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Efim Bogoljubov vs Aron Nimzowitsch
"Gestalt Mode" (game of the day Mar-31-2023)
San Remo (1930), San Remo ITA, rd 7, Jan-24
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Spielmann. Stahlberg Variation (E23)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  ray keene: 12...a4 is a wonderful move
Apr-09-05  fgh: Truly a great game by the master of strategy.
Apr-09-05  THE pawn: Indeed. Nimzo must be the stronger pawn handler...
Apr-09-05  Whitehat1963: Another excellent game from the Player of the Day.
Apr-10-05  fgh: From the 7th move, till the last one, the king's knight stays on c5!
Apr-30-05  aw1988: Beautiful.
Oct-31-05  rjsolcruz: whatever happened to bogoljobov's "... when i'm white, i win because i'm white"?
Oct-31-05  WMD: The quote is wrong.
Oct-31-05  RookFile: I think white was slow in getting
a3 in. 9. a3 looks reasonable.
Sep-14-06  notyetagm: <ray keene: 12...a4 is a wonderful move>

Yes, the brilliant tactical point of Nimzowitsch's 12 ... a4!! is 13 axb4? ♘xb4 14 ♕b1? ♘b3#, a beautiful picturesque pure checkmate from the Black knights:

click for larger view

Oct-04-06  Tomlinsky: Taking a look at this game after many years and 12...a4 is such a peach. The move preceding it, 12.a3, on the other hand is complete dross. Bogoljubow completely misses the danger of the pawn advance.

The standard of Bogoljubow's play mystifies me at times. His games can be either exceedingly average or excellent.

Sep-24-08  Sem: Well, Capablanca once said of Bogoljubov: 'He plays pieces all over the board, but it's all shifting wood, all shifting wood.'
Mar-18-10  Chess Guevara: 23. exf8 = R+ says the chessmaster2000
Nov-20-11  indoknight: make me remember with Timman vs Kasparov, 1985
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: There's nothing wrong with 12. a3. 13. Nb5 is the howler. Why allow the exchange of Bishops and free up a5 for the sake of not exchanging a Knight that isn't doing much of anything on c3 or b5?
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

Is 12...a4 really such a wonderful move?

What does it do to aid Nimzowitsch's position?

The bishop on b4 is still immune no matter which move Nimzowitsch makes on turn 12.

If the purpose of 12...a4 is to tempt Bogoljubov into blundering, it didn't work.

It would likely work on me, but not against world class opposition.

So on move 12, Nimzowitsch can afford simply to develop another piece, if he so wishes.

I doubt the move was made to "tempt a blunder," since any other move Nimzowitsch makes and leaves the bishop en prise would function as exactly the same temptation.

Oct-29-14  Karpova: <Jess>

Albert Becker annotations to the game (Wiener Schachzeitung, March 1930, pp. 76-77) may shed some light on the issue:

He critisizes 9.e3<?>, suggesting the manoeuvre <9.a3 Bxc3 10.Bxc3 0-0 11.b4 Ne4 12.Bb2> with excellent play. White hoped to execute the plan later, but he errs.

On 10.Be2, he notes that now <10.a3 Bxc3 11.Bxc3> is meat with <11...a5!> (and plater possibly <...a4>) and this prevents <12.b4? axb4 13.axb4 Nxb4! etc.>.

11...a5 receives an <!>, and is called the initation of an ingenious attack.

12.a3<?> is called a decisive mistake, since the hole on b3 is perversive of White's play. He suggests <12.Nd4!> instead.

12...a4 receives <!!> and he gives two beautiful mating lines, if White takes on b4 on moves 13 or 14.

I do not know if Becker's analysis stands up to strong modern engines, but it's certainly interesting to see which plans a strong contemporaneous master like Becker identifies in that position.

A plan involving b4 was considered fine for White. On move 9, he could have tried it. It would not have been that easy on later stages. 11.0-0-0 was not annotated, but 11.0-0 may have been better.

12...a4 fixes the ♙ formation on the queen's side, where White's ♔ tries to find shelter. There is a hole on b3, the Black ♘s can make excellent use of. Black can now try to (and does so) to open lines on the queen's side (15...d5). Another ♙-break maybe to be taken into account sometimes would be ...b5 followed by ...b4. White is prevented from improving his ♙ formation, since the Black a-♙ immobilizes both White's a- and b-♙ (if the Black a-♙ was on a5, White could under some circumstances play b3 to have both, a- and b-♙ on the same rank and answer later ...a4 with b4). There is also the psychological effect of White having to worry about Black's possibilities all the time, e. g. now it's clear that he can play ...Nb3(+) whenever he wants - when will he, and which ♘, etc.? The tactical refutation of taking the ♗b4 is also beautiful - for sure, it was also immune after, say, 12...Bb7 (13.axb4 Nxb4). The point is not so much that only 12...a4 kept it immune, since other moves did so also, but the tactics themselves. After all, Black could have overlooked it and opted for 12...Bxc3 instead (although the move does not look bad to me, but the (hidden) tactics are delightful and in this case, they were gone).

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

Thanks <Karpova>!

That is an extremely helpful and informative annotation by Albert Becker, that gives a substantial answer to my question.

Mar-31-23  Honey Blend: My defensive plan here would start with 26. ♔b1 to avoid ♘b3+, possibly followed by f3 to guard the e4 square, also so that if Black plays ... ♕xe3 after f3 I can respond with ♕xf5+ and get a bit of counterplay.
Mar-31-23  goodevans: <Karpova: [...] I do not know if Becker's analysis stands up to strong modern engines...>

It doesn't. In particular SF likes <12.a3> which Becker called a decisive mistake and SF doesn't think much of <12...a4>.

But that's not the most important thing. Nimzowitsch was playing a human and your own final paragraph explains nicely why a human wouldn't want to face 12...a4 and thus why <ray keene> would describe it as "a wonderful move".

<11.0-0-0 was not annotated, but 11.0-0 may have been better.>

With so many Black pieces amassed on that side of the board I find it astonishing that Becker let this one go with out a comment, even one to justify it. <11.0-0-0> looks reckless and, I agree, <11.0-0> looks like a better option.

Mar-31-23  thegoodanarchist: Meanwhile, Alekine was in "Beast Mode":

San Remo (1930)

Mar-31-23  goodevans: <Honey Blend: My defensive plan here would start with 26. ♔b1...>

With almost all of the kibitzing focusing on the opening it's worth keeping in mind that Bogoljubov came out of it alive and still in the game (if maybe a little cornered).

In fact Nimzowitsch had let him off the hook to a large degree with <18...Qc7?> when <18...Bxc4! 19.Rxd8 Raxd8 20.e7 Nab3+ 21.Kb1 Bd3> would have seen him a piece to the good.

After that White was back in the game until, presumably in an attempt for drum up counterplay, he erred with <26.g4?>. I like your idea with <26.Kb1> followed by <f3> much better.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <goodevans....In fact Nimzowitsch had let him off the hook to a large degree with <18...Qc7?> when <18...Bxc4! 19.Rxd8 Raxd8 20.e7 Nab3+ 21.Kb1 Bd3> would have seen him a piece to the good....>

Believe <ray keene> mentions this gaffe in his annotations in <Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal>.

At the finish, a droll point is that 36.Ka2 is done to death by 36....Nc3+.

Mar-31-23  YoungEd: Stockfish notates 11. O-O-O with a ?, and that seems right. The white king just heads into the vicinity with a cluster of black pieces. The position doesn't look ripe for a white king-side pawn storm, so I don't see the point of castling long.

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