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Alexander Alekhine vs Rudolf Spielmann
New York (1927), New York, NY USA, rd 19, Mar-20
French Defense: Classical. Normal Variation (C13)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <beatgiant ... does Kotov give a more concrete line?> Nope, just the hand-wawing I translated from my Czech-language version of the book. No indication how to break <Calli>'s fortress mechanism.

Kotov thinks that <34...g5?> was an inacuracy and that there was an oportunity to draw the game after <34...f4+ 35.Kf2 Rh5 with a transfer of the rook to f7. The basis of the defense is anchored in the fact that Black is now fully ready to transfer into a pawn endgame, as he has the move a7-a5 in reserve and also several tempo-moves by his pawns on the K-flank, should they be needed.>

As for a way to win the game, Alekhine gives this transfer into a pretty pawn endgame:

28.Re3! Rxe3 29.Kxe3 Ke6 30.Kf4 g6 31.g4 g5+ 32.Ke3 Kd7 (32...f5 33.f3) 33.Kd3 Kc8 34.Kc3 Kb7 35.Kb4 Ka6 36.Ka4 Kb7 37.Ka5 a6 38.a4 Ka7 39.b3 Kb7 40.b4 Ka7 41.b5 axb5 42.axb5 Kb7 43.b6! (this maneuver AAA undervaluated during his OTB calculations) cxb6 44.cxb6 Kb8 45.Ka6! c5 46.dxc5 d4 47.b7 d3 48.Kb6 d2 49.c6 d1Q 50.c7#.

<In no sense are these easy variations. But had I been in better form, I could have and in fact should have accurately calculate this.> A.A. Alekhine (in Kotov's book).

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Gypsy>

I agree with Kotov that by move 34 the pawn ending is drawn, but I don't see how Black necessarily reaches it.

On his suggested 34...f4+ 35. Kf2 Rh5 36. a5 a6 37. Ra4 Rf5 38. Ra1 Rf7 39. Re1, White beats Black to the e-file. Then if 39...Kd7 40. Re5 Re7 41. Rf5 g5 42. h4, etc.

I don't claim a proven White win here, but only that any draw doesn't look as simple for Black as just transfering to a pawn ending.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <beatgiant> I aggree. I think Kotov is just reffering to the pawn-game that started with 28.Re3! and that such route to win is no longer there. The rook-game still looks difficult, but, I guess, salvageable.

A question on a different toppic: I am on a lookout for rook endgames with the pawn structure, say, W=a3,b2,f2,g2,h3; B=a7,b6,f7,f6,h7 -- or a variations of that; simply a few Q-side pawns, open central files, and one side with compromised (f2,f3 or f6,f7) K-side pawns. Can you think of games like that?

Mar-20-05  Calli: <bg> on 34...f4+ 35. Kf2 Rh5 36. a5 a6 37. Ra4 Rf5 38. Ra1 Rf8! then if 39. Re1 Kd7 40.Re5?! Rb8 - counterattack!
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Gypsy>
<Can you think of games like that?> Chigorin vs Tarrasch, 1896 after Black's 20th move is close to that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <Ā beatgiant> Excellent, thank you!
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Calli>
Thanks! Your improvement shows that Black does have time to oppose rooks on the e-file, so <Kotov> was right about 34...f4+.

So did 28. Ra3 throw away the win? If White tries changing course later, for example 33. Ra3, Black again can counterattack: 33. Ra3 f4+ 34. Kf2 Rh5 35. Rd3 Rg5 36. Rd2 Ka6! 37. Re2 Kb5 38. b3 Kb4 39. Re7 Kc3 40. Rxc7 Rg6 41. Rxa7 Kxd4, etc.

Sep-24-12  Naniwazu: Amazingly after 46...h5 White can stop both of Black's passed pawns due to his Rook being tied to the a-file.

By the way, Drazen Marovic in his book 'Secrets of Positional Chess' (Gambit, 2003, p. 103) gives the score merely as 49. Kd4 Rd1+ 50. Kc3 Ra1 51. f5 Ke7 52. Kd4 h4.

Feb-18-17  andrea volponi: 28 Te3 Txe3-Kxe3 Ke6 -Kf4 f5!
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <andrea volponi> Does this change anything? <28 Te3 Txe3-Kxe3 Ke6 -Kf4 f5!> or 28. Re3 Rxe3 29. Kxe3 Ke6 30. Kf4 f5, and now 31. h4 g6 32. Ke3.

click for larger view

Does Black have anything better here than 32...Kd7 33. Kd3 Kc8 34. Kc3 Kb7 35. Kb4, etc. with a result similar to Alekhine's line as <Gypsy> posted above?

