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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
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 1 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-14-03  John Doe: Afer 40. ...e1 41. Rxe1 Qxb7 42. Re8+ Kg7 and now white can queen his pawn.

On the other hand, the white king could try the escape by h2.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: When I first saw this I thought 40.♕xb7 immediately. It couldn't be that simple could it?

But wait, there is a nuance. Black has a possible defense with 40...e1=♕+(!) 41.♖xe1 ♕xb7 and it would seem that White has sacrificed his ♕ for nothing! My guess is that's what Pillsbury had in mind when he played 39...e2

But Lasker peered a few moves further, and knew that after 42. ♖e8+ and 43.a8=♕ White is indeed winning at last.

A good example of the nitty-gritty mechanics of winning an endgame with a protected passer.

Oct-14-03  JSYantiss: I don't think White would want to try the escape via h2. For example: 40...e1=Q+ Kh2 41. Q(1)e8, and Black retains material advantage and control of the queening square.
Oct-14-03  erikcu: Compared to yesterday's puzzle, this was a cinch. But puzzles with queens and rooks almost always seem easier to me than puzzles with knights and bishops.
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Lasker's 5. Nxd4 allowed black easy equality. Lasker outplayed his opponent in the middle game, but it was not due to the merits of this move.

Better is the now standard 5. Bg5, which won for white in A Moroz vs I Radulov, 2001 and Wahls vs Zsuzsa Polgar, 1990 However, it is double-edged, with about even chances, and black has his share of wins as in Shirov vs Azmaiparashvili, 2000 or DeFirmian vs Kamsky, 1990

Apparently 5. Bg5 is also considered a good drawing weapon for white as in Judit Polgar vs Smyslov, 1995 and DeFirmian vs Azmaiparashvili, 1990 and Nunn vs Salov, 1989 and Anand vs Smyslov, 1989 and Ivanchuk vs Kamsky, 1990

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Smyslov demonstrated that 5. ..Bg7 is a strong reply to the dubious 5. Nxd4?! in Zsofia Polgar vs Smyslov, 1996 and M Vega vs Smyslov, 1992 and Dueckstein vs Smyslov, 1991
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: After doing a bit more analysis, I'm beginning to think I was too hasty in labeling Lasker's 5. Nxd4 as dubious (being influenced too much perhaps by the 71% black winning percentage in the database after 5. ..Bg7). In fact, I now believe 5. Nxd4 here is a perfectly good alternative to the more popular 5. Bg5 recommended by Kasparov and Keene in BCO.

After looking at's database of games and viewing some Fritz 8 deep analysis, I've come to the conclusion that after 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Nxc6 [instead of 6. Be6 in the three Smyslov games cited above] 6. ..bxc6 [6. ..dxc6 loses for black per Fritz 8] 7. Bc4 (as played in this game) that Lasker actually has at least equality and probably a small advantage (after 7. Bc4).

In the database, I found four games played with Lasker's 7. Bc4 since 1990 resulting in two white wins and two draws, with the best game being a nice white win by Longson (2225) over Abdulla (2387), Edinborough, Scotland, 2003 (not in database at this time).

After Lasker's 7. Bc4, Fritz 8 gives best play for black as 7. ..Qh4 8. Qd3 Nf6 9. Nd2 d5 10. exd5 cxd5 11. 0-0 Bf5 [11. ..dxc4 12. Qd8#] 12. Qa3+ Kg8 13. Bd3 Ne4 14. Qa4 (+ 0.28 @ 15/45 depth & 692kN/s ) with a slight white advantage.

However, to be honest, this is not the kind of position (after 14. Qa4 at the end of the above analysis) most stronger players like as white (especially with all the black pieces around the black king). So, I don't expect to see too much of a resurgence in Lasker's 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bc4, although it seems perfectly OK for at least equality and perhaps a small white advantage.

Oct-14-03  ughaibu: Patzer2: Your Fritz line doesn't make any sense to me. I think the fact that Smyslov repeated this line suggests that there's nothing scary about Bg5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <ughaibu> You may wish to run some computer analysis yourself on the position after 7. Bc4, to try and validate whether Fritz's line with 7. ..Qh4 is black's best reply. Other tries, such as 7. ..Ne7 or 7. ..f4 or 7. ..d4 or 7. ..Qe7 or 7. ..Nf6 give white a bigger advantage according to Fritz's analysis. Although I must admit that Pillsbury in this game got enough for equality with 7. ..Ne7, but got lost in the middle game complications.

