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Emanuel Lasker vs Siegbert Tarrasch
Lasker - Tarrasch World Championship Match (1908), Munich GER, rd 7, Sep-05
French Defense: McCutcheon Variation (C12)  ·  1-0



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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part 2

21. fxe3

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Tarrasch comments: <Nevertheless Black’s game was still quite good, despite the missing pawn, had Black here and later under all circumstances maintained his best piece, the knight, in its position. The knight mechanically blocked the advance of the c-pawns, and threatened, if the white knight moved, to land on e4, successfully attacking the c3-pawn and also protecting the weak f6-pawn. In short, the knight held the game, and its expulsion from its square cost it almost its entire strength in attack and defense. Black’s following rook move to d2 did no harm (although …Rd7 immediately was better), but the rook after 22. Rf2 had to retreat to d7 in any event. > This comment, cutting to the heart of the position in a few well-chosen words, shows why Tarrasch’s annotations were, and are, so highly prized. That said, suppose Black had done what Tarrasch said and taken better care of his knight on c5. Could he have held the game? I played from this position a couple of times with Fritz, and it does seems hard for White to make progress. A typical line runs 22….Rd7 23. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Ke6 25. Rb1 Na4 26. Rb7 Rxc3 27. Rxa7 Nc5. Now the c2 pawn will fall. White has an outside passed pawn, but it’s hard to accomplish much with it with only White’s rook to help. All that can be said for certain was that something like 22.…Rd7 would have given Black far better chances for a draw than he had in the game.

22….Rd2 22. Rf2 Rcd8? 23. Rb5! <Decisive!> Rd1+ 24. Rf1 Na4 25. Ne4 <The black knight wanders and the white knight attains the crucial, just freed-up square. > 25…Nb6 26. Ra5 Nc8. <What a terrible position the knight is in now! It was better to exchange rooks with …Rd7 but Black can no longer make up lost ground.> 27. Ra5 Nb6? <Black is hard-pressed to find a decent move, with the terrible White knight combining with the invading rook to cramp his whole game. Nevertheless it was still far better to exchange rooks and then play …Rd7. Time pressure! Now a pawn is lost.>

28. Rc7+ Kf8(?) <After 28….R1d7 follows 29. Rc6 and after 28.…R8d7, 29. Rxd7+, then 30. Rxf6. The game is now lost.> Nevertheless, Fritz confirms that either rook move was stronger than the king retreat.


Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part 3

29. Nxf6 Rxf1+ 30. Kxf1 Kg7 31. Ng4 Rd5 32. Rxa7 h5 33. e4(!) Nicely clearing e3 for the knight. 33….Rc5. <If the rook goes to d2, 34. Ne3 defends. Here the game was adjourned for the first time.> 34. Ne3 Rxc3 35. Ke2 Nc4. <Black seeks the knight exchange; in the rook ending one can fish in troubled waters.> (e.g. 36. Nxc4 Rxc4 37. Kd3 Rd4+ 38. Ke3 Rc4.) 36. Nf5+!

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36…..Kh8 <This retreat requires explanation. I had formed the desperate plan after Rc7 to sacrifice the knight for the pawns on c2, g2 and g2. For example, 37. Rc7 Rxc2+ 38. Kd3 Rxg2 39. Rxc4 Rxh2 with perhaps some chances. To carry out this plan, the Black king could not be on g6, because then if... Rxg2, the rook by Nh4 + is lost. But if 36….Kf6, then White can advance a pawn to h4 with tempo, e.g. 37. Nf5+ Kf6 38. h4 (threatening mate by Ra6) and now after Rc7, White still retains the strong h-pawn, while Black can no longer regain the h-pawn for his knight offer. Nor does the king stand well on g8 after Nh6+ and certainly …Kh7 is not good in light of 37. Rxf7+. So only the retreat to h8 is left.>

37. Rxf7. Tarrasch notes that White passes up the knight sacrifice. Fritz thinks 37. Rc7 and 37. Rxf7 are pretty much equivalent. 37….Rxc2+ 38. Kd3 Rc1 39. Ne3(?). White has played very accurately and powerfully to this point, but Fritz finds that he gives up a big chunk of his advantage by trading knights here. White is still winning, though.

