28 March 2007

Positional Play: Drifting

This game is a strange choice for a collection of best games. Its most interesting sequence began a few moves before the diagrammed position, where Kasparov started his commentary. White played 13.Nce2, leaving the a2-Pawn en prise to Black's Queen, but believing that Black could not capture it because of a Queen trap. Capture it Lasker did -- 13...Qxa2 14.Ra1 Qxb2 (taking a Bishop) 15.Rfb1 Qxb1+ 16.Rxb1 -- getting a Rook, Bishop, and Pawn in return.

Who was Lasker's opponent? It depends on whom you consult. Everyone agrees on the first name, Alexander. For the family name, Hannak gives 'Iljin-Genevsky', Kasparov (KAS) gives 'Ilyin-Genevsky', Soltis gives (SOL) 'Ilyn-Genevsky', and Gaige gives 'Ilyin-Zhenevsky'. Take your pick, but I usually follow Gaige.

Returning to the diagram, my computer's first choice was 16...d5, but Lasker played 16...Rfd8. Now the next seven moves were 17.c4 Ne8 18.f4 a6 19.Kh1 Nc7 20.Qe3 Rb8 21.Rd1 Nb4 22.Qc3 a5 23.Ra1 b6.

Moscow 1925
Lasker, Emanuel

Ilyin-Zhenevsky, Alexander
[After 16.Ra1-b1(xQ)]
[FEN "2r2r1k/pp1bbppp/2nppn2/8/3NP3/1P4P1/2PQNPBP/1R4K1 b - - 0 16"]

Of the three commentaries I reviewed -- Hannak's notes by Bogoljubov (BOG, from the tournament book), KAS, and SOL -- none of them offered entirely satisfactory notes, often guessing at the reasons for White's moves, and leaving unexplained the reasons for Black's. Some examples:-

17.c4 • SOL: 'White has the nice Pawn structure he wanted when he played 13.Nce2. But his unfamiliarity with Q-vs-pieces middlegames begins to take its toll.'
17...Ne8: • KAS: 'White also has some advantage after 17...a6 18.Nc2 Nb8 19.Rd1 b5 20.Ne3 bxc4 21.Nxc4. But this does not concern Lasker at all: his main aim was to upset the opponent's familiar routine, and to force him to play a position with an unusual balance of forces.'
18.f4: • BOG: 'White is trying to force matters thereby weakening his King position; a much safer move was 18.Nxc6.' • SOL: 'White remains on Sicilian auto-pilot: He continues to play the kind of moves White pursues in a normal 1.e4 c5 middlegame, instead of consolidating his position by putting his Rook at c1 or d1 and repositioning the e2-Knight. Here, for example, 18.Nxc6 and 19.Nd4 would have left chances roughly even.'
21...Nb4: • BOG: 'Whereas Black is strengthening his position with every move White seems to shove around his pieces rather aimlessly.'
22.Qc3: • SOL: 'White has no plan. He should have played his Knight to c2 at move 19 or 20. Black now sets up a solid Pawn formation that allows himt to take over the initiative 22...Bf6 and Na6-c5.'
23.Ra1: • BOG: 'That Rook had no business here.' • KAS: ?; 'White begins to "drift"; 23.Nc2 Nca6 24.Bf3 was correct.'

After 23...b6, White played 24.Qe3, losing the exchange.

BOG: ?; 'A regrettable mistake thereby cutting short a game that had promised to become very interesting and instructive.' • KAS: ?; 'A fatal mistake. White would have maintained approximate equality by 24.Rd1 Bf6 [...] • SOL: ?; 'A blunder. Kasparov claims the position is still equal after 24.Rd1 Bf6 25.Qe3. The same can be said of 24.Qf3 Bf6 25.Rc1'.

It's interesting to compare the position after 23...b6, with the position in the diagram. In seven moves, White has played c4, f4, Kh1, and transferred the Rook and Queen to a1 and c3, where they are vulnerable to ...Bf6. The other two moves were lost by playing the Rook and Queen to intermediate squares before they reached a1 and c3, which they could have reached in one move.

In eight moves, Black has played the Pawns to a5 and b6 (three moves), the Knights to b4 and c7 (three moves), and the Rooks to b8 and d8 (two moves). As Bogoljubov said, it would have been 'interesting and instructive' to see how Lasker intended to continue. To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky vs Emanuel Lasker, Moscow International Tournament 1925

...on Chessgames.com.

No comments: