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Emanuel Lasker vs Wilhelm Steinitz
Steinitz - Lasker World Championship Match (1894), Montreal CAN, rd 1, Mar-15
Spanish Game: Steinitz Defense (C62)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Nov-10-04  arielbekarov: Dear Fellow Chesslovers !
This game is worth studying ! I will come back to why later due to lack of time now. But take a look ! Ariel
Nov-10-04  Kean: Indeed a fine and fierce game, with a logical path. After the overprotection of double knights on c6 white retreats his bishop to c4, then come the exchanges on d4 and the white Q also retreats to e3, blocking his own bishop temporaly; 9...Ne5 and again the KB retreats; but the knigth was never safe on e5 neither on g6, therefore 12.h4, and Dr. Lasker seems sometimes sadic. Black softens the pressure exchanging Bs on e6 but the white has the attack with the h-pawn; besides he defends good with 22.Nd4 and 23.c3. Still the position seems drawish and maybe Steinitz lost his nerve; he shifts the bishop to a more useful place at the Q-side. I guess is after the Qs are exchanged that white shows his better endgame technique; he concedes the e-file but targets the weak d-pawn and then pawn after pawn in the queenside weakening them all, and then its great the way he use his pawn superiority there, wich precisely won the game. Pawns are still the heart of the matter.
Dec-05-06  Gouki: Lasker knows fully well that if the position is closed, that is when the knight is of more value than the bishop, hence why he wasnt so quick to exchange off pieces and go to the endgame.

placing all his pawns on the kingside on white squares gives nothing for the black dark squared bishop to attack.

and then came moves like, 47.c4! and 48.b5!

Lasker's play is so logical, it is almost computer like.

"Lasker is the great figure, he realized many global things in chess. Recently I`ve looked through his games again and was surprised: Lasker knew a great deal for his time! He was the first to understand the importance of psychological aspects of the game and began to take proper account of them, he was the first to modify his strategy and even partly his style depending on an opponent."

--World Champion GM Vladimir Kramnik

see this link for more :D

Apr-02-07  Helios727: Why didn't white play 60. Kxd2 instead?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Helios727: Why didn't white play 60. Kxd2 instead?>

The d-pawn will fall later. White's threatening 61. Rxa5 followed by 62. Ra8, so Black has to rush the king over 60...Ke7 61. Rxa5 Kd7 62. Ra8 Kc7 63. Rxa8 Kxa8 and now after winning the a-pawn and achieving a rook trade, he can play 64. Kxd2 with a bigger advantage.

Feb-29-08  Knight13: This is a well played positional game by Lasker.
Oct-10-08  Xeroxx: <I will come back to why later due to lack of time now> When will you come back??
Oct-31-08  Calli: ....
Steinitz gives a very insightful variation after 49.Rg1 Rd2 He says, "Ill-judged. 49...Kf7 seems better, with the following probable continuation: 50.f4 Rc5 51.Nxc5 bxc5 with better drawing chances."

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Not a very obvious exchange sacrifice! Its not clear how White gets free of the bind.

Apr-04-09  badbeat994: i´m sure steinitz played 35...Re3 instead of 35...Re6. otherwise Rook to f1 would make no sense
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <badbeat994> You are correct according to this source.

Premium Chessgames Member
  stoy: Yes, 35... Re3 was played. Perhaps this database can correct their gamescore? Thanks!
Jan-18-11  Llawdogg: This game looked pretty much even after 36 moves. Then Lasker played 37 Nc1! and initiated a knight maneuver that turned everything in his favor. Poor Steinitz. He was completely defensive after that.
Apr-08-12  Ulhumbrus: An alternative to 18...Nf4 which dislocates the e5 pawn is 18...Nf8 eg 19 h6 g6 20 f4 Qa5 21 Kb1 Kh8 22 Rhf1 Nd7 23 f5 gf 24 ef Nf6
Apr-19-13  RichardSharpe: Great game from the first of many Lasker Games I will be examining I have now the thought that Emanuel Lasker may have been the greatest Chess Player of all time! I'm going to relish going through his games. Especially against Steinitz!
Jul-26-13  screwdriver: Lasker gets the queens off the board to work on Stienitz's weaknesses.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: What does White have after <34...Rxd5>?
Mar-20-14  David2009: Steinitz avoids falling into the "Lasker trap" 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 g6? (7...Nxd4 transposes into the game) 8.Bg5 Bg7

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9.Nd5 Bxd4 10.Qxd4 0-0 11.Nf6+ Kh8 12.Ng4+ Nxd4 13.Bf6+ Kg8 14.Nh6# (analysis by Lasker in a post-match lecture in London, 1895). Source: G Renaud and Victor Kahn, 'L'art de faire mat' (the art of checkmate) first published 1947 and republished many times'

The "Lasker trap" combination has arisen in other games, for example B Blumenfeld vs NN, 1903.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: The first game of the match. Huebner gives this “tough struggle” a very thorough writeup in his-book. Here are some highlights from his voluminous notes.

Steinitz could have gotten a decent game with 10….Be7. Lasker, in turn, could have grabbed a clear advantage with 12.Bg5, since 12….Be7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.0-0-0 wins a pawn, 12….Qa5 13.0-0-0 leaves Black with difficulties completing his development. …f6 or …h6 would leave him with serious kingside weaknesses.

Huebner thinks Steinitz did well not to take the pawn on move 16, but after 17.Ne2 (?), …Bxh4 was playable, with a sharp and risky game for both sides. 17….Rf7 left Black with a very solid position. Steinitz had opportunities to play …d5 with clear equality at various points; instead 25….Bc7 allowed 26.Nf5 (threatening Nh6+) with advantage. After 26.Nf3 (?) Qf6 27.Nd2 Rfe7 28.f3 d5 “Black had overcome all his difficulties.”

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In this game, Steinitz played the same sort of cramped defense he had used in his matches with Chigorin and Gunsberg. In those matches, if he managed to survive the initial assault, he often took over the board and won, as in this game: Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1892. He probably expected something similar to happen here, but Lasker was a different kind of opponent. Now a whole new game begins.

29.Rh1 Re5 30.g3 Rg5 (?)

This allows White to get in g3-g4, solidifying his kingside pawns. 30….fxg3 31.f4 R5e7 32.e5 Qe6 would have been somewhat better for Black.

31.Qd7 Qf7 32.Qxf7+ Kxf7 33.g4 Bb6 34.exd5 cxd5.

<beatgiant> asks, <what does White have after 34….Rxd5?>. Huebner thinks retaking with the pawn is safer, because after 34….Rxd5 35.Ne4 Red8 36.Rxd5 Rxd5 37.Kc2 “and the Black position is uncomfortable.” I’m not sure what to think. The knight looks strong on e4, but it’s hard for me to see how White will make progress.

35.Nb3 Re3 36.Rhf1 Rge5?

After this, some delicate maneuvers by Lasker leave Steinitz unable to save both of his pawns on f4 and d5. Huebner recommends 36….g6, with equality after 37.hxg6+ Kxg6 38.Nc1 (38.Nd4 h5) 38….Bc5 (covering b4) 39.Nd3 Bd6 followed by …h7-h5.

37.Nc1 Bc7 38.Nd3 Rg5 39.Nb4 R3e5 (39….Ke6 40.Nc2 Ree5 41.Rd4 Re2 42.Rb4 Bb6 43.Rxb6+) 40.Rd4 Bb6 41.Rxf4+ Kg8 42.Nd3 Re2 43.Rd1 Be3

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44.Rb4. Huebner thought a simpler win was 44.Ra4 followed by Nb4.

44….b6 45.Ra4 a5 46.b4 d4 47.c4 (keeping the rook on g5 under wraps) Bd2 (?) (Huebner thinks White would have a harder time after 47….axb4 48.Rxb4 Ra5) 48.b5?

Huebner thinks White can force the win with 48.c5 bxc5 49.bxc5 Bc3 50.Rc4.

48….Bc3?. Black is more or less committed to an exchange sacrifice after this. Huebner exhaustively analyzes various alternatives, eventually recommending 48….h6 49.a3 g6 50.hxg6 Bc3 51.c5 bxc5 52.Rc4 h5 53.gxh5 Rxh5 54.Rxc5 Rxc5 55.Nxc5 Rb2+ 56.Kc1 Rxb5 with good drawing chances: 57.Ne6 Rb6 58.Nxd4 Bb2+ 59.Kc2 Bxa3.

49.Rg1 Rd2

As <Calli> pointed out, Steinitz had an excellent idea with 49….Kf7 50.f4 Rc5 51.Nxc5 bxc5 and it’s tough for White to get out of the bind. Huebner thinks White can win after 52.Ra3 Rb2+ 53.Kc1 Rf2 54.Rxc3 dxc3 55.Re1. Now if 55….Rxa2 56.Re5, and if 55….Rxf4 56.Kc2 (56….Rxc4 57.Rb1).