39…Nxe3 40. Kxe3 Rc3+ 41. Kf2 Rc2+ 42. Kg3 h4+ 43. Kh3 (43. Kxh4 Rxg2 would obviously increase Black’s drawing chances.) 43….Re2 44. Rf5 Rxe4 45. Rg5(?) (More accurate here, as Tarrasch notes, is 45. Rh5+ followed by Rxh4, saving White’s a-pawn.) 45….Kh7 46. Rg4 Re3+ 47. Kxh4 Ra3 48. Kg5 Rxa2 49. Kf5 Re2

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50. h3 Kh6 51. g3 Re3 52. h4 Kh7 53. Rg5 Re1 54. g4 Kh6.

Now Black’s last pawn falls, but after 54….e4 55. Kf4 e3 56. h5 (better than Tarrasch’s 56. Re5 e2 57. Kg5, which also wins) e2 Kf3 the pawn would be lost anyway.

55. Kf6 Kh7 56. Rxe5.

The position is now a straightforward win for White. Nevertheless Tarrasch played on to the bitter end, resigning only a few moves before mate. In the final position, Fritz gives 76….Kg7 77. Rb7+ Kh8 78. Kh6 Rg8 79. Rb8 Rxb8 80 g7#. Tarrasch’s stubbornness is understandable given that this loss put him behind 5-1 in the match, with one draw.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: (Part 1 of 3; sorry these are out of order on the page.)

This game, a classic example of Dr. Lasker “winning ugly,” is not of the type that draws a lot of kibitzing. But it’s interesting to study with Dr. Tarrasch’s match book at one elbow and Fritz at the other. In the notes below Tarrasch quotes are in brackets; paraphrases, my own comments, and Fritz comments are all in plain text. On the other hand, Tarrasch’s punctuation after moves is in plain text, while mine are in parentheses.

Lasker plays the harmless 5. Bd3 against the McCutcheon, and Tarrasch reacts logically with 5…dxe4 (maybe better here is 5…c5 at once: see Marshall vs Alekhine, 1914 for an impressive example) 6. Bxe4 c5, against which Lasker plays 7. dxc5(!?!) Tarrasch cannot resist giving his opponent tripled pawns with 7…Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qa5. But after 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Qd4 e5 11. Qe3(!) White is better.

In the 9th game, Tarrasch varied with 7….Nbd7 (according to his book; gives 7….Qxd1+ first) 8. Bxf6 Nxf6 9. Bf3 Qxd1+ 10. Rxd1 Bxc5, with a slightly better position for Black. But Fritz thinks White has a clear advantage after 8. c6. If Fritz is right, then maybe 5….c5 really is better than 5….dxe4.

Fearing 12. c6, Tarrasch retreats his queen to c7, and the game continues 12. Ne2 Nd7 13. Qf3(!) Ke7!(!?) Tarrasch is proud of this move, while Fritz thinks 13…Nxc5 14. Qxf6 Rg8 15. Bxh7 Rxg2 is better.

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I think the doctor is right. In Fritz’s line, White’s pawns couldn’t be uglier, but the h-pawn is going to be very hard for Black to deal with. After 16. Rd1 Black’s bishop can’t move because of Qh8+, while Black’s queen is tied down by the threat of Rd8#.

14. c6(!) Nc5 15. cxb7 (trading off one of his tripled pawns for Black’s b-pawn is obviously a significant achievement for White) Bxb7 16. Bxb7 Qxb7 17. Qe3

Concerning the obvious 17. Qxb7, Tarrasch writes, <If White exchanges the queens, his extra pawn won’t be of much value, and the isolated double pawns are on an open file.> I don’t understand this comment. The doubled pawns are on an open file whether White exchanges queens or not. And White’s advantage in this ending is not so much that he has an extra doubled pawn, but that his doubled pawns are passed. It will be much harder for Black to get a passed pawn of his own. For what it’s worth, Fritz’s pro-White evaluation drops significantly after 17. Qe3. Still, there is no question that the ending after 17. Qxb7 would be hard to win, and Lasker may have decided to keep the queens on for the pragmatic reason that Tarrasch might give him the opportunity to get an easier ending later. If so, this might be an example of Lasker choosing a second-best move (not a “bad” move, damn you Richard Reti) for practical reasons.

17….Rac8 18 0-0 Qe4! Having spurned the queen exchange on move 17, Lasker is offered the trade again on much less favorable terms. 19. Rab1 (threatening 20. Rb7+) Rfd8 20. Ng3

20. Qxe4 Nxe4 21. Rb7+ Rd7 22. Rxd7+ Kxd7 23. Rd1+ Ke6 24. Rd3 preserves the extra pawn, but it is very hard to see White winning the ensuing endgame.

