02 August 2017

Alekhine -- Lugowski 1931

An unusual smother checkmate piqued my interest. It is presented in Mikhail Tal and Victor Khenkin, Tal's Winning Chess Combinations (1979), where it is credited as Alekhin -- Lugovsky 1931 (58). Due to spelling variances, my initial efforts to turn up the game score fell short. However, the game is in ChessBase database with the spelling Lugowski, and also on Chessgames.com. The game appears in John Donaldson, Nikolay Minev, and Yasser Seirawan, Alekhine in Europe and Asia (1993), spelled Lugovski.

The game was played as part of a simul during Alekhine's tour of Yugoslavia between two blitz tournaments in Ljubljana (12 December 1930) and Zagreb (25 January 1931). Alekhine in Europe and Asia contains 47 games from this tour and a table compiling his score through 555 games in 17 events (70-76).

Alekhine,Alexander -- Lugowski,S [C25]
Belgrade 1931

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Qg4

Already, Black must make an unpleasant choice.

Black to move


I do not agree with the Chessgames.com user who identifies this move as the losing one.

4...g6 is the most popular try, and was played in Larsen -- Portisch, Santa Monica 1966, which continued 5.Qf3 Nf6 6.Nge2 d6 (here ECO recommends 6...Bf8) 7.d3 Bg4 8.Qg3 h6 9.f4 Qe7 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.Qxg4 Nf6 12.Qh3 Larsen went on to win in 53 moves.

4...Kf8 has been tried fairly often. Of note is a game won by Viswanathan Anand when he was a teenager 5.Qg3 d6 6.Nge2 Nd4 (6...h5 might be better) 7.Nxd4 exd4 8.Na4 Be6 9.Bxe6 fxe6 10.Nxc5 dxc5 11.Qb3 Qc8 12.Qf3+ Ke7 13.Qg3 Kf7 14.Qf4+ Kg6 15.Qg4+ Kf6 16.d3 Anand,V (2405) --Ravisekhar,R (2390), New Delhi 1986 (57 moves).

4...Nd4 5.Qxg7 Qf6 6.Qxf6 Nxf6 7.Bd3 has occurred in a few games.

4...Bf8 led to a miniature worthy of analysis. 5.Qg3 d6 6.Nge2 Nf6 7.f4 exf4 8.Nxf4 Nd4 9.Qd3 Nc6 10.Qg3 Nd4 11.0–0 g6 12.Qf2 Nxc2 13.d4 Nxa1 14.Nfd5 Bg7 15.Bg5 0–0 16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Bxf6 Qd7 18.Qf4 1–0 Genzling,A (2408) -- Migot,T (2257), Belfort 2012.

5.Nd5 Qxf2+

There is no better option. Here also, the comments on Chessgames.com are less than helpful.

5...Qg6 is no good. 6.Qxg6 hxg6 7.Nxc7+ Kd8 8.Nxa8+-.
5...Bxf2+ is just as bad 6.Kf1 Qg6 7.Qxg6 hxg6 8.Nxc7+ Kd8 9.Nxa8 Bxg1+-.

6.Kd1 Kf8

6...Bf8 was played in Lengyl -- Ruck in the 1995 championship of Hungary and Black won. Lengyl played 7.Nh3, but a better line seems 7.Nxc7+ Kd8 8.Nxa8 d5 9.Qe2 Qxe2+ 10.Bxe2 when White has the upper hand.

7.Nh3 Qd4?

7...h5! 8.Qg5 Qd4 9.d3 and White's threats are not yet decisive.


Black to move


Black defends c7, but the knight on d5 also targets e7.

8...d6 was played by none other than Mikhail Chigorin, who also lost quickly. 9.Qh4 Bxh3 10.Qxh3 Na5 11.Rf1 Nxc4 12.Qd7 f6 13.Nxf6 Qf2 14.Rxf2 Bxf2 15.Nh5 1–0 Mieses,J (2467) -- Chigorin,M (2546), Ostend 1906.

8...h5 still seems worthwhile. 9.Qf3 d6

8...Nf6 9.Nxf6 d5 10.c3 Bxg4+ 11.Nxg4 dxc4 12.cxd4 is better than was played against Alekhine.

9.Rf1 Nd8

A sad looking move, but Black is already lost.

10.c3 Qc5 11.Ng5

White has five pieces attacking Black's king.


A defensive fork

11...f6 seems reasonable, but also loses.


Threatening a discovered attack against the knight with a fork of king and queen.

Black to move

12...d6 1–0

12...Ke8 would have held out longer.

According to Donaldson, et al., Alekhine announced a checkmate in four (74). This checkmate is what caught my interest in Tal and Khenkin's book.

Do you see it?


  1. 13.Nxh7+ Kg8 (otherwise 14.Qe7# or 14.Qd8#) 14.Ne7+ Kxh7 15.Qxh6+ gxh6 16.Rxf7

    Reminds me of the end of Carlsen-Karjakin!

    1. Omg I am bad. Smothered mate beginning with 1.Ne6+.

      Now if you remove the knight on d8, smothered mate is not possible because the back rank is defended after 1.Ne6, and my line becomes correct :)

    2. It's not easy to see--kinda unorthodox as smother mates go. The book Tal's Winning Chess Combinations is full of gems like this one.

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  3. 13.Ne6+ Nxe6 14.Qe7+ Kg8 15. Qe8+ Nf8 16 Ne7 mate. Nice.