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Mikhail Chigorin vs Emanuel Lasker
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-19
Italian Game: Giuoco Pianissimo. Italian Four Knights Variation (C50)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Neither player seemed committed to a fight here. Tchigorin declined a chance to mix it up after Lasker's presumptive 9th move, and the latter spurned the chance to play for a win in the endgame after Tchgorin's simplifying combination on moves 19-22.

The tournament standings may explain the lack of aggression here. This game was played in the last round, by which time Lasker had already clinched first place. For Tchigorin, a win would have given him only a tie with Burn for fifth place (worth 1250 francs), while a loss would have mired him in a four-way tied for sixth with Marco, Schlechter, and Mieses (250 francs). The draw here gave him sole possession of sixth place (1000 francs).

The problem with the draw here is that--under the rules at Paris 1900--the game had to be replayed the next day with colors reversed (another short draw).

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. d3 Nf6
5. Nc3 d6

In this symmetrical position, Tchigorin declined to try more forcing or aggressive lines (e.g., 6. Na4; 6. Bg5; or the waiting 6. 0-0) and played for exchanges with:

6. Be3

Lasker could here have tried to mess up Tchigorin's hair a bit with 6...BxB, but seemed satisfied with the text which yielded near-equality and a safe position.

6... Bb6
7. Qe2

Tchgorin rarely missed a chance to post his Queen on e2 (see, e.g., his patented variation against the French Defense with 2. Qe2). Here, he had better alternatives: 7. BxB or 7. a3. The text, however, avoids the doubling of his e-pawns and does not pose any serious problems for him.

7... Be6

If Lasker had wanted to play for a win, he might have tried 7...Nd4 here. The text offers a chance to trade off all four Bishops.

8. 0-0

The text, trading off Bishops, or 8. a3 were all safe alternatives.

8... BxB(c4)
9. dxB

The position was now:

click for larger view

Lasker here decided to test Tchigorin's mettle with one of his famous "bad" moves:

9... Ba5?!

Lasker surely knew this was unsound. He had a number of ways of maintaining the balance: e.g., 9...BxB; 9...h6. Apparently, Lasker--even at the risk of giving his opponent an advantage-- wanted to find out if Tchigorin wanted to play for a win. The text gave him the answer.

10. Bd2

Timid bur safe play. 10. Nd5 would have given him much the better game and fine attacking prospects. In other circumstances, Tchigorin would surely have played this (and Lasker would not have played 9...Ba5?!).

10... BxN
11. BxB Qe7
12. Rfe1

12. Nh4 as recommended by Rosenthal in the tournament book (or perhaps 12. a4) could have given him a small advantage. But Tchigorin seems headed for a draw.

12... Nd7
13. Qe3

I do not understand the rationale behind this move. 13. Nd2 seems best.

13... 0-0
14. Nd2 Nc5
15. Rad1

The game is still about even after the text, but 15. f3 was simpler and better.

15... Ne6
16. Nf1

The position was now:

click for larger view

Here Lasker decided to breathe a bit of life into the game with:

16... f5
17. exf5 Rxf5
18. Ng3 Rf4

Rosenthal's suggested 18...Rf7 (planning on doubling the Rooks on the f-file) was no better.

The position now was:

click for larger view

Here, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, Tchigorin abandoned any effort to play for an advantage and embarked on a simplifying combinations which--with Lasker avoiding any pressing lines--led to a draw in just a few moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

In the diagrammed position, the only exciting moment in the game occurred when Tchigorin played the following combination:

19. c5?!

19.Ne4 was probably the only way for Tchigorin to try to seek an advantage. 19. b3 was another possibility.

19... Nxc5
20. QxR! exQ
21. RxQ NxR

This left:

click for larger view

Tchigorin has ridden himself of his doubled c-pawn and expected (rightly as it turns out) an easy draw with the following double attack:

22. Nh5

It appears that Tchigorin must regain the sacrificed pawn. So is the position a dead draw?

22... Nf5

It sure looks like a draw after this move. Perhaps the game was destined to end up drawn, but Lasker had some interesting options here:

(A) 22...f3 (messing up Tchigorin's hair a bit); or

(B) 22...Ne6 (temporarily defending both threatened pawns and leading to the following complications: 23. Re1 Kf7 24. Nxg7 [24. Bxg7 was also a possibility] 24...NxN 25. BxN f3 [of course not 25...KxB 26. RxN+ and White wins] 26. Bd4 fxg2 27. Kxg2 and Black would have a small advantage--just the kind of endgame position Lasker was famous for being able to win).

But Lasker (like Tchigorin) was apparently satisfied with a draw.

23. Nxf4 Re8
24. Kf1

Eyeing a trade of Rooks.

24... Kf7

Lasker could perhaps--in different circumstances--have tried to make something of this position with 24...Ne4. But not this day.

1/2 -- 1/2

The final position was:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Keg,

Good, and I like they way you do not hesitate to give an opinion (note to Lasker's 9th move.).

Too many times this move would be computer evaluated as a whatever (+1 or -1 ) with no explanation as to why it was played and possibly done knowing it was a bit 'iffy' to spice things up.

It does seem as if Chigorin was happy with a draw to seal the 1000 francs rather than chase the extra 250 if he should win. A good practical decision knowing a loss would have left him with just 250. Well noted.

You say 'Tchgorin' they say 'Chigorin' personally I'd go with what they have here.

The link to other game you mnetioned Lasker vs Chigorin, 1900

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Sally Simpson> Always good to hear from you. As always, thank you for your comments.

I have been writing "Tchigorin" for well over half a century and am too old to change my ways. Since this is a transliteration from the Cyrillic, I reckon that either spelling in English is OK.

I would add to your comments that if Tchigorin would ever have sought to win when the financial odds were so strongly against taking risks, Lasker was perhaps the opponent against whom this would have been most foolhardy.

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