I do agree with you that 5. Bg5 is not terrifying for the second player, but it does have a drawish reputation and could be dangerous if black pushes too hard.

Oct-14-03  ughaibu: I think Qh4 is an attractive move so I dont mind if your computer chooses that but in the line you gave there's no mate on d8 and Qa3 isn't check as the king should still be on e8 not f8, that's what I found confusing. I guess there should be a Bb5 and Kf8 somewhere(?)
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <Ughaibu> Oops! I did miss recording a move from Fritz's analysis. Let me make the correction here, along with some new analysis I got from Fritz the second-time around:

After Lasker's 7. Bc4, Fritz 8 gives best play for black as 7. ..Qh4 8. Qd3 Nf6 9. Nd2 d5 10. exd5 cxd5 11. 0-0 Bf5 [If 11. ..dxc4, then 12. Qd8#] 12. Qe3+ Kf8 13. Qa3+ Kg8 14. Bd3 Ne4 15. Qa4 (+ 0.28 @ 15/45 depth & 692kN/s ) with a slight white advantage.

However, the second time around, Fritz 8 found an even better line for black that makes the game level:

After Lasker's 7. Bc4, Fritz 8 (the second time around) gives best play for black as 7. ..Qh4 8. Qd3 Nf6 9. Nd2 Ng4! 10. Qg3 Qxg3 11. hxg3 Ne5 12. Be2 d6 13. c3 h5 14. Nf3 Rb8 15. Rh4 with a level game (0.00 @ 13/43 depth & 670kN/s ).

So, Lasker's 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Nxc6 7. Bc4 may only be good for equality. But as it was for Lasker and many modern players today, that may be enough. Lasker's line is certainly playable, even if it presents no insurmountable problems with best play for black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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)

Oct-15-03  drukenknight: calli; I'm looking at the merits of 35...Rf4, what do you think?
Oct-15-03  euripides: This is either a great escape or an example of very deep strategic judgement,and perhaps a bit of both. The black king's exposure is a crucial positional factor that gives Black problems at various points e.g.26...Qb5 27 Qf4
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <Calli> While Pillsbury's 29. ..Rb4 (Fritz's fourth choice, rated black advantage at -0.66) is not a bad move, I would have preferred to keep the black rook on the eight rank. My own preference would have been the not so subtle 29. ..Ra8 (Fritz's second choice, rated black advantage at -0.66) to keep Lasker's passed pawn on a4 under lock and key. However, Fritz's first choice is the more subtle 29. ..Kg7, with the most black advantage (-0.69 @ 18/45 depth & 750kN/s), keeping more options open (including ...Ra8).

Fritz gives best play as 29. ..Kg7 30. a5 Ra8 31. Qh4 Qe6 32. b4 cxb4 33. Qxb4 Qd7 34.Qb6 d5 35. Re1 Re8 36. a6 Kg8.

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <Calli> I think Pillsbury's 30. ..e4 is a bit premature, limiting black's options while giving white an opportunity to advance the passed pawn with initiative.

Best is 30. ..Qc7, keeping the passed pawn under control while maintaining a solid black advantage . Fritz gives best play as 30. ..Qc7 31. Qe3 Rb8 32. Kg1 Qe7 33. Qf3 Rc8 34. Qf6 Qxf6 35. Rxf6 Rd8 36. Kf2 (-0.69 @ 18/50 depth & 798kN/s)

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <Drukenknight> I think you have the right idea in looking for an alternative to Pillsubury's 35. ..d4??, which gave Lasker a forced win after 36. a7!

However, best here is 35. ..Rb8! to get that pesky passed pawn under control. Fritz gives 35. ..Rb8 36. Qc3 Qe7 37. Ra1 d5 38. Ra5 Ra8 39. Rxc5 Rxa6 40. Rxc6 Ra8 41. Qf3 e4 42. Qe3 with a slight black advantage (-0.38 @ 16/44 depth & 840kN/s).

Your idea of 35. ..Rf4 allows 36. a7, giving back the advantage to white. Of course 35. ..d4?? does the same thing, and is probably as close to a blunder as you can find by Pillsbury in this otherwise well played game.

Oct-15-03  aulero: <patzer2>, <Drunkenknight>, I'm surely missing something, but 35...d4 was played to defend the e3 pawn. After 35...♖f4 or 35...♖b8 White simply plays 36.♕xe3.
Oct-15-03  doreshk: <patzer2> if 35...Rb8, then 36.Qxb8+, right?
Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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!

Premium Chessgames Member
  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

Premium Chessgames Member
  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!

Premium Chessgames Member
  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).
Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

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