04 October 2012

Rubinstein's Rook Endings

In Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (1994), John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev write, "it was in the ending, particularly Rook endings, that Rubinstein's genius was made manifest" (i). As a guide to beginning study of Rubinstein's endings, the authors provide a list of seven games featuring rook endings (v). The first two on this list are from the St. Petersburg tournament of 1909 in which Rubinstein and World Champion Emanuel Lasker shared first place. Rubinstein defeated Lasker in their individual encounter.

Rubinstein won a pawn in the opening, and then reached an endgame where Lasker's rook and king were forced into passive positions. Although I can see Rubinstein's clear advantage at the game's end, I am puzzled a bit concerning the moment Lasker chose to resign. As it followed Rubinstein's move 40, reaching the time control could have been a factor. However, according to Donaldson and Minev, the time control was reached at move 37 (144).

Rubinstein,Akiba -- Lasker,Emanuel [D32]
St Petersburg 1909

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nc3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nc6 8.e3 Be7 9.Bb5 Bd7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.Nxd5 Bxd4 12.exd4 Qg5 13.Bxc6 Bxc6 14.Ne3 0–0–0 15.0–0 Rhe8 16.Rc1 Rxe3 17.Rxc6+ bxc6 18.Qc1 Rxd4 19.fxe3 Rd7 20.Qxc6+ Kd8 21.Rf4 f5

White to move

After White's move 21, Lasker commented: "A splendid conception. ...Black's only alternative is to exchange Queens and lose the end game" (The International Chess Congress, St. Petersburg, 1909 [1910], 28). In the book of the tournament, Lasker does not analyze the ending after the exchange of queens. Donaldson and Minev present Lasker's comments alongside those from two books by Hans Kmoch, an earlier biography of Rubinstein by Yury Razuvaev and V.I. Murakhveri, and some unnamed text by Reuben Fine.* Fine, Basic Chess Endings (1941) discusses this game, and some of the analysis resembles that attributed to Fine in Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King. But, I am unable to locate the precise words in Fine's text. The words attributed to Lasker by Donaldson and Minev deviate slightly from the tournament book, and the authors correct a notation error in the original. I suspect the abundant comments attributed to others in Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King should be considered paraphrases, rather than quotations. In the game analysis portions, these statements are presented without quotation marks.

22.Qc5 Qe7 23.Qxe7+ Kxe7 24.Rxf5 Rd1+ 25.Kf2 Rd2+ 26.Kf3 Rxb2 27.Ra5 Rb7

White to move

Fine's analysis in Basic Chess Endings begins from this position (364-365).


Fine notes that 28.e4 "is also good, but to have the Black King confined is helpful" (364).

28...Kf8 29.e4 Rc7 30.h4 Kf7 31.g4 Kf8 32.Kf4 Ke7 33.h5 h6

"Why, one naturally asks, does Lasker create a hole at g6  with his Pawn move? The answer is that he cannot afford to let the White Pawn get to g6" (Fine, 364).

34.Kf5 Kf7 35.e5 Rb7 36.Rd6 Ke7 37.Ra6 Kf7 38.Rd6 Kf8 39.Rc6 Kf7

White to move

40.a3 1–0

Why resign now? The answer was not immediately obvious to me. Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King gives the move an ! and offers analysis attributed to Kmoch:
Zugzwang! 40...Re7 (or 40...Ke8 41.Kg6 and wins, since the only useful answer 41...Rb4 is prevented) 41.e6+ Kg8 42.Kg6 Re8 43.e7, followed by Rd6 and Rd8. (148)
Fine gives the move !!! and presents Kmoch's main line, as well as:
40...Kf8 41.Kg6 Rb3 42.Rc8+ Ke7 43.Rc7+ Ke6 44.Rxg7 Rxa3 45.Kxh6 and the two connected Pawns are irresistible. (365)
After studying the analysis in these two books, Lasker's resignation makes more sense to me.

*Donaldson and Minev state that space limitations prohibit a full listing of sources, but they list certain "most helpful" (315) works, including:
Kmoch, Hans. Rubinstein Gewinnt! (1933).
_____. Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces (1941).
Razuvaev, Yury, and V.I. Murakhveri. Akiba Rubinstein (1980).

They also list Lasker's tournament book.

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