Emanuel Lasker - William E. Napier; 

 Cambridge Springs, 1904. 


   Click  HERE   to go to my favorite web site on this grand and truly great tournament.   

  **************************************************************************  

Many thanks to the (many) {now former} Internet students: 

--->  who lived in Cleveland, Ohio ... 
and copied material from the John G. White collection for me to use. 

--->  to the three different students who lived in or around Washington, D.C. These kind individuals went to various libraries and resources, copied material and mailed it to me. One fellow went the extra mile: He scanned all the material, then e-mailed it to me. He also mailed me a small box full of copies. 
   (Not just for this game, but for other projects I am working on.)    

--->  I also wish to thank the one young man who lives in Germany. He found much material, (one fairly large box!); and sent it to me. (copies, mostly) As I speak little German, he was kind enough to have several magazine articles translated! 

Without the kind and very generous work of these fantastic people, this web page would not have been possible. 


This is a game I have gone over many, many, many times. Probably too many to count. 

I think I may have seen this game for the very first time from a member of the Pensacola Chess Club. 
He used to have an original edition (book) of Lasker's games, (hard-back);  the one by Reinfeld and Fine. 

One of the first times, (that I clearly remember); had to be as a teen-ager. I remember a group of us had been playing blitz. At the insistence of my good friend Scott, we went over a few games. (He said we should play less and study more.) So somebody pulled out a book, and we began to study. We studied this game for less than an hour before we all had to go home. 

We got so interested in this game, we spent all afternoon the next Saturday trying to decipher this game. This was obviously an encounter of an unusual kind. Scott then suggested that we each take a position or a variation and try to 'solve' it. He also suggested that we record all of our observations in a notebook. 

I was not real meticulous about recording my ideas, at least not at first. But I would find a really wild line, and I would try to remember it later, and I discovered I could not always recall exactly what I had looked at. I eventually left this game in the dust. I did not look at it again - at least not seriously - for almost five years. Then we were at a tournament in Mobile, and someone said he had gone over maybe the most amazing and complex chess game ever played. He whipped out this book on Lasker ... and we were off to the races again. 

This scenario repeated itself  many  times. When I was in the military, a friend gave me a book of Lasker's games as a birthday present. (This was while I was stationed at Kirtland A.F.B. in New Mexico.)  I began a study of this game, and this time I was much better about recording my thoughts and analysis. I would look at the Lasker book at night with a flashlight and pocket set while on post. Then I would get off work at dawn and come back to my room and spend several hours recording my thoughts in my notebook until I fell asleep. 

I eventually moved on to study other games, and once again it was a period of maybe 5-10 years before I was to seriously study this game again. 

Then when I began my web page, the e-mails began pouring. At one point, I must have been receiving close to 150 e-mails a day. When I began my project of finding and annotating all the best games of chess ever played, (click here); dozens of people suggested that I seriously look at this game. (I had some reservations about its soundness. An old friend, Master M. Appleberry and I had looked at it one night, and he did not think it was correct play.)

Of course I wanted to analyze it. I looked at it many times. When the Mammoth Book first came out, I went over all 100 games in less than a week. (I would go over 10 or 20 games a day when I got home from work.) This game was in there, and Nunn seemed to pretty much refute it. The same situation repeated itself when Soltis book first came out. This game was in there, but Soltis ranked it as one of the worst/most over-rated games of all time. This, and the fact that an Internet student told me Huebner had once took this game apart in an analysis for a German chess magazine, pretty much killed any chance of this game making it into my 'Top Ten.' (But I remained interested in it.)

I have worked for weeks at a time on this game, then laid it down. Sometimes I have worked on this game for 4-6 hours at one time. And I have done this more times than I care to count. I hope you enjoy this analysis. It is rather lengthy and rambling, but that is my style. 

***

   Click  here  to see an explanation of the symbols that I commonly use.  


    This is mostly a text-based page, with only a few diagrams.    
   Therefore, you will probably want ... or need a chess-board.    

   Click  HERE  to see this game (UN-annotated) ... in java-script re-play form.   


Tuesday;  August 12th, 2003:  IN THE FINAL analysis ...  I wound up annotating this game 5-7 times. (I had difficulty getting a version I was completely happy with. I also wish to note that I did  NOT  finish several of those versions!)  I was aiming for around three-to-five pages - when the game was printed out directly from the ChessBase document. (This version was close to 20 pages  ...  but I decided to use far fewer diagrams as I complete this HTML version of the game.) 

November 22nd, 2005: This game continues to fascinate people ... click here to see more.   


GM Emanuel Lasker (2735)IM William Ewart Napier (2525)

[B34]
  Super-Master Tournament  
 Cambridge Springs, PA;  U.S.A. 
(Round #3)
28.04.1904

 [A.J.G.] 

   The CB medal for this game. (las-nap_c04med.gif, 02 KB)

  *****************************************************************************************************  

One of THE most famous games of chess ever played. 
(A survey done in both a California newspaper AND a Dutch magazine confirms this. 
 In both surveys, this game was in the 'top ten' best known games ever played.) 

Virtually every annotator of any stature has taken a whack at this game. 
(The list is too long to go into. See the bibliography at the end of the game.) 

Anyone who has ever seen this game in the book by R.N. Coles ... or the version by 
Reinfeld and Fine ... will understand how this game was once viewed by previous 
generations of chess players. (It seems that every move is given either an exclam or 
even a double-exclamation point. For White  ...  AND  Black!  For example, Coles hands 
out something like 15 exclams,  ... ... ...  
and  FIVE (5) DOUBLE-EXCLAMS  during the course of this entire game!) 
{Depending on what edition of his book you happen to own.} 

This is also one of the most complicated games of chess ever played. While it is FAR 
from being perfect, any player who wants to learn should sit down with this game and 
spend several hours with it. (Start with a UN-annotated version!) 

At one time hailed as one of the greatest games of chess ... 
  - it was even referred to as an  IMMORTAL GAME by several authors - 
 ...  today analysis has shown the considerable deficiencies of this contest. 
(Soltis calls this one of the  MOST  OVER-RATED  games of all time!!!) 

*******

The ratings are only estimates, and based on calculations of these two players 
 last three events. (No reliable ELO exists for that time period.)  
 {Sonas gives Lasker as being MUCH higher, and Napier as slightly lower 
  than what I have given here.} 

NOTE:  Many authors have heaped marks on this game ... mostly a lot of exclamation 
points. I tried to be a bit more reserved, and ONLY award exclams to moves that really 
deserve them.   (Obvious ... and forced moves ... should NOT be given an exclam!)     

*****************************************************************************************************

1.e4 c5;  2.Nc3!?,   
Is White threatening a closed Sicilian? (I doubt it.) 

I think Lasker wanted to avoid any systems where Black played an early ...e6; 
he had gotten into trouble in this line in a previous tournament. 

     [  75 years later, the move  2.c3!?{Diagram?}  
         would be all the rage. ]  

 

2...Nc6;  3.Nf3 g6;   
Black intends a Dragon. ('!?') 

One newspaper column of that era questioned this, but it is obviously playable ...  
and even good.  

     [  With the moves:  3...d64.d4 cxd45.Nxd4 Nf66.Bg5, "+/="  
        we transpose into a modern form of the Sicilian known as  ...  
        "The Richter-Rauzer Attack."  ]  

 

Lasker makes the decision to go into a type of the open Sicilian ...  
certainly a very playable idea.  (And maybe even the best.)  

5.d4 cxd4;  5.Nxd4 Bg7;  6.Be3 d6;  
By transposition ... we have reached a completely modern opening line. 
(Both sides have excellent play.)  

     [ One guy - who only wanted to sell his book - questioned ...d6; 
        and said Black should instead play:  6...Nf6;  {Diagram?}  
        but of course both moves are fully playable. ]   

 

7.h3!?,  (Maybe - '?!')   {Diagram?}  
White prevents pins ... and keeps all Black pieces off the g4-square, 
at least for the time being. 

By modern standards, this move is bad ... and a complete waste of time. 
But I think restraint is in order - for one thing, opening theory when this game 
was played was almost non-existent. (for this line)  
 {One super-GM gave this move a full question mark.}  

In fact - if you consult books of that period - some players thought this was the 
correct way to play this particular variation. 
(White plans Qd2, and 0-0-0; followed by a King-side attack.)

      [  Probably best would have been for White to play: 
        >/=  7.Qd2! Nf68.f3! 0-09.Bc4!, "+/="  {Diagram?}   
        with a strong initiative for White. 

        The only problem with this is that the  "Yugoslav Attack"  versus 
        the Dragon would not be invented  ...  for another FIFTY years!!! 
        [ See MCO-14; page # 267.] 

***

        By playing the moves:  >/=   7.Be2 Nf68.Nb3 0-0; 
        9.0-0 Be610.f4, "+/="  {Diagram?}   
        we transpose to the Classical Variation of the Sicilian Dragon
        (These lines also would not be thoroughly explored by Soviet players 
          for another 30-40 years.)  ]   

 

7...Nf6;  8.g4!?,   
It is hard to be sure what to really think about this move. 
(Soltis gives this move without any comment whatsoever.) 

Several writers have given it an exclam and claimed it was the beginning 
of a very dangerous attack.  While a  "Top 50"  GM - during the decade of 
the 1990's - gave this move TWO question marks, and said it blows any 
chance for White to gain an advantage! 
(Obviously this is a little extreme ...  to say the least!!) 

It is ALWAYS risky to push pawns in the opening ... and ignore your development. 
On the other hand, this is a real line, and has been played by no less than Bobby 
Fischer!! (See his match against Sammy Reshevsky.) And most computer programs 
evaluate this position as still pretty level. So I will not condemn this move, and simply 
say it is interesting.
(Again a reminder: with virtually no {real} theory on this line, the players were free to 
 do as they pleased.)  

     [  Maybe better would have been:  >/=  8.Qd2 0-09.0-0-0, "~{D?}   
         when White still has a slight initiative in this position. ]  

 

8...0-0!?;  (Possibly - '?!')  {Diagram?}  
Black decides to castle, and get his King out of the center. 

MOST (modern) annotators condemn this move and label it as dubious, 
or even attach ...  ('?') - A FULL QUESTION MARK. (!!)  

I saw a very famous teacher, and this was quite a number of years ago - close 
to 30, in fact. (Hollywood even made a movie about one of his students!)  
Anyway this famous teacher was telling some little boy  ... ... ...  
"You can NEVER castle too early!" 

It seems to me that many Masters, (myself included!);  are big, fat hypocrites. 
When a "Class D" player fails to castle, we adorn his move with bunches of 
question marks. Here a player of obvious Master strength castles, and we 
heap a lot of strong criticism on his choice as well.  

But on a serious note, a modern player might do well to avoid castling here. 
You see, to castle here is to possibly - castle into an attack!  

   '?!' - GM Andrew Soltis.  

 (Personally I feel castling is fine here. As the opening went, Black was in no    
   real trouble!)     

 

     [  Maybe 8...Qa5!?{Diagram?}  instead? 

                                       ***

        Or perhaps:  8...Bd7!?{Diagram?}    
        with the idea of ...Rc8;  ...Ne5;  and possibly then  ...Nc4.  ]  

 

9.g5 Ne8!?;  (Maybe - '?!')  {Diagram?}  
Black obviously had to move his Knight, and h5 was out of the question as 
Be2 is embarrassing. 

But in my mind this move, (...Ne8) is incorrect, and places the horse on a bad 
square. It was probably better to play ...Nd7 in this position. 

I don't know that many other annotators have really made this observation. 

     [  Clearly better was:  >/=  9...Nd7!; "~{Diagram?}  
         the main idea being to put the Knight on e5 or c5.  ]  

 

10.h4?,  
White wishes to attack ... but this move is just too slow to be any good. 
I also wish to note that modern authors and writers are universal in their 
condemnation of this move. 

   '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.     

   "This is going too far." - GM John Nunn.   

     [  Better was:  >/=  10.Qd2,  {Diagram?}  
        followed by castling on the Q-side, according to GM Andy Soltis]  

 

10...Nc7?!;  (Maybe even - '?')  {Diagram?}  
This looks nice - Black now threatens ...d5; when White's King in the center will 
 be a very serious problem. 

MOST annotators - including Soltis - make no comment on this move at all. 
But it seems to me that the move is very committal and also hems in the Black 
Queen. I think it would have been better for Black to try ...Queen-to-a5 here, or 
even to exchange the Knights on d4. 

*******

     [  Black should seriously consider:  >/=  10...Qa5!?; "<=>"  {Diagram?}  
        with good play for Black.  

***

        Or  >/=   10...Nxd4  "="  {Diagram?}  
        with almost complete equality.  

***

        Interesting was:  = 10...Qb6!?; "~"  {Diagram?}  
        with many complications. ]  

*******

 

11.f4?!,  (Maybe - '?')   {See the diagram just below.}  
Yet another (inept) pawn move.

*************************

   The position immediately following f4, with Black to play. What move would YOU make in this position?  (lask-napi_cs04-pos1.jpg, 21 KB)

R2QKB1R/PPP5/2N1B3/3NPP1P/6P1/2np2p1/ppn1ppbp/r1bq1rk1  (Black to move)

*************************

 

Lasker seems to have forgotten about all the maxims he talked about in his books! 
(I am mainly referring to the excellent book: "Common Sense in Chess."

What ever happened to the idea that you are supposed to: ... "push one or two 
pawns - to
control the middle of the board - and (then) get your pieces out as 
quickly as
possible?"  - GM Emanuel Lasker. 

*******

     [  Most authors have recommended that White play:  11.Qd2, "~{Diag?}  
        in this position.  

***

        I think White should go ahead and play:  >/=  11.h5!,  "--->"   {Diag?}  
        and follow-through on his earlier ideas of swiftly starting an all-out King-
        side attack. ]  

*******

 

11...e5!;  (CENTER!!)  
Black takes advantage of White's very slow development, and decides 
to open the game. 

   '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.   '!' - GM John Nunn.   

     [ Another playable idea might be: 11...d5!?12.Nxc6 bxc6; "~"  {Diag?}  
        with a fair position for Black. ]   

 

12.Nde2!?,   
I am not sure which square is the correct one for the White Knight here, 
but this one obviously blocks in the White KB. 
(White was definitely concerned about protecting f4 and probably did not 
 wish to exchange pieces.) 

     [  After the moves:  12.Nb3 exf413.Bxf4 Ne5; "="  {Diagram?}  
         Black is at least equal.   

***

        Maybe White should try: >/=  12.Nxc6 bxc613.h5; "~"  {Diagram?}  
        and hope to drum up an attack down the h-file. ]   

 

12...d5?!;  (Probably - '?')   
Originally lauded as daring and even VERY brilliant, this move today is seen 
as the beginning of a lot of problems for the second player. 
(Black loses a vital center pawn, and does not get adequate compensation for 
 the material deficit.)  

   '??' - GM Robert Huebner.    '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.     '?' - GM John Nunn.   

"This move is the trigger for the exciting complications which follow, 
  but it is a mistake ... "  - GM John Nunn.  

 

**************

     [  Maybe  >/=  12...f5!?; "~"  {Diagram?}  
         instead would have been better? 

***

        Black should play:  >/= 12...exf4!13.Nxf4 Ne5!?;  "="  {Diagram?} 
         ... which  "was the better part of valor."  - GM A. Soltis
        (...Bxc3+!? here, wrecking White's pawn structure is also an idea.) 

***

        Soltis points out that:  </=  12...Bg4!?; ('?!')  13.f5!{Diagram?}  
        This is probably the most energetic. 
        (Nunn recommends Qd2?! here, but this is not as convincing.)  

            (After the moves: 13.Rg1!? Qd7; 14.Qd2 exf4; 15.Bxf4 Ne5, "="  {Diag?}      
             Black is at least equal here.)     

        13...gxf5{Diagram?}  
        This is virtually forced.  

        14.exf5 Bxf515.Ng3, "comp" ("~")  {Diagram?}   
         is probably very good for White.  - Vladimir Zak. 
         (White gets a very powerful K-side attack ... that could be lethal.)  ]   

**************

 

The next few plies look forced. 
13.exd5 Nd4; ('!?')   
Several writers praise this move, {even generously awarding exclams}; 
but without it - White gets very nearly a won game.  

     [ </= 13...exf4?!14.Bxf4, ''   
         (White is clearly better.) 

                                   ***

       Obviously Black can NOT play: 
       </=  13...Nxd5 ???14.Qxd5 "+/-"   
        which just drops a piece.  ]   

 

R.N. Coles gives both White and Black an exclamation point for 
their fourteenth moves. 
14.Nxd4,   
This looks practically forced.  (To stop the check on f3.) 

   '!' - R.N. Coles.  

     [  Maybe the move:  14.Bg2!?  "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        was playable in this position?  

           (But definitely not: </=  14.Bf2????, Nf3#.)   ]   

 

14...Nxd5!;  {Diagram?}   
A nice and tricky in-between move by Black. If White is not careful, 
he will quickly get a bad game.  

   '!' - R.N. Coles.   '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.   '!' - GM John Nunn. 
   '!' - Reinfeld and Fine.
   

This is an amazing move, Napier must have seen this when he played ...d5. 

"A nasty surprise."  - Dr. J. Hannak  (Perhaps he is quoting Reti?)  

     [  One writer said Black could try:  14...exd4!?; ('?')  15.Bxd4 Re8+;  
        16.Be2 f6!?17.gxf6 Bxf618.Bxf6 Qxf619.Qd2 Bg4;  
        20.0-0-0, ''  {Diagram?}  but White is much, much, MUCH better 
        here - in this position.  (Maybe just  "+/-").  ]   

 

15.Nf5!,  (Maybe - '!!')   
A nice - and unexpected - interposition by Lasker.
(Most authors give this move one exclam, some gave it two; 
 and Fine gave it three!) 
{See Fine's book on the best chess games of all time. He also 
 wrote a series of articles for the magazine, 'Chess Review' many 
 years ago. In one of those - he covered this game.} 

   '!!' - R.N. Coles.   '!!' - Reinfeld and Fine.  
    '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.   '!' - GM John Nunn.  

"Lasker responds in style."  - GM John Nunn. 

"A magnificent parry." - GM S. Tartakower and J. Du Mont  

<< "White has to tread carefully to avert disaster." (Nxd5!?, exd4!) >> 
      - GM Andrew Soltis. 

     [  Interesting was:  15.Nxd5!? exd416.Bg2,  "~"  {D?}  
        with an unbalanced position.  ]  

 

15...Nxc3;  
This looks to be virtually forced. 
(For some reason R.N. Coles gives this move TWO exclams!) 

   '!!' - R.N. Coles.  

*******

     [  Much worse for Black was: </= 15...Bxf5?!; ('?')  16.Qxd5!, ''  {Diag?}  
         which is probably a completely winning position ("+/-") for White.   

***

        Also very bad for the second player would have been the continuation:  
        </= 15...Nxe3?!16.Nxe3 Qxd1+!?17.Rxd1 exf418.Ned5, ''   {Diag?}  
        and Black is a piece down. ("+/-") 
        (He has a one pawn, but it is NOT nearly enough!)  ]  

*******

 

16.Qxd8 Rxd8;  {See the diagram just below.}  
This is a difficult position.

 

*************************

   The position after Black played ...Re8; how does White proceed from this position?  (lask-napi_cs04-pos2.jpg, 21 KB)

  R3KB1R/PPP5/2n1B3/5P1P/4pNP1/6p1/pp3pbp/r1br2k1  (White to move)  

*************************

 

The fun is now about to begin! 

17.Ne7+,  
This is probably better than the capture on g7. (Nunn.) 
(More than one annotator has given this move an exclam ... 
 but this looks unnecessary to me.)

   '!' - R.N. Coles.   

"One fine turn follows another!"  - GM S. Tartakower & J. du Mont. 

      [ Interesting was:  17.Nxg7!? ]  

 

17...Kh8;  {Box?}  
This is best. In fact it is the only move for Black to continue the game. 
(Both Coles and Reinfeld give this an exclamation point.) 

     '!' - R.N. Coles.   

"So far the tactics are running in Black's favor. 
  (18.bxc3, exf4; 19.Bd4, Re8;  or  18.Nxc8, exf4; 19.Bxf4, Raxc8.)" 
    - GM Andrew Soltis. 

Marco comments here that both Lasker and Napier have displayed an 
unparalleled depth to their play. 

 

************

     [  Much worse (for Black!) would have been:  
        </=  17...Kf8?!; ('?')  18.Nxc8!,  
        A simple move, but a large improvement over 
        previous analysis.  

***

        ( Not as good is: 18.Bc5!? Ne419.Ba3 Nd620.Nxc8 Raxc8;  
          21.0-0-0 Ke722.Bg2!?,  ''    ... "and (White) wins."  
           - Savielly Tartakower  and  James Du Mont. 

            (But 22.Bh3! "+/-" is much better.)    {A.J.G.} )    

***

        18...Raxc8 [];  
         This is best - practically forced.  

        19.bxc3 ('!')  19...exf420.Bd4!, "+/="  (Maybe - "")  
         when White is clearly better. 

         (I sent this position to one GM from an on-line chess service. 
           {I had to pay for a lesson to get this information!}    
         I did not tell him where it was from, I just asked him to evaluate the position. 
         He said that: "White has an easy win, it is only a matter of some [simple] 
         technique."  ]   

************

 

18.h5!,  
This is good/best ... and I think it deserves an exclam, although 
Soltis does not give it one.  

   '!!' - R.N. Coles.   '!!' - Fred Reinfeld and GM R. Fine.  
    '!' - GM John Nunn.  

The key point about this move is White leaves the N on e7 nearly stranded, 
ignores the enemy Knight on c3, lets his development go, and attempts to 
open the h-file  ... to re-ignite the embers of his attack. 

************

     [  White could play:  = or >/=  18.f5!?, ('!') "+/="  {Diagram?}  
         with a small advantage. 
         (This possibility is not even mentioned by most annotators. And I was one of the first  
          people to point this possibility out. ---> See my old web page that was posted in 1995.)  

***

        But White can NOT play:  </=  18.bxc3? exf419.Bd4 Re8; "/+"  {Diag?}  
        when Black is close to winning.  ]   

************

 

18...Re8!;   
This is subtle and definitely the best move in this position. And I am quite sure that the 
great Richard Reti was the first annotator to truly appreciate the strength of this particular 
move.  (Both Nunn and Soltis give this move an exclam.)  

Funnily enough, Coles failed to give this move an exclam in the original edition of his 
book ... or even in any of the updated {later} editions!  

   '!' - GM John Nunn.  '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.   

      [  Probably less than ideal was:  18...gxh519.Rxh5, "+/="  
          with a slight edge for White. 

           ( >/=  19.f5!, "+/="  - GM A. Soltis. )   ]   

 

19.Bc5!?,  
This could be nearly forced.  

"White revives his threat ..."  - GM Andrew Soltis.  
 (The threats are hxg6, Bc4, and then Nxg6#.)  

   '!' - R.N. Coles.  

Reinfeld, R.N. Coles, ... and others!  ... award this move an exclam ...  
but I am not entirely sure if this move is even the best move at 
this particular point! 

     [  The following continuation: >/=  19.hxg6!? Rxe7{Diag?}   
        This seems to be forced.  

           ( After the relatively simple moves:  </= 19...fxg6?; 20.Nxg6+ Kg8;     
              21.Bc4+ Be6; 22.Bxe6+ Rxe6; 23.f5 Ree8; 24.Nh4 Nd5; 25.Ng2,     
              25...Bf8; 26.0-0-0, ''  {Diagram?}     
              White has a very large edge.  (Maybe  "+/-") )     

        20.Bc5 Rd7;  
        This looks best, although Nunn gives the grossly inferior ...Nd5.  

