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Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Tarrasch World Championship Match (1908), Munich GER, rd 12, Sep-16
Four Knights Game: Double Spanish (C49)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Nov-15-05  prinsallan: Tarrasch´s last victory against Lasker and a long but fine game it is. Tarrasch takes an early lead gaining 2 Bishops against B+N. At 21. e5 he lets Lasker trade bishops, gaining some space for it in the middle.

The endgame is sweaty, but he comes out on top thanks to better pawnstucture. Good Game.

Aug-25-06  Rama: Lasker's 5. ... d6, hems in his Bb4. Better would be 5. ... Bxc3, and then d6. Nimzovich showed this in analogous positions, and after 6. bxc3 d6, this would be very familiar for me.

Tarrasch is canny with 14. Bf1 ..., and enters a period of maneuvering. With 25. Rh5 ..., he has obtained a microscopic advantage in pawn structure.

One set of rooks comes off quickly with 29. Rxe7 ..., and on move 40 he finally wins the weak h-pawn. The other set of rooks comes off on move 50 and then it is a matter of winning a won ending which Dr T does easily.

The game is instructive in that it is logical and decipherable in a way that modern games are often not. d6 is such a small innaccuracy, yet Tarrasch sniffed it out.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: People who think Lasker played 14...Ng4? as some kind of brilliant psychological gambit in Game 2 of the match (Tarrasch vs Lasker, 1908) should check out this game. In one of the most common, dullest openings of the era, Lasker came up with 5....d6? 6. Nd5! Bc5 7. d4! exd4 8. Nxd4 Bxd4?! 9. Qxd4 0-0 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Qxf6 gxf6, leading to this unlovely position:

click for larger view

Not much better for him was the opening of game 6 (Tarrasch vs Lasker, 1908), 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ Qxf6 6. Nf3 Bd7?! 7. Bg5 Qg6 8. Bd3 f5? 9. h4 Nc6 10. Qe2:

click for larger view

Even Homer nods; during the opening, Lasker sometimes seemed to have a hard time staying awake.

Mar-02-08  Knight13: Tarrasch shot too many bullets toward the isolated/weak pawns. And in the end, it worked.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part I

Game 12

Played in Munich on September 16-17

<Translated from Tarrasch's book on the match ( with additional commentary from Shredder and me. Tarrasch's comments are in plain text; all other comments are in brackets. German that I was particularly unsure about is also in brackets, right after the translation. As always, corrections are welcome.>

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Nc3

The Four Knights Game usually leads to a brisk, lively game, despite its symmetrical development <einer lebhaften, flotten Partie, trotz der uniformen Eroffnung>.

4....Bb4 5. 0-0 d6(?)

A mistake. Instead of this, Black must castle.

6. Nd5 Bc5 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4

Instead of this, Bg5 naturally came into consideration. This would lead to gambit play with dubious prospects (Black has a defense with ...Bd7 and ...Ne5 or even ...Nb8), and I cannot see a direct, advantageous continuation of the attack. But with the simple text move, I can maintain a secure advantage.

<Shredder likes 8. Bg5 Bd7 9. Re1 h6 (if 9...0-0 10. Qd2, ...h6 cannot be played and Black's king is in a very bad way) 10. Bh4 0-0 11. Nxf6+ gxf6 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Nxd4 .>


I had not considered this clearly bad move, but only the move ...Bd7. <Dies hatte ich als sicherlich schlecht gar nicht in Betracht gezogen, sondern nur dem Zug Ld7.> Then would follow, not 9. Nb3 (as Lasker suggests) because White's advantage would prove fleeting after 8....Bd7 9. Nb3 Nxd5 10. Nxc5 Nde7 and taking the pawn on b7 would obviously be very risky. Rather I intended to answer 8....Bd7 with 9. Nf5!, which would have obtained a clear positional or material advantage after: 8....Bd7 9. Nf5 Bxf5 10. exf5 and now after 10....Nxd5 11. Qxd5 White wins a pawn or by Re1+ deprives his opponent of castling. <Continuing this line, best for Black after 11. Qxd5 is probably 11....0-0 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Qxc6 Qf6 14. Qf3 Rfe8 with some compensation for the pawn.> If Black castles instead of playing 10....Nxd5, then the constricting move <Fesselungszug> Bg5 follows. Another continuation 8....Bd7 9. Nf5 Nxd5 10. Nxg7+ Kf8 11. exd5 (better than 11. Bh6 Qf6 12. Qd2<?> Be3) 11....Kxg7 12. dxc6 leaves the Black king in an exposed position.

<In Tarrasch's line in parentheses White can improve with 12. Nf5+ Kg8 13. Bg7 Qg6 14. Bxh8. However, this hardly matters, since his attack after 11. exd5 Kxg7 12. dxc6 is so strong: 12....bxc6 13. Bxc6 Bxc6? 14. Qg4+ wins at once.>

<So, appearances (and my January 30 comment) to the contrary, 8....Bxd4 is not clearly worse than 8....Bd7: Black is in serious trouble either way. His drawing chances in the dreary endgame after 11....gxf6 are probably at least as good as they would be in the pawn-down middlegame resulting from 8....Bd7 9. Nf5 Bxf5 10. exf5 Nxd5 11. Qxd5 0-0 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Qxc6 Qf6 14. Qf3 Rfe8 (which seems to be best play for both sides after 8....Bd7).>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II

9. Qxd4 0-0 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6

Without the queen exchange, the opening of the black kingside would be more dangerous.

11. Qxf6 gxf6

White has now achieved only the splitting of the black kingside pawns and the advantage of two bishops against bishop and knight. Naturally, it is not easy to convert <auszunutzen> these advantages into victory.

click for larger view

12. Bh6 Rfe8 13. Rfe1!

This is the right move, making room for the bishop on b5, which otherwise would be exchanged after 13....a6 14. Bd3 Nb4. If Black now makes the seemingly beneficial move 13...f5, he loses a pawn by 14. Bd3 Nb4 15. exf5 or he must after 14. Bd3 fxe4 15. Bxe4 give the white king's bishop a really menacing effect in all directions <auch dem weissen Kongslaufer eine recht gefahrliche Wirksamkeit nach allen Richtungen einraumen>.

<Continuing Tarrasch's second line, 15....Bg4 16. f3 Bh5 followed by ...Bg6 is probably best for Black, with decent drawing chances.>

13....a6 14. Bf1

For now, the bishop stands well enough here and is ready to join the main action at any time. In addition, the pieces stand so well that the attack ...Nb4 can be met with Re3, with an eventual sacrifice <Schlagenlassen> of the c-pawn followed by a counterattack on the c-file, i.e. 14....Nb4 15. Re3 Nxc2 16. Rg3+ etc, or else 15. Re3 Kh8 16. Rg3 Rg8 17. Bd2 (or else Rc3) 17....Nxc2 18. Rc1 and Rxc7.


A move which is probably the most difficult to meet, and which after, e.g., Re3 probably must be made in any event. Black is presumably planning to continue with ...Rg8, but now comes a completely new attack, which throws a harsh searchlight on the the precarious situation of the White kingside.

<Again, 14....f5 15. Bd3 fxe4 16. Bxe4 Bg4 transposing to the line previously given is probably best. 14....Kh8 is a good candidate for the losing move in this game.>

15. Bd2!

Threatening with Bc3 to take the pawn on f6, the defense of which causes huge difficulties, because neither the king (because of Re1-e3-g3+) nor the rook (because of Bc4) is suitable. Thus the knight must undertake this task, but it remains backward <ruckstandig> and plays a fairly dismal role until the game is decided <der aber ruckstandig wird und die ganze Partie hinduch bis zur Entscheidung ein ziemlich klagliche Rolle spielt>. Generally a knight is at its worst when it is used to defend a weak point; the knight's element is attack. However, it can be used well to guard an area, e.g. it is well known that a knight on f3 or f6 is the best protection for a castled position.

<Shredder believes that a less compromised defense with ....Kg7 is nevertheless possible, e.g. 16. Bc3 Ne5 17. Be2 Ng6 and Black is better off than in the game, though obviously still very inferior.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part III

15.....Ne7 16. Bc3 Ng8 17. f4

The strongest continuation of the attack; true, it leads to the dissolution of the doubled pawns, but also opens attacking lines. Weak would be, e.g., the attack via f2-f3 and g2-g4 because of ...Kh8-g7-f8.


It is absolutely necessary for the king to get out of the bishop's line of fire. Black obviously cannot develop his queen's bishop, for if it goes to d7, then follows 18. e5 fxe5 19. fxe5 d5? (if 19...dxe5 20. Bxe5+ the c-pawn is lost) 20. e6+ winning the bishop, and if 17....Be6 18. f5 Bd7 19. g4 Kg7 20. g5 the Black kingside is under siege.

<Tarrasch's line ending 20. Bxe5+ requires amplification, since after 20....f6 21. Bxc7 (either) Rc8 the White c-pawn is also in jeopardy. White can still maintain a virtually winning position with 21....Rec8 22. Ba5 Rxc2 23. Bc3 Bb5 24. Rad1 Bxf1 25. Kxf1 or 21....Rac8 22. Rxe8 Bxe8 23. Re1. Simply 21. Bf4 is also very strong.>

18. Re3

18. e5 would obviously be premature and would lead after 18....fxe5 19. fxe5 d5 20. e6+ f6 only to the loss of the pawn.

18...Kf8 19. Bd3 Bd7 20. Rae1

One can see that White has strengthened his position move by move. Now the advance of the king's pawn must lead to a decisive breakthrough.

click for larger view


In this way, Black seeks to exchange a pair of bishops, as it is less dangerous. <Dadurch gelangt Schwarz zwar zu dem Abtausch eines Laufers, aber as weniger gefahrlichen. >

21. e5 Bxd3

Lasker criticized this exchange, because it gives White control of the d-file. But other moves would have made the attack still stronger, e.g. 21. e5 fxe5 22. fxe5 dxe5 23. Bxh7 f6 24. Bg6 Rd8 25. Bb4+ Kg7 26. Rg3 with a stronger attack than in the game.

22. Rxd3

Obviously far stronger than taking with the pawn, as it allows a new attack on the pawn on d6 to be staged.

22....fxe5 23. fxe5 dxe5 24. Rxe5

The bishop check with following rook check does not lead to an immediately satisfactory result. <Das Lauferschach mit folgenden Turmschach fuhrt gegenwartig zu keinem befriedigenden Ergebnis.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part IV


A fine defensive move, as the threatened bishop check is rendered harmless because of the answer ....c7-c5. The exchange of rooks was unsatisfactory for Black, because after Bxe5 Black must defend the queenside pawns, which allows the white rook to penetrate to d7.

<24....b6 is an error because it allows the continuation given in Tarrasch's next note. 24....Rad8 25. Bb4+ Kg7 26. Rxe8 Rxe8 is better for Black, though after 27. Rd7 or 27. Bc3+ it certainly isn't good.>

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25. Rh5

Unfortunately, I was now so short of time that I had to be pleased merely to reach the 30th move <time control> with direct attacking moves, and so I was unable to select the best moves hereabouts. <Leider war ich jetzt mit der Zeit so knapp, dass ich froh sein musste, bis zum 30. Zuge lauter direkte Angriffszuge machen zu konnen und so nicht die besten Zuge heraussuchen konnte.> With Rg5! the hitherto flawless game would have been brought to a swift conclusion. The threat is mate in two moves with Bg7+ and Re5#. However Black chooses to defend, the three white pieces obtain an attack, so that at a minimum at least one pawn is won, which in such a position is equivalent to victory. E.g., 25. Rg5 Re7? 26. Rdg3 and White wins the knight, after ...Nh6 with Bg7+. Or 25. Rg5 Re6 26. Rd7 Rc8 (26....Re7? 27. Rxg8+) 27. Rg7 and wins the h- or f-pawn; or 25. Rg5 Ke7 26. Rg7 h6 27. Re3+ Kf8 (after ...Kd6 the f-pawn is lost) 28. Rf3 Re7 29. Rfg3 winning the knight; or 25. Rg5 f6 26. Rd7 fxg5? 27. Bg7# (a beautiful mating position!). Or 25. Rg5 f6 26. Rd7 Ne7 27. Bxf6, etc.

25....h6 26. Bd2 <26. Be5 is stronger, says Shredder> 26....Re6

Better perhaps was 26....Rad8, to meet 27. Bxh6+? with Nxh6, ...Rxd3 and ...Re2, or Rxd8? and Bxh6+? with ...Nxh6, ...Rd1+ and ...Rd2+, winning the White queenside pawns <dies weissen Damenbauern zu enrobern>. White, however, could have responded to ...Rd8 with Rhd5, keeping the somewhat better game.

27. Rf5 Re7 28. Rxe7

Naturally also avoiding the rook exchange and withdrawing the rook to d3 came into consideration. But Black could then double rooks on the e-file, thus threatening to penetrate to e2.

28....Kxe7 29. Re5+

The attack on the h-pawn was always ineffective because of the response ...Rd8.

29....Kf6 30. Bc3 Kg6 31. Re3

White still has the advantage; he has the better pawn formation and chances to attack the black kingside pawns; his rook rules over an open file; and his bishop is clearly superior to the fettered knight. With the sealed rook move, with which the game was adjourned, is threatened a new, hidden and dangerous attack on the h-pawn, which Black ignores.

click for larger view

<Of course White is much better. But Black has not stood this well in some time, thinks Shredder, which rates White about 0.6 ahead right now.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part V


With ...f6 Black can parry the threat, but it is said that when one closes a hole, one opens another <aber das hiesse ein Loch zumachen, um ein anderes aufzumachen>, because the move would mean another weakening of the Black pawn formation.

33. Re3+ Kf5 34. Rg7 Ke6 35. Rh7

The rook has very little room to maneuver here, and the king even threatens to trap it with ...Kg6, but it turns out that the black threats are not serious, and soon the bishop arrives to free the rook and join it in bringing home the booty <um ihn zu befreien und mit ihm vereint beutebeladen heimzukehren>.


Into consideration came 35....Rd1+ 36. Kf2 Rc1, playing to win the c-pawn; however this would be met with 37. Rh8 Rxc2+ 38. Kg3 (and not f3) 38....Ne7 39. Rxh6+ Kd7 40. Rf6 Ke8 41. Rf2! and now the advance of the passed h-pawn decides, whether or not Black now exchanges rooks.

36. Kf2

A consolidating move <Sicherungszuge>, before the decisive bishop attack follows, which is stronger than playing Rh8 and Bg7 immediately.


<Shredder points out that 36....Rd5 was strong here, with the idea of playing ...Rh5 (perhaps after ...Rf5+) and then developing the knight. So was 36. Kf2 a wasted move? No, because the immediate 36. Rh8 is met by 36....Kf5 threatening ...f6, and the immediate 36. Bg7? is refuted by 36....f6.>

37. Ke2(?) <37. Rh8 wins a pawn immediately.> 37....b4(?) <37....Rd5 followed by ...h5 and ...Nf6 looks quite defensible for Black.> 38. Bd2

Now the h-pawn is lost , even if the black king approaches and attacks both pieces: 38....Kf6 39. Bxh6 Kg8 40. Rh8 and the white pieces cannot be taken.

click for larger view


Although the h-pawn cannot be taken because of ...Rh4, White has at his disposal no less than three continuations to achieve the capture of the object of his attack <die samtlich zur Eroberung des Kampfobjecktes fuhren>, namely g2-g3, h2-h3 and Rh8. The first simply prevents the defense <Fesselung> ....Rh4 and so wins the pawn, because of the continuation 39....Kf6 40. Bxh6 Kg6 41. Rg7+ and Rxg8, which cannot be averted. With the second continuation h2-h3 the protection of the knight with ...Rg4 is prevented and so the threat of Rh8 decides, because after 39....Kf6 40. Bxh6, 40....Rh4 doesn't work because of Bg7+. And the third continuation, 39. Rh8 Rg4 40. Kf3 Rg6 (or 40....Rc4 41. c3) 41. h4 leads to the same result, though perhaps it is the least sastisfactory for White <wenn sie auch vielleicht gunstige ist>, because Black can reach a rook endgame with 41....f6 42. h5 Rg4 43. Bxh6 Nxh6 44. Rxh6+ Kf7 45. Rxa6 Rc4 which perhaps offers some drawing chances.

39. g3 Rg4 <38.....Re4+ and ...a5 is a better defense.> 40. Bxh6

Thus the tension is finally relaxed <Damit wird endlich die Spannung gelost>, both for the spectator and the player, concerning whether White would win the pawn or Black would win the rook. It was an exciting battle! <Shredder thinks that 40. b3, preventing a later ...Rc4 by Black, would diminish his counterplay. But I should note that, having been so critical of recent moves by both players, Shredder finds that Tarrasch plays the remainder of the game very accurately.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part VI

40....Nf6 41. Rh8 Rc4

The knight is finally active and Black seeks with his three pieces an attack on the isolated and unguarded king.

42. Kd1 Ng4 43. Bf4 Kf5 44. b3 Rc3 45. Bd2 Rf3 46. Rh5+!

Compulsory! This move, which I sealed at the second adjournment, leads in combination with the following moves either to the exchange of rooks, with a simplified ending, or drives the black king to e6, whereupon White takes the three queenside pawns and in return sacrifices his two kingside pawns, winning easily.

46....Ke4 47. Rh4 Kf5

Into consideration came ...Rf1+, which leads to a pawn endgame which requires careful handling from White: 47....Rf1+ 48. Ke2 Rf2+ 49. Ke1 Kf3 50. Rxg4 Re2+ 51. Kd1 Rxd2+ 52. Kxd2 Kxg4.

click for larger view


Now White cannot play 53. h4, because Black with 53....f5 54. Ke3 Kxg3 queens his f-pawn. White nevertheless wins if he, instead of advancing his h-pawn, plays to exchange his g- and h-pawn for Black's f-pawn, then turns to the queenside, where the b-pawn reserve wins, i.e. (instead of 53. h4) 53. Ke3 Kh3 54. Kf4 Kxh2 55. g4 Kh3 56. Kf5 Kh4 57. g5 a5 58. Kf6 Kh5 59. Kxf7 Kxg5 60. Ke6 Kf4 61. Kd5 Ke3 62. Kxc5 Kd2 63. Kb5 Kxc2 64. Kxa5 Kc3 (or 64.....Kb2 65. Kxb4) 65. Ka4 and wins.

48. h3 Nf6 49. Rf4+ Rxf4 50. Bxf4 Ke4

The endgame is no longer difficult, but is interesting up to the last moment. Black makes every difficulty for his opponent that he can. <Schwarz macht den Gegner immer noch genug zu schaffen.>

51. Ke2 c4

click for larger view

In order to respond to 52. bxc4 with ...Kd4 and possibly still penetrate into the white queenside. On 52. Bd6 would follow 52....cxb3 53. cxb3 (or axb3) Nd5.

52. Bg5!

If the knight moves to d5, then the pawn takes pawn with attack on the knight and so maintains himself <so wird der Bauer mit Angriff auf ihn geschlagen un so behauptet>; if the knight moves elsewhere, Be7 follows and a pawn is lost.

52....Nd5 53. bxc4 Nc3+ 54. Kd2

If the king had gone to f2, then via the following seductive variation White could still have let the win slip from his hands: 54. Kf2 Kd4 55. Bf6+ Kxc4 56. Bxc3 Kxc3 57. h4 Kxc2 58. h5 Kb2 59. h6 Kxa2 60. h7 b3 61. h8/Q b2. In this strange position White cannot win, although normally the queen wins against a b-pawn on the seventh rank. After the text, however, White attains his goal either via a check<?> or an encircling-move. <Hier jedoch steht dem Weissen weder ein Schach- noch ein Fesselungszug zu Gebote.>


If Black takes the a-pawn immediately, the knight is imprisoned after Bf6.

55. Bf4 Nxa2 56. c5 Ke6 57. c6 Nc3 58. Kd3 Nd5 59. Kc4 Ne7 60. Kc5 a5 61. c7 Kd7 62. Kb5 Nf5 63. Kxa5 Nd4 64. Kxb4 Nxc2+ 65. Kc4 and Black resigns.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part VII

A fine game, without serious errors on either side, unless the opening error Lasker committed on his fifth move, ...d7-d6, be designated as such. I played flawlessly, other than on the 25th move, when, as a result of time-pressure, I avoided the sharpest continuation (Rg5). The following endgame was also interesting. After this game the match stood 6:3 points in Lasker's favor, a quite different ratio <Verhaltnis> than after the seventh game (5:1); in the last five games I had won two, lost one and drawn one. It was clear that, little by little, I had improved my play. Admittedly, it was still too late to overtake my opponent <um meinen Gegner noch einzuhohlen>. Lasker now took a four-day adjournment, as was contractually permitted, so that, since a Sunday was included, the match was interrupted for five days.

<Tarrasch's concluding note is breathtaking -- a game "without serious errors on either side"? Black's position was much worse after five moves, and probably lost after fourteen. Lasker's baroque defense with Nc6...e7...g8 worked surprisingly well, at least until 24....b6? But after Tarrasch failed to take advantage, Lasker looked like he might be able to hold. Then a series of errors by both sides finally led to White's win of the h-pawn at the 40th move. After that, Tarrasch played accurately to bring home the point.

Lasker's worst game of the match, I think. But even so, it's striking how hard he made Tarrasch work for the win.>

Apr-27-09  Fanacas: Hey thx for posting the analisations its real fun to play trough them :)
Jan-27-11  Llawdogg: Wow! Tarrasch outplayed Lasker from beginning to end in this game. It was, however, just too little, too late.
Apr-05-14  Karpova: Semion Alapin: <Dies ist die einzige Partie, welche Dr. Tarrasch gewonnen hat, trotzdem Lasker nur Remis anstrebte. Man weiß aber, daß Lasker sofort nach der 12. Partie auf einmal alle 4 Tage konsumirte, welche ihm kontraktmäßig zur Erholung bei einer eventuellen Erkrankung noch zustanden. Als Augenzeuge fühle ich mich veranlaßt, den höchst nervösen und krankhaft aufgeregten Zustand von Lasker am 16. September zu konstatiren. Ohne jeden Grund fügte er mir und Herrn Wolf Kränkungen zu, welche wir ihm jedoch nicht nachtrugen, weil wir klar einsahen, daß er dafür nichts konnte. Trotzdem Lasker Fehler auf Fehler häufte, ließ ihn Dr. Tarrasch mehrfach heraus. Daß im Gewinn dieser Partie keinerlei Verdienst steckt, wird jeder Kenner aus nachstehendem klar einsehen*>

(This is the only game, which Dr. Tarrasch won, although Lasker was just going for a draw. It is known that Lasker used up all of the 4 days, which he had left contractually for recovery from a possible sickness, immediately after game 12. As an eye-witness I feel prompted to state the nervous and morbidly excited state of Lasker on September 16th. Without any reason, he hurt me and Mr Wolf, which we didn't hold against him, because we clearly saw that he was not able to help it. Although Lasker made mistake after mistake, Dr. Tarrasch let him out several times. That there was no merit in the win of this game whatsoever, will be clear to every expert after the following*)

Source: 'Wiener Schachzeitung', July-August 1910, p. 223

*there follows the game with annotations by Alapin.

Feb-01-19  DonChalce: trully instructive.

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