Apr-19-17  andrea volponi: 28 Te3 Txe3! -Kxe3 Ke6 -Kf4 f5! -h4 Kf6 -h5 -Ke6 -g3 Kf6 -f3 -Ke6 -g4 fxg4 -fxg4 -Kf6 -g5+ hxg5 -Kg4 =
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <andrea volponi> But again, what happens if 28. Re3 Rxe3 29. Kxe3 Ke6 30. Kf4 f5 31. h4 Kf6 <32. Ke3>, heading toward the queenside again as in Alekhine's line above? Won't Black have to race back with 32...Ke6 33. Kd3 Kd7 34. Kc3 Kc8, etc.? I'm missing the essential difference. Can you explain your idea for Black here?
Apr-20-17  andrea volponi: 32 Ke3!? g5! -hxg5+ Kxg5 -f3 f4+ -ke2 kh4! -Kf2 Kg5 -Ke2 Kh4 drawn,white can make no progress. take a look to the spielmann-lasker endings mosca 1935 ,move 37 Kd3 Rxa5 ( ?! )-Cc2+ Kb5 -Rxa5 + Kxa5 -etc.... could spielmann beat lasker ?.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <andrea volponi> I don't think we're done yet with this ending. Let's go back to the start of the hypothetical pawn ending for a general assessment.

After 28. Re3 Rxe3 29. Kxe3

click for larger view

White has the attack on the queenside, while Black's counterplay is either to march his king to e4 to attack the d-pawn, or to advance his king and pawns on the kingside to create a passed pawn there.

So White's task is to cover the e4 square while creating the minimum possible targets on the kingside. My suggested <h4> above fell short, but it doesn't mean Black can save this position.

Here's another try, from the diagram.
29...Ke6 <30. g4>

Now if 30...f5 31. f3 fxg4 32. fxg4 Kf6 <33. h4>, and it seems to me White will be able to seal up the kingside. If 33...g5 34. h5, or if 33...g6 <34. Kf4> so Black would lose after 34...h5 35. gxh5 gxh5 36. b4. Black will soon fall into zugzwang and lose the h-pawn.

Or if 30...Kf7 31. h4 g6 32. <f4> Ke6 33. Kd3. I don't see any way for Black to break through on the kingside after that.

Apr-21-17  Retireborn: <beatgiant> It seems to me, in your line after 29...Ke6 30.g4 f5 31.f3 fxg4 32. fxg4 Kf6 33. h4 g6(!) 34.Kf4 Ke6 Black should still be able to draw by waiting with ...Ke7-e6; then if White plays his king to b4 or b3, ...h5! will guarantee him sufficient counterplay against a white pawn on the K-side.

As for the rest, I do think <Andrea>'s 30...f5 is a significant improvement on Alekhine's line, although I don't feel at all able to say whether it definitely draws or not....

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Retireborn>
In that case, White's king would reach e5, and the eventual b4-b5 break to undermine the d-pawn looks like a win. For example, if it reaches a position like this:

click for larger view

Now White breaks through with <1. b5> cxb5 2. axb5 axb5 3. Kxd5 Ke7 <4. Kc6> b4 5. Kxc7. Both sides will promote, but White remains with an extra advanced passed pawn

Can Black avoid a position such as the one above? I don't think so. White always has more temporizing pawn moves on the queenside than black.

Apr-21-17  andrea volponi: beatgiant. 30g4!? f5 -f3 fxg4 -fxg4 Kf7 -Kf4 Kf6 -h3 Ke6 -h4 a6 -g5 h5 -b3 a5 -a3 Kf7 -Re3 g6 -Kd2 Ke7 -Kc3 Kd7 -a4 Kc8=
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <andrea volponi> 28. Re3 Rxe3 29. Kxe3 Ke6 30. g4 f5 31. f3 fxg4 32. fxg4 Kf7 33. Kf4 Kf6 34. h3 Ke6 35. h4 a6, and now <36. b4> Kf6 37. g5+ hxg5+ 38. hxg5+ Ke6 <39. Kg4> g6 40. Kf4, and White's king will reach e5 leading to problems similar to those in my post above.
Apr-21-17  Retireborn: <beatgiant> In the line I gave with 33. h4 g6(!) 34.Kf4 Ke6 I simply can't see how the white king can get to e5: if he plays a waiting move eg 35.b3 then 35...Kf6 36.g5+ hxg5 37.hxg5+ Ke6 and there is no way through, or if 35.g5 h5, or if 35.Ke3 and then heads Q-side Black can dance his king on the triangle e7-d7-e6 and play ...h5 as soon as the white king goes to the b-file.

