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Becker - Wagner Match

Albert Becker5/8(+3 -1 =4)[games]
Heinrich Wagner3/8(+1 -3 =4)[games] Chess Event Description
Becker - Wagner (1924)


This was a match of eight games between the Austrian master Albert Becker (aged 27) and the German Heinrich Wagner (aged 35), and took place after the North German Chess Congress in Bremen. Wagner had won that tournament, half a point ahead of Becker and Carl Carls. (1) The Bremen tournament ended on 19th July 1924, (2) and the match appears to have commenced soon afterwards, on Tuesday 22nd July. (3) It was reported in the August edition of Weiner Schach Zeitung, with none of the games given. The match took place in Hamburg, Germany, which only a few months earlier had been riven by an attempted Communist putsch. Political violence would eventually affect both men, Wagner ending his playing career with the rise of the Nazi tyranny, and Becker taking refuge in Argentina.

Both players were near the peak of their respective careers. (3) Becker's outstanding result would be to come fifth equal with Max Euwe and Milan Vidmar at the tremendously strong Karlsbad (1929), whilst Wagner's would be third equal with Akiba Rubinstein at Breslau (1925).

Progress of the match

Becker was in the lead throughout the match and won three games in under 25 moves. Wagner suffered two quick losses from playing a deficient line against the Queen's Gambit Declined. All of his losses were with the black pieces.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Becker ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 5 Wagner ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 3

Progressive scores:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Becker ½ 1½ 2 3 3½ 3½ 4 5 Wagner ½ ½ 1 1 1½ 2½ 2½ 3

Wagner had white in the odd-numbered games.

The games

Game 1. Wagner sacrificed a piece to break open his opponent's King-side.

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Wagner played 20.Qh5?! The sacrifice was unsound, but Becker missed the refutation. Instead, he played a natural move after which Wagner was able to draw by vigorous play.

Game 2. Wagner defended with the Queen's Gambit Declined. Despite its solid reputation and his experience with it, he quickly fell into a poor position. By move 23, Becker had decisively doubled his Rooks on Wagner's back rank. A better try can be seen in A Becker vs Prins, 1936.

Game 3. As in Game 1, White had a substantial advantage but it was whittled away in an endgame. This time Wagner held the advantage playing White against a Slav Defence.

Game 4. Wagner repeated his <b6>, <Bb7> and <c5> defence to the Queen's Gambit Declined. His "improvement" to his previous play was no improvement at all; once again he suffered rapidly a disastrous defeat.

Game 5. Wagner played a sharp line against the Torre attack, despite having previously lost with it (H Wagner vs Saemisch, 1921). Wagner achieved an advantageous position from the opening but slowly let his advantage whittle away. Becker was able to hold the double rook ending and secure a draw.

Game 6. Having suffered a double debacle with the Queen's Gambit Declined, Wagner switched from the classical to the hypermodern school. Playing the King's Indian defence, Wagner had significant piece activity but had weaknesses on the King-side. Becker failed to find the critical line and instead responded with a sacrifice of the exchange.

click for larger view

But this proved insufficient. This was Wagner's first win of the match, he was now one point down. He now had to win both remaining games to take the match.

Game 7. Wagner as white had to win this game. He opened 1.Nf3 in hypermodern style, but did not fianchetto his King's Bishop, preferring to play <2.d4>. Becker quickly equalised and after exchanges of minor pieces, the game was quickly drawn.

Game 8. With the score at 4 - 2½ against him, and with his opponent as white, Wagner could have been forgiven for playing safely for a draw. Instead, he played the tactical Two Knights defence. He had nearly equalised when he made a Queen's move that unexpectedly lost a piece.

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After 21...Qa5? 22.Qg3! threatens to take the Bishop on <g6> as well as the Knight on <d6> immediately ended the struggle and the match.


(1) Wiener Schach Zeitung, No. 5, 15/16 (August 1924), p. 233.
(2) Gaige, Chess Tournament Crosstables IV, p. 614.
(3) A report in Hamburger Anzeiger 5 August 1924 p. 7 gives the date of Game 1 as 22 July and that of Game 2 as 23 July. It also reports the sixth game. The order of the games differ in that games 1 and 2 are inverted:
Game 1, Queen's Gambit, drawn
Game 2, Spanish, Becker won. (our source shows a draw, supported by the 365Chess database and the ChessBase database)
Game 3, Queen's Gambit, drawn
Game 4, Queen's Gambit, Becker won
Game 5, Queen's Gambit Alekhine's variation, drawn
Game 6, Queen's Gambit, Wagner won, see Unfortunately, the "Fraktur" style typeface is difficult to read.

User: Chessical - original text and compilation.

 page 1 of 1; 8 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. H Wagner vs A Becker ½-½811924Becker - WagnerD13 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation
2. A Becker vs H Wagner 1-0211924Becker - WagnerD64 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack
3. H Wagner vs A Becker ½-½511924Becker - WagnerA46 Queen's Pawn Game
4. A Becker vs H Wagner 0-1331924Becker - WagnerE90 King's Indian
5. H Wagner vs A Becker ½-½261924Becker - WagnerE11 Bogo-Indian Defense
6. H Wagner vs A Becker ½-½441924Becker - WagnerC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
7. A Becker vs H Wagner 1-0231924Becker - WagnerD64 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack
8. A Becker vs H Wagner 1-0221924Becker - WagnerC59 Two Knights
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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