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Emanuel Lasker vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Hastings (1895), Hastings ENG, rd 12, Aug-20
Spanish Game: Fianchetto Defense (C60)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Oct-15-03  patzer2: <doreshk/Aulero> Oops! You got me! You are correct that 35...Rb8 is busted by 36. Qxb8+ . I must have input the position incorrectly to Fritz for analysis or got it confused with the position after black's 32nd move.

Now, unfortunately, black is pretty much busted after white's 35. Re1 -- no matter what move he makes in response. Fritz 8 gives the following possibilities:

35...d4 loses as in the game continuation after 36. a7.

35...Re4 36. a7 Re8 37. Qxe3 Rc8 38. Qe8+ Qf8 39. Qe6+ Kh8 40. Ra1 Ra8 41. c3 (+2.06 @ 16/46 depth & 774kN/s)

35...e2 36. a7 Qf1+ 37. Kh2 Qf8 38. Qc7 Re4 39. Qxc6 Re8 40. Qxd5+ Kg7 41. Kg1 Ra8 42. Qb7+ Kh8 43. Rxe2 Qd8 44. Qe7 (+2.37)

35...Qf8 36. Rxe3 d4 37. Re6 d3 38. Qxd3 Rd4 39. Qe2 Rd8 40. Rxc6 Ra8 41. Qe6+ Kh8 42. Qc4 (+2.59)

35...Qf7 36. Rxe3 Qf1+ 37. Kh2 Qf8
38. Qe1 Qb8+ 39. g3 Re4 40. Rxe4 dxe4
41. Qxe4 Qa8 42. Qc4+ Kg7 43. Kg2

35...Rf4, which <Dukenknight> wished to examine, loses quickly to 36. a7 Qf8 [36...Rf1+ 37. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 38. Kh2 Qf8 39. Qb8 ] 37. Ra1 Rf1+ 38. Rxf1 Qxf1 39. Kh2 (+9.06 & 16/55 depth & 766kN/s)

So given that black's game is hopeless after 35. Re1, where was the last chance for black to save the game? My thought is that it was by playing 32...Rb8! (not 35...Rb8??) instead of 32. Qe7?

Fritz 8 gives best play as 32..Rb8 33. Qg3 Re8 34. Ra1 Qg7 35. c3 Ra8 36. Qe3 Qa7 37. Qf4 Qe7 38. Qe3 Qa7 (+0.91) and it would appear black can take a draw by repetition or go for a bigger advantage if white wishes to complicate.

So, to summarize, black can improve by playing 7...Qh4 or 29...Kg7 or 30...Qc7 (all analyzed above) in addition to 32...Rb8 analyzed here. However, none of these moves appear to give black more than a slight advantage, validating Lasker's sound play in this well played game.

Oct-15-03  Calli: Tarrasch pointed at 29...Rb4 as the error:

"So far Pillsbury has played the game splendidly, but now he begins to experiment, and finally loses a won game by careless play. The simple move 29...Re8, in combination with the advancing centre, must have won with certainty, as the analyses of the two players have shown. It is very often dangerous to move a rook away from the first line." Tarrasch

Siegbert is oversimplifying (as usual!). The move certainly contributed to defeat, but its not really clear that Re8 wins. For instance if Black charges forward with his pawn:

29...Re8 30.a5 d5 31.Qa4 e4 32.a6 e3 33.a7 e2 34.Re1 Ra8 35.Rxe2 Rxa7 (Crouch). Black is only a doubled pawn up with lots of play against his King.

BTW - This is a great game to analyse!

Oct-16-03  Calli: <patzer2> Last chance "by playing 32...Rb8!"

True, but Lasker could have played Qg3 the previous move. Therefore 32.a6? is also an error allowing 32...Rb8. Several mistakes are bunched together here:

31.a5 d5? allows Qg3 cutting off the rook.
32.a6? (misses Qg3!) Qe7? (Rb8 is the only try)
33.Qg3! and wins

Oct-16-03  patzer2: <Calli> Thanks for the analysis by Tarrasch recommending 29...Re8 as an improvement for black.

With all due respect to Tarrasch, I agree with you that Siegbert's claim of a win with 29...Re8 is an overstatement -- though 29...Re8 does give black a small advantage, as does 29...Kg7 and 29...Ra8, per Fritz 8:

29...Kg7 (-0.72 & 17 depth & 741kN/s)

29...Ra8 (-0.69 & 17 depth & 741kN/s)

29...Re8 (-0.63 & 17 depth & 741kN/s)

However, Fritz's analysis does not validate Tarrasch's claim that 29...Rb8 is "the error" (though I initially thougt it was without the aid of the computer analysis). After 29...Rb8 30. Qe1 black actually holds an advantage with the simple 30...Qc7 (-0.69 @ 16 depth & 722kN/s).

"The error" or losing blunder was 32. ..Qe7?, as 32. ..Rb8! was black's last chance to salvage his game.

Agree with you that this is indeed a great game to analyse!

Oct-16-03  patzer2: <Calli> Your recommendation 32. Qg3 initially looked good to me, but Fritz 8 indicates black equalizes with 32. ..Qe8 33. Qd6 Rb5 34. c4 dxc4 35. a6 Ra5 36. b4 Rxa6 37. Qxc5 Ra3 38. Qxc4+ Kg7 39. Qd4+ Kh6 [If 39. ..Kg8, then 40. Qc4+ Kg7 41. Qd4+] 40. Re1 e3 41. Qh4+ Kg7 42. Qd4+ Kg8 43. Qc4+ (0.00 & 16 Ply & 640kN/s).
Oct-16-03  Calli: <Patzer2> Yes, 32.Qg3 does equalize. Thats the point! He may lose by not playing it. Remember who should win the game (Hint: Its Black). So in the game: 30.Qe1 e4?! 31.a5 d5?! White can equalize with

----32.Qg3! Qe8 33.a6 Rb8 34.Qd6 Ra8 35.Qxc5 Rxa6 36.c4=

Lasker, however continued with
32.a6? This may give the draw away:

----32...Rb8! 33.Qg3 Ra8 34.Ra1 Qe7 35.c3 e3 etc

Unfortunately for Pillsbury, he continued
32...Qe7? and lost. Tarrasch actually has a suggestion on the next move. More on that later.

Oct-17-03  patzer2: <Calli> Good point! By playing 32. Qg3! white equalizes and avoids the inferior position after 32. a6? Rb8!

I had initially thought white could easily hold the position after 32. a6? Rb8!, but I now realize it will be much more difficult (perhaps impossible) for white to draw in this situation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  waddayaplay: Pillsbury is not Fritz though. Computers have no thorough strategy like humans do. If Pillsbury had tried playing like Fritz he probably wouldn't have won much.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: My thousandth post. No better place to spend it than at my favorite tournament with two of the mythic figures-Lasker and Pillsbury. They met in the twelfth round. I will read the posts and try to understand this very complex battle.
Oct-22-04  iron maiden: For some reason almost every one of the Lasker-Pillsbury games is deep and compelling. I'd even go as far as to say that no other combination of two players produced as many interesting games, "per capita," as did these two.
Oct-22-04  Swindler: Indeed, it's sad they never meet in a match for the World Championship.
Apr-28-06  Dodd: I never had the pleasure of seeing these two play before. Beautiful game! And you say they are all like this? Wow...

Much happy browsing to follow!

Sep-22-07  RookFile: Pillsbury screwed this up, he was up a pawn, it's too bad he had to actually lose this.
Sep-22-07  gregorivus: he allowed that pawn advance too much. anyway he played very well and his high level is evident
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Of 33...e3, Tarrasch writes:

<One more offensive instead of defensive move. The Rook ought to have retired at least to b6, when 34. a7 would not have won: 33...Rb6 34. a7? Qxa7 35. Qd6 Rb8 36. Kg7!. If instead 34. Ra1, Black can stop the dangerous passed pawn with 34....Qa7 35. Qd6 e3 (not 35....Rxa6 on account of 36. Rf1 Qa8 37. Qe6+ and 38. Rf7) 36. Qxc5? e2 and 37....Rxa6, winning the pawn. But with 36. Rf1! Rb8 37. Qe6+ Kg7 38. Qxe3 White would still have had an advantage, as the a-pawn cannot be taken on account of 39. Qe5+, and Black's king is without defense.>

I haven't checked any of that analysis, though.

Two of Pillsbury's three losses in this tournament involved a Q+R ending and a distant passed pawn, this one and Pillsbury vs Schlechter, 1895.

Jul-23-09  Knight13: I like 14...c6 and the immediate ...d5. The center seems more like Black's best place to play.
Jul-23-09  RookFile: But you need to guard the c5 pawn if you do this. Pillsbury just plain old won a pawn with his play. His mistake didn't come until later.
Jul-23-09  nd792001: I'm not seeing a clear win for white if 40...e1=Q+. Black then has two queens on the board and keeps at least one of them after white responds to the check.
Oct-01-09  Boomie: <nd792001: I'm not seeing a clear win for white if 40...e1=Q+. Black then has two queens on the board and keeps at least one of them after white responds to the check.>

How about 41. Rxe1 Qxb7 42. Re8+ Kf7 43. a8=Q.

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Feb-12-16  zanzibar: After 23.Qe2-a6 ... Black to move

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Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895

Not because it's the most interesting position in the game, but rather to set up this story...


Just prior to Pillsbury's departure for the London tournament in May I happened to be playing over and analyzing his game with Lasker in the great Hastings international tourney, wherein he had a grand opportunity of defeating the world's champion, but missed it and lost. The game is a capital illustration of the latter's recuperative powers and wealth of resource in an uphill fight and always repays the playing of it over. Meeting the American champion shortly after ward at the Brooklyn Chess Club, I, as much to satisfy myself on a certain point in the game as to test the marvellous mental powers for which he is so justly famous, put to him the question without any preliminary introduction: "Harry, why, in your game with Lasker at Hastings, did you, when about to take his K P with Queen, first check his King before effecting the capture?"

I expected he would stop and think a while or possibly set up the position and treat us to an hour's learned discourse, for when the champion gets started at analyzing he will good naturedly satisfy the curiosity or ignorance of all who may ply him with questions. On the contrary, and with only a moment's hesitation as though he had been studying the position only the day before, he came back with:

"Why, yes. I first checked at Q 5 in order to force his King into the corner. This may not seem to have been absolutely necessary, yet I thought at the time it would pay to do so, if only to cause his rook to be more guarded in his action in view of the possible mate that might be brought about in various contingencies." Pillsbury supplemented this remark with further comments on the position and its ramifications greatly to our entertainment.

The game in question is one of over a hundred match and tournament games that he has contested with the leading players of the world since then and the position is one of several thousands of equal importance that he has had to deal with. Nevertheless, no sooner was it mentioned than he spotted it on the instant and the situation became immediately as fresh to him as on the day it first occurred four years ago. In addition to this he was equally prepared to run up the moves of the game from beginning to end and criticise any and all of the many interesting variations without touching either men or board.

The incident served as a capital illustration of the really wonderful development of memory with which the young chess master is endowed. Realizing its possibilities one can the better appreciate the remarkable nature of the performances given by Pillsbury for exhibition purposes, when he meets a given number of chess and checker players simultaneously and blindfolded and at the same time takes part in a game of duplicate whist. — Brooklyn Eagle.>

Likely Helms, as told in <ACM v3 p76 (1899)>

Apr-17-16  litmus: <zanzibar: After 23.Qe2-a6 ... Black to move

Not because it's the most interesting position in the game, but rather to set up this story...


Just prior to Pillsbury's departure for the London tournament in May I ...>

Very interesting! I wonder if Pillsbury commented on the possibility of playing safely for a win after 23. Qa6 Qd4+ 24. Kh1 c4! IM Crouch in his analysis of the game identifies this position as a crucial point in the game and has observed that by returning the doubled c-pawn and preserving the a7 pawn, Pillsbury could have removed Lasker's counterplay associated with the passed a-pawn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: I must admit I find the game slightly mysterious. The pawn sacrifice by Lasker does seem to create a theoretical win probability in terms of the outside 'a' pawn. It is fine judgement here to see that if Black is not careful and does not try and trade rooks, then Black's resource could be split across defending K-side weaknesses and handling the potentially dangerous passed a pawn. A fascinating game to analyse.

My opinion really is the emphasis of creating "theoretical win probability" is shown here, and I have seen Fischer in many games sac pawns to create passed pawn potential. It seems the great legends of the game are very dynamic when it comes to evaluating passed pawn potential and their win probability.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: I would also like to comment on a comment made in 2003:

<Calli>: After 25.Qxa7, Pillsbury is up a pawn with a strong Queen position. Plus, his central pawns look ready to roll. Somehow, Lasker wins! Hard to explain or even point to a blunder on Pillsbury's part. (This game is in my Lasker's Great Escapes collection) ======

If we do break up positions in terms of their Steinitzian elements, what Lasker brings to the table here is "exploitability" - some elements cannot be exploited if one has bad king safety - one is often held back by that or it justifies the opponent using dynamic pawn structures such as IQP or hanging pawns, etc.

The game also has "exploitability" in terms of which elements (the main one being king safety) really have the possibility in practice to hold back what seems to be "on paper" Black's central passed pawn potential.

Jul-01-23  tbontb: To summarise, Pillsbury Black plays bravely but inaccurately when slightly better, only to see the position turn around completely. It seems the last chance is 32...Rb8. In the game the monster White a pawn quickly decides matters.
Sep-11-23  SerenaWilliams: Pillsbury blunders and obvious tactic, strange
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