           ( </= 20...Nd5?!; 21.Rd1!, '' )     

        21.Rxh7+ Kg822.bxc3!, "+/=   
        seems to yield a substantial advantage to White.  
        (ALL the programs agree on this. The second player's biggest problem 
         in this line is that his King gets badly exposed.)  ]   

 

19...gxh5?;  {Diagram?}  
This has been awarded exclams by most authors,  (and was highly praised 
by  Reti  and  Tartakower);  but it  definitely  deserves one question mark ... 

 and it may deserve  TWO,  especially if Black cannot save his game after 
 this move.
  (With correct play by both sides.) 

   '!' - R.N. Coles.  

"A surprising, but very well considered move." 
  - Dr. J. Hannak. (Reti)  

"Probably best ..."   says the well-known and very respected author, 
  FM Graham Burgess.  

"This was much praised by Reti and others, although it is an obvious move. 
 There was only one alternative to consider  -- 19...exf4; -- and that would have 
  been easily handled by 20.Bc4, gxh5;  transposing into the game, or by 
  20.hxg6, fxg6; 21.Bc4!."  - GM Andrew Soltis. 

************

 

     [  Black had to play:  >/=  19...exf4; ('!')  20.hxg6! fxg6!;  
         Black gets into real trouble with any other move here.  

           (For example:  </= 20...Nd5??; 21.Rxh7#)     

        21.Bd3{Diagram?}  
        This has got to be the best.  
        (I will resist the temptation to give myself an exclam here ...  
         the move is just too obvious.)  

        Nunn (and Soltis!) gives the GROSSLY inferior </= Bc4?! ('?')  here.  
        Then Black should not play b5?,  but instead ...b6! "=/+" (Maybe - "/+") 

            (Reinfeld and Fine give the moves:  "21.Bc4!! b5!!"      
            Needless to say this is just plain bad AND wrong!)    

*******

 

           ( A.)  Not </= 21.bxc3? Bxc3+; ("/+")  {Diag?}  Black is clearly better. 

             B.)  The move Bc4, (on move 21) has been much praised, and even been 
                     awarded multiple exclams. But my analysis indicates it is completely 
                     insufficient:  </=  21.Bc4?! b6!;  "=/+" and Black is at least a little better 
                     in this particular position. 

           ----->     (21...Bf5; may also work here as well.  Click  HERE  to read more.)     

                     22.Kf1{Diagram?}  This could be forced.  

                         (22.Ba3? Bb7; 23.Rh3 Bf8; "/+")     

                     22...Bf523.Nxf5 gxf524.g6!?{Diagram?}  
                     White is already in a pickle.  

***

                       ( a.)  White could also try: 24.Bf7!? Rec8;  25.Bf2 Ne4; 26.g6 h6;       
                                27.c3 Rd8; "=/+"  {Diagram?}      
                                Black is at least a little better in this position.  

                         b.)  Maybe White's best chance would have been:       
                                24.bxc3!? bxc5;  25.Rd1 Re7; "/+" {Diagram?}         
                                and Black is better, however White may yet retain some drawing        
                                chances due to the presence of opposite-colored Bishops. )        

***

                     24...h625.Bd6 Rad826.Bxf4 Rd4!27.Bxh6 Rxc428.Bd2+ Kg8;  
                     29.bxc3 Rd830.Rh2 Rg4; "/+"  {Diagram?}  
                     Black is clearly better here.  )  (This note added: Tues;  August 19, 2003.)  

*******

 

        21...Nd522.Rxh7+! Kxh723.Bxg6+ Kh824.Bxe8 Nxe7;  
        A reasonable move here (by Black).  

              (One magazine examines the line:  "="    
                24...Bg4!?;  25.Bd7!, Bxd7;  26.Nxd5, "~" {Diagram?}   
                ... "as {being} about equal."  - GM Pal Benko in 'Chess Life.')    
               This {sub} note added:  Wednesday; January 12th, 2004.)  

 

        25.Bxe7 Bxb2!26.Rb1 Bc3+27.Kf2 Be6; "~"  ("=")  {Diagram?}  
        And I rate this position as unclear. (The computer gives a tiny, tiny 
        edge to White.)  I think the average GM would have to admit that winning 
        this position ...  would be next to impossible.  
        (REPEATED computer tests have confirmed this conclusion.)   

        This is my own, ORIGINAL analysis. And it represents a  HUGE  
         improvement over all previously published work!!  {A.J.G.}  ]   

*********************************************************************

 

20.Bc4??,  {Diagram?}  
This might seem harsh, but ... 

Many annotators have praised this move, and even adorned it with 
1 or 2 exclams ... but it is really bad. 
  (White goes from a possibly winning game to a losing one with this    
    one very, very poor play.)     

   '!!' - R.N. Coles.  

   '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.  

*******

 "This Bishop move does hand away whatever chances White had ... "    
   - GM Andrew Soltis.   
  (Burgess echoes this, calling it brave, but gravely mistaken.) 

************

     [  With the very simple: >/=  20.bxc3 Bf821.Bb5, ''   {Diagram?}  
        White gains an obvious advantage. 

        (I will spare you a  "30-move-deep" analysis ... any strong computer 
         program will confirm that White is indeed much better ... and possibly  
         even winning from this position.)  

***

          (According to R.N. Coles, the following continuation:     
           21.Bb5 Rxe7; 22.Bxe7 Bxe7;  {Diagram?}     
            ... "offers Black excellent drawing prospects,"  ...      
            but this is just plain nonsense!       

            After the further moves:  23.Rxh5 Bg4;  24.Rh4 Bf5; 25.fxe5 Bxg5;      
            26.Rb4 Be6; 27.Bd3! b6; 28.a4, ''   (Maybe  "+/-")  {Diagram?}      
            most programs consider White to be simply winning here. )   ]    

************ 

 

20...exf4??;  {Diagram?}    
Modern annotators are pretty much universal in their condemnation 
of this particular move, even Soltis points out that Black should play  
...Ne4! "=/+" here, in this position.  

    Black goes from a  WIN  to a  LOSS  ...  with this one move. 
   (This is why I felt I had to award this move TWO question marks.)     

   '!!'  - Reinfeld and Fine.   '!!' - R.N. Coles.   
    '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.   '?' - GM John Nunn.  

(For like 10 to 15 years, I had noticed that this move caused a VERY dramatic 
 change in a computer's evaluation of this position.)  

"Rightly seeking to improve his chances in a counter-attack." 
  - GM Savielly Tartakower and James Du Mont 
(Of course we know today that they were incorrect.)  

"This is usually awarded an exclamation point -- and was given two by R.N. Coles. 
  But Black would have had all the winning chances after the superior 20...Ne4!;  
  21.Bxf7 Bg4!; 22.Bxe8 Rxe8."  - GM Andy Soltis.  

************

     [  It seems Black should play ...Ne4; in this position. And it seems to lead to a game 
        that is very close to being a decisive advantage for the second player.  

        20...Ne4; ('!')  21.Bxf7 Bg4!22.Ba3!?,  
        This is at least worth a try.  
        (After Bxe8?; White's game is very close to crumbling.)  

           ( After the moves: </= 22.Bxe8?,  - GM Andrew Soltis.      
             22...Rxe8; "/+"  {Diagram?}      
             and Black evidently has a sizeable edge in this particular position. )       

        22...exf4; "=/+"  (Probably - "/+")  
        and Black is very clearly much better in this position.  

        (I gave this position to one friend who is a Postal Master. He worked on it 
         for a very long time. He says he has worked this position out to a win for 
         Black ...  and I believe him!)   

***

        R.N. Coles  gives a line that is obviously much inferior to ...Ne4.  
        (He gives the following continuation, but does not mention ...Ne4.)  

        </=  20...Be6?21.Bxe6 fxe622.bxc3 Bf823.Rxh5 Bxe7;  
        24.Bxe7 Rxe7
25.fxe5 Rc826.0-0-0! Rxc3?!27.g6, ''  

        and White is clearly much better than Black in this position.  ]    

************

 

21.Bxf7,   {See the diagram given. (below)}  
This move was praised by some annotators, but it looks like the only decent 
try for Lasker here.  (To me.)

*************************

   The actual game position just after White plays 21.Bxf7.  (lask-napi_cs04-pos3.jpg, 19 KB)

   R3K2R/PPP5/2n5/5p2/2B3Pp/8/pp2NBbp/r1b1r2k  (Black to move)  

*************************

 

Coles (naturally) awards another rather pointless exclam here. 
(The move is too obvious.) 

   '!' - R.N. Coles.  

*************************

     [  Variation # 25W1.)   
        White's other moves are not all that attractive, especially at first 
        glance. For example: =  21.bxc3!?,  ('?!')  {Diagram?}  
        This is condemned by most authors ...  
        but I have never found a clear-cut refutation. 

        21...Bxc3+!?{Diagram?}   
        This is interesting, but it may not be best. 

***

           ( Black's trickiest line - and the one that probably offers the most    
             chances - is:  >/=  21...b6!; 22.Bb4 a5; 23.Bd6! Bxc3+; 24.Kf2 Bb7;    
             25.Rad1! Bxh1; 26.Rxh1 Rad8; 27.Nf5, "+/="  {Diagram?}    
             I spent months working out some of the best lines. I e-mailed this   
             position to a strong IM on ICC     
             {I took lessons from him several years ago.}     
             (I told him this position was from a postal game of mine.)      

             After studying the position for over two days, he wrote back and said        
             that White has a completely won position and that Black's extra Pawns      
             are virtually meaningless! )   

***

        (Returning here to my main analysis line.)     
        22.Kf2 Bxa123.Rxa1 Kg7{Diagram?}   
        This looks forced. 

        24.Nxc8 Raxc825.Bd4+ Kf826.Bd3,  "+/="  (Maybe - '')  {Diagram?}  
        This is a position I spent days {weeks?} on, and e-mailed to several chess friends. 
        The consensus is that White - with two Bishops for the Rook - is clearly 
        better here.  
        (The extra Black Pawns are just about insignificant here, due to the shattered 
         structure. With best play, Black's pawns are picked off fairly easily.) 

*******

        Variation # 25W2.)  
        A big mis-fire is the continuation:  21.Rxh5?! Bg4!22.Rh4 Na4!;  
        23.Bd6 Bxb2!; "=/+"  (Maybe - "/+")  {Diagram?}  
        and Black is the only one who is better in this position.  ]    

*************************

 

21...Ne4?!;  (Maybe - '?')  
This move was highly praised by many authors. 
("A magnificent counter-effort," says Savielly Tartakower and J. Du Mont. 
  And Coles gives it TWO exclams.) 

   '!!' - R.N. Coles.   

   '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.  

This move ... "comes one move too late." - GM Andy Soltis.  

  ... "tempting, but unsound."  - GM John Nunn.  

 

With ...Rf8!, (Maybe - '!!'); Black can make White's road to the 
win much more thorny.  

     [  >/=  21...Rf8!;  - GM John Nunn. ]   

 

22.Bxe8 Bxb2;  
This is ugly, but Black had few good choices hereabouts. 

     [  Even worse was:  </=  22...Nxc5?!; ('?')  23.Bxh5, ''  {Diag?}  
         and White is better here - if not just plain winning in this position.  

***

        Or  22...Be6?23.Bxh5 Nxc524.Bg6 h6;  
        25.Rd1!, ''  (Probably  "+/-")  with White clearly on top. ]   

 

23.Rb1 Bc3+;  24.Kf1,    
This is forced for White.  

     [ </=  24.Ke2? Bg4+25.Kd3 Nxc5+26.Kxc3 Rxe8; "/+" ]   

 

24...Bg4!;   
Black is down a lot of material, and thus he must play very precisely. 
This is one of the few times Coles awards an exclam in this game ...  
 that I actually agree with him! 

     '!' - R.N. Coles.    

     [ After some fairly reasonable moves like the following:  
        </=  24...Nxc5?!25.Bxh5 Kg7;  
        This gives Black King some escape squares.  

          ( </= 25...Ne4?!; 26.Bg6!, "+/-" )       

        26.Nxc8 Rxc827.Rh3 Ba528.Rh4, ''   
        White is better ... and close to winning. (An exchange up.)  ]   

 

25.Bxh5!,  (Maybe - '!!')  {Diagram?}  
Very nice ... White re-opens the h-file to renew the attack ...  
 but it costs Lasker a whole Rook to do so!!  

    '!' -  R.N. Coles.  '!' -  GM Andrew Soltis.  

     [ Interesting is: 25.Bf7!?, "+/=" ]   

The next 3-4 moves look to be relatively best. 
(Coles gives White's 26th move an exclam, but I cannot offer a 
 satisfactory explanation as to why he did this, other than effect.) 

25...Bxh5;  26.Rxh5 Ng3+;  27.Kg2 Nxh5;  28.Rxb7, ('!')  {See the diagram given.}  
It is strange that this try, which at first glance seems to simply re-establish 
material equality, is the beginning to a new phase of the game - where White's 
pieces seem to gain in energy with every move. 

 

*************************

   Lasker just played "Rook-takes-Pawn-on-b7" on move 28. From here on out, it is all Lasker.  (lask-napi_cs04-pos4.jpg, 16 KB)

8/P1P3K1/2b5/5p2/2B3Pn/8/pR2N2p/r6k  (Black to move)

*************************

  From this point on, White's piece play is fun to watch  ...  and most impressive. (!)  

     [ 28.Rb3!? ]  

 

28...a5;  
White threatened Rxa7 ... Black could not lose this vital pawn. 

 

R.N. Coles gives White's next move an exclamation point. 
29.Rb3!,  (Maybe - '!!')   
Soltis gives this move no mark of any kind, although it has been praised by 
several other authors. 

Does he feel that the Rook maneuver  Rook-at-b7-to-b3-to-h3  is so common and 
hackneyed that it merits no accolades? If so, I must  ...  very respectfully ... disagree.

   '!' - R.N. Coles.   '!' - FM Graham Burgess.  

     [ 29.Kf3!?, ''  or  29.Bd6!?, '' ]  

 

29...Bg7!?;   
This could be forced, but has the unfortunate aspect of taking away all the flight 
squares away from the Black King in this position. 

     [ Maybe  29...Ba1!?;  was worth a try? ]   

 

R.N. Coles gives exclams to both White's 30th and 31st moves here, but one 
of them seems a little extraneous to me. 

30.Rh3 Ng3;  31.Kf3! Ra6!?;   
This could be dubious and is definitely less than absolute best. 
(Black was logically trying to guard the g6-square. And Black was much 
 worse - or even lost - no matter what move he played here. When a player 
 has a completely hopeless game and makes a bad move, I find it difficult 
 to be extremely harsh or critical.) 

 ...  "a final, time-pressure error."   "Better was  31...Re8;  32.Bd6, Nf1." 
  - GM Andrew Soltis.  

   '?' - GM Andrew Soltis.   

*******

     [  The respected author gives: >/=  31...Re8!;   - GM Andy Soltis. 
         (But after Bd6!, White may still be winning here.)

***

        I think that the best line was:  >/=   31...Rd8!32.Kxf4 Ne2+; 
        33.Ke3 Nc334.g6, ''  {Diagram?}  
        although White is clearly very much better, (and probably winning); 
        in this particular position.   - LM A.J. Goldsby I.  

***

        Not  </=  31...Be5??32.Ng6+{Diagram?}  
        and Black drops a piece. ("+/-")  ]  

*******

 

All of Lasker's remaining moves are probably the best ... and you could give each 
one an exclam, if it pleases you to do so. 
32.Kxf4 Ne2+;  33.Kf5 Nc3;  34.a3 Na4;  35.Be3, ('!') ("+/-")    {Diagram?}     
Black Resigns.
(White's threats connected with Pawn-to-g6 are simply too strong 
 for Black to overcome.) 

     [  White wins easily, for example:  35.Be3! Nc3!?36.g6 h6;  {Diagram?}  
        This might be forced.  

           (Or Black could play:  36...Rf6+!?;  {Diagram?}      
             but he is still losing.)      

        37.Bxh6, "+/-"  {Diagram?}   
        and Black will have to shed a whole Rook to avoid an impending mate.  ]    

 

It is almost funny to note that despite the equal material, Lasker has overwhelming threats. 

In the book, "Dr. Lasker's Chess Career,"  we find the following comment:  
"One of the most beautiful, most profound, most exciting, and one of  THE  
  most difficult
games in the whole literature of chess."  
   - GM Reuben Fine & Fred Reinfeld.  (My emphasis.)  

Reti  calls this a rich and complex struggle. 

Tartakower  and  Du-Mont  call this:  ... "a magnificent encounter," ...  
and ... "full of possibilities." 
They close with the comment of: "A justly celebrated game."  

***

  Soltis offers the following counterpoint:  
(After noting that at one time that this game had the aura of an immortal.) 
  << Its reputation was enhanced by Richard Reti's high praise in his book, 
       "Masters Of The ChessBoard." And in a book of Lasker's games, Reuben 
       Fine and Fred Reinfeld
(surely) went overboard:  (See the quote above.) 
       It does not, however, stand up to close scrutiny. >>    -  GM Andy Soltis.  

*****************************************************************************************************

 Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003. 

*******

BIBLIOGRAPHY
First, I annotated this game from memory - pulling just the raw score from an 
on-line database. Then I looked at the following sources,  in the order  given: 

# 1.)   (A barely readable) Copy of the original tournament book. 

# 2.)  [The Mammoth Book Of]  "The World's Greatest Chess Games," 
          by  Dr. (& GM) John Nunn, GM John Emms, and FM Graham Burgess
         
(The main analysis here is by Nunn. It is by far the most sober and accurate 
            assessment of this game that I have seen to date. It is also extremely detailed 
            and thorough.)  
          Published by Carroll  & Graf books. Copyrighted by the authors, 1998. 

