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Emanuel Lasker vs Siegbert Tarrasch
Lasker - Tarrasch World Championship Match (1908), Munich GER, rd 13, Sep-23
Tarrasch Defense: Symmetrical Variation (D32)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-11-05  LIFE Master AJ: This is a great game ... I am thinking about annotating this game for one of my web pages.

ALSO - the last move here is wrong I believe, the move actually played in the game was 44.Qf8+, NOT 44.Qf6? (Fritz 8.0 observes a VERY Large difference between these two moves.)

Apr-11-05  aw1988: Qf8 is not check.
Apr-13-05  LIFE Master AJ: Yup ... u r rite.
Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: AJ, I took a quick look at the game scores of all the games in the Lasker vs. Tarrasch 1908 match that I printed out from a German site, quite awhile ago. It also shows Df6 (i.e. Qf6 ), but Qf8 threatening Rxf7+ certainly looks better as you say. It could be that somebody misread a 6 for an 8 on a scoresheet almost 100 years ago. Who knows? Paul Albert
Apr-13-05  LIFE Master AJ: <Paul>

Below is a copy of an e-mail that I sent to the CB website.

Em. Lasker - S. Tarrasch; Game # 13
(08 World Champ. Match)
/ Dusseldorf, GER; 1908

It is too long a story to tell you how I got involved with this game. Suffice it to say that I am annotating this game for one of my many websites.

You have the INCORRECT MOVE for the last move of this game. (44.Qf6) It should be the Qf8.

I have dozens of books ... like all the available copies of American Chess Bulletin, Lasker's Chess Magazines, etc. (You can get bound copies - reprints of the originals - from various sources, like ChessCafe.)

I found a reprint of the game in the original newspaper. (Given as Q-KB8 here in the U.S.)

I also have friends who live near Cleveland, Ohio. (This book is in the "John G. White" Collection.) The copy of the book of the match - IN GERMAN - gives the last move as Qf8.

The respected Ken Whyld gives the last move as Qf8 in his book of Lasker's games.

Even ChessMaster 10th Edition gives it as Qf8. (In their database.) I also have an English pamphlet of this match ... they also give it as Qf8.

Fritz 8.0 gives Qf8. (The difference between the values of the two moves is nearly a Rook!!!!!)

A.J. Goldsby I, Pensacola, FL (USA)
Monday, April 11th, 2005.

Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: AJ, It looks like from your comprehensive research that the mistake was made in modern times. It's surprising that a German site has the same error. I am constantly amazed at the frequency of errors in chess books. Paul Albert
Mar-02-08  Knight13: 26...Nxe3 really sucked didn't it?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part I

Game 13

Played in Munich on September 23

<Translated from Tarrasch's book on the match ( with additional commentary from Shredder, Soltis' <Why Lasker Matters>, Leopold Hoffer's short 1908 book on the match, 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. Tarrasch uses some particularly baroque turns of phrase in his notes to this game.>

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5

I can only repeat over and over that this is the only defense to the Queen's Gambit that leads to equality.

4. Nf3

Black cannot play 4....cxd4 5. Nxd4 e5 6. Ndb5! d4 7. Nd5 Na6 here, for White obtains a superior game with 8. e3.

4....Nc6 5. e3

Alapin recommends 5. Bf4; however, 5....exd4 6. Nxd4 Bb4! follows, when Black has a quite good game, if not the better one. It is known that White cannot attack with 7. Nb5, because of the surprising and beautiful continuation 7....d4! 8. Nc7+ Qxc7 9. Bxc7 dxc3, when Black wins back the queen and has an extra piece.

5....Nf6 6. a3

This move is often made in the now-reached normal position of the Queen's Gambit, with the intention of continuing with dxc5, b2-b4 and Bb2. I hold this plan to be so inappropriate that I even give my opponent a tempo, so as not to disrupt the plan's execution.

6....Bd6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. b4 Bd6 9. Bb2 0-0 10. Rc1 <Soltis notes that 10. cxd5 is good here> a5 11. b5 Ne5

Black has already seized the initiative and attacks the c-pawn, so that White, because exchanging knights would only improve the black king bishop's position, is led to strengthen Black's game in anther way, by freeing the queen bishop.

<Hoffer: Isolating a pawn is Dr. Lasker's specialty. A simple device, suitable to his scrupulously correct play.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II

12. cxd5 exd5 13. Be2 Be6 14. 0-0 Qe7 15. a4 Rc8

One can see that Black leads in development, controls the center, and has excellent piece play, while his center pawn provides support-points <Stutzpunkte> in the white camp. For all these advantages, the fact that a pawn is isolated is scarcely equivalent; Black has the significantly superior game, and White's system with 8. a3, etc. is totally refuted.

click for larger view

16. Nd4 Nc4

Delaying this move in favor of ...Rfd8 first also came into consideration, but the text move is stronger. Black must here accurately calculate the consequences of several difficult pell-mell White combinations; though each is flawed and increases White's disadvantage, all must be considered before the knight move, namely 16....Nc4 17. Bxc4 Rxc4 18. Nxd5? Bxd5 19. Rxc4 (19. Nf5? Qe4!) 19....Bxc4 20. Nf5 Qe6 21. Nxd6 Bxf1 and Black has gained the exchange; also 16....Nxc4 17. Bxc4 Rxc4 18. Nxe6 fxe6 19. Nxd5? exd5 20. Bxf6; here ...Qxf6 cannot be played because of Qxd5+ and Qxc4, but with ...Rxc1 (Qxd5+ Qf7) Black gains an extra piece. <Schwarz musste hier mehrere schwierige pele-mele Kombinationen ins Auge fassen, die zwar fehlerhaft sind und zum Nachteil des Weissen ausschlagen, aber immerhin vor dem Springerzuge genau berechtet werden mussten, namlich....>

17. Ba1

Taking the bishop would increase Black's advantage.


18. Re1 Qd6 19. g3 Rfd8

The Black formation has become still stronger, and Black has gained an excellent game, while White is cramped <zusammengedrangt = to push together> and already has to loosen his king position.

<Soltis: Black can think of ...Qe5-g5 and ...Ng4. White's best policy seems to be piling up on d5 with Bf1-g2/Nde2-f4. However, that may allow Black to explode the center with ...Ba7 and ...d4! Moreover he needs his bishop at e2 to discourage ...h5-h4.>

20. Nb1

Now almost all the White pieces are on the first rank, a Steinitzian formation.

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part III


With the obvious <auf der Hand ligenden = lying at hand -- what a great phrase!> move 20....Ne4 Black would have made his formation even stronger; White would have hardly had a satisfactory move, because after 21. Bxc4 dxc4 the black queen bishop would have threatened to become very dangerous; if after 20....Ne4 White had played (as earlier suggested) 21. Nxe6 Qxe6 22. Bxc4 dxc4, White would have very weak points on f3 and d3, and Black could then move ...Rd3 or with ...Rd5 (...Qh3, ...Rh5) play for a kingside attack, whereupon White could not take the c-pawn on account of the rook exchange followed by ...Ng5, Qe2, ...Qe4. In that event Black would have had a totally superior game with all the attacking chances on the kingside and in the center, as well as a passed pawn on the queenside.

<Shredder thinks it's quite even after 20....Ne4 21. Nc3.>

Instead of this, out of a concern that the pawn could become weak, Black retreats his well-positioned knight and incurably compromises his excellent position. <Statt dessen zieht Schwarz in der Besorgnis, dass dieser Bauer schwach werden konnte, seinen so wohlpositiernen Springer zuruck und bringt es damit fertig, seine vortreffliche Stellung sofort unheilbar zu kompromittieren.>

<Hoffer: Black's counter-attack has dwindled, and the strategical disposition of his forces is now so defective that no concerted action is possible. The bishop at e6 is attacked, there is a weak a-pawn, and the B at b1 is in a useless position. A catastrophe is therefore inevitable as soon as White is ready to reassume the offensive. ...Ba7 seems indicated, it might be said urgent.>

21. Bc3

With this Lasker turns the spear about; the a-pawn is hard to defend and the black position is bad all at once. <Damit kehrt Lasker den Spiess um; der a-Bauer ist schlecht zu decken und die schwarze Position wird mit einem Male schlecht.>


Now after 22. Bxa5, Black regains the pawn with ...Rxc1 and ...Nxa4.

<Soltis: Unfortunately, the best Black had was backing down with 21....Nc4 22. Nd2 Nxd2.>

22. Qb3 Nc4

22....Ne4 came into consideration, to respond to Bxa5 with ...Nc5, rendering the pawn on a5 harmless; Qa3 would follow on ...Nc5, however, and whichever knight captured on a5, Bb4 would be played, whereupon the knight on a4 would have no retreat and be threatened with capture by Bd1. With the text move Black avoids the loss of the pawn, but the kingside is torn asunder <aufgerissen>.

23. Nxe6 Qxe6 24. Bxf6 gxf6

The pawn retakes, else Black loses a pawn on c4, and afterwards surely the game. <Schlagt der Bauer, so verliert Schwarz einen Bauer auf c4 und dadurch mit Sicherheit die Partie.>

25. Red1

White now threatens to attack the queen's pawn (now admittedly become weak) with all his pieces.

25....Ba7 26. Bf3

<Soltis: With the superior 26. Rc3 Lasker would make the sacrifice on e3 unsound (26....Nxe3 27. fxe3 Bxe3+ 28. Kg2! Bd4 29. Rxd4 Qxe2+ 30. Kh3 Qf1+ 31. Kh4. And on 26....Qe4 27. White can choose between simplification (27. Nd2) and increasing the pressure on d5 with 27. Bd3 Qf3 28. Bxc4 Rxc4 29. Rcd3.>


A desperate sacrifice, which is only a flawed protection against the fateful day. <Ein verzweifeltes Opfer, welches das Schicksal des Tages zur bei fehlerhafter Abwehr wenden konnte.>

<Responding to a comment on the page, 26....Nxe3 was not a mistake; it was by far the best move Black had by this point.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part IV

27. Rxc8! Qxc8 28. b6!

The right move! After 28. fxe3 Rxe3 Black would win with a discovered check. But now, good counsel for Black is scarce. If he takes the rook, he would have after 29. bxa7 Nxf2! 30. Kxf2 Qc5+ 31. Kg2 Qxa7 rook and (at first) three pawns for bishop and knight, but the d-pawn falls at once, the b-pawn is backward, and the f-pawns are doubled. The black pawns are, in sum, worth nothing and White must win [them] once he brings his knight into play (on e4, for example) and commences his attack. <Die schwarzen Bauern sind also samt und sonders nichts wert und Weiss muss gewinnen, indem er seinen Springer ins Spiel bringt (etwa nach e4) und zum Angriff kommt.> Therefore, Black selects the other alternative.

<Shredder thinks 28...Nxd1 is much better than 28....Bxb6, though Black is worse in either event.>

click for larger view

28....Bxb6 29. fxe3 Rxe3 30. Qxb3 Rxf3 31. Qxa5 Qc4 32. Qd2

This move secures White's game and thwarts Black's attempted counterattack. Now if 32....d4 comes 33. Qc1 and after 33....Qd5 34. Qc8+ Kg7 35. Qg4+ White wins the d-pawn. It is clear that 32. Qxd5 would lose after ...Rf1+.

click for larger view


<Shredder: 32....Qxa4 33. Qxd5 Re3 34. Qd8+ Kg7 35. Rd4! Re8 [forced] 36. Rxa4 and White wins. I thought 32....f5 was purely a desperate attacking move, but it had a defensive purpose as well.>

33. Rc1 Qg4

The queen check at g5 must now be prevented.

34. Qxd5 f4 35. Nd2

The knight's entry makes Blacks' game completely hopeless.

35....Re3 36. Rf1

<Not content with his material advantage, Lasker makes use of tactical counterthreats to douse Black's attack and end the game as quickly as possible.>

36....Re6 37. Rxf4 Qd1+ 38. Kg2 b6 39. Qd7 Qe2+ 40. Rf2 Qh5 41. Nf3 h6 42. Nd4 Re5 43. Qd8+ Kh7 44. Qf8 Black resigns.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part V

That was decisive! <Das war die Entscheidung!> But now, with my opponent needing only one more win, I played with Damocles' sword over my head.

<The match was played to eight wins, and after this game Lasker had seven, against three losses and three draws.

This game seems unjust somehow, particularly after reading Tarrasch's notes. He plays his own defense strongly and confidently, while Lasker seems a bit at sea. After 20 moves Black has exactly the sort of position you would want with the Tarrasch defense, while Lasker has a bishop on a1 and a knight on b1. Then Tarrasch makes a trifling misttep, withdrawing a knight from the center, and Lasker immediately pounces. And suddenly it turns out to be a good thing that the knight is sitting on b1, because that opens c3 for the bishop, and gives the rook greater sway on the c-file. Later, instead of the knight on b1 being vulnerable and having its absence hurt White, it seems to be merely invulnerable on the square. One badly-placed piece makes the whole game bad, Tarrasch wrote somewhere, and it seems to be true for most amateurs and most GMs as well. But not for Lasker. In Game 5 his knight sits on f1, doing nothing, for almost the entire game, but without using it Lasker still manages to blow Tarrasch off the board. The knight enters combat only to mop up; victory is already assured. It's the same in this game. Even Tarrasch recognizes it. When the knight finally moves to d2 on move 35, he writes "The entry of the knight makes Black's game totally hopeless." It's like Kasparov putting on his watch or Auerbach lighting his cigar.

Of course the perception of injustice is exaggerated; Black's position was never that good. Even before 20....Nb6 White was equal, not inferior. But there is still something mysterious about this game....>

Jan-17-19  SChesshevsky: <keypusher> Really great posts. It does appear Tarrasch was a bit over enthusiastic about his position if it falls apart with one weak 20th move.

There is some benefit just from having an easier position to play and Tarrasch doesn't seem at all concerned about his isolated pawn and pawns. Here at least until they are obvious weaknesses. So while he is confident in his own position, seems he has trouble acknowledging the plusses in the enemy's.

Browsed his book, "The game of chess" a long time ago. Can't remember anything about pawn structure though. Though he certainly doesn't mind the isolated Tarrasch opening pawn, wondering if his indifference went to generally other isolated pawns as well?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <SChesshevsky> Glad you liked them. So do me a favor and look at AlphaZero vs Stockfish, 2018, since we had a frank exchange about the A0-SF Caro-Kann game earlier. :-)

I should probably redo all the Lasker-Tarrasch match games using SF10, but who has time?

As I recall it was just the isolated d-pawn that Tarrasch cherished, because center control through pawns was so important to him, plus I think he prized aggressive/open chess.

Aug-23-20  Ulhumbrus: If 22...Nc4 gets the king side wrecked because of the potential threat Bxf6 one alternative is 22...Ne4

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