Saturday, May 22, 2010


Akiba Rubinstein
“A Master of Openings, Pawn structures and Endgame”

Akiba Kivelovic Rubinstein was born December 12, 1882 in the Polish border town of Stawiski.  He learned to play chess at the age of 16 in school where he played his classmates, and afterwards, his thoughts were on nothing else.  He gave up theological studies for a professional chess career.  In 1903 he placed 5th at a tournament in Kiev. After a few years of skill development, Rubinstein entered the international scene being a powerful force to contend and was one of the world's dominant players from 1905 to 1911.

  As we learn of his many historical achievements, keep in mind that Rubinstein had a nervous disorder known as anthrophobia (fear of people and society) for his entire life. His poor mental health was clearly an extremely difficult disability for him to contend with and caused him enormous suffering throughout his life.  But, in spite of his disability, Rubinstein was able to compete brilliantly for many years with the best Chess players in the world and his games are studied and treasured to this day.

  Rubinstein never had a chance to play for the Chess World Championship but he was considered the strongest Chess player who did not have the opportunity to compete for the title. In 1912, Akiba Rubinstein won tournament after tournament: he won five consecutive International tournaments and the year was dubbed the Rubinstein year, this had never been done before in the history of Chess!

  The beginning of deep psychological problems that eventually turned  into full-fledged mental illness, the appearance of the Cuban Chess genius Capablanca, and the advent of World War I all combined to dash his championship hopes. In 1914 Nicholas II, the Czar of Russia, organized a tournament in St. Petersburg and invited all the greatest players in the world.  The top five finishers would be given the title "Grandmaster".

  Tragically, Akiba Rubinstein failed to qualify in the top five. Though he remained one of the world's strongest players until about 1921, his pathological shyness and the erosion of his confidence led to a gradual disintegration of his powers.  After World War I, Rubinstein continued to play in tournaments with moderate success but he did not revisit his former high level of play until he won the Vienna tournament in 1922, ahead of Alexander Alekhine and Richard Reti.

  Rubinstein's style formed a bridge between the styles of Steinitz and the players of today. A mastery of openings, a deep understanding of the consequences of different types of pawn structures, and a skill in the endgame that has never been surpassed, were all part of his repertoire.  Most notable, however, was his ability to connect the openings he played with the kinds of endgames that could be reached from them.

  This incredibly deep planning is commonly seen in modern champions, but it was virtually unheard of in Rubinstein's day. Among the Chess players who deserve our highest reverence, Akiba Rubinstein stands out as a unique contributor to Chess. His noble career and life of great suffering stands as a beacon of light to all who study the game of Chess as well as those who study life itself.  Today, Rubinstein's games are carefully studied by all the finest players.

  His moves and concepts still seem fresh, his handling of the endgame is still remarkable, and his opening ideas are still all the rage. After 1932, Rubinstein never competed in chess tournaments again, although he was invited to do so. His lifelong struggle with his mental health worsened and he spent time in a sanitarium.

  He spent his final days in Belgium with his family until his death in 1961.

The following game is considered one of the greatest chess games of all time and rightfully dubbed as "Rubintein's Immortal Game".  It also contains two of the prettiest chess moves ever played.

Lodz, 1907
Tarrasch Defense

1. d4, d5
2. Nf3, e6
3. e3, c5?!

The Tarrasch Defense, which is considered a variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined.  With this third move, Black makes an aggressive bid for central space. After White plays cxd5 and dxc5, Black will be left with an isolated pawn on d5. Such a pawn may be weak, since it can no longer be defended by other pawns, but it also grants Black a foothold in the center.

The opening was advocated by the German master Siegbert Tarrasch who enjoyed the mobility that Black received, even at the cost of the isolated pawn. Theory has often frowned on this opening -- and even labeled it UNSOUND -- but it has been repeatedly used, and revived, by great masters including Tal, Spassky, and Kasparov.

4. c4, Nc6
5. Nc3, Nf6
6. dxc5!? ....

White isolates Black's d5 pawn, but in the process it activates Black's dark-squared Bishop.  Tartakower commented that the move is less consistent than 6.a3 or 6.Bd3, maintaining as long as possible the tension in the center.

6. .... Bxc5
7. a3, a6!
8. b4, Bd6!
9. Bb2!? ....

Not 9.cxd5!? exd5, 10.Nxd5?? Nxd5, 11.Qxd5?? Bxb4+  which wins the White Queen.

9. .... 0-0
10. Qd2!? ....

White could try 10. cxd5 exd5, 11. Be2 ....   or 10. Bd3!? ...  Tartakower preferred 10. Qc2.

10. .... Qe7!

Schlechter:  "A fine sacrifice of a pawn. If 11.cxd5 exd5, 12.Nxd5? Nxd5, 13.Qxd5 Rd8! and Black has a strong attack."

11. Bd3?! ....

Other annotations say that this is a bad move because White loses tempo.  Better was 11.cxd5!? exd5,12.Nxd5?! Nxd5, 13.Qxd5 Rd8, 14.Qb3 (14.Qh5? Bxb4+!) Be6.

11. .... dxc4
12. Bxc4, b5
13. Bd3, Rd8
14. Qe2!?, Bb7
15. 0-0, Ne5!
16. Nxe5, Bxe5

Tartakower:  "Threatening to win a pawn by 17....Bxh2+, 18.Kxh2 Qd6+. White's next move provides against this, but loosens the kingside defenses."

17. f4, Bc7
18. e4!?, Rac8
19. e5!?, Bb6+
20. Kh1, Ng4!
21. Be4 ....

 Schlechter:  "There is no defense; e.g., 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7, 22.Qxg4 Rd2 etc.; or 21.h3 Qh4., 22.Qxg4 Qxg4 23.hxg4 Rxd3, threatening ...Rh3 mate and ...Rxc3; or 21.Qxg4 Rxd3, 22.Ne2 Rc2, 23.Bc1 g6! threatening ...h5; or 21.Ne4 Qh4, 22.h3 (if 22.g3 Qxh2+ 23.Qxh2 Nxh2 and wins.) Rxd3, 23.Qxd3 Bxe4, 24.Qxe4 Qg3, 25.hxg4 Qh4+ mate."

21. .... Qh4!
22. g3 ....

Schlechter:  "Or 22.h3 Rxc3!, 23.Bxc3 Bxe4, 24.Qxg4 Qxg4, 25.hxg4 Rd3 wins. *** Tartakower: The alternative 22.h3, parrying the mate, would lead to the following brilliant lines of play: 22...Rxc3! (an eliminating sacrifice, getting rid of the knight, which overprotects the bishop on e4) 23.Bxc3 (or 23.Qxg4 Rxh3+, 24.Qxh3 Qxh3+, 25.gxh3 Bxe4+, 26.Kh2 Rd2+, 27.Kg3 Rg2+, 28.Kh4 Bd8+, 29.Kh5 Bg6+ mate) 23...Bxe4+ 24.Qxg4 (if 24.Qxe4 Qg3 25.hxg4 Qh4+ mate) 24...Qxg4, 25.hxg4 Rd3 with the double threat of 26...Rh3+ mate and 26....Rxc3, and Black wins. Beautiful as are these variations, the continuation in the text is still more splendid."

22. .... Rxc3!!
23. gxh4, Rd2!!
24. Qxd2, Bxe4
25. Qg2, Rh3

 White resigns.  The only possible replies are 26. Rf3 and 26. Rf2.  In both cases, Black takes the Rook with the Bishop, and Rxh2 mate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails