17 January 2007

Counter-combo: Tarrasch - Lasker, 1908 Match, Game 4

After a long break from the series Lasker's Moves that Matter, I'd like to continue with the game discussed in The 'Grand Formation' of the Steinitz Defense). Looking at the diagram, the most curious feature of the position is the Black Rook on c4. Before explaining how it got there, let's see what happened to it. In short, Tarrasch played a combination, which was refuted by Lasker's counter-combination. Why did Tarrasch play a bad combination? Kasparov (KAS) first offered Reti's explanation

In Reti's opinion, "White is now positionally outplayed. He has, as against the threat 24...c5, no defence form a positional point of view. Therefore he attempts to create one by means of a combination, which, as is usual with all combinations resorted to in a state of mere desperation, does not get home."

And then declared it to be misleading.

It is from such components, influenced by the result of the game and the accompanying impressions, that chess mythology is created! What cause is there for desperation? After all, even the crude 24.e5 24...dxe5 25.Rxe5 retains some advantage. And if one is hoping for more, it is easy to find against ...c7-c5 a "defense from the positional point of view", and not just one!

Tarrasch's incorrect combination started with the move 24.Re3.

World Championship Match (g.4)
New York 1908

Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 23...Re8-d8)
[FEN "3r2k1/1pp2pp1/1n1p1q1p/8/pPrNPP2/2P2QP1/P6P/3RR1K1 w - - 0 24"]

Kasparov gave the move 24.Re3 a '?', and analyzed three other moves -- 24.Qe3!?, 24.Rb1!?, 24.Rd3!? -- plus his preferred move 24.a3!, suggested by Tarrasch.

In my opinion, this prophylaxis is the best -- the Rook at c4 is stalemated, and in the event of24...c5?! 25.Nb5 cxb4 26.cxb4, the d-Pawn is extremely weak and White has a clear advantage. Incidentally, Tarrasch himself explained his error rather simply: "Up til now I had conducted the game irreproachably, but here I was seized by the unfortunate idea of a Rook sacrifice, which in view of time-trouble I was unable to calculate properly."

Soltis (SOL), who gave the move '?!', agreed that there is more than one good alternative in the position, but preferred another move.

Here is where White begins to go very wrong. His position is fundamentally sound despite 22.b4. But he must deal with a tactical annoyance: 24...c5. There are at least three good ways of doing that: 24.a3, 24.Qe3, and 24.Rb1 (The best job of discouraging 24...c5 by 25.bxc5 dxc5 26.e5.) But it was the student Makariev who found a way to both meet ...c5 and advance White's reorganization plan: 24.Rd3. Then 24...c5 25.bxc5 dxc5 26.Nb5 protects everything and leaves Black's c4-Rook in limbo. If instead 25...Rxc5 Black is in big trouble on the b-file after 26.Rb1.

The game continued 24...c5 25.Nb5.

KAS: ?; Driven by a passionate desire to punish his opponent for his violation of the chess laws, Tarrasch "goes off the rails"! Later he lamented: "If I hadn't been so carried away by the idea of a Rook sacrifice, I would have played 25.Nc2 cxb4 26.Nxb4 with a good game thanks to the attack on the d-Pawn." Also suitable was Richard Teichmann's recommendation 25.bxc5! Rxc5 (25...dxc5? 26.e5 or 26.Nb5) 26.Rb1 Nc4 27.Rd3 and 28.Nc2, 29.Ne3, 30.Nd5 with equal chances.
SOL: ?; Tarrasch's nerves failed him in this match. He held the advantage through much of the second game and was roughly even until two moves before he resigned. Here he pins his chances on a combination.'

25...cxb4 26.Rxd6?. (KAS: 'That "desperate" combination referred to earlier; the more sober 26.cxb4 26...Rxb4 27.Nc3 Rc8 28.Red3 Rc6 29.a3 Rb3 30.Ne2 would still have retained possibilities of a defence.') 26...Rxd6 27.e5 Rxf4. (KAS: And here is the refutation. Moreover, by the irony of fate the fatal blow is struck by the abhorrent "hooligan" Rook!) 28.gxf4 (Also bad is 28.Qxf4 Rd1+ 29.Kg2 Qxf4 30.gxf4 Nd5) 28...Qg6+ 29.Kh1 Qb1+ and Tarrasch resigned on his 42nd move.

To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker, World Championship Match 1908

...on Chessgames.com.

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