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Emanuel Lasker vs Wilhelm Steinitz
Steinitz - Lasker World Championship Match (1894), Montreal CAN, rd 15, May-15
Queen's Gambit Declined: Three Knights Variation. General (D37)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jun-13-04  hollowone: I suppose that in those days the move was seen as premature since the sequence 7. ... cxd4 8. exd4 was also common and "liberates" the Bishop.
Jul-03-04  ughaibu: The Peruvian gambit is a direct attempt to exploit any prematurity of Bg5. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 c5 Qb6 etc.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <PizzatheHut> If I remember what I've read correctly, 5 Bg5 wasn't seen as just premature but positionally wrong; the bishop was thought to have better prospects on the queenside. Here's a classic example why people thought that way: Zukertort vs Blackburne, 1883
Mar-06-06  aw1988: keypusher: without a doubt, a pretty game such as that will inspire ideas in this endless universe we call chess, but is there any game that "proves" the "drawbacks" of Bg5? It seems like such an obvious (although I too play e3 which is not necessarily bad) move today, so what were the drawbacks that they saw back then?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Here is an example. The absence of the QB from the queenside removes an obstacle to the advance of Black's c-pawn.

Pillsbury vs Schlechter, 1895

Steinitz, who annotated the game, had no problem with 5 Bg5. But other masters who annotated Pillsbury's games at Hastings criticized his repeated use of it (though without saying anything more profound than something like "the normal 5 e3 is better").

I think we can try to reconstruct their reasoning, though. Since Black can always play ...Be7, there is no pin. Bxf6 doesn't damage Black's pawns as Bxc6 does in the Ruy Lopez. And by contrast with Bb5 in the Ruy, Bg5 in the QGD doesn't help white conquer the center. In the Ruy, if Black doesn't drive the bishop away, eventually he can be forced to play ...Pe5xPd4. In the QGD, Black can't be forced to play ...Pd5xc4 (though he usually does it anyway to help develop his QB), and Pe3-e4 generally isn't terribly promising for White. So taking all that into account, a lot of 19th-century masters decided Bg5 was a waste of time.

Mar-06-06  aw1988: keypusher, that's about the most helpful post I've ever read, thanks.

Steinitz doesn't criticize Bg5, "modelling after Steinitz's favorite attack", and recommends cxd5 at some point. Pillsbury later showed the virtues of White's kingside assault, and before that it is easy to see (after your reasoning) why it was criticized.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Why thank you! I pulled out my copy of the Hastings tournament book, with games annotated by the various participants, to see what they had to say about Bg5. They said a lot more than I remembered. Isidor Gunsberg annotates Pillsbury-Tarrasch in Round Two, a famous Pillsbury win. After 4 Bg5 he writes: “No good results from this early sortie of the bishop. The attack, or perhaps better speaking, would-be attack, differs from similar play in the French Defense in that White cannot place a pawn on e5. Generally speaking, both the first and the second player in this opening require their Queen’s Bishop on the Queenside.” After 11 Re1 Gunsberg writes, “If White had fianchettoed his Queen Bishop we should certainly have recommended the exchange of Black’s pawn [via Pd4xc5]. The Bishop would then prevent …d4, so the Black pawns on d5 and c5 are unable to advance and make a convenient object of attack, as has frequently been proved by experience.”

Gunsberg also annotates Pillsbury-Steinitz in Round Seven, which began 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 c5?! 5 cd ed? 6 Bxf6 gf. Gunsberg comments, “Black now handicaps himself with the most deplorable weakness, almost unpardonable in such an all-important game. We do not wish, however, to be misunderstood as inferring [sic] that this is the necessary consequence of White’s 4 Bg5, of which we have not a favorable opinion.”

Pillsbury defeats James Mason in Round 10 with 4 Bg5, but annotator Richard Teichmann passes over the opening in silence.

Mason himself annotates Pillsbury-Burn in Round 16, another crushing win for White. Compared to Gunsberg, he shows a becoming modesty in his evaluation of Bg5, but cannot bring himself to approve of it. “As to the entire advisability of 4 Bg5, opinions differ. The early exchange or subsequent retreat of the Bishop is thought to be generally unfavorable by many good players. Perhaps, on principle, 4 Nf3 should have preference, and the Bishop to be disposed of as later circumstances require."

In Round 18 Pillsbury loses to Schlechter, as noted above. Annotator Steinitz likes Bg5, but vehemently disapproves of allowing black to get a queen-side majority with …c4. Presumably he would have approved of Lasker vs Janowski, 1895 in Round Six. Undeterred, Pillsbury ventures 4 Bg5 against Teichmann in the very next round, but Teichmann responds with 4…c6. In the 21st and last round, Pillsbury goes up against Gunsberg, the analytical champion of keeping the QB on the queenside. But curiously, the game begins 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 e3 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7, to which annotator Emauel Lasker declares “Black choooses a peculiar, but not altogether sound, method of development.” Gunsberg managed to reach an even ending, but then got careless and Pillsbury won the game, and the tournament, in memorable style.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Sorry, it was Tinsley in Round 19, not Teichmann. Pillsbury vs Tinsley, 1895 Tinsley, one of the tail-enders in the tournament, gave Pillsbury a surprisingly tough game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: This game, the fifteenth in the match is worth a look quite apart from the merits of Bg5. Coming in, Steinitz had won two straight to cut Lasker's lead to 4-7 (the match was played to ten wins).

In the 11th and also in the last game of the match, Lasker decided to head straight for the ending with 7. dxc5 dxc4 8. Bxc4 Qxd1+ 9. Kxd1, managing to win both times. But here he chooses to play a middlegame with 7. 0-0, and Steinitz immediately isolates his d-pawn, as in Zukertort vs Steinitz, 1886, one of Steinitz’s most famous match victories. But Lasker's 11. Bg5 and 13. Ne5 are far more logical than Zukertort's Bf4 and Bg3 eight years before.

I looked at this game superficially with Fritz 5.32. I think Steinitz underestimated the long term value of Lasker's KB after 14. Nxc6 Rxc6, but Fritz thinks it's pretty even up until 17...Ng6. Today, a much weaker player than Steinitz (me, for example) would be very biased in favor of keeping a tight blockade on d5, and so would favor 17...g6. Lasker gets a serious advantage after 18. Qf3! Nd5 19. Be4 Nxc3 (Fritz strongly prefers 19...Ngf4) 20. bxc3 Rb6 21. c4! (not 21. Bxb7 Nh4). Just as in Zukertort-Steinitz, White gets the hanging pawns, but now he has the very strong bishop and Black has the weaker knight. After 21...f5 Black is positionally lost.

With 23. c5! White correctly determines that open diagonals for his bishop and pressure on b7 outweigh the backward pawn on d4. The d4-c5 pawn formation is a queenside echo of the e4-f5 chain Lasker used so many times. (See Calli's Game Collection: Lasker's Secret Weapon.) After Lasker takes over the b-file with 24. Rab1, Fritz rates him nearly two points up. The rest of the game is merciless. Lasker presses on black's multiple weaknesses, eventually forcing a protected passed pawn on d6 before breaking through on b7.

An impressive middlegame from what Soltis (understandably) called the Great Endgame Match.

Jan-08-08  Calli: Don't normally post a whole game, but since there is interest, here are Steinitz's annotations:

Lasker,E - Steinitz,W [D37]
Wch-05 Montreal (15), 15.05.1894
[Steinitz, W.]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Bd3 c5 7.0-0 [In the eleventh game of the present match Lasker proceeded with 7.dxc5 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 etc.]

7...cxd4 8.exd4 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Nbd7
[In the early stages of the match Steinitz-Zukertort (1886) I adopted this line of play in similar positions, but afterward played 9...Nc6 which is undoubtedly stronger.]

10.Bb3 Nb6 11.Bg5 Bd7 12.Qd3 Rc8
[12...Bc6 with a view of fixing that Bishop at d5 as soon as possible seems superior.]

13.Ne5 Bc6 14.Nxc6 Rxc6 15.Rfd1 Nfd5
[It would have been better to advance 15...h6 first, making room for the King.]

16.Bxe7 Nxe7 17.Bc2 Ng6
[Not as good as 17...g6 keeping a better hold on the isolated pawn.]

18.Qf3 Nd5 19.Be4 Nxc3 20.bxc3 Rb6 21.c4 f5 22.Bc2 Qf6 23.c5 Rc6 [Black's original intention was to continue 23...Rb4 24.Qc3 a5 25.a3 Nf4 26.Kf1 Qh6 27.h3 (best) 27...Nd5 However, as White could now force the exchange of Queens by 28.Qd2 followed soon by ¦b1, Black abandoned the idea.]

24.Rab1 Nh4 25.Qe3 [25.Qb3 appears still stronger.]

25...Rc7 26.f4 Ng6 27.Bb3 Re7 28.a4 Rd8 29.a5 a6 30.Ba4 Qh4 [The work of the time limit and not well considered. Instead, 30...Nf8 was more likely to be of good service.]

31.g3 Qg4 [Faulty in the extreme and really the cause of the almost immediate loss of the game. The Queen should have retreated 31...Qf6 followed at once by 32...Rc8 and thence to c7.]

32.Rd2 Nf8 33.Bd1 Qg6 34.d5 [After this Black's struggles are hopeless. The latter part of the game has been conducted by Lasker with the utmost ingenuity and is a grand example of chess.]

34...Rf7 35.d6 Qf6 36.Rdb2 g5 37.Rxb7 gxf4 38.Rxf7 Qxf7 39.gxf4 Qg7+ 40.Kh1 Ng6 41.Qxe6+ Kh8 42.Qe3 Rg8 43.Bf3 Nh4 44.Bd5 1-0

Feb-29-08  Knight13: The winner of "Dog vs Cat" goes to the Dog in this one (White's Bishop). Black's knight couldn't do ANYTHING; it kind of just ran out of squares.

This game is one of the examples that shows not all closed games favor knights. And Lasker played brilliant positional chess here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Lasker gets a serious advantage after 18. Qf3! Nd5 19. Be4 Nxc3 (Fritz strongly prefers 19...Ngf4) 20. bxc3 Rb6 21. c4! (not 21. Bxb7 Nh4).>

This is wrong, or at least severely incomplete. Hoffer wrote after 19....Nxc3: <Now it would appear that the simple course would have been 19....,Kt(Kt3)-K2, with quite as good a game as White. Instead of this he makes an unsound combination, which leaves him with a lost game after the next few moves.... With the capture of 19...., Kt x Kt, he strengthens White's weak Queen's Pawn, gets his Queen's Rook into a bad position, has to advance his KBP, leaving a weak KP; in short, his game is untenable.>

I hate to agree with Hoffer, but he appears to be right. So equality was still in reach until Black's 19th move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: chess 101, huh? white has doubled his rooks, and the advanced pawn acts a lever, black cannot defend the pawn at b7, and his game collapses.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: This game was played after Lasker requested, and received, permission for a one week break.

He spent it in the country on the beautiful Richilieu River, and it seems that it did him a world of good.

In the previous three games played in Montreal, Lasker had drawn the first and lost the second and third.

Sep-15-10  soothsayer8: This is a really general question about these sort of QG positions where black plays dxc4, sorry, I'm a bit of a newbie at chess, but what is the advantage for black in playing that? surely it would be better to wait for white to play cxd5 and then respond with exd5 to keep a pawn in the center?
Premium Chessgames Member
  SteinitzLives: dxc4 by black is designed to give white an isolated queen pawn and make the white B move a second time.
Apr-18-14  Lossmaster: Here is a nice photo taken in the middle of the game, as far as I can tell right after 23...♖c6:

Caption translation:
MONTREAL.—THE GREAT CHESS TOURNAMENT, AT THE COSMOPOLITAN CLUB, FOR THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP View taken during a round, at 8 P.M.—(Photography Cummings, and photogravure Armstrong)

Le Monde Illustré (Montreal), vol. 11, no 527, May 26th 1894, p. 37.

Apr-18-14  zanzibar: <Lossmaster> very nice photo. And interesting.

1) Notice the funky chess clock being used.

2) Apparently a professional scribe was used to record moves.

3) A good sized gallery. Makes me wonder if the "no spectators" clause of Janowski-Lasker 1910 was more due to Janowski than Lasker.

4) Were those spitoons on the floor? (What's the French word for that?)

Apr-18-14  offramp: offramp: <zanzibar: 4) Were those spitoons on the floor? (What's the French word for that?)>

Une porte-crache LOL <ding!!>.

Apr-18-14  zanzibar: Maybe they were actually <crachoirs> leftover from the pre-game tasting.
Apr-19-14  offramp: Here we go! Pawn to king four! <<kwap-ding!! >> Good move! I'll do the same... Pawn to king four <<kwap-ding!!>>...
Apr-19-14  zanzibar: <offramp> you have a unique style which brings enjoyment to many. It's so unique that I believe a new verb should be introduced.

I'll give an example:

<After <zan> made the inane observation that the floor ashtrays looked instead like spittoons, he was summarily, and right properly, <offramped>>.

If I may be so forward as to assume a small measure of familiarity then, you can call me <zan> if I may call you <off>.

Warmest regards.

Apr-19-14  offramp: <Zan>, that's really nice! Thank you very much! Best wishes, <Off>.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Lasker wrote that this was his best performance of the match. Huebner was less impressed: <Steinitz played this game quite weakly; his play is reminiscent of games 8-11. This is so despite the fact that the world champion had gained considerable experience with this sort of position in his match with Zukertort. Lasker's achievement <Leistung> was limited to a flawless exploitation of his opponent's errors.>

click for larger view

Lasker played 35.d6, which was certainly good enough; but Chigorin pointed out that 35.dxe6 Qxe6 36.Qxe6 Nxe6 37.Rxd8+ Nxd8 38.Bb3 was also available.

Dec-10-15  RookFile: I think this is the universal Lasker playing like Karpov before the latter was even born. No nonsense, let's win the game.
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