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Emanuel Lasker vs Mikhail Chigorin
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-20
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Morphy Attack (C78)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game marked the end and culmination of a six-year run by Emmanuel Lasker that has few if any parallels in the history of chess, including as it did victory in two World Championship matches and first place in four major international tournaments. Thus, from March 15, 1894 to June 20, 1900, Lasker:

1) Defeated Steinitz 10-5 with 4 draws and became World Champion in 1894;

2) Finished third at Hastings 1895 one point behind Pillsbury and one-half point behind Tchgorin but ahead of Tarrasch, Steinitz, Schiffers, Teichmann, Schlechter, Blackburne, Janowski and others.

3) Finished a full two points ahead of Steinitz at the 1895-1896 St. Petersburg quadrilateral tournament (one of the strongest tournaments ever) and far ahead of Pillsbury and Tchigorin;

4) Finished first at Nuremberg 1896 a full point ahead of second-place finisher Maroczy and also ahead of Pillsury, Tarrasch, Janowski, Steinitz, Schlechter, Tchigorin and others;

5) Defeated Steinitz in the return World Championship match by a crushing score of 10-2 with five draws;

6) Won the double-round robin London 1899 tournament a full 4.5 points (!) ahead of second place finishers Janowski, Maroczy, and Pillsbury, and also ahead of Schlechter, Blackburne, Tchigorin and Steinitz and others; and

7) Won Paris 1900 a full two points ahead of second-place finisher Pillsbury and also ahead of Marshall, Burn, Tchigorin, Schlechter, Janowski, and others.

Then, Lasker essentially disappeared from serious chess (I refuse to consider his King's Gambit match with Tchigorin in 1903 to be a serious test of chess strength). Lasker's next appearance was at Cambridge Springs 1904 (tied second with Janowski behind Marshall), and the only other tournaments he played before World War II were St. Petersburg 1909 (equal first with Rubinstein) and St. Petersburg 1913 (first place ahead of Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrash, Marshall, Rubinstein, and others).

Lasker did not defend his title until 1907. Thus, the instant game was in effect Lasker's farewell to the game for many years.

This game was a replay of Lasker's final round draw with Tchigorin (draws were replayed at Paris 1900). For the reasons I pointed out in my comments on the earlier draw, neither Lasker nor Tchigorin had much incentive to press for a win, and indeed in some points in this replay the contest gives the impression of a grandmaster draw. But, the game did have its moments.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Be7

We can hardly be surprised to find Tchigorin playing the Tchigorin Defense.

6. Nc3

A move more popular then than now. It yields--with best play--only a modest edge for White. Its one weakness is the blocking of the c-pawn.

6... d6

6...b5 is certainly better. Tchigoring of all people should have known this.

7. d4

Lasker should have played 7. BxN+ if he were looking for a win.

7... Nd7

It is hard to understand why Tchigorin played this instead of the better 7...b5

8. Nd5

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book claimed that 8. Be3 was better, but that claim is hard to fathom.

8... Nxd4
9. NxN exN
10. Qxd4 0-0

The position was now:

click for larger view

Thus far, the game looks like a boring pre-arranged grandmaster draw. But from here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, things became interesting--for a while.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11. BxN

Reasonable alternatives were 11. c3 and 11. c4, but the text was probably as good as anything.

11... QxB

Hard to understand why Tchigorin spurned the more natural 11...BxB.

12. Bd2

Solid. 12. b3 would have been better preparation is Lasker were aiming to make a fight of the context.

12... Bd8
13. Bc3

A simple threat: Mate in One! 13. Rfe1 was a reasonable alternative.


The best way to meet the threat.

The position now was:

click for larger view

Lasker had at this point slightly the better of the game, and seemed to be comfortably situated. But here, he suddenly struck out prematurely, and courted trouble:

14. f4?!

14. Rfe1 and 14. Rad1 were both solid choices. The text, by contrast, needlessly created weaknesses in Lasker's position. From Lasker, the move is surprising. Had he wanted to play for a win, the best way was to try to ground down Tchigorin. If, on the other hand, Lasker was playing for a draw, why create weaknesses for Tchigorin to exploit?

14... Qb5!

14...Qf7 would defend the Black position effectively, and 14...a5 was also good. But the text looks best of all, and created problems which Lasker (astonishing to say) did not solve very well.

15. Kh1

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book called this move "Forced," and claimed that Tchigorin was threatening to win by 15...c6 followed by Bb6 winning the Queen. But Rosenthal obviously missed the fact that Lasker could play Ne3 after c6 defending everything. Thus, the limpid text was entirely unnecessary. Best were 15. a4 or 15. Ne3.

For reasons hard to explain, Lasker with the text began to dig a hole for himself.

15... c6
16. Nb4

Another uncharacteristically weak move by Lasker. With 16. a4, he should have been able to defend his position with little difficulty.

16... d5!

16...c5 would be bad, but--contrary to Rosenthal's sloppy analysis--does not lose. After 16...c5 17. Qd5+ Tchigorin would surely have maintained the balance with 17...Rf7 (with near equality) rather than played Rosenthal's awful 17...Kh8 which drops a pawn by 18. Qxd6 (since now the Black Rook is undefended.

16...a5 was a reasonable alternative, but the text was probably best.

17. a4

17. exd5 would lose to 17...c5, as correctly noted by Rosenthal.

17... Qb6
18. QxQ

The ending is in Black's favor, but declining to exchange would have been even worse.

18... BxQ
19. a5

19. exd5 a5 would favor Black, as was pointed out by Rosenthal.

19... Ba7
20. exd5

This left:

click for larger view

Has Lasker just won a pawn? I will discuss the finish in my next and final post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

In the last diagrammed position in my prior post, the final crisis of the game was reached. Tchigorin was up to the task with the lovely:

20... c5!

With Tchigorin's two Bishops and Lasker's many pawn weaknesses, Tchigorin has clearly obtained the best of the struggle. For starters, Lasker had to find an escape square for his Knight.

21. Nd3

The position now was:

click for larger view

In evaluating this board at this stage, we must recall that Tchigorin preferred Knights to Bishops. Had Janowski been at the helm with the Black pieces here, he would have been salivating at the chance to exploit the two Black Bishops and would doubtless have played the strong 21...Bf5! Given Lasker's extraordinary endgame prowess, I am far from predicting that Janowski would have prevailed. But I bet he would at least have made Lasker sweat a little. Tchigorin, however, decided not to press his luck and played the harmless:

21... Rd8

A clear signal to Lasker that Tchigorin was satisfied with a draw.

22. Rfe1

22. Rae1 was slightly more accurate.

22... Kf7

Tchigorin again declined to press the game, and bypassed 22. Bf5

With these last less than enterprising moves by Lasker and Tchigorin, peace was declared.

1/2 -- 1/2

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