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Emanuel Lasker vs Manuel Marquez Sterling
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 10, Jun-05
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Mackenzie Variation (C77)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game was effectively over by move 6.

Lasker played a seldom used line (5. d4) in the Ruy Lopez. Sterling quickly lost his way on his 6th move, and Lasker never gave him a chance after that. Sterling tried gamely to create tactical chances on the g-file or the b-file, but Lasker's precise play swatted these efforts aside. Sterling was down a piece by the 14th move and could safely have resigned. The only remaining interest in the game was Lasker's flawless technique in squelching every effort by Sterling.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. d4

Usual and perhaps best is 5. 0-0, but there is nothing wrong with the text. It had the merit here of taking Sterling out of his preparation and causing him to lose his way almost immediately.

5... Nxe4

As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, 5...exd4 was best. But Rosenthal's claim that the text is "weak" is an overstatement. Sterling's move is certainly playable, and is not the reason for his quick defeat. For that we have to look ahead to Sterling's next move.

6. Qe2

The position was now:

click for larger view

6... d5??

Material loss is now unavoidable. Rosenthal's claim that 6...Nf6 was "better" is perhaps correct, but that move also loses (after 7. dxe5.

Best for Black here was 6...b5. Also playable for Black here was 6...f5 (which also avoids material loss).

7. Nxe5!

Black is busted...already!

7... Be6

As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, 7...Bd2 loses after 8. NxN bxN (8...Qf6 is "better" than Rosenthal's move but also loses after 9. f3) 9. f3 since the pinned Knight is now lost.

8. NxN Qd7

Sterling may have relied on this move. But Lasker quickly shows the fatal flaw in Sterling's play.

9. f3 Nf6

9...Nd6 was slightly better, but after 10. Nd8 QxB 11. NxB fxN 12. Qxe6+ Lasker would have been a pawn up with a crushing bind on Black's game. But the text is even worse for Black.

10. f4!

Exploiting the pin on the Black Bishop on the e-file and threatening f5. Black might consider resigning here.

10... g6

As Rosenthal notes, 10...Ne4 (Black's best try) White wins with 11. f5 Bxf5 12. Ne7 QxB 13. Nxf5 which leaves White a piece up. But Black has some counterplay in Rosenthal's line with 13...0-0-0. So best )and crushing) for White after 10...Ne4 is 11. Nd2 (or 11. Nc3).

The text creates new weaknesses in Black's position.

11. Qe5

This is more than sufficient to win, but 11. f5 was even more devastating.

11... Bg7
12. f5

"A very nice move which finishes the game brilliantly." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

The position was now:

click for larger view

12... gxf5
13. Bh6! bxN?

Weak play. But Sterling's "best" try (13...0-0) would still leave him down a piece and lost after 14. Qg3 Nh5 15. Qh4 bxN 16. Qxh5.

14. Bxg7 Ng4
15. Qe2

15. Qg3 was another devastating move (if 15...Rg8 16. Be5). But Lasker's move is probably simplest.

15... Rg8
16. Be5 NxB
17. QxN 0-0-0

The position was now:

click for larger view

The dust has settled. Lasker is up a piece and Sterling's pawn structure is a disaster. The only question (I am being charitable to Sterling)is whether Sterling will be able to create any threats on the g or b files. The manner in which Lasker closes off these "chances' and wraps up this already won game will be covered in my next and final post on this game.

Dec-15-17  Nosnibor: Not exactly a sterling performance by Lasker`s opponent.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

I definitely agree with Nosnibor's assessment of Sterling's play in this game.

For reasons best known to Sterling, he chose to play on after 17...0-0-0, hoping to find attacking chances and make a fight of the contest. But his efforts were futile against the merciless accuracy of Lasker.

18. Qe2

Combining attack on the Queen-side with defense of his g-pawn. 18. 0-0 was another good option for Lasker.

18... Qd6?!

Sterling is prepare to sacrifice his a-pawn so long as he can get his King off c8 so he can double his Rooks on the b-file.

19. Nd2!

Far better than 19. Qxa6+ (which also wins). Lasker wants to bring his King to safety and develop his Knight. Winning the a-pawn is of little interest to Lasker at this point.

19... Kb7

Pressing on with his idea of clearing the b-file to double his Rooks. Lasker promptly shows the futility of this strategy.

20. 0-0-0

Castling directly into Sterling's planned attack. Lasker, of course, has seen that Sterling's plan is going nowhere.

20... Rb8
21. Nb3 Rb6
22. Nc5+ Ke7

Even in this one-sided position, it is interesting to see how Lasker brutally exploits Sterling's misplacing of the King. If Sterling really wanted to continue this hopeless struggle, he should have played 22...Ke8. Even 22...Kd8 would have left him less vulnerable to the mating net Lasker now constructs.

23. Qf2

Lasker could have played 23. g3 here to guard against a later ...Rxg2 by Sterling. He could also have won a pawn with 23. Nxa6. But Lasker is not worried about an attack by Sterling on the g-file, and is looking for bigger fish than the a-pawn.

23... Rgb8?

Sterling's position is so bad it may be silly to characterize anything as a blunder at this point. But this move looks like the start of a self-mate strategy. If Sterling didn't want to resign here, he should have played 23...Rg6

24. Qh4+ Ke8
25. Rd3

The position was now:

click for larger view

Superficially, it might appear that Sterling could and should play 25...Rxb2. But as Rosenthal noted in the Tournament Book, Lasker could then have won Sterling's Rook with the simple 26. Bb3. In fact Lasker had something even nastier than 26. Bb3 in the event of 25...Rxb2: he could have played 26. Rg3! threatening mate in two [Rg8+ and Qd8 mate].

While nothing is good for Sterling here, he found an especially atrocious move that left his King subject to a quick mating combination.

25... Qf8

Lasker now made short work of the contest.

26. Re1

Many would have tried 26. Rg3 or 26. Qxh7. But Lasker has found a faster way to catch the Black King.

26... Qe7
27. Qh5 Kd8
28. Rg3

An even faster way was 28. RxB+, but by this stage Lasker did not need to calculate sacrificial variations to bring the game to a very quick ending.


I apologize if some find my devoting so much space to what has long been a hopeless struggle tedious, but watching Lasker at work--even against feeble opposition in a clearly winning position--is (at least for me) instructive and enjoyable.

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