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Emanuel Lasker vs Georg Marco
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 8, Jun-02
Queen's Gambit Declined: Three Knights Variation. General (D37)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Position after 41....Bd5. Hard to believe Black lost, isn't it?

Premium Chessgames Member
  dernier loup de T: After 87... Ba2 88. h7+ Kh8 89 Ktf7+ Bxf7 90.gxh7 Kxh7, Lasker had to avoid the stalemate by 91. h8Q??, and to play 81. h8R. in order to mate at the next move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A fine endgame by Lasker after his listless opening play. Lasker seemed to be asleep at the switch for the early part of this game, and was probably lost after his careless 20th move. But Marco (and the commentators as well) missed this opportunity, and a roughly even endgame was reached after 30 moves. Lasker then outplayed Marco, and when the latter erred badly by trading Knight for Bishop on his 39th turn, Lasker had a won ending. Marco resisted gamely for nearly 50 moves, but Lasker never allowed him to recover.

I respectfully disagree with keypusher's assessment of the position after 41...Bd5. As I will attempt to show in my notes on this game, Lasker had a winning position by that time.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 Be7
5. e3

While there is nothing much wrong with this move, it is unambitious--consistent with Lasker's approach to this game for the first 30 or so moves.

5... b6
6. Bd3 0-0
7. 0-0 dxc4
8. Bxc4 Bb7
9. Qe2 c5
10. Rd1 Qc8

10...Nbd7 seems better, but the text is certainly playable.

11. e4

Lasker's one effort to seize the initiative in the opening and middle-game here. But he quickly returned to his placid play--until the endgame was reached.

11... cxd4
12. Nxd4 Nc6
13. Nf3 a6
14. Bg5

Relinquishing any edge he enjoyed as White. Better was 14. Bf4.

14... b5

Misguided. 14...Rd8 was much better.

15. Bb3

More listless play by Lasker. 15. Bd3 gave him chances (after a later BxN and e5) to begin an attack.

15... Qc7
16. Rac1 Ng4
17. BxB

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book claims this move was forced (in light of Black's threat to play 17...BxB after which White cannot recapture with his Knight because of the mate threat on h2). In fact, 17. g3 was also OK, though the text is probably best.

17... QxB

If 17...NxB? 18. Nd5! wins immediately.

18. Ne1

18. e5 was better. The position was now:

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As is obvious, Lasker's indifferent opening play has gotten him a playable but lifeless position.

18... Qh4
19. h3 Nge5
20. Kh2?

A rare oversight by Lasker, who should have played 20. Qe3. The position now was:

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Although not noted by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book (or noticed by Marco), Black has a likely win here with 20...Nd4! If then 21. Qd2 [needless to say, 21. Qe3 loses to 21...Ng4+] 21...Rad8 and White is in trouble.

20... Rfd8?

Missing his chance. Lasker did not give him another in this game.

21. g3

This solves most of his problems, but 21. f3 was perhaps more accurate.

21... Qe7

Giving up nearly all of the remaining advantage he had obtained from Lasker's weak 20th move. 21...Qh6 was much better.

22. f4 Ng6
23. Qe3

Lasker is still playing without his usual precision. 23. Qf2 was better.

23... Na5
24. Nd3 Rac8
25. Ne2

More listless play by Lasker. More ambitious and better was 25. h4.

25... RxR
26. RxR

Still more careless (but not fatal) play by Lasker. Better was 26. NexR. The text loses time (see White's 28th move).

26... NxB
27. axN Qd6

27...h5 was better. The position was now:

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Chances are about even. Lasker certainly did not enjoy any advantage at this point. But from here on Lasker emerged from his slumbers and played like a demon. By move 39, he had a won game. How Lasker accomplished this will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

After Marco's 27...Qd6, the game was very much in the balance. If anything, Marco had a slight advantage. This soon turned around, and Lasker's play from this point on was superb.

28. Rd1

As Rosenthal notes in the Tournament Book, Lasker's move was superior to the tempting 28. Nc5. But this latter move was not as bad as Rosenthal suggests. Following Rosenthal's line: 28. Nc5 Qd2 (28...Bc6 was better, and would have given Marco a slight edge) 29. QxQ RxQ, which Rosenthal claimed favored Black, would in fact have led to an approximately equal position.

28... a5

Rosenthal claims that 28...f5 would have led to a won game for White after 29. Nf2 Qe7 30. RxR+ QxR 31. exf5 exf5 32. Qe6+ Kh8 33. Qxf5. But the position then would have been:

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White here is nominally a pawn ahead, but the edge here is hardly decisive.

In any case, Marco's actual move (28...a5) was far better than 28...f5.