In your latest variation to <Andrea>, I suggest replacing 36...Kf6 (which loses to 37.g5+ as you've shown) with 36...g6! and I challenge you to find a win for White now....

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Retireborn>
Like I said, <White always has more temporizing pawn moves on the queenside than Black>. He can use them to create zugzwang after Black runs out of pawn moves, after which Black's king must give way.

For example, in the position after your comment <there is no way through>, 38. b4 a6 39. a3.

Similarly after your comment, <I challenge you to find a win for White now...> White replies 37. g5 hxg5 38. hxg5, or similarly 37. g5 h5 38. a3.

But a good question is whether White can still win in my diagram above, if Black has timed his king retreat so as to land on e7 instead of f7.

click for larger view

From this position with White to play, now 1. b5 cxb5 2. axb5 axb5 3. Kxd5 <Kf7!> so 4. Kc6 b4 etc. saves a move for Black, as he won't be in check from White's pawn push. I missed that surprising saving resource for Black.

Now I'm not sure anymore that the idea of "maneuver king to e5 and play the b5 break" is enough to win. Your challenge still stands.

Apr-21-17  Retireborn: <beatgiant> Yes, I see what you mean now about the reserve pawn moves (must admit I was only looking at K moves like 38.Kg4 there.) So the white king *can* get into e5, but it still doesn't seem to be enough for a Zugzwang.

38.b4 a6 39.a3 Ke7 (only) 40.Ke5 Kf7 (only) 41.a4 Ke7 (only) reaches your critical diagram; and now your variation starting 1.b5 etc - I do think this is drawn.

In the other variation with 37.g5 hxg5+? 38.hxg5 Kf7 39.Ke5 Ke7 40.a4! is Zugzwang and wins just as you expected; 40...Kf7 41.b5 etc.

So Black must meet 37.g5 with 37...h5! 38.a3 Ke7 39.a4 Kd7 40.Ke5 Ke7 (only), with an analogous position to your critical diagram.

If White plays 38.a4 (instead of a3) then 38...Ke7? 39.Ke5 wins, but 38..Kd7 39.Ke5 Ke7 draws again.

Very interesting stuff.

Apr-21-17  andrea volponi: 36 b4 g6! -g5 h5 -fortress( beatgiant-retireborn ).
Apr-21-17  andrea volponi: alekhine should have tried 28 Re3!? because the resulting pawn ending is a very difficult and tricky for black. 28Txe3! (28...Te4?- Txe4 dxe4 -Ke3 f5 -g4 g6 -gxf5 gxf5 -Kf4 Ke6 -b4 Kd5 -Kxf5 Kxd4 -a3 ; 28...Tf7 -Ta3 Te7 -Txa7 ) -Kxe3 Ke6 -Kf4! g6? (f5!! drawn) -h4!(g4? g5+ -KE3 f5 f3 f4 -Kd3 Kd7 -Kc3 Kc8 -Kb4 Kb7 -Ka5 a6 -b4 Ka7 -a3 h5!! -h3 h4 =)...f5-Ke3 Kd7 -f4 Ke6 -Kd3 Kf6 -Kc3 g5 -hxg5+ hxg5 -Kd3 Kg6 -Ke3 Kf6 -g3 Kg6 -fxg5 Kxg5 -Kf3 Kg6 -Kf4 Kf6 -b4 Kg6 -Ke5 Kg5 -a4 Kg4 -b5
Apr-21-17  andrea volponi: take a look t0 nimzowitsch-capablanca 1914(riga)(white 50 move) -sterling -capablanca 1901 (move 50 white)-spielmann-lasker 1935 (move 37 Kd3 Txa5?)
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Of course 5 exd is harmless. 7..Qb4?! leads to a prospectless endgame for Black. 10..Kf8 had been played twice against Schlechter at San Sebastian 1911 and in both games Black was able to earn a draw; Spielmann's 10..Be6?! makes Black's defensive chances even more difficult. 34..f4+ would have been better allowing an easier escape for the black rook.
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