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Akiba Rubinstein vs Isidor Gunsberg
St. Petersburg (1914), St. Petersburg RUE, rd 9, May-03
Queen Pawn Opening: General (A40)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheAlchemist: <> I have seen an interesting story on the old MyChessSite about this game, but it had the following position:

8/3P3k/n2K3p/2p3n1/1b4N1/2p1p1P1/8/3B4 w - - 0 1

(w: Kd6, d7, g3, Ng4, Bd1; b: Kh7, h6, e2, c5, c7, Na6, Ng5, Bb4)

The story goes:


Once upon the time ...
There is an interesting story about this position. According to this story this is a position from the St. Petersburg 1914 Tournament. This "Super Tournament" avant-la-lettre was won by Lasker (Ger). Capablanca (Cuba) was second and Alekhin was third. According to this story this position was the final position in the game Akiba Rubinstein - Isidor Gunsberg. And here Rubinstein resigned. 1. d8=Q will be followed by 1. ... Nf7+ and 2. ... Nd8. Besides that black threats 1. ... e2 2. Bxe2 c4+ 3. Ke6 Nc5+ 4. ... Nxd7 and the black c-pawn will make it to c1! Due to this loss Rubinstein missed the finals in this tournament. A farmer in Georgia was very upset by this lost game of his favorite chessplayer. Day after day he studied this position. And finely, after 60 years this farmer analysed a winning line for white. He asked a local schoolteacher to write a letter to '64' a well-established chess magazin. However, nobody paid any attention to this letter and his discovery remained unnoticed until it was published in the Christmas edition of 'Schachwoche' 1991.

1. Nf6+ Kg7

<if 1. ... Kh8 then 2. d8Q+ and white wins. And if 1. ... Kg6 then 2. Bc2+ Kxf6 3. d8Q+ and white wins.>

2. Nh5+ Kg6

<if 2. ... Kh7 then 3. Bc2+ Kg8 4. d8Q+>

3. Bc2+ Kxh5 4. d8=Q!! Nf7+ 5. Ke6! Nxd8+ 6. Kf5!!

<Now 7. Bd1# is possible!>

6... e2

<The only move!>

7. Be4

<Now 8. Bf3# is possible!>

7... e1=N

<Again: the only move!>

8. Bd5!!

<Nd8 cannot move because of 9. Bf7# Besides that white plans to moveBd5-c4-e2xf3#>

8... c2 9. Bc4

<White's next move is Be2+ There is only one way to avoid this move.>

9... c1=N 10. Bb5!

<Now 11. Be8# is possible!>

10... Nc7

<Again: the only move!>

11. Ba4!!

<Now the following line is winning for the lonely bishop: 12. Bd1+ Ne2 13. Be2+ Nf3 14. Bf3# !!! There is no way for black to escape!>


A remarkable line, even if the story is fictuous, one cannot help but admire the magnificent (probably composed) problem. However, can anyone verify the statement "<However, nobody paid any attention to this letter and his discovery remained unnoticed until it was published in the Christmas edition of 'Schachwoche' 1991.>" Since it ws a Christmas edition, odds are the story and position are really just made up.

Jun-03-05  Catfriend: <TheAlechmist> Interesting story, but I think you confused the starting position. First of all, you wrote there are white king on d6 and black pawn on c7. This means check!

Also, <threats 1..e2> but you wrote there is already a black pawn on e2! What's wrong? Can you please write the correct position, it seems a great puzzle.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheAlchemist: <Catfriend> Thanks. So here's the real position:

(w: Kd6, d7, g3, Ng4, Bd1; b: Kh7, h6, e3, c5, c3, Na6, Ng5, Bb4)

8/3P3k/n2K3p/2p3n1/1b4N1/2p1p1P1/8/3B4 w - - 0 1

Now, it really should be correct.

Jun-03-05  Catfriend: WOW!! It's perfect...
Jun-03-05  JohnBoy: True or not, the composition is outstanding! Thanks!
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheAlchemist: <JohnBoy> It's OK, really :), it is just a curiosity, and I thought would be nice to show it to everybody.
Jun-04-05  aw1988: I have seen that composition before; it is a very famous one, but it is one of my favorites of all time. Thanks for reminding me!
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: A note from Tarrasch's book on the tournament, after 6....c6:

<A master does not play chess this way, even if he is 100 years old. I would have supressed this game, if it did not constitute by far Rubinstein's best performance in this tournament. >

Aug-03-09  doctork: Donaldson and Minev in "Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King" have the same game score but with an extra two moves 33...Kf7 34.Qxg7+ at then end. Either account could be true. But the story is apocryphal, the position is probably a composition not a game and, delightful as it may be, it is criminal to have attached the real players Rubinstein and Gunsberg to this fiction and to suggest that Rubinstein lost to Gunsberg when he actually won quite easily. In fact, Gunsberg was more that ten years past his prime at St. Petersburg 1914, finished in last place and failed to win a single game against anyone, much less Rubinstein.
Sep-06-09  WhiteRook48: 2...b5!!
Sep-09-15  ToTheDeath: What a fantastic composition given by <TheAlchemist> above! Well worth playing over.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: This study was composed by the Dutch composer Gijs van Breukelen, in the mid 1970's.

click for larger view

Apparently Jim Plaskett showed it to the players at:

Game Collection: 1987 S.W.I.F.T. Brussels

And it was finally solved by Tal.

Jim Plaskett's vid of the puzzle.

and from:

(Where the Tal story is also backed up) Here is a snippet..

" The composer said at the ARVES meeting that he had composed it in the mid-1970s and shown it to several friends, but had neither sent it for publication nor entered it for a tourney.

Having somehow penetrated the player circuit it circulated rapidly, acquiring journalistic colour en route though being associated either with a (totally fictitious) Ukrainian tractor-driver, or with a very specific (but equally spurious) game between leading masters."


I have seen the same study attached to a Chigorin 1907 loss and also a Gruenfeld game (but I cannot the year of that one.)

Might as well join in on the fun. How's about this one....

After winning the World Title in 1972 an Icelandic farmer showed Fischer this study. Fischer locked himself away for 20 years finally solving in 1992 (the year he returned to chess) but the effort shredded his mind.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: It's a tremendous study. Kingcrusher, in his video, says that 4...Kg4 might draw. I hope it doesn't!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Offramp.

That last link above mentions this adding:

"So to Avoid draw by Kg4 if we can place a pawn at h2 to support g3, It becomes the fine [finest] Puzzle ever."

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