxg4 27. Rxg4 a5(?)

Black still seeks to open the a-file so that his rook can come into play. Of course White does not consider taking the a-pawn.

<But he should have; White has excellent chances for the full point after 28. bxa5!. If 28….Ra8? 29. Rhg2 Rxa5 30. Rxg7 White is winning; after the somewhat better 28….c5 29. dxc5 Bc6 30. Bxc6 Kxc6 31. Rb4 Rd5 32. Rb6+ Kxc5 33. Re2! Rd8 34. a4 Ra8 35. Rb5+ Kc6 36. Rd2 Fritz evaluates White as more than two pawns up.

In short, 27….a5, natural though it looks, is a big mistake. Also, Black can’t do anything with the a-file, as the game continuation shows.>

28. a3(?) axb4 29. axb4 Ra8 30. Kd3 Rd8 31. Be4

The bishop aims at g6.


To assist in the later attack on the White pawns, by making the white c-pawn backwards (check). But this move is also the downfall of Black's c-pawn

32. Ke3 Kb6

click for larger view

33. Rg3

Here the game was adjourned for the first time, with White sealing the rook move.

33….Ra8 34. Rhg2 Ra3 35. Kd3 Bxh5(?)

If Black had guarded the g-pawn by ...Raa7, then Bg6 would follow. Whether Black then moved his bishop back to d7 or exchanged the bishops, so that the h-pawn moved to g6, the same continuation would follow: White doubles rooks on the f-file and binds the black pieces [by] Rf7 or Rf8, followed by doubling on the 8th rank. The decision in either case, in the end after suitable preparation – White’s pawn majority [is mobilized] by c4, cxb5 (?), and finally d5 then Kd4 brings it to glory[?] After that the passed e-pawn wins the game.

<This is more a sketch than a plan, so it is hard to evaluate…but I am quite skeptical. Fritz sees nothing too promising for White after 35….Raa7 36. Bg6 Bxg6 37. hxg6. Now if Black doubles rooks on his second rank, White doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish anything, even if he doubles rooks on the eighth. Look at the following position:

click for larger view

1…Kb6 2. c4 bxc4+ (of course) 3. Kxc4. Where does White go from here?

Lasker’s 35.…Bxh5, on the other hand, brings Black to the brink of defeat.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part V

36. Rxg7 Rxg7 37. Rxg7 Ra2(?)

A fine move, and the answer is difficult to find. 38. Rh7 is weaker after …Rh2, when the h-pawn cannot be taken because of …Be2+. The obvious move Rg2 causes a draw, as Black trades rooks and then prevents the entry of the White king: 38. Rg2 Rxg2 39. Bxg2 Kc7 40. Ke3 Kd7 41. Kf4 Be8 42. Kg4 Be8 43. Kh4 Kf8. Now White cannot play Bf3 and Bh5, because Black after the bishop exchange wins with his passed pawn.

<Fritz finds an amazing hidden resource for Black here: Instead of 37…..Ra2, Black plays 37….Ra1, and if 38. Rh7 Rd1+ 39. Kc2 (39. Ke3? Re1+ 40. Kd3 Rxe4 ) 39….Rh1!!, since if 40. Bxh1 Bg6+. If 38. Rd7 as in the game, Black’s rook is active enough to maintain equality: 38….Rd1+ 39. Ke3 Re1+ 40. Kf4 Rf1+ 41. Kg3 Re1, and if 42. Bg2?! Re3+, while 42. Kf4 Rf1+ repeats.

On the other hand, after the move in the text it appears that Lasker is finally lost.>

click for larger view

38. Rd7(!)

The decisive move, which wins at least a pawn.

38….Be2+ 39. Ke3 Bc4 40. Rd6 Ra3

After 40….Bd5 41. Bxd5 followed by 42. Rxh6 wins easily.

41. Rxc6+ Ka7

click for larger view

42. Kf4

After I had played this very difficult game – [ver de vierte] – so well to this point, I missed the win here, a win however by a difficult and complicated combination, which I felt I did not have time to calculate precisely, and moreover it was not necessary to do so, since the game is still won simply with the text move. The very interesting and beautiful combination is as follows: 42. d5 exd5 43. e6 dxe4? 44. Rxc4 Kb6! (44….bxc4 45. e7) 45. e7 Ra8 46. Rxe4 Re8 47. Kf4 Kc7 48. Kf5 Kd7 49. Kf6 and wins. A better defense after 42. d5 exd5 43. e6 is 43….Ra1 (with the intention of stopping the passed pawn with …Re1+). Then White wins, however, by 44. Rxc4 bxc4! 45. Bf3, for if 45….Re1+ 46. Be2 follows, and after 45….Rg1 46. e7 Rg8 47. Bxh5, and if 45….d4+ winning is 46. Kxd4 Re1 47. Be4 Rd1+ 48. Ke5 Rd8 49. e7.

