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Wilhelm Steinitz vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Steinitz World Championship Rematch (1896), Moscow RUE, rd 3, Nov-17
Italian Game: Classical Variation. Greco Gambit Main Line (C54)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 4 OF 4 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-27-06  blingice: <LIFE Master AJ: I have often wondered why Lasker is not more appreciated today.>

Not to be controversial, but what do you want by way of people noticing him? I think that 27 kibitzing pages and several books written about a person who lived in the 1800s is pretty well noticed.

Jun-15-07  New Kasparov: 8.. d5! should be played
Jul-04-07  sanyas: <New Kasparov> erm, may I ask what is supposed to happen after 9.♘xd5?
Aug-21-07  sanyas: Unless you mean 9.d5, the Moller Attack, which has been pretty much analyzed out to a draw. Which is why nobody plays 7.Nc3 anymore.
Dec-22-07  whiteshark: <19.Qh5> is the only move that keeps the position in balance.

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: <Whiteshark> 19.Qh5 seems an interesting alternative to the pawn capture played, 19...Bd5 (19...Rg7 20.Bxg5 Rdg8 21.g3 Qd7) 20.Qxh7 Bxg2 21.Rxg5 Rxg5 22.Bxg5 Rd7 with an unclear position.

Soltis, however, gives Steinitz's 19th move a "!" in "Why Lasker Matters" p.88, but also states that "<19.f3> was a serious alternative". He gives no analysis, but <19.f3> 20.fxg4 Rxg4 21.g3 Rd5 seems safe enough for Black.

Soltis believes that <28.Qf2> made Steinitz's game be more difficult that it should. He instead recommends <28.f5> Rg8 29.Bxf6 Qf3 30.Be5 h5 31.Qe2 hxg4 (31...Qxc3? 32.d5) 32.hxg4 Rh8+ (or 32...Qd5!? 33.Rg1) 33.Bxh8 Qf4+ 34.Kh3 Bf3 35.Qf2 Qxg4+ 36.Kh2 Qh5+ =

Mar-01-08  Knight13: That queen on d5 and bishop on c6 created a dead aim.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: This is the REAL "Immortal Zugzwang Game." Unlike in Saemisch-Nimzowitsch, after Black's "Zugzwanging" move, here 34...Rg8!!, White has absolutely no moves that don't immediately lose.
Apr-27-09  fref: 7.Bd2 should be better than 7.Nc3.
May-03-09  ScorpionInstinct: 28. f5 is the continuation in witch Black will have to find the right plan witch is far from easy in order to hold a draw as White can make queens. But 28. f5 and later it allows Black to open the h-file so Steinitz thought it would be not wise to grab f6 pawn and open another file so he believed he had better chances of survival with the text move. Anyway the all opening is hard for White without preparation.
May-24-09  Boomie: <Marco65: <jahhaj> I examined Chekhover vs I Pogrebissky, 1940 where after 11...f5 12.Nd2 Be6 13.Nxe4 fxe4 14.Rxe4 Qd5 15.Qg4 Black could have played 15...Kf7, but thinking it over I think White wins with 16.Qf3+ Kg8 (or Bf5) 17.Rae1>

In fact, 11...f5 appears stronger than 11...Be6. In <Marco65>'s post, 14...Qd7 refutes white's attack. The queen is needed on d7 to defend e8.

After 11...f5 12.Nd2 Be6 13.Nxe4 fxe4 14.Rxe4 Qd7 15. d5 0-0-0 16. Rxe6 Qxd5, black has the edge.

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All this seems to mean that 10. Ba3 is not good. Lasker's 11...Be6 also leads to a black advantage, albeit smaller than 11...f5.

Jul-30-09  LIFE Master AJ: < <FSR> Your comments ... <"This is the REAL "Immortal Zugzwang Game." Unlike in Saemisch-Nimzowitsch, after Black's "Zugzwanging" move, here 34...Rg8!!, White has absolutely no moves that don't immediately lose."> .. ... ....

are right on!>

Aug-21-10  Lokaz: Steinitz had amassed a considerable amount of power of the E File. But since it isn't open, there isn't much to do with it.

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Apr-12-11  LIFE Master AJ:
Nov-02-11  Oceanlake: Something I've read:

Bishops of opposite color favor the attacker...f Bishop against f 2/7, c Bishop on long diagonal.

Mar-29-12  Anderssen99: "Lasker's Greatest Chess Games 1889-1914" and "500 Master Games of Chess" finish the game after: 34....,Rg8 (0-1). Had White then played 35.Rg1 Black would have won prettily as follows: 35....,Qd6+. 36.Bf4,Rxg1!. 37.Bxd6 (Other moves are no better),Rh1 mate.
Jul-22-12  SAnsaritx: Why not 35. Rxg5 by black?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < Boomie: In fact, 11...f5 appears stronger than 11...Be6....After 11...f5 12.Nd2 Be6 13.Nxe4 fxe4 14.Rxe4 Qd7 15. d5 0-0-0 16. Rxe6 Qxd5, black has the edge.

All this seems to mean that 10. Ba3 is not good. Lasker's 11...Be6 also leads to a black advantage, albeit smaller than 11...f5.>

The move 10.Ba3 seems to have all but disappeared, and rightly so; White now takes his chances in the Moller, though even this offers little against precise play by Black.

Lasker's judgment was superb, as usual-he was content to eliminate any counterplay by returning the piece and getting a playable position. Botterill annotates this in his book on open games and particularly commends Lasker's attacking plan with 16....Rg8 and 18....g5.

Oct-21-14  Ke2: <patzer2: <LIFE MASTER AJ> I believe is correct in his analysis at the link given that the decisive mistake was 33. a4? and not 34. f5 as I previously indicated. After 33. a4? the position was already on the verge of being hopelessly lost. White's only chance there, apparently, was to keep shifting the Queen along the second rank (i.e. d2 and f2) while waiting for Black to crack open the position. It takes patience to hold a position and wait for your opponent to commit before countering, and apparently Lasker realized that impatience (e.g. 33. a4? and 34. f5) was something he could take advantage of against Steinitz. As AJ asserts, Lasker was a great player, whose strength of play is not universally appreciated or understood.>

That was my instinct too, that perhaps White can make a fortress, but on move 33 he is completely lost. Black will invade and pick off the c-pawn. Or if the queen goes to far he will sac the exchange. After say 33. Qf2 Qf5 there is no good answer to the threat of Qd3. If 34. Qd2 the bishop simply hangs.

Jan-29-17  zanzibar: <Boomie> and <perf> both mention 10.Ba3 as being weak (or disappeared).

My <MillBase> snapshot gives these stats (via opening tree feature) for even getting there at move 9:


Move ECO Frequency Score AvElo Perf AvYear %Draws

1: d5 . C54o 164: 85.4% 46.0% 2303 2363 1979 19%
2: bxc3 ---- ... 28: 14.5% 37.5% 2175 ---- . 1968 11%


(Sure would be nice to have verbatim mode on <CG>, right <CG>?)

As for playing the Steinitz variation with 10.Ba3, it looks good as far as winning percentage, but poor as for average year:

Move ECO Frequency Score AvElo Perf AvYear %Draws
1: Re1 7: 26.9% 35.7% ____ 1992 14%
2: Bd3 7: 26.9% 21.4% 2262 1977 14%
3: Ba3 7: 26.9% 42.8% 2310 1925 29% (C54o)
4: Bb5 2: . 7.6% 50.0% ____ 1963 0%
5: Bb3 2: . 7.6% . 0.0% 1895 2004 0%
6: Qc2 1: . 3.8% . 0.0% 2236 2009 0%
TOTAL: 26:100.0% 30.7% 1969 15%

Botterill, in his <Open Gambits (1986)> book, says

<Any hopes White might then have entertained after 9 bc were squashed by Lasker in his 1896 match against Steinitz>

This should be qualified with the condition that White plays 10.Ba3, otherwise I think 9.bxc is a very playable move. I think modern engines agree (provided a delta of 0.2 is the difference between being "squashed" or not).


Jan-29-17  zanzibar: Stockfish doesn't particularly think the 16...Rg8 / 18...g5 plan is strong, provided White plays the immediate 19.Qh5.

In fact, walking through, the engine thinks the position trends towards the drawish.

But, as it turns out, for Lasker, the 16...Rg8 / 18...g5 plan played (payed) out rather well.


Jan-06-18  TheFocus: <British Chess Magazine>, January 1897, pg. 22; <Deuetsches Wochenschach>, 1896, pg. 443, and <Deuetsche Schachzeitung>, December 1896, pg. 368; all end this game at 34...Rg8.
Nov-28-19  Marcelo Bruno: For me 19. Rxg5 was the decisive error.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: What should have Steinitz played on move 19 instead of grabbing the pawn with 19. Rg5?
May-31-23  generror: <GrahamClayton> Stockfish says <19.Qh5! Bd5 20.Rxg5 f6 21.Rxg8 Rxg8 22.g3> (D) and Black hasn't got much.

click for larger view

With <19.Rg5?>, Lasker gets a -2.5 advantage. (And yeah, <18...g5!?> is another typical Lasker move, not something Stockfish would ever play, but something that works inviting his human opponent to blunder. )

However he gives it away with a series of weak moves, and Steinitz could actually have equalized with <29.f5! Rg8 30.Kg3> (D).

click for larger view

So the decisive error in Stockfish's opinion is <29.g5?>. The whole game seems to revolve around that square though.

This is the most noteworthy game of the 1896 world championship but definitively not one of the best of both Steinitz and Lasker. Steinitz pretty much messes up the opening with his patented variation, but Lasker had more brilliant victories. (Even the last, winning move <39...Kxc6?!> was inaccurate, <39...Ka6> would have been a forced mate in 13.)

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