# 3.)  "The 100 Best,"  ('The 100 Best Games of The 20th Century, Ranked.); 
            by  GM Andrew Soltis. Copyright (c) 2000, by the author. 
            Published by McFarland Books. 
            (Soltis considers this game to be one of  THE  MOST  OVER-RATED 
              games of all time!!  His analysis begins on page 18.)

# 4.)  "Epic Battles of The Chess-Board,"   by  R.N. Coles.  
          (c) 1952, David McKay Books. 
          {The analysis in this book was pretty bad, I chalk it up to the poor 
           technology of that era.}   

# 5.)   "Chess Highlights of The 20th Century," 
         
('The Best Chess 1900-1999 In  Historical Context')  
         
by  FM Graham Burgess. (The year 1904.) 
          Published by Gambit Books, Copyright (c), by G. Burgess. 1999. 

# 6.)  I have many different game collections of Lasker's games. 
          Ones by: Hannak, Whyld, Barden, Reinfeld, etc. 
          (And other game collections of great players that also cover Lasker.) 
          But easily the most significant is the one:  
          "The Collected Games Of Emmanuel Lasker,"  by  Ken Whyld.  
          Copyright (c) 1998, by the author. Published by  The Chess Player.  
          {This is one of the most thoroughly documented books I have ever seen, 
           virtually every resource has been checked and listed.}  

# 7.)  "EMANUEL LASKER, The Life of a Chess Master,"  by  Dr. J. Hannak
           Copyright (c) by the author, 1952, & 1959. (1991? Dover reprint.)  
           Published by Dover Books of New York.  ISBN: # 0-486-26706-7  
           {My old/last copy of this book fell apart after years of use/overuse. 
           So in May of 2003, I ordered a new copy on the Internet.}  
           NOTE:  Most big Lasker fans inform me this is  THE  book to own on 
           his life and games! 

# 8.)   "The book of the Tournament: Cambridge Springs, 1904."  
             By various. (Reprint.)    

# 9.)  "Lasker's Greatest Chess Games,"  ---> 'The years 1889 to 1914.' 
            By  Fred Reinfeld  and  Reuben Fine.  (c) 1963, Dover Books.  
            (I also have an original edition of this book.) 

# 10.)  "Masters Of The ChessBoard,"  by the great  (GM)  Richard Reti
             (Dover reprint.) 

# 11.)  The most excellent book:  "500 Master Games Of Chess,"  
             by  GM Savielly Tartakower & James Du Mont. 
             (c) 1975, Dover Books. (reprint)

# 12.)  'Chess Brilliancy,'  250 historic games;  by  NM Iakov Damsky.  
             Published by EVERYMAN Chess, formerly Cadogan Books. 
            Translated by K. Neat.  (Copyright 2002.)   

# 13.)  This game is also given in almost countless chess books devoted 
             to chess tactics.     

# 14.)  I did NOT have this book when I annotated this game, but I just recently purchased 
            the book on  NAPIER, ("The Forgotten Chess Master");  by J. Hilbert. I like this book 
            and recommend it highly to anyone interested in the life of this unique master. 
            (December 03rd, 2003.)  

# 15.)  See the  January, 2005  issue of  'Chess Life'  magazine. GM Pal Benko's  column,   
            ("Endgame Lab");  beginning on page 44. (Benko seems to have borrowed many of  
             his ideas directly from this web page.)  

*******

     NOTE:  Years back, they used to hold a contest in Mobile, AL to determine the 
     best commercial program (or box) in the whole U.S.A. They called this event, 
     "The U.S. COMPUTER Open." (I watched this event nearly every year that it was played.) 

     The second or the third year, one of the organizers asked me to put together a list 
      of 30-50 games that the computers might have trouble analyzing. This was one of 
      the games that I chose from my library. It was almost comical to see these early 
      chess  'boxes,' (dedicated, micro-processors); attempt to analyze games as 
      complicated as this one.   (The evaluations would  'flip-flop' every few seconds!) 

***************************************************************************************************** 

  (Code Initially)  Generated with  ChessBase 8.0   

 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003.  

 

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I have annotated this game MANY times ... I did a very brief version - based on R.N. Coles work - that was first published in the Alabama  'Chess Antics'  sometime during the 1970's.  (I am not sure of the exact year.)  

My LONG version of this game, (on my main hard drive); which contains a comment and a diagram after every move, dozens of imported games, an opening survey, DEEP analysis of all possible variations ... this version now runs  OVER  75 pages!!!!!  (And I am not even done with it - in fact I have given up on ever finishing it!) 

Around May or June of 2003,  I mailed one version into  'Chess Life'  magazine ... in the hopes that they might publish a few excerpts from that analysis. That version was mainly analysis and had a limited number of diagrams ... but, if my memory serves me,  it was close to 25 pages  in length. (double-column pages) 

After a deep reflection, I decided to NOT try and publish the version that I sent in to the U.S. Chess Federation. (Chess Life)  The  VERY DEEP  analysis at some points ... would make for variations and sub-variations, {and side-variations}; that would be almost impossible to follow ... and very, very, very, difficult to format. (And somehow I doubt that very many people would go over {and through} all of the various notes and sub-notes. This labyrinth would simply be too difficult to follow. In fact, the best response I have gotten to web pages has been the kind of pages that are MOSTLY verbiage and variations that are short - and very to the point!!)  Therefore, I went back to a blank piece of paper, (new computer file); and started from scratch. I have felt free to consult any of my other work, and any of the original references.  (Before this page is published, I will review all of them.)  I did NOT set myself any page limits, but I did promise not to explore every possibility. I basically wanted to streamline both the verbiage and the variations. (If there are some lines I did not cover, please consult one of the works in the bibliography. Or fire up your favorite program and work it out yourself.) But at the same time, MANY mistakes and misconceptions exist as concerning this game. It is my hope to clear up as many of these as possible. I WANT THIS TO BE CONSIDERED ONE OF THE DEFINITIVE WORKS OF ANALYSIS ON THIS PARTICULAR GAME!!! 


I had another page on this game ... that was posted on my "Excite" web site in approximately 1994. 
But that group of servers went bust a long time back. (Late '90's?) 

This page was first posted, (here): April 24th, 2003.  This page was last updated on 11/29/14


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