01 July 2006

Alekhine - Rubinstein, The Hague 1921

I'll take a break from Alekhine's annotated brilliancies to pursue an idea from the previous post A lesson in chess logic (Alekhine - Wolf, Pistyan 1922), where Alekhine wrote,

The opening of this game offers some analogies with that of the game played at The Hague against Rubinstein. In the one, as in the other, the advantage won results from the repeated movements of the same pieces.

The diagram shows the position after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 a6 were played.

The Hague 1921
Rubinstein, Akiba

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 3...a7-a6)
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/1pp2ppp/p3p3/3p4/2PP4/5N2/PP2PPPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 0 4"]

Alekhine played 4.c5, noted that '4.cxd5 is quite sufficient to secure a slight superiority of position', and gave two examples from Rubinstein's games where White played 4.cxd5.

In the present game, the first which I played against Rubinstein after a seven-year interval, I voluntarily adopted a new line of play in order to avoid the variations resulting from 4.cxd5 (because I rightly thought them very familiar to Rubinstein), resolved that I would do or die!

4...Nc6. Alekhine:

Wishing to play 5...e5, which White must oppose by every means at his disposal.

It's worth noting that he natural reaction to c4-c5 in analogous positions is ...b6, and if cxb6 then ...axb6, opening the a-file for the Ra8. White's last move is justified because ...axb6 is no longer possible. 5.Bf4 Nge7 6.Nc3 Ng6 7.Be3! Alekhine:

A move rather out of the common! White, while preventing 7...e5, avoids the exchange of his QB. I learnt, some time after the game ended, that Rubinstein in Collijn's Laerobok only examined 7.e3, a variation leading to equality.

7...b6 Alekhine:

Black, giving up hope of breaking through in the center, at least eliminates the cramping adverse c-Pawn, and reckons to secure an advantage in development, by reason of the unusual position of White's Be3.

8.cxb6 cxb6 9.h4! Alekhine:

The only means of weakening the black squares of the enemy's position, and thus obtaining a future for his QB.

9...Bd6 (9...h5 10.Bg5 f6 11.Qc2) 10.h5 Nge7 (10...Nf4? 11.g3). 11.h6! Alekhine:

The point! If Black captures the h-Pawn, he weakens his own h-Pawn without the slightest compensation. In the other case White's QB will occupy the diagonal d8-h4, where it exercises a very embarrassing pressure.

11...g6 12.Bg5 O-O Alekhine:

More prudent was 12...f5 first, after which Black would not have had to fear the threat of mate at g7, although in any case White's game would have already been preferable.

13.Bf6! Alekhine:

An extraordinary position after the 13th move a Queen's Gambit! During the first 13 moves White has played his c-Pawn thrice, his h-Pawn thrice, and his QB four times, after which he has obtained a position in sight of a win, if not actually a winning one.

Alekhine went on to checkmate Black on the 51st move. In his note to White's 13th move, Alekhine continued,

Black has given himself over to several eccentricities in the opening (3...a6; 5...Nge7; 6...Ng6) which, without the reaction of his opponent (for example, 7.e3 instead of 7.Be3 or 9.g3 instead of 9.h4) would in the end have given him a good game.

In The Soviet School of Chess by Kotov and Yudovich, the authors used the Alekhine - Rubinstein game as an example, quoted many of the same remarks by Alekhine that I've given here, and added,

Alekhine appraised Black's third move as loss of a tempo. In reply he made several moves in succession with the same piece, not considering them loss of tempi. As he saw it, it was not a matter of mechanically counting the pieces moved out of their original place, but of making moves according to a specific plan to gain an advantage in the given position.

To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Alekhine vs Akiba Rubinstein, The Hague 1921

...on Chessgames.com.


Note: This is the second reference I've seen from Alekhine to Collijn's Laerobok. I'm not familiar with the book and will investigate in another post.

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