18 December 2006

The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Steinitz Defense

The next game in the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter is Tarrasch - Lasker, World Championship Match 1908, game 4. I've already discussed these two players in The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense.

In 'The Game of Chess', Tarrasch said of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5; p.278), 'There are two good defenses, viz. 3...Nf6 and 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6.'

(p.291); An unfavorable -- but very frequently played defense -- is 3...d6 a move that was strongly recommended by Steinitz. This move, which shuts in the King's Bishop, is as little recommendable here as at the second move. White invariably captures the center and thus obtains the better game.
The most important continuations are 4.d4! Bd7 (Naturally Black attempts to maintain the center as long as possible.) 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.O-O Be7 7.Re1 and Black must give up the center by 7...exd4, for, if 7...O-O? he certainly loses a Pawn and perhaps the Exchange, e.g. 8.Bxc6 8...Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Raxd8 11.Nxe5 Bxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bg5 Rd5 17.Be7 Re8 18.c4 (Tarrasch - Marco, Dresden 1892). After 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 O-O 9.Bf1!, Black has a cramped game and only if White makes mistakes can it be freed.

Tarrasch said nothing about 8...Nxd4, the move Lasker played in game 4 of the match. He continued:

After 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 Nf6 the following line of attack is even more forceful: 6.Bxc6. The exchange of a strong piece for an inferior one is justified by the continuation. 6...Bxc6 7.Qd3. Now Black cannot well support the point e5 any longer and consequently gets a disadvantage in position. After 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 White's position is appreciably the better. Black's best continuation is 8...Be7. The attempt to maintain the center by 7...Nd7 is refuted by 8.Be3 for then White threatens 9.d5 (8.d5? Nc5).
Steinitz's defense is only slightly strengthened by the interpolation of the move 3...a6.

In his 'Manual of Chess', Lasker had this to say (p.77):

The oldest defense [to 3.Bb5] is 3...d6 which is the most direct one. Surely a sound and substantial one, though it may not appeal to the high-flown fancy. 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 (5.Bxc6 Bxc6 6.dxe5 Bxe4) 5...Nf6 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Qd3. Black must now decide what to do with his e-Pawn. Obviously 7...Qe7 blocking the Bishop is doubtful, as is 7...Nd7, which limits the action of the QB. However, an unpretentious move suffices. 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7. Black desires to keep the two Bishops and to guard the point f5.

Quite a difference in opinion, isn't it. The 1908 match was a clash of two chess philosophies.

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