50.f4 Rxg4 51.Rxg4 Rxd3 52.c5

“This long-awaited breakthrough decides.”

Not a flawless game by any means, but tough, resourceful, determined play from both sides. Steinitz must have known he was in for a hell of a match after this.

Premium Chessgames Member
  PawnSac: < keypusher: <beatgiant> asks, <what does White have after 34….Rxd5?>. Huebner thinks retaking with the pawn is safer, because after 34….Rxd5 35.Ne4 Red8 36.Rxd5 Rxd5 37.Kc2 “and the Black position is uncomfortable.” I’m not sure what to think. The knight looks strong on e4, but it’s hard for me to see how White will make progress. >

In Hubner's line.. 36.Rxd5 .. I think 36.Kc2 immediately may be a little better, but in either case, it seems like any exchanges level the position to a pretty even and probably drawn ending. It seems like for white to make any progress he needs to advance the Qside pawns and get the K to c4 in order to secure any real advantage.

But you're right. it's difficult to see.

Mar-29-20  joddon: not sure 21....qe5 was a smart idea....pushing the bfile pawn would be better, letting go of your queens power to the side his opponents queen is seems amateur.....sure bringing the queen in the center is strong if your opponent has no pieces there....White just realises he is given the chance to advance his queen side pawns, so that's exactly what he odes and wins the game by doing so....Lasker knew to trade his queen in all the games of this match...and simply outplays the end knowing that Steinitz was not at all prepared to play long games due to stamina problems with his health!!
May-21-20  njuguna: i have been waiting for 16 years for Ariel to come back!
May-13-22  Chesgambit: Rxg4? Rxd3 fxg5 Rd2 Ra3 and Kf7 just holding
Feb-15-23  generror: Tough and intense first game of this classic match. Steinitz as usual chooses a cramped opening position, Lasker starts a kingside attack which for a while looks serious, but around move 20 it's about equal again. (Yes, Lasker should have taken the pawn via <12.Bg5!>, and Steinitz -- who usually didn't mind grabbing a pawn -- could and should have played <17...Bh4!> because after <18.Qh2 h6 19.g3 Bf6 20.Kb1 Nh8 21.Bxh6!? gxh6 22.Qxh6> (D) Lasker's attack looks frightening, but the black king escapes via f7 to e8, Black has a bishop for a pawn and to Stockfish it's a dead draw,

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Lasker could and maybe have pressed on with <26.Nf5>, but unlike most of Steinitz' opponents, he calls off his attack and instead plays a series of moves that Stockfish calls "bad", but which I can only call "Laskerian", apparently with the only goal to exchange queens, continuing by giving black the e-file. Was he "lucky" that Steinitz blundered the pawn with <36.Rge5?>? Or was this another cunning plan of Emanuel "Baldrick" Lasker? We'll never know :)

Anyways, from then on, the game is clearly in Lasker's favour, and he could have pretty much sealed the game with <48.c5!>; but <48.b5?> again turns out to be winning because it invites Steinitz to take the white king into a headlock via <48...Bc3?!>, but he fails to see that <49.Rg1!> to wins the exchange after <50.f4> (D).

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Steinitz' <50...Rxg4??> turns out to be losing, he could have held much longer after <50...Rxd3 51.fxg5 Rd2 52.Ra3 Kf7> (D) -- intending to walk the king to the queenside to prevent the <c5> break --, even though after <53.h6!> things look very good for White.

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Only after Steinitz has walked into his little trap does Lasker finally play the indeed winning <52.c5!>, and while Stockfish says his <53.Rc4?!> is another mistake, it does provoke the desperate <53...d3??>, which is easily countered by White and now allows him to march one of his queenside pawns to queendom.

This isn't the most spectacular game, and both players play a lot of inaccurate moves; but it's definitively worth taking a closer look. Especially Lasker's "bad" moves virtually always turn out to have a well-hidden double meaning.

I actually had expected Lasker to play equally as passive as Steinitz to force him out of his comfort zone, but I guess Lasker was too cunning for that. But unlike most players back then, he had no problems aborting his attack if he could get a tiny psychological advantage, in this case trading off the queens. In a way, Lasker's "secret" was that he took great care to be everyone's worst nightmare over the board :)

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