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Emanuel Lasker vs David Janowski
London (1899), London ENG, rd 10, Jun-12
Queen's Gambit Declined: Janowski Variation (D31)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-01-06  whatthefat: This crucial 10th round game completely changed the course of the 1899 London tournament. To this point, Janowski had set a startling pace, scoring 7.5/8 to lead the tournament from Pillsbury (7/9) and Lasker (6.5/9) who had both played a round more.

In winning the game, Lasker took a lead that he never surrendered, turning the remaining 17 rounds into a scintillating score of +13 =4. With a final score of 22.5/27, Lasker finished 4 points clear of Janowski, Pillsbury and Maroczy, tied in second. Chessmetrics ( rates this as a 2878 performance, ranking it the 3rd best tournament performance ever, behind Karpov's 1994 Linares (2899), and Kaparovs's 1988 Tilburg (2881).

Looking at the game, it is clear that Lasker had one intention only: to win the game. And he was prepared to pull whatever tricks necessary to do so. The brave, but unsound bishop sacrifice (12.Qc2?! and 13.Bxh7+?!) sets the tone for a very tense encounter. Both players were evidently nervous, with play becoming very scrappy in the 24th-30th move period. From here on, Lasker begins to play very accurately, whereas Janowski starts to drift into trouble. Eventually Janowski is forced to surrender the extra piece, and Lasker's agile knight makes short work of him.

May-01-06  who: Does 18...Qh8 fail for some reason?
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: A tough, hard struggle for both sides, exactly the sort of game Lasker liked. It is a pretty ragged looking game, one of those that have not received the attention they deserve. I will bet the traditional annotations have a few errors.

I think that 18...Qh8 is OK. Lasker could just swap the Queens, play 20.g3, and then continue the fight. Black is still lagging badly in development. Janowski was probably operating on the general principal that the 3 pawns get stronger vs. the piece as pieces come off the board. Does the prinicpal apply in this specific situation? Hard to tell without a lot of study.

May-02-06  whatthefat: <who>
18...Qh8 is also quite strong, effectively forcing the queen trade 19.Qxh8, while keeping an advantage. This may have actually been a more pragmatic decision against Lasker. I image Janowski was a tad concerned about threats of Ne6+ and so wanted the bishop guarding that square.

At 17 ply, Fritz 8 gives the line 18...Qh8 19.Qxh8 Kxh8 20.Rfe1, scoring it at -1.09. It considers the text to be the most accurate defence though, with 18...Nf8 scoring in the range -1.5 to -2.0 at similar computational depths.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: As whatthefat has noted, this was a crucial game in the London 1899 tournament--perhaps the turning point--since Janowski had been ripping up the field for his first eight games and Lasker with this win went on a tear and blew away the field for the rest of the Tournament.

I also agree with AmEnglishman that this was a "tough hard struggle for both sides" and a "pretty ragged game." Lot of excitement here, and lots of incredible errors, most of which are ignored in the commentary in the Tournament Book.

Lasker's decision on move 13 to sacrifice his Bishop for three pawns may not have been the theoretically best choice, but it led to a position that was uncomfortable for Janowski, and the game after 17 moves yielded about equal chances for both sides:

click for larger view

From here on, the play indeed became "ragged." Lasker should have played 18. f5 (instead of his useless 18. Ng5). As noted by others here, Janowski could have played 18...Qh8. But Janowski--apparently fearing Lasker's endgame prowess, repeatedly bypassed chances to trade pieces. His 18...Nf8, though not as strong as 18...Qh8, left him safe and with a small edge. But he missed another chance to trade pieces and end Lasker's attack when he played 23...Qd6 (instead of 23...Qd7 or 23...Qc8). When Lasker tried 24. g4 (24. Qh5 was theoretically best, but Lasker knew his opponent), Janowski again could have played 24...Qd7. Instead, pieces were exchanged only when it suited Lasker.

After move 40, following the exchange of Queens, and contrary to the suggestion on the Tournament Book, the chances were even:

click for larger view

But from here on Janowski's play was dreadful. After the exchange of Rooks on move 44, Janowski went to pieces. His 46...Bb6 turned an even ending into a big plus for Lasker (46...Kf6 was better), and his 47...Kf6 [one move too late!) was a blunder (he had to try 47...a5), and Lasker suddenly had the game in hand

After further poor moves by Janowski in what was already a lost position (51...b6 instead of 51...Bxf4; 53...Ke6 instead of 51...Bxf4; and 54...Kf5 instead of 54...Be7). The game was---or should have been--over. Lasker was up two pawns in a Knight against Bishop ending with monster threats on both sides of the board. Time to resign for Janowski?

But then, rather than taking the simple win available to him with 55. a5, Lasker decided to sacrifice his Knight with 55. Nc5. The Tournament Book things this was a cleaver way to close out the game. Really? Here was the position after 55. Nc5:

click for larger view

Janowski here played 55...Bxf4, and resigned one move later. The Tournament Book states that Lasker had an easy win after 55...b6xN 56. d4xc5. But after 56...Bxf4 57. a5 Bb8, the win is anything but obvious to me. After a 26-ply search, Fritz rates the position as (1.75). A win for Lasker? Probably, but there was lots of play left in the game. Had Lasker played 55. a5, Fritz rates the position (6.58). Even though 55. Nc5 probably kept Lasker's win intact, why go in for all of this when 55. a5 was such a simple win?

Even after Janowski declined Lasker's Knight sacrifice with 55...Bxf4, Lasker seemingly erred again. Instead of the immediately decisive 56. Nb7, Lasker played the far less effective 56. Nd7...and Janowski resigned!

Fear was undoubtedly a key factor in this game. Janowski feared endgames with Lasker, and failed to put up strong resistance once an endgame was reached.

Like Fischer-fear decades later, Lasker-fear was a powerful element in his success.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Opps. My final diagram is flawed. The pawn on d4 was a Black pawn and not a White pawn.

The correct position after Lasker,s 55. Nc5 was:

click for larger view

Sorry for any confusion my prior diagram may have caused.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Please note that the game score on this site may be flawed. It shows Lasker playing 55. a5, Janowski playing 55...b5, and only then Lasker playing 56. Nc5. If that were the actual order of moves, then Lasker did not sacrifice his Knight at all!

But both the Tournament Book and the Chess 365 site have Lasker playing 55. Nc5, and only this order makes the Tournament Book's commentary sensible. Of course, if Lasker did play 55. a5, then my struggling to understand his 55. Nc5 was a needless exercise.

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