28 April 2013

Drawing Combination

In my round two game in the Inland Empire Open, I chose the wrong way to build up pressure on f7. I thought that I had chances to win back the lost pawn, but wanted to circumvent a bishop's blocking defense. I failed to see the forced draw.

White to move

27 April 2013


My play the first day of the Inland Empire Open revealed my capacity for error. Generosity from my opponents saved me. I made errors early, but they returned the favor when it mattered most. In the first game, I dropped a piece through miscalculation. The error gave me an attack and drove my opponent's king into the center. He missed several key moves and let me back into the game.

His last chance to maintain an advantage passed when he played 34.Kd5?? here.

White to move

In round two, I played a few inaccurate moves that gave my opponent clear initiative and an extra pawn. He weakened the squares around his king in response to smoke and mirrors (phantom threats along the f-file). He then threw the game my way with 39...Bxb2??

Black to move


Now that my bullet binge has run its course, and I've elevated my bullet rating a few points higher than when it began, it is time for chess that is a little more deliberate. In game 15, players have time to think. Combinations are possible.

Yesterday morning, I defended well against my opponent's threats and finally reached a position with a slight edge. My king needed to march into the center of the board where he could fend for himself. Instead I sent him into a corner where he was swiftly executed.

Black to move

After 43...Ke6, Black has a slight edge. I played 43...Kg8, walking into a checkmate in two. My opponent had a few seconds left. I had a few minutes left on the clock.

A few games later, my opponent crushed me but then let me have a tactic.

Black to move

I played 27...Nf4+, which leads no where unless White plays 28.gxf4?? He did.

In chess, players win because their opponents err. Some errors are so bad that a player wants to scream. These often stem from a moment of relaxation after the complicated period has ended.

25 April 2013


Blitz is full of blunders. Play on and hope, and sometimes you are rewarded with a win.

Stripes, J (1858) - Internet Opponent (1928) [A40]
Live Chess Chess.com, 24.04.2013

1.d4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.e3 c5 4.c3 cxd4 5.cxd4 d6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Ng5 0–0 8.0–0 Nc6 9.Nd2 e5 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.a3 Bg4 12.Qb3 Qe7 13.Nde4 Na5 14.Qc3 Nxc4 15.Qxc4 Rac8=

16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Qxg4 Bxg5 18.e4 Bxc1 19.Raxc1 Rxc1 20.Rxc1 Qd6 21.h4?! Qd2 22.Rc8??–+ Qxb2 

Black wins easily with 22...Qe1+ 23.Kh2 Qxf2

23.h5 Qxa3 24.h6 f5 25.Rxf8+ Qxf8?? 

25...Kxf8 maintains a winning advantage

26.exf5-/= Qxf5 27.Qc4+= Kf8 28.Qc5+ Ke8


29.Qb5+ Ke7 30.Qb4+ Ke6 31.Qb3+ Kf6 32.Qxb7 g5 33.Qa6+ Qe6 34.Qxa7 Qf5 35.f3=

29...Qc8 30.Qa4+ Qc6 31.Qa8+ Ke7 32.Qh8 Qc1+ -/+ 33.Kh2 Qxh6+ 34.Kg1 Qc1+ 35.Kh2 Qf4+ 36.Kg1 h5 37.Qg7+ Qf7 38.Qxe5+ Kd7 39.Qd4+ Kc7 40.Qc5+ Kb8 41.Qe5+ Qc7 42.Qe8+ Ka7 



43...Qc5 44.Qe4 b5 45.g3 b4 46.Qh7+ -/+ Ka6 47.Qd7 Ka5 48.Kg2–+

48...b3 49.Qd2+ Ka4 50.Qd7+ Qb5 51.Qd4+ Ka5 52.Qa7+ Kb4 53.Qd4+ Qc4 54.Qd6+ Kc3 55.Qf6+ Kc2 56.Qf5+ Qd3 57.Qxh5 b2 58.Qc5+ Kd2 59.Qg5+ Ke1 60.Qe5+


The final blunder.

60...Qe2-+ wins

61.Qxb2 Qe4+ 62.Kh3 Qh7+ 63.Kg2 Qe4+ 64.Kh3 Qf5+ 65.Kg2 Qe4+ 66.Kh2 Qh7+ 67.Kg1 Qe4 68.Qb3+ Ke2 69.Qe3+ Qxe3 70.fxe3 Kxe3 

We reach an instructive pawn ending. My opponent had less than fifteen seconds left to my minute, but with the clock times reversed, I would still have winning chances. No thought is needed to play this ending thanks to many hours of practice.

71.Kg2 Ke4 72.Kh3 Kf5 73.Kh4 Kg6 74.Kg4 Kh6 75.Kf5 Kh5 76.g4+ Kh6 77.Kf6 Kh7 78.g5 Kh8 79.Kf7 Kh7 80.g6+ Kh6 81.g7 Kg5 82.g8Q+ Kf4 83.Qe8 Kf3 84.Kf6 Kf2 85.Kf5 Kf1 86.Kf4 Kf2 87.Qe3+ 1–0

24 April 2013

Beating the Bird

Before criticizing my opponent's errors, it must be noted that the game was played at bullet time control and that he might have been using premove.

Internet Opponent - Stripes, J [A02]
Live Chess Chess.com, 22.04.2013

1.f4 e5

The From Gambit is one of the lines I employ in over the board and correspondence play, too. It is not only for bullet.

2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5!?

This is the "take no prisoners" line of the From.

White to move

5.e4?! g4 6.e5??

6.d4 was necessary

6...gxf3 7.exd6 Qh4+ 8.g3

Black to move

8...Qe4+ 9.Kf2

9.Be2 fxe2 10.Qxe2 Qxe2+ 11.Kxe2 cxd6–+

9...Qd4+ 10.Ke1

10.Kxf3 Bg4+ 11.Kg2 Qd5+ 12.Kf2 Bxd1 13.Bg2 Qf5+–+

10...f2+ 11.Ke2 Bg4# 0–1

17 April 2013

Lesson of the Week

This week ends the scholastic chess season for most of those whom I teach and coach, as the Washington State Elementary Chess Championship is Saturday. Those who receive their instruction as part of a class, rather than a club, will continue for another month or a few weeks more. The clubs end this week.

Our problem position comes from the game that provided last week's lesson. Then, we looked at Louis Paulsen's opening errors and the waltz of Wilhelm Steinitz's king. This week, we look at the combination that concludes the game. Steinitz chose the second best continuation from the diagram. We examine both, and any others that young players suggest as looking promising for White.

Steinitz,William -- Paulsen,Louis [C25]
Baden-Baden 30.07.1870

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ 5.Ke2 d6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Bxf4 0–0–0 8.Ke3 Qh5 9.Be2 Qa5? 10.a3 Bxf3 11.Kxf3± Qh5+ 12.Ke3 Qh4 13.b4? g5? 14.Bg3 Qh6 15.b5 Nce7 16.Rf1 Nf6 17.Kf2 Ng6 18.Kg1+- Qg7 19.Qd2 h6 20.a4 Rg8 21.b6! axb6 22.Rxf6! Qxf6 23.Bg4+ Kb8 24.Nd5 Qg7 25.a5 f5 26.axb6 cxb6 27.Nxb6 Ne7 28.exf5 Qf7

White to move


Even better was 29.Ra8+ Kc7 30.Qa5 Nc6 31.Nd5+ Kd7 32.Qc7+ Ke8 33.Bh5+-

29...Nc6 30.c4 Na7 31.Qa2 Nb5 32.Nd5 Qxd5 33.cxd5 Nxd4 34.Qa7+ Kc7 35.Rc1+ Nc6 36.Rxc6# 1–0

16 April 2013

Should be Elementary

Speed kills.

Through the past week, I have been playing less blitz. More importantly, I have been analyzing my games after playing them. It is humbling to observe elementary mistakes.

After botching the opening (the Black side of an English), I was let back into the game through my opponent's errors. I reached a clearly won position.

Black to move

Over the course of the next three moves, I repeatedly failed to make the winning move. Then, my position became worse and I lost.

Missing the same correct move three moves in a row suggests there was an oversight that might be addressed through training. Perhaps I can work some tactics exercises that incorporate this pattern.

15 April 2013

A Small Library

In an important text that is not pictured here, Max Euwe opined:
The development of a chess player runs parallel with that of chess itself; a study of the history of playing methods therefore has great practical value.
The Development of Chess Style (1968), n.p.
Euwe's notion that growth in individual chess skill follows a pattern that parallels historic development often occupies my thoughts. It forms part of my rationale for favoring nineteenth and early-twentieth century games as a principal source for the lessons I develop for young players. It keeps me going back to the classics for my own skill development.

Culled from a much larger collection of chess books, these ten books as a body emphasize the development and practice of positional chess at the beginning of what came to be called the Modern School or Steinitz School. Several of them have been among my principal study and teaching aids through the past seven months.

Paul Morphy's play precedes the Modern School, but Valeri Beim argues in Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective (2005) that Morphy understood the principles that others would articulate, principles that would revolutionize chess. Beim's text is the first one on the left in the image. It has great value for contributing to an understanding of Morphy's positional knowledge, but it falls short as historical scholarship (see "Footnote to Morphy's Mate").

Irving Chernev's texts draw from the era of Wilhelm Steinitz and Emanuel Lasker, contain several games by Akiba Rubinstein, and also include games by the likes of Jose R. Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine, and even players who were active at the time Chernev was writing. As works of history, his texts are worse than useless: he makes up stories that cannot be verified through reference to primary texts. "My First Chess Book" was Chernev's The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (1955), which makes frequent claims of checkmate being announced over the board before a forced sequence was played. There should be no doubt that such conversations have taken place in the annuls of chess history, but Chernev's claims are often suspect.

Nonetheless, The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played (1965) and Logical Chess: Move by Move (1998 [1957]) have tremendous instructive value. Sometimes the value of his writing stems from the efforts of readers who fill in the gaps in his analysis (see "Chernev's Errors"). Chernev's assessment of the contribution of Steinitz offers a kernel of wisdom.
[I]t is from Steinitz and his queer moves that we learn so much about game-winning strategy. It is from Steinitz, whose play might have horrified La Bourdonnais and Morphy, that we discover the fundamentals of position play.
Most Instructive Games, 166
Morphy would more likely have been appreciative of Steinitz's play, but Chernev can be forgiven for adopting a view that is commonly shared by many. It was from Chernev's Most Instructive Games that I found the inspiration and analysis that led me to begin the 2012-2013 school year with lessons from the games of Akiba Rubinstein (see "Lesson of the Week" [18 September 2012]).

Lessons from Rubinstein
As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, positional play became the focus of top chess players. The elements of positional understanding were first articulated by Wilhelm Steinitz, followed by Siegbert Tarrasch, and others.
James Stripes, "Positional Play: Lessons from Akiba Rubinstein"
After studying a few of Rubinstein's games in Chernev's Most Instructive Games and Logical Chess, I ordered a copy of John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (1994). This book, a chess set, and my puppies were my companions in Eden while my wife attended a retreat there. Through the next two months, as a warm fall gave way to winter, Rubinstein's games occupied the bulk of my study time.

Donaldson and Minev did extensive historical research for Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King and The Life & Games of Akiva Rubinstein, Volume 2: The Later Years, 2nd edition (2011). These books resemble anthogies in the way that they present the annotations to Rubinstein's games. These annotations of many earlier works by several authors are integrated into the game scores with initials identifying sources that are listed at the end of the book. Unlike the vast majority of chess books published today, Donaldson and Minev's comments are sourced and verifiable. Although their documentation does not quite meet the rigor expected of professional historians, they set a standard that other chess books should emulate (see "Rubinstein's Rook Endings").

Having spent so much time with Uncrowned King in late 2012, I was certain to pack my copy of the book along in February for John Donaldson's annual simul on the eve of the Dave Collyer Memorial Chess Tournament. Donaldson graciously agreed to autograph the book upon my request. It was then a pleasant surprise during the tournament itself, that among the books he brought for sale (Donaldson always brings books) was the new edition of his second volume on Rubinstein. I bought the text and asked for another autograph.

In the Introduction to this second edition, the authors present a rationale for studying these old games. Referring to Rubinstein -- Salwe, Lodz 1908, which is also found as Game 20 in Logical Chess, Donaldson and Minev note its significance.
Akiva's play against the Tarrasch variation of the Queen's Gambit, in which he gives Black hanging pawns and blockades the d4- and c5-squares, is part of the technical knowledge of every master today. Knowing what happened to Salwe, modern players will take radical action rather than acquiesce to a static disadvantage. Rubinstein's games, in which the great master was often given carte blanche to implement long-term plans, are still models for students wishing to learn positional chess.
Life & Games of Akiva Rubinstein (2011), 7
Yesterday, in a blitz game, I had this game in mind as I sacrificed pawns to lock Black's light-squared bishop out of the action. My efforts nearly succeeded until, in time pressure, I missed the winning idea and then even blew a technical draw. In contrast to this game, Viswanathan Anand scored a brilliant victory over Levon Aronian in the recent Tata Steel Grandmaster Tournament by sacrificing material to release this bishop. In the En Passant interview after the game, Anand mentioned Rotlewi -- Rubinstein as the inspiration for his play. The authors of Uncrowned King call Anand's inspiration "Rubinstein's Immortal Game" (95).

Steinitz, Lasker, Tarrasch
In spite of his youth [Rubinstein] has acquired the set and sound style (suitable of his temperament) of Dr. Tarrasch. As a matter of fact he acknowledges his indebtedness to the latter, whose book of 300 games he has thoroughly studied.
C.T. Blanchard, Western Daily Mercury (29 June 1907)*
Garry Kasparov calls Rubinstein the "brightest" of the "new generation of followers of the Steinitz School" that emerged on the competitive chess scene in the early years of the twentieth century (My Great Predecessors, Part 1 [2003], 187). Kasparov's comment led me to consider the so-called Steinitz School in more detail following two months of focus on Rubinstein.

Lasker's Manual of Chess (1960 [1932]) has been in my personal library for many years. It is a remarkable text offering instruction in all phases of the chess game--opening, ending, middlegame strategy, combinations. It also offers Lasker's inimitable views of the ancient and modern history of the game. His writing sometimes seems ponderous as he struggles to elevate ideas concerning chess up to a level of life philosophy. Some of his remarks concerning the contribution of Steinitz illustrate this tendency.
Principles, though dwelling in the realm of thought, are rooted in Life. There are so many thoughts which have no roots and these are more glittering and more seductive than the sound ones. Therefore, in order to distinguish between the true and the false principles, Steinitz had to dig deep to lay bare the roots of art possessed by Morphy. ...
     The world did not listen but mocked at him. How should this insignificant-looking person have discovered anything great?
     So the world spoke and acted accordingly, but the world was entirely mistaken. The world would have benefited if it had given Steinitz a chance. He was a thinker worthy of a seat in the halls of a University.
Lasker's Manual of Chess, 187
Perhaps ten years ago, I pored through some portions of Lasker's Manual that had a lasting impact on me. In particular, I was impressed by his honesty and objectivity in annotating a loss to Harry Nelson Pillsbury. Many times while playing in tournaments, Lasker's words, "Black wants to set White a task" (247), have echoed in my head. An object in competition is to offer one's opponent problems to solve. If he or she solves them correctly, play may result in neither player gaining an advantage. In this game, Lasker criticizes his own loss of time in his manner of bringing his pieces into play through the first few moves. As a chess coach teaching choldren, I designed my first lessons concerning positional chess on the basis of Lasker's annotations.

Lasker's Common Sense in Chess (1965 [1917]) is the print version of a series of lectures that he presented in London shortly after he became World Chess Champion. The book offers a brief and useful primer in the basic principles of chess strategy. Lasker's lectures were, perhaps, one of the earliest expressions of the rule that one should deploy knights before bishops in the opening.

Lasker is sometimes undervalued in discussions concerning the development of the modern school. Although he calls himself a "player" and favored psychological play against his opponent over objective consideration of the board, when he expressed tenets of positional play, he was very much a student of Steinitz, or an ally in advocacy of Modern Chess.

Wilhelm Steinitz, The Modern Chess Instructor (1895) is an essential text for the chess historian. The Preface offers a précis of the tenets of the Modern School, as well as many practical ideas for individual chess improvement (see "Principles of Chess Training"). The bulk of the book, however, offers an opening manual that must be regarded as terribly out of date. Indeed, Steinitz sometimes opted to ignore his own recommendations in practical play (see "Steinitz Defense").

The most systematic expression of the principles of chess strategy as they were understood by those of the Modern School should find articulation, one would expect, in Seigbert Tarrasch, The Game of Chess (1987 [1935]). That, at least, was the reason I bought the text. But, I have spent far more time going through Tarrasch, Three Hundred Chess Games (1999), a translation of the now classic Dreihundert Schachpartien (1896), which reputedly served the great Rubinstein so well in his quest for chess excellence.

In these ten books are enough of value to serve well during a lifetime of study.

*As quoted in John Donaldson, and Nikolay Minev, Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (Seattle: International Chess Enterprises, 1994), 56.

14 April 2013

Smith-Morra Gambit Prehistory

When Johann Jacob Löwenthal took over editorship of The Chess Player's Magazine in 1865, he expressed his intent to "devote considerable space" to opening theory.
While endeavouring to systematize as far as possible those openings which have already been brought before the public, I shall submit to a searching analysis several others which have not yet found their way into print. The analysis of new methods of attack and defense will probably engage the attention of Chess players for an unlimited period. The Chess Player's Magazine (1865), 2-3
The first game presented offers an early version of what would come to be called the Smith-Morra Gambit, albeit with a slightly different move order. The game does not appear in the ChessBase database.

The player of the White pieces is presented as Mr. Calthorp (errata in the front of the volume notes the correct spelling should be Calthrop). Is he Samuel Robert Calthrop who played in the First American Chess Congress? Louis Paulsen eliminated Calthrop in the first round of that event, and these three games are the only games by any player named Calthrop in the ChessBase database. Perhaps it is notable that Calthrop played an early version of the Grand Prix Attack (also ECO B 21) in the third game of the match with Paulsen.

Samuel Robert Calthrop ran a boy's school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was originally from England. It is possible that he might have made a trip back to the mother country and played a few games of chess while there. On the other hand, perhaps he had a relative who was also a chess player with a knack for offbeat lines against the Sicilian Defense.

Here is the game with Löwenthal's annotations. I have converted English descriptive to algebraic, but otherwise reproduced the annotations as they appear in The Chess Player's Magazine (1865), 9-11.

Calthrop, [Samuel Robert?] -- Kennedy, Hugh Alexander [B21]
[ Löwenthal]

The following Sicilian Opening, adopted by so accomplished a veteran as Captain H. A. Kennedy, constitutes a good specimen of this début.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Bc4

The move generally played here is 4.Nxd4.

4...e6 5.c3

This move, which contributes so important and interesting a variation in the Scotch Gambit, and which may be safely adopted in that opening, is not so good in this début, as Black may, without disadvantage, take the Pawn with Pawn. White would gain no advantage by bringing his Queen's Knight into play, as Black's Pawns form a perfectly safe entrenchment against any attack.

5...dxc3 6.Nxc3 Bc5 7.0–0 d6 8.Be3 Nf6

Exchanging Bishops would have considerably weakened the Queen's Pawn, which could not be maintained against the attacking forces White could bring to bear.


9.e5 appears to be more attacking, and leads to some interesting variations.

9...dxc5 10.Qc2 0–0 11.e5 Ng4 12.Rad1 Qe7 13.Rfe1 a6 14.h3 Nh6 15.Ne4 b5 16.Nfg5

Threatening Mate in two moves by playing Nf6+, &c.

16...Nf5 17.Bd3 Nxe5 18.f4 Nxd3 19.Qxd3 c4 20.Qc2 g6 21.g4 Ng7 22.Qf2 h6 23.Qh4

An interesting position (see Diagram).


It is obvious that taking the proffered Knight would have involved the immediate loss of the game.

24.gxh5 Nxh5 25.Ng3 Qc5+

The correct move, by which Black is enabled to escape danger.


The only move, for if 26.Kh1 Bb7+ and wins, or 26.Kh2 Qf2+ and wins.

26...Nxg3+ 27.Qxg3 Kg7 28.Qc3+ Kg8

Had Blck interposed the Pawn, White would have taken e-pawn with Rook.

29.Ne4 b4

Very well played, forcing White to abandon the diagonal, commanded by his Queen.

30.Nf6+ Kh8 31.Qg3 Kg7 32.Re5 Qe7 33.Nh5+ Kh6 34.f5

White has exhausted all his resources.

34. Rd5, an apparently good move, would not have led to any advantage; Black would have replied with f5, rendering his game perfectly safe.

34...gxh5 35.h4 Qf6 36.Qf4+ Kh7 37.Rd2 exf5 38.Rg2 Rg8 39.Rxg8 Kxg8 40.Re8+ Kg7 41.Qg3+ Kh7 42.Qf3 Qxh4 43.Qxa8

White might, perhaps, have done better to take Rxc8, but even in that case Black would have won by numerical superiority of the Pawns.

43...Qf4+ 44.Kg1 Qc1+ 45.Kf2 Qxb2+ 46.Re2 Qd4+ 47.Kf1 Qd1+ 48.Re1 Qd3+ 49.Re2 Be6 50.Qxa6 f4 51.Qc6 f3 52.Qe4+ Bf5 53.Qxd3 Bxd3 0–1

11 April 2013

Lesson of the Week

I varied the procedure this week. As usual, there was a chess position on the demonstration board. A few players offered suggestions for Black (the player to move). "Is the best move ____," students would ask. My reply, "I do not know." At the appointed time, we went through the first eighteen moves of the game leading to the position on the demonstration board.

Steinitz,William -- Paulsen,Louis [C25]
Baden-Baden 30.07.1870

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4

White opts for what came to be known as the Steinitz Gambit. Subjected to checks, his king takes a walk. We should expect Black to gain an advantage, but aside from the first check, what does Black gain from so many queen moves?

"Do not try this at home. Steinitz was a trained professional," I told the students regarding the march of the White king to the center of the board in the opening.

4.Nf3 would have been safe and sensible.

4...Qh4+ 5.Ke2 d6 6.Nf3

Attacking the queen.


Defending the queen with a pin.

White to move

7.Bxf4 0–0–0 8.Ke3

Breaking the pin on the knight.

8...Qh5 9.Be2 

Black to move


In 1987, Arthur Bisguier found the correct move: 9...f5 striking at White's center while the king is vulnerable. Bisguier went on to win his game.

10.a3 Bxf3

Black should have played 10...Nf6=


11.Bxf3? allows 11...g5 exploiting the weakness of d4 12.Bg3 Bg7

11...Qh5+ 12.Ke3 Qh4 13.b4?

13.g3 is better 13...Qe7 14.Kf2±

Black to move


Here also, 13...f5 is the correct move 14.g3 Qe7=

14.Bg3 Qh6 15.b5 Nce7 16.Rf1 Nf6

16...f5 is still worth playing

17.Kf2 Ng6 18.Kg1+-

Black to move

We reach the position that confronted the students at the start. White has a clear advantage. White's king took a stroll into danger, but Black made as as many queen moves as White did king moves. Checks and threats with the queen proved insufficient. Black needed to rip open White's center while the king was there.

Now, the plans for both sides are clear: White will continue to advance the queenside pawns and use his pieces in attack against the Black king. Black will try to advance on White's king with his queen and knights.

White's pieces are better coordinated for the attack, and consequently create problems for Black's monarch much faster than Black's efforts at counterplay.

Next week, we will look at Steinitz's combination at the end of this game.

09 April 2013

Solve This

Black to move

Click on the label, "Solve This," below and solve all of the problems.

08 April 2013

Black wins a Pawn

Sometimes in the French Defense, White blunders away a pawn to a simple tactic. I have had Black in the first diagram position no less than 54 times in online play, winning 33 games. In the most recent game, I lost on time in a rook ending in which I still had a one pawn advantage.

Black to move

This tactic may present itself in other openings, too. A strange Sicilian led to the next position on Saturday.

Black to move

The third position occurred in a tournament two months ago. It is the most complicated, as it appears at first glance that White can recover the pawn.

Black to move

07 April 2013

Correct Play

Is there a correct way to play every conceivable chess position? We know from tablebases that many endings have more than one "most efficient" route to checkmate. Does the same hold true for positions in the early middle game?

Consider Rubinstein's instructive victory over Georg Salwe in 1908.

Rubinstein,Akiba - Salwe,Georg [D33]
Lodz, 1908

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.g3 Nc6 7.Bg2 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qb6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.0–0 Be7

White to move

11.Na4 Qb5 12.Be3 0–0 13.Rc1 Bg4 14.f3 Be6 15.Bc5 Rfe8 16.Rf2 Nd7 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.Qd4 Ree8 19.Bf1 Rec8 20.e3 Qb7 21.Nc5 Nxc5 22.Rxc5 Rc7 23.Rfc2 Qb6 24.b4 a6 25.Ra5 Rb8 26.a3 Ra7 27.Rxc6 Qxc6 28.Qxa7 Ra8 29.Qc5 Qb7 30.Kf2 h5 31.Be2 g6 32.Qd6 Qc8 33.Rc5 Qb7 34.h4 a5 35.Rc7 Qb8 36.b5 a4 37.b6 Ra5 38.b7 1–0

The diagram position has been reached 66 times in the ChessBase Online Database. Five different moves have been tried by White, and all have a positive score. Rubinstein's 11.Na4 is the second most popular move. More popular is 11.e4, first played by Frank Marshall in 1912.

Isaak Boleslavsky demonstrated a winning plan with 11.e4 in 1953.

Boleslavsky,Isaak - Stoltz,Goesta [D33]
Bucharest, 1953

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Qb6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Bg2 Nf6 10.0–0 Be7 11.e4 dxe4 12.Be3 Qxb2 13.Nxe4 0–0 14.Bd4 Qa3 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Qh5 Kg7 18.Rae1 Rb8 19.Bxc6 h6 20.Re4 f5 21.Rh4 Qd6 22.Qf3 Rb6 23.Bd5 Rd8 24.Qc3+ Qf6 25.Qxf6+ Rxf6 26.Bb3 f4 27.Rxf4 Rxf4 28.gxf4 Kf6 29.Rc1 Rg8+ 30.Kf1 Ba6+ 31.Ke1 Re8+ 32.Kd2 Rd8+ 33.Ke3 Re8+ 34.Kd4 Rd8+ 35.Ke3 Re8+ 36.Kd4 Rd8+ 37.Kc3 Rd7 38.Kb4 Bb7 39.Rc5 Bf3 40.Kc3 h5 41.h4 Re7 42.Kd4 Re1 43.Rc7 Re7 44.Rc5 Re1 45.Ra5 Re4+ 46.Kd3 Re7 47.Kc3 Re2 48.Rxa7 Kf5 49.Rxf7+ Kg4 50.f5 Rxf2 51.f6 1–0

Which move is superior? Rubinstein's game was called a perfect model game shortly after it was played, and yet Boleslavsky opted to follow Marshall's idea, which has become more popular. Are both lines equally correct?