29. Nc3 Qd4

Allowing Lasker to reduce to an endgame in which any advantage Marco had enjoyed is gone. 29...Qb8 was more enterprising.

30. QxQ RxQ

The position was now:

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31. Nxb5

This is the closest thing to a mistake by Lasker in the final 57 moves of the game. While the text is natural and leads to an even endgame, 31. Kg1 was stronger. If Marco had then tried to win a pawn with 31...Bxe4 (best here was 31...Rd8 after which Lasker would have had at best a small advantage) Lasker would have had a win with 32. NxB RxN 33. Nc5! The position would then be:

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Lasker would here be down a pawn but would win at least a piece after Black moved his threatened Rook (34. Rd8+ Nf8 35. Nd7).

Back going back to the actual game:

31... Rxe4
32. Nc3 Rd4
33. Nc5 RxR
34. NxR

The position was now:

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Chances are now theoretically about even. But Lasker was one of the greatest endgame players of all time, as he now proceeds to demonstrate.

34... Bf3

34...Bd5 was better.

35. Ne3 Ne7
36. Nc4 Nc6
37. Nb7 Nd4

Weak. 37...Nb4 was much better. Lasker is slowly getting the better position.

38. Nbxa5 Bd5
39. Kg1

The position was now:

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Lasker was nominally up a pawn here. Marco hastens to regain the extra nearly worthless (doubled) pawn. In so doing, he gives Lasker a winning endgame:

39... Nxb3?

He should have played 39...Kf8

40. NxN BxN
41. Nd2 Bd5

The position was now:

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As I will discuss in my next post, this position, drawish looking as it may appear, is in fact a win for White--as Lasker proceeds to demonstrate.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

When I first played over this game, I considered the game to be about even at this point (i.e., after 41...Bd5) and assumed that Marco (since he lost) must have blundered. In fact, Marco defends tenaciously for the next 46 moves. But, as Lasker is about to show us, Black has no defense.

As Lasker obviously recognized, he has three key advantages here: (a) an outside passed pawn; (b) the better minor piece, since once Lasker plays h4 Black's Bishop will be unable to attack any of White's King-side pawns; and (c) Black dare not trade off his weak Bishop for Lasker's monster Knight since the pawn ending would be lost for him.

Given White's advantages, Lasker's winning procedure consisted of three stages, none of which were easy but none of which Marco could withstand: (i) advance his b-pawn to lure Black's King to the Queen-side to capture it; (ii) with Black's King on the other wide of the board, pick off all of Marco's pawns; and (iii) win the resulting tricky King plus Knight plus two pawns versus King and Bishop ending.

Make no mistake about it, this is a tough endgame to win. I studied it for a long time with the help of Fritz 15 and discovered that my silicon friend did not understand the ending anywhere nearly as well as did Lasker. Indeed, Fritz made several errors that would have allowed Marco to save the game. Lasker, by contrast, gave Marco no chance whatsoever. At some points Lasker may have missed faster roads to victory, but he never came close to letting his win slip.

Now let's enjoy Lasker's gorgeous technique, beginning with Phase I--advancing the b-pawn and forcing Black's King to come to the Queen-side to capture it, thus abandoning the Black pawns on the other wing.

42. Kf2!

The King is a fighting piece. The text is the only winning move, since Lasker must prevent Marco's King from penetrating.

42... Kf8
43. Ke3!

Another essential move.

43... Ke7
44. Kd4!

Also essential to Lasker's winning procedure.

The position was now:

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44... h5

44...Kd6 was no better. Lasker would then play 45. Nc4+. An indication of how tough this ending is can be seen by considering Rosenthal's analysis of this position in the Tournament Book. He suggests 45. Ne4+ after 44. Kd6, but this would blow the win. True, after 45...BxN 46. KxB Kc5 47. Ke5 White wins easily. Black would also lose after 45...Ke7 46. b4 (but not Rosenthal's Nc5? Kd6. Most importantly, Black can probably hold the game after 45. Ne4+ with 45... Kc6. Rosenthal says that White can win here with 46. Ng5, but Black would then be fine after either 46...Bg2 or 46...f6. Best for White after 45...Kc6 would be 46. g4, but this would not be sufficient to win.

45. h4!

Black's Bishop is now helpless to attack any of White's King-side pawns, so Lasker can deploy his King and Bishop on the Queen-side to support the b-pawn.

45... f6
46. Nc4 Bf3
47. b4 Kd7
48. b5 Bd1
49. Kc5 Bf3
50. b6 Be4

50...Bg2 or 50...Bh1 were slightly better, since White's next move now gains a tempo.

51. Nd6 Bg6

51...Bf3 superficially looks better, but Lasker would then have won with 51...Bf3 52. b7 Kc7 53. Ne8+ Kxb7 54. Kd6!! (if 54. Nxg7 Black can put up a fight after 54...Kc7) e5 55. fxe5 fxe5 56. Kxe5 g6 57. Kf6 Bc6 (57...Be4 of course loses to a Knight fork with 58. Nd6+)58. Ng7 Be4 59. Ne6 Kc6 60. Nf8 (after which Black's remaining pawns must fall).

52. b7

52. f5 also wins, but the text is consistent with Lasker's game-plan.

52... Kc7
53. Nb5+

Rosenthal is correct that the text is better than 53. Kd4, but his claim that Black could then draw with 53...Kb8 (53...Bc2 would be better but still insufficient) is nonsense. Lasker would then win with 54. Kc4 Bc2 55. Kc5 Bd1 56. Ne8 Kxb7 57. Kd6 (after which Lasker would slaughter all of Black's pawns).

53... Kxb7

Phase I of Lasker's plan is now complete. The position was now:

click for larger view

Lasker has succeeded in luring Black's King to the Queen's side. He is ready now for Phase II: the picking off of Black's pawns. Lasker is down a pawn, but Marco has no defense, and all his pawns will soon fall. The manner in which Lasker engineered this will be covered in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

The task of wiping out Marco's pawns required great care and technique. Lasker was definitely up to the task.

54. Kd6!

This move is essential. Lasker must be ready for 54...e5 by Black, and must make sure this pawn does not reach e4.

54... e5

If 54...Bf7, Lasker would have won with 55. Nd4 g5 56. fxg5 fxg5 57. hxg5. If 54...Bf5, 55. Nd4 again wins for White. If 54...Kc8, Lasker would have won with 55. Kxe6 Kd8 56. Nd6 Bc2 57. Kf7 Kd7 58. Nb5 Bf5 59. Kxg7 Ke7 60. Nd4

55. fxe5 fxe5
56. Kxe5

The position was now:

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Having disposed of Marco's e and f pawns, Lasker must now pick off the Black g and h pawns.

56... Kc6

56...Bb1 (or 56. Bc2) would have allowed Marco to hold on a little longer, but Lasker would nonetheless prevail after 57. Nd4 g6 58. Kf6 Be4 59. Ne6 Kb6 60. Nf4.

57. Nd4+ Kd7
58. Ne6

58. Nf5 was equally good.

58... Ke7
59. Nxg7 Kf7
60. Ne6 Bc2

60...Kg8 was no better.

61. Nf4 Kg7

As Rosenthal notes in the Tournament Book, Lasker would have also prevailed after 61...Bd1 62. Kf5 followed by Kg5.

62. Nxh5+

The position was now:

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Lasker has now completed the second phase of his winning strategy in this Knight versus Bishop ending. What remained was the final push to advance and promote at least one of his pawns. This may look easy, but there were still pitfalls ahead. I will cover this final phase of the game in my next and final post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

After 62. Nxh5+, the win for Lasker looked easy, but he still had to work hard to finish off the stubborn Marco.

62... Kh6
63. Nf4 Bd1
64. Kf5 Bc2+
65. Kg4 Bd1+
66. Kh3 Kg7
67. g4

The pawn march begins!

67... Kf6
68. Kg3 Bb3
69. Nh3 Kg6
70. Kf4 Bc2
71. Ng5 Bb3
72. Nf3 Bc2
73. Nd4 Bd1
74. Nf5 Bc2
75. h5+ Kh7
76. Kg5

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 76. g5 was faster. But Lasker's move is more than adequate, and also gives Marco no chances.

76. Bd1
77. Nd4 Kg7
78. Kh4 Ba4
79. g5 Bd1
80. Nf5+ Kf7
81. Ne3 Be2
82. Ng4 Kg7
83. g6 Bd3
84. Kg5 Bc2
85. Ne5

The quickest way to end the game.

85... Bb3
86. h6+ Kg8
87. Kf6

Marco here resigned in the following position:

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It is too bad Marco did not play on for a few more moves so that the brilliant winning method--pointed out here by dernerloupdeT--could be displayed. After 87...Ba2 88. h7+ Kh8 89. Nf7+ BxN 90. gxB Kxh7 the positions would have been:

click for larger view

As derneroupdeT has noted, if White here carelessly plays 91. f8(Q), it is stalemate! The winning move is 91. f8(R).

All in all, a fascinating endgame.

May-03-20  andrea volponi: 44...f6-Nc4 g5-Ne3Bf3-Kc5 gxf4 gxf4=

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