<Fritz agrees with Tarrasch’s variations and his conclusion: 42. d5 wins. In his post-game note, Tarrasch suggests 42. Kd2 here, with the idea of winning time on the clock by repetitions after 42….Ra2+ 43. Kd3 Ra3 44. Kd2, etc., so that he could reach the time control and adjourn the game.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part VI

42….Rxc3 43. d5 exd5 44. Bxd5

Not at once 44. e6 because 44…dxe4 45. e7 Rf3+ 46. Kxc4 Rf1 followed by …Re1+.


click for larger view

45. Bxc4?

But here I can win with the obvious 45. e6, for after 45….Rf1+ 46. Ke5 Bxd5 (46….Re1+ 47. Kd6 Rd1 48. Rxc4 or 48. Rc5) 47. Kxd5 the e-pawn must with the Black king (out of play) remaining, cost Black his rook. After 45. e6 Black cannot save the game by the exchange sacrifice 45….Bxd5 46. Rxc1 Bxe6. There follows first Rc6 and Rxh6; then White brings the king to c6, drives the black king off the a-file with a rook check to b8, and then plays his own king to b6. Black must then play …Kc8, whereupon White gives a check with the rook (from h7) on c7. If the black king then goes to d8, there follows Rc5 with an exchange sacrifice on b5, and the pawn queens. If the black king goes to b8, then White wins the bishop by Rc5 or else mates, for example 1. Rc5 Bf1 2. Rf1, or respectively 1….Be2 2. Re2 or 1….Bd3 2. Rd3, as in a well-known endgame study by Kling and Horwitz.

The text move provides Black with a passed pawn and new chances. It was the 45th move and I once again was short of time!

<Again, Fritz agrees that 45. e6 wins. >

45….bxc4 46. e6

In this position the arbiter, Mr. Otto Rosenfeld, the president of the Stuttgart Chess Club, thought by the pretty maneuver 46. Rxh6 c3 47. Rh2 c2 48. Rf2! to still force the win, but Black can bring his king to his own passed pawn and sacrifice his rook for the e-pawn: 48….Kb6 49. Kf5 Kb5 50. e6 Kxb4 51. Kf6 Kb3 and draws. The text move, with Ke3, retains some winning chances.

46….c3 47. Ke3 Kb7 48. b5 Re1+ 49. Kd3

Here the game was adjourned for the second time, with White sealing.

49….h5 50. Kxc3 h4

Mistaken was 50….Rc1+ 51. Kd4 Rxc6 52. bxc6+ Kxc6 53. Ke5 h4 54. Kf6 h3 55. e7 and wins, as the pawn would queen with check.

51. Rc4 Rxe6 52. Rxh4 Kb6 53. Kb4 Rg6 Draw.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Tarrasch's afterword for this game:>

My poor standing, 1-4, irritated me, but this game bothered me for a long time. That I could not win, after having played in exemplary fashion from the opening until almost the decisive moment -- indeed, from the 45th move (after so much work), any first-rate master would have won -- this vexed me, at least at first, and had a very depressing influence on me <einer niederdruckenden Einfluess aus>. I was dogged by misfortune: at the decisive moment, around the 45th move, I had to play quickly because of time pressure. A little earlier, at the 42nd move, I might have defended the c-pawn with Kd2, whereupon a rook-check would have surely followed, the king and rook would have repeated moves, and the game would have been adjourned. In the tranquility of my home, surely the decisive combination would have come with due deliberation. At that moment, I considered repeating moves, but I did not want to do it, precisely because it was the decisive moment, and I was not even in time pressure! Admirers <befruendeter Seite> reproached me for this severe sin of omission. It is a fact that, had I repeated moves, I would surely have won the game. And this reproach was not merely formal, but absolutely just, because, after a game of six hours' duration, I should have done it [repeated moves], as in my match with Marshall. But, as elsewhere, I must bow to my opponent, who did not permit the standings in the match to be put into question.

<Translating this passage was very difficult for me, and I am sure I made many mistakes. I include a link to the original at pp. 59-60

I would be grateful if <whiteshark> or <nescio> or anyone who really knows German would point out my errors.

