The World Champions (Part One)

Wed, 2013-02-20 09:58 -- Brett Tindall

Blog Post 19-2-13

The World Champions Part One

In this next series of blog posts, I’ll go through some of the games of the World Champions, explaining the ideas behind the moves played.

For those not so familiar with chess history, here is the list of World Chess Champions:

  1. Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-1894)
  2. Emanuel Lasker (1894-1921)
  3. Jose Raul Capablanca (1921-1927)
  4. Alexander Alekhine (1927-1935 and 1937-1946)
  5. Max Euwe (1935-1937)
  6. Mikhail Botvinnik (1948-1957, 1958-1960 and 1961-1963)
  7. Vasily Smyslov (1957-1958)
  8. Mikhail Tal (1960-1961)
  9. Tigran Petrosian (1963-1969)
  10. Boris Spassky (1969-1972)
  11. Bobby Fischer (1972-1975)
  12. Anatoly Karpov (1975-1985)
  13. Garry Kasparov (1985-2000)
  14. Vladimir Kramnik (2000-2007)
  15. Viswanathan Anand (2007-present)

Let’s start by going through the final game of the 1894 World Championship, where Emanuel Lasker overthrew the first World Chess Champion Wilhelm Steinitz.

(124) Lasker,Emanuel - Steinitz,William [D40]

World Championship 05th USA/CAN (19), 26.05.1894


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.e3 Back in 1894 theory wasn't so developed, and the refinement of developing the bishop to f4 or g5 before playing e3 came later. Though this move is playable, of course. 5...0–0 6.Bd3 c5 [6...dxc4 7.Bxc4 c5 was also good, playing like in a QGA where White's knight could be misplaced on c3 after 8.0–0 a6 followed by ...b5, and if White plays 9.a4 he will weaken his queenside.] 7.dxc5 dxc4 [7...Bxc5 8.cxd5 exd5 would lead to an IQP position, whereas Steinitz prefers a more simplified position. Steinitz generally tried to avoid pawn weaknesses at all costs whereas Lasker had a less rigid attitude towards chess.] 8.Bxc4 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 Lasker must have felt that his king would be better placed in the centre for the ensuing ending, though Black should not have any problems in such a quiet position. 9...Nc6 It doesn't make much difference whether Black takes on c5 immediately or throws this in first. [9...Nbd7 10.c6 bxc6 may appear to damage Black's pawn structure, but it's not easy for White to get at the c6-pawn and meanwhile Black can play ...Rb8 to eye the b2-pawn.] 10.a3 Bxc5


[fen]r1b2rk1/pp3ppp/2n1pn2/2b5/2B5/P1N1PN2/1P3PPP/R1BK3R w - - 0 11[/fen]


11.b4 It makes sense for White to gain space on the queenside to try and claim some sort of initiative, otherwise the game could fizzle out or Black might even try ...e5-e4. 11...Rd8+ 12.Ke2 Bf8 13.Bb2 Bd7 14.Rhd1 Rac8 [14...a5 is a thematic reply to try and take some squares, but after 15.b5 Ne7 16.Ne5 White has the more active pieces and ideas of Na4-b6 to occupy the outpost and tie up Black's queenside pawns.] 15.Bb3 Lasker was a very practical player who aimed to get his opponents out of their comfort zone rather than play the very best moves. As it turns out, Lasker was able to outