10 February 2007

No Best Move?

When I studied the notes by Kasparov, Pachman, and Soltis, I was surprised to discover that Lasker's Grandmaster Blunder would not necessarily have lost the game. In the diagrammed position, Schlechter played his own blunder 35...Rxf4?.

World Championship Match (g.10)
Berlin 1910

Schlechter, Carl

Lasker, Emanuel
(After 35.Rc6-c4)
[FEN "5r1k/p3prb1/8/1n5q/N1RP1P2/P2Q1R2/3BK3/8 b - - 0 35"]

What should he have played? Looking at the three GM annotators in chronological order:

PAC: 'Schlechter's desire to attain an elegant, rather than a straightforward win leads to disaster. The search for beauty has often been severly punished. After the fairly obvious 35...Rd8 White has no real defense, e.g. 36.Be3 (36.Rc5 Nxd4+ 37.Qxd4 Qxf3+) 36...e5 37.d5 Nd6 and Black wins the exchange.'
KAS: Quoting Schlechter: 'This combination is incorrect. I calculated the variation 35...Rxf4 36.Bxf4 Rxf4 37.Rc8+ Bf8 38.Kf2 Qh4+ 39.Kg2 Qg4+ noticing too late 40.Rg3 Qxc8 41.Qg6. Decisive was 35...Rd8.'
KAS: If 35...Rd8: 'After Minev's brilliant discovery 36.Ke1!! it is now Black who has to find a way to save the game:36...Qh1+ 37.Qf1 Qxf1+ 38.Kxf1 Nxd4 39.Rh3+ Kg8 40.Kg2 with a level position.'
KAS: 'Years later Capablanca suggested 35...e5!?. This leads to a crazy position, which does not lend itself to evaluation: 36.dxe5 Bxe5 37.Ke1 Bf6 38.Rc5 Qh1+ 39.Rf1 Qh4+ 40.Kd1 Nd4 41.Rd5 Qg4+ 42.Kc1 Ne2+ 43.Kb1. Here too there can be no question of a 'decisive advantage' for Black: all three results are possible.'
KAS: 'From the purely practical viewpoint, probably more promising is Tarrasch's recommendation of 35...Nd6!? 36.Rc5 Nf5 building up the pressure.' After more analysis, Kasparov concludes, 'Although Schlechter held an appreciable initiative, nowhere did he have a direct win.'
SOL: 'This is the kind of position that refutes Tarrasch's claim that there is always an identifiable "best move". All that can be said is that the best move to keep pressure on White is 35...Nd6 and the best move to sharpen the position is 35...e5. But neither leads to a clear outcome.'

As bad as Lasker's move 23rd was, it was not bad enough to lose the game. It turns out that the same can be said for Schlechter's 35th.

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