Turning to the substance, it's amazing he passed up the repetition. But his failure to win rankled him more, I think, because he believed he had a winning game almost from the beginning. (A characteristic belief; in this game Tarrasch believed he had a won position at move 8: Tarrasch vs Von Scheve, 1894. You can imagine how upset I was when I lost with White from a very similar position after reading Tarrasch's notes.) But as Fritz shows, White had hardly any advantage at all for a long time, and did not get a winning position until move 38 or so. Perhaps if he had had a more realistic evaluation of the course of the game, Tarrasch could have accepted his failure to win more philosophically as an example of the fortunes of chess. As in Game 2 of this match, he was betrayed by his strong narrative sense as well as his weak nerves.>

Feb-28-08  nescio: <keypusher> Thank you for taking the effort to publish Tarrasch's comments here, translating them from a language with which you'll have no frequent experience. You did a great job, grasped the meaning quite well and I'm not going to search for minor errors. Just one remark about <and I was not even in time pressure>: "even" doesn't really belong here. "damals war ich noch nicht in Zeitbedrängnis" simply means "at that moment I was not yet in time trouble".

Perhaps you are puzzled by the last word in <einer niederdruckenden Einfluess aus>: "aus" belongs to "übte" somewhat earlier in the sentence, and the whole is a conjugation of the verb "ausüben". In English the parts of a verb are never spread like this.

I have known this game all my life, it seems, and I always thought Tarrasch did a good job, virtually refuting Lasker's setup with 4...Nf6. But your computer has another opinion and you don't seem to question its judgements. Do these engines always correctly value a position in your experience?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <nescio>

You wound me, Sir. :-) Of course Fritz is much stronger than I am, but I do not accept its conclusions blindly—see game 7 of this match for an example of me taking Dr. Tarrasch’s side against it. In every case, I have played over the games multiple times, and I generally try to come to my own conclusions before unleashing Fritz. For example, in this game, I spent a long time analyzing 21….Bxf3 22. gxf3. I evolved a slow plan of putting one white rook on g6 and keeping the other one on the d-file, maneuvering the white king to f4, and then playing c4 and d5. I gradually came to the conclusion that …Bxf3 was very bad for Black. But when I played over my plan with Fritz, it refuted it simply with …Rd5 and …c5, undermining the e-pawn. My idea of keeping f4 open for the king just didn’t work.

How trustworthy Fritz is depends on the position, of course. The more concrete calculation available, the better. At the ends of game 7 and game 11, when Fritz says White has a mate in so-many-moves, obviously that’s a totally reliable conclusion. A position like the one after 22. Rdg1 in this game is on its face less promising for calculation. But in fact the computer is able to find something to calculate: 22….c5! Positionally it’s a sensible, logical move—the kind of standard freeing move Black would like to play. If pawns are exchanged on d4 White is left with a backward pawn on an open file, and Black has the ideal d5 square for his pieces. If White plays dxc5, on the other hand, the d-file is opened and the e5 pawn is rendered a target. The only way dxc5 can be good for White is if he can keep the extra pawn or exchange it for another pawn (as in the lines after 28. bxa5). But as Fritz shows, White can’t accomplish either of those objectives after 22. dxc5.

I am the more willing to trust the computer when its judgment makes sense. When I look at the position after 22. Rdg1 (see diagram several posts above), if I forget everything I’ve read and put aside the fact that Lasker looked like a rank amateur for much of the opening, I don’t see much reason to think Black is in trouble. Yes, Black has a little less space, but there are just a few pieces left on the board. Yes, Black’s bishop is nominally worse, but in fact it’s got an enemy pawn (soon to be isolated) in its sights. Right now Black’s rooks don’t have targets, but they certainly will after …c5.

Of course I have my own biases. As you know from some of my Alekhine’s games, perhaps I undervalue space advantages. Also, I think Lasker’s supposed credo “any position can be defended” is more true than Tarrasch’s seeming belief that any strategic error leads inexorably to defeat. But I honestly believe that my/Fritz’s evaluation of the game around move 20 is better than Tarrasch’s. Great as he was, he had biases of his own, and he didn’t have a computer to check them against.

Feb-28-08  nescio: <he had biases of his own>

As have I, and I don't want to lose them before the machines take over completely. But of course I shouldn't have insulted you.:) You'll have spent a lot of time examining the moves and translating Tarrasch's notes.

Mar-02-08  Knight13: 27...a5! A good move. After Black did ...Ra8 I wonder why White didn't play Kb2 and instead went to c3. I thought Kb2 blocks the rook from coming in but after Black tries to double rooks on the a file... Well, he doesn't have time for that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <knight 13> Actually 27...a5 was a very bad move; Lasker is lucky it didn't cost him the game. White's king headed toward the center rather than b2 so that it could help a White center pawn advance.
Sep-19-10  soothsayer8: I see nothing wrong with 27...a5!, Fritz also thinks very highly of it.
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