27 January 2007

A Rook Lift in Real Life

The story about Lasker's Rook Lift in Psychological Battle of Philosophies reminded me of one of my own games. The position shown in the diagram arose from an Alapin Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.c3).

I won't give much of my analysis, but after looking at 17.Ne4 and 17.b4, I decided to play 17.d5 instead. The tactical justification is that after 17...exd5, which my opponent played, White continues 18.Rxd5. The Rook is immune from capture because of the mate in the corner.

ICCF Email Master Class : EM/M/174
Pommrich, Rainer

Weeks, Mark
After 16...Qd6-b8
[FEN "1q1rr1k1/pb2bpp1/1pn1pn1p/8/3P4/P1N1BN2/1PQ2PPP/1B1RR1K1 w - - 0 17"]

Now after 18...Kf8 the Rook is still immune because of 19...Nxd5 20.Qh7 f5 21.Bxh6 gxh6 22.Qxh6+ Kf7 23.Bxf5 Nf4 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Rxe7 and mates, or 19...Rxd5 20.Nxd5 Nxd5 21.Qh7 f5 22.Bxh6 gxh6 23.Qxh6+ Kf7 24.Bxf5 with a win.

After looking at a lot of moves and finding nothing conclusive, I played 19.h3. The purpose was threefold: to prepare Nf3-h2-g4, bringing the Knight closer to the Black King; to defend against the battery on h2 if Black should play ...Be7-d6; and to give my King a defense against a back rank mate.

Black played 19...Qc8. Now I looked for a long time at 20.Rf5, the Rook lift, which seemed to be the logical way of continuing the attack. While I couldn't find anything wrong with it, neither could I see that it led to anything decisive. I also couldn't escape the thought that the Rook was misplaced on the fifth rank. Many of the variations were complicated lines like 20.Rf5 Na5 21.Ne5 Nc4 22.Nxf7 Kxf7 23.Bxh6 Kg8 24.Re2 Qc6 25.Rg5 Bf8 26.Bxg7 Bxg7 27.Rxg7+ Kxg7 28.Qg6+ Kf8 29.Qh6+ with perpetual check.

Finally, I chickened out and played 20.Rdd1, bringing the Rook back to safety on the first rank. The game immediately became quieter and ended in a draw after 45 moves. I've always wondered how the Rook lift would have fared. Lasker had the courage to play a move that I would have probably rejected.

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