03 October 2012

Lesson of the Week

In October, each week's chess lesson will come from the games of Akiba Rubinstein. One hundred years ago, Rubinstein won four consecutive tournaments with an overall 72% winning percentage against most of the world's top players: 39 wins, 24 draws, 8 losses. The strong tournament at San Sebastian, Spain was the first of these four. One of the games from that tournament provides this week's lesson.

Rubinstein -- Schlechter is one of two Rubinstein's wins in Irving Chernev, The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played: 62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy (1965). The other was the source for the lessons of the week for 17-21 September, and 24-28 September.*

Carl Schlechter was one of the strongest players in the world in the early twentieth century with many tournament victories. He played World Champion Emanuel Lasker in a match for the title in 1910. The match ended with one win each and eight draws. Lasker retained the title due to the rules agreed by the players. That was the best result a challenger had achieved against Lasker since he earned the title in his victory of Wilhelm Steinitz in 1894. Rubinstein also sought a World Championship match with Lasker, but the scheduled match in late 1914 could not take place due to the beginning of World War I.

This week's lesson concerns center control and piece mobility: two elementary positional concepts. Control of the center nearly always confers control of the whole board. When one player's pieces are mobile, and the other player's are not, the player with mobile pieces often has a substantial advantage.

Rubinstein,Akiba -- Schlechter,Carl [D41]
San Sebastian, 07.03.1912

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Qa5 10.Rb1 Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 0–0 13.Bb5 a6 14.Bd3 Rd8 15.Rhc1 b5 16.Rc7 Nd7 17.Ke3 Nf6 18.Ne5 Bd7

This position was on the demonstration board.

White to move

Young players have a tendency to begin shouting out moves. I seek to teach them how to think about a position. Before moves could be suggested, I needed answers to two questions.

Which side is better?

There are three possible answers, I told the players. White is better, Black is better, or the position is equal. In this position, White is substantially better due to control of the center of the board and due to more active pieces. Black's pieces have little power because they lack mobility.

Young chess players tend to regard the position as equal because the material is equal. Nonetheless, one young girl in Tuesday's groups recognized that White's pieces were on better squares than Black's. She was rewarded with a chess pencil.

What are the plans for both sides?

Black needs to get his pieces active. White's plan is harder to articulate. I suggested a pawn storm to drive the knight away from defending the bishop. White does not want to trade active pieces for passive ones unless it leads to clear vulnerabilities in Black's position. Attacking the knight, however, makes Black's most active piece less useful.

After discussing this position, I reset the board in the starting position and showed the moves that led to Black's inactive pieces. 9...Qa5 was a critical error. Chernev criticizes 12...O-O, but 12...Ke7 fails to solve Black's problems. After the exchanges on moves 10-12, White dominates the board. Black has no reasonable means for developing his forces. Indeed, the single merit in Black's position is his queenside pawn majority. If only the kings and pawns remained on the board, Black would have the advantage. However, with each player possessing a pair of minor pieces and two rooks, White's central pawn majority is more important than Black's queenside majority.

After playing the game up to this point, I showed the students the next several moves.

19.g4 h6 20.f4 Be8 21.g5 hxg5 22.fxg5 Nh7 23.h4 Rdc8 24.Rbc1 Rxc7 25.Rxc7 Rd8 26.Ra7 f6 27.gxf6 gxf6 28.Ng4 Bh5 29.Nh6+ Kh8 30.Be2 Be8 31.Rxa6 Kg7 32.Ng4 f5 33.Ra7+ Kh8 34.Ne5 fxe4 35.Bxb5 Nf6 36.Bxe8 Rxe8 37.Kf4 Kg8 38.Kg5 Rf8 39.Kg6 1–0

The young chess players were reminded of the key concepts: mobility and center control. The process of thinking about a position through the steps of evaluation, plans, and then moves will be reinforced in subsequent weeks.

Bonus Position

Schlechter did not play 10...Nc6. What tactical shot refutes this error?

White to move
r1b1k2r/pp3ppp/2n1p3/q7/1b1PP3/5N2/P2B1PPP/1R1QKB1R w Kkq - 0 11

Irving Chernev offers the answer.

*My after school chess clubs begin this week, and so these youth did not get the lessons from Rubinstein -- Duras, 1908. The home link classes have been meeting for two weeks.

1 comment:

  1. White would appear to be clearly winning. 1.a4 with Rb7 idea appears very strong, but Black is so bound up that White is taking time to cut out ...h4 and Ng4+ possibilities, while trying to threaten to win the Bd7 outright by g5, removing the defender.

    The bonus position tactic is 1.Rxb4 NxR, 2.Qb3 (winning 2 pieces for the rook), but in any case White has a large positional advantage and could most likely keep it with other moves.