20….Qxe3? 20…Qxc2 was much better. As Tarrasch points out in a long and anguished note, it’s not so much that …Qxc2 regains the pawn as that it wins the very useful d3 square for Black’s pieces. After 21. Qf3 (which Lasker apparently intended) Black can respond with 21….Qd3, when 22. Nf5+ Ke6 23. Ng7+ is a draw, while after 22. Qh5 Qg6 23. Qe2 (23. Qf3 Rd3) 23….Nd3 (threatening …Nf4) 24. Nh5 Kf8 both kings are vulnerable. If 25. f4 Rxc3 26. fxe5 fxe5 27. Rf6 Nf4!, while if 26. fxe5 fxe5 27. Rb7 Rc1 (28. Rxc1 Nxc1 29. Qxe5?? Rd1+ 30. Kf2 Nd3+).


Mar-02-08  Knight13: 76. h7! 1-0 Lasker evidently didn't fall for the stalemate/repetitive check trick that could result in this ending.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Here is a verbatim translation (God willing) of Tarrasch's notes from the beginning of the game, along with some Shredder notes.

Part A

1. e4 e6

After the course of the fifth game I was in completely at a loss for a defense to the Ruy Lopez <war ich der grossten Verlegenheit wegen einer Verteidigung der spanischen Partie>. Therefore, I found reason to consider the French Defense, although for many years I have had a certain mistrust of it, which I could not help. It seemed to me that the variation named after the American McCutcheon (4. Bg5 Bb4 instead of the earlier-played 4....Be7) promising, and even advantageous for Black, but this view suffered a strong blow in the eleventh game, as I will discuss later. I am no longer inclined to consider the French Defense to be correct <ich bin geneigt, die franzosische Verteidigung heute nicht mehr zu den korrekten zu zahlen>. Soon I intend to publish my detailed inquiries about it in a book: _Lectures on the French Defense_. <Anyone ever seen or heard of this book?>

2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bb4

I hold the defense with 4....Be7 to be totally unsatisfactory. I cannot express my views fully here, as there isn't sufficient space, but I will here say only that after 4....Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. Nb5 Nb6 8. c3, while White must first defend on the queenside, sooner or later his attack will come on the kingside -- and be decisive. The rest I must defer to the aforementioned book.

5. Bd3

This is not an advantageous continuation, as the 9th game showed.


Absolutely correct; Black gives up the center, true, but also exposes the white bishop. But 5...c5 could also be played.

6. Bxe4 c5 7. dxc5

Surprising and amazing! <Uberraschend und verbluffend!> Lasker permits an isolated tripled pawn! But this is utterly correct. If I had better heeded my own teaching, I would not not have taken the bishop. I have often emphasized my view that good positions for the pieces matter much more than that of the pawns. "I am a devil-may-care with an isolated doubled pawn" <"Ich kummere mich den Teufel um isolierte Doppelbauern"> -- so I wrote in the book about my match with Marshall.

Apart from the text move, the defense of the d-pawn by Ne2 (better than Nf3) comes into consideration (Tarrasch vs Schiffers, 1887), because Black then wins a pawn with 7....cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5.


Very weak! The tripled pawn here is not at all disadvantageous, because White has an extra pawn and Black must lose time regaining it, and the pawn at c5 is resistant to pressure, which finally leads to a weakening of the black kingside. In short, taking on c3 (i) loses a pawn, (ii) loses time and (iii) weakens Black's position. The right continuation, which I implemented in the 9th game, was ...Qxd1+ and ...Nbd7, and Black has a good game.

8....bxc3 Qa5(?)

If Black plays ...Qc7 at once, then Qd6 follows. <Shredder thinks the game is more or less equal after 8....Qxd1+.

9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Qd4 e5

A weakening of the pawn formation, but necessary, because if ...Nd7, c5-c6 would follow.

11. Qe3 Qc7

So as to finally win the c5 pawn with ....Nd7; 11....Nd7 at once is answered by c5-c6.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part B

12. Ne2 Nd7 13 Qf3

Hindering again the regaining of the pawn, because if the knight takes, then Qxf6 follows; if Black takes the pawn with the queen, White would respond, not by taking the b-pawn, since after 14. Bxb7 Rb8 and 15....Rxb2 Black would get a very good game, but rather, White would castle, leaving Black with an undeveloped position that is threatened on all sides. <Like Fritz, Shredder prefers 13. c6, but I am not convinced.>

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The best move! Defending the f-pawn with the king frees the knight and threatens to take the c-pawn. So as not to lose it, White must advance his pawn, but things gives Black a fine development, though with a pawn less.

14. c6 Nc5 15. cxb7 Bxb7 16. Bxb7 Qxb7 17. Qe3

<See comment from [date]; 17. Qe3 might just be a case of Lasker choosing an objectively inferior move, albeit for practical reasons, not psychological ones.>

17....Rc8 18. 0-0 Qe4

Black has totally restored the game's equilibrium <Schwarz hat das Treffen vollstandig wiederhergestellt> and obtained a very good game. After the exchange of queens White would immediately lose the pawn at c3.

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19. Rab1(?)

Threatening to exchange queens and check with the rook on b7. <19. Ng3 might be stronger here, precisely because the rook is not threatened after a later ...Qxc2. Shredder gives 19. Ng3 Qxc2? (19....Qxe3 is similar to the game) 20. f4 Qd3 21. Qe1! Rhe8 22. Rd1 Qg6 23. fxe5 fxe5 24. Qxe5+ Kf8 25. Qh8+ Qg8 Qd4 .>


Planning to interpose the rook in that event.

20. Ng3

A rook defending the pawn at c2 would be misplaced.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part C


Here is the turning point of the game. Black has long since repaired the damage to his position and obtained excellent play. Not only would his direct concerns be laid to rest if he took the pawn on c2, but also would the d3 square be turned from a weakness to a strength for the black rook and knight, with which Black could have developed a strong counterattack. Because of a quite vague fear I abstained from taking the pawn in favor of the queen exchange, thus getting out of the rain in order to get into something worse <um damit aus dem Regen in die Traufe zu kommen>. The base of this fear was probably in my subconscious, in that the impression of imprudent pawn grabs in the second and fifth games caused "vestigial terror" in me. <Der Urgrund dieser Furcht lag aber vermutlich in meinem Unterbewusstsein, in welchem sich wohl die ublen Eindrucke des Bauernraubes in der zweiten und fuften Partie festgesetzt haben mochen und "vestigia terrent" riefen.> Aus ....Qxc2, if, as Lasker himself said, 21. Qf3 was played, then the black kingside would (in his view) give cause for concern. This I must concede, but the dangers, the greatest of which is the placement of the knight on f5, are immediate, while an endgame would be somewhat better for Black, on account of the weakness of the c-pawn. For this reason White must avoid the exchange of queens. After 21. Qf3 Black therefore responds 21....Qd3, because 22. Nf5+ would be pointless, since 22...Ke6 threatens the knight and leads at best after Ng7+ and Nf5+ to draw by perpetual check. <Shredder finds, I think rightly, that White maintains a permanent advantage after 22. Nf5+ Ke6 23. Ne3!> If the White queen goes to g4 or h5, then 21....Qg6 22. Qe2 (or 22. Qf3 Rd3) 22....Nd3 (Black can also play 22....Qd3, if Black aspires to no more than a draw; after the knight move Black threatens ....Nf4 and ...h5, with a strong attack) 23. Nh5 Kf8. Now the Black king formation is secure and the attacking chances are equal. On the only real attacking move, 24. f4, Black need not fear, because White threatens nothing. Black can with 24....Rc3, and if then 25. fxe5 fxe5 26. Rf6 can be answered by 26....Nf4, while if White aims at f7 with 25. fxe5 fxe5 26. Rb7, Black can parry with ....Rc1, when Black has an extra pawn and the attack.

After the text move White obtains a positional advantage because of the open f-file.

Jan-26-11  Llawdogg: Lasker can certainly grind out a good rook endgame. However, his games seem to lack a certain something: beauty, watch-ability, excitement, something.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <keypusher> <Concerning the obvious 17. Qxb7, Tarrasch writes, <If White exchanges the queens, his extra pawn won’t be of much value, and the isolated double pawns are on an open file.> I don’t understand this comment. The doubled pawns are on an open file whether White exchanges queens or not.>

Well, the meaning of the comment seems to be quite clear: with Queens on the board it is a bit easier for white to defend (not to say advance) his extra Pawn which is deposited in isolated doubled Pawn on semi-open c-file. And I tend to agree with Tarrasch at this point. Let's assume that white trades the Queens and the game will continue 17.Qxb7 Nxb7 18.0-0 Rab8 19.Rab1 Rhc8 20.Rb3 Nc5 21.Ra3 a6 22.Ng3 Ke6 23.f3 Rb2 24.Rc1 f5, which is not given but quite plausible continuation (diagram)

click for larger view

Is there anybody, who thinks that the white is winning here?:-)

Feb-01-19  DonChalce: after move 21 i kind of understand why the misplacement of the black knight and the pawn numeric inferiority on the queen side really matters in the end. you gotta also praise Lasker here with those rook moves.

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