20 March 2007

Positional Play: Réti - Lasker, New York 1924

It's high time to return to Lasker's Moves that Matter, specifically Réti + Reti vs. Lasker. In the diagrammed position, many players would continue by playing one of the Rooks to c8. Lasker played 12...a5. I'll follow the game with the explanations of three GMs: Alekhine (ALE), Kasparov (KAS), and Soltis (SOL).

ALE: !; 'To be sure this cedes to the opponent a square, b5, otherwise difficult of access, but on the other hand, weakens in return not only the corresponding square of b4, but also chiefly White's b-Pawn. All in all a very good transaction.' • KAS: !; 'Lasker sensed the correct course of play. White could not allow ...a4, but now his b3-Pawn and b4-square are weak.'

The two World Champions considered that 13.a4 was forced. Lasker pushed the other Rook Pawn with 13...h6.

ALE: 'Preparing for the retreat of the Bishop later on and strengthening thereby the eventual threat of ...e4, inasmuch as White would not then attack the Bishop with Nf3-d4.' • SOL: 'Black wasn't ready for 13...Nc5 14.Nxe5.

Now White continued with the planned Queen move to the corner.

New York 1924
Lasker, Emanuel

Réti, Richard
(After 12.Rc1-c2)
[FEN "r4rk1/pp1nqppp/3b1n2/3ppb2/8/1P1P1NP1/PBRNPPBP/3Q1RK1 b - - 0 12"]


KAS: 'After 14.Nh4?! Bh7 15.e4 Nc5! Black would have seized the initiative.'

14...Rfe8 15.Rfc1

SOL: 'For the moment White can still use tactics to push in the center. 15.e4 (15...dxe4 16.Nh4). But after 15...Bh7 he would find himself on the defensive: 16.Nh4 Nc5 or 16.Re1 dxe4 17.dxe4 Nc5 18.Rc4 Nd3.

15...Bh7 16.Nf1

ALE: 16.Nf1 'A defensive move against the now really serious threat of ...e4-e5 etc.' • KAS: 'In parrying ...e4, White leaves the b3-Pawn undefended.'


ALE: 'By means of 16...e4 17.dxe4 dxe4 18.Nd4 e3 19.Nxe3 Bxc2 20.Rxc2 etc., the exchange could have been won, but thereupon the two united White Bishops would have acquired altogether too much power. Black, therefore, prefers rightly to put on additional pressure.' • KAS: 'What is White to do now? Imperceptibly Lasker has outplayed his opponent.' • SOL: 'Black looks for a way to change the Pawn structure and play for an advantage. A natural method is 16...e4 17.dxe4 17...dxe4. But after 18.Nd4 the most consistent and aggressive move, 18...e3, virtually forces White into an exchange sac. It's not hard to see that it's sound: 19.Nxe3 Bxc2 20.Rxc2 followed by 21.Ndf5.


ALE (and repeated by KAS): 'With correct positional judgement White seeks his salvation in this sacrifice by which he can dispose of one of Black's center Pawns. 17.Qa2 for instance, would have been apparently less profitable on account of 17...Na6. • SOL: 'This is in step with Tartakower's view that the Hypermoderns were really "Neo-Romantics". Alekhine thought the sacrifice wasn't sound. "Rather a dubious outcome for the 'opening of the future'", he sneered. White's problem is that defending b3 with 17.N1d2 allows 17...e4! with advantage to Black. And on 17.N3d2 Black has 17...Na6 and Nb4.

After 17...Bxc5 18.Nxe5, Black had won the exchange. The game became a battle to take advantage of the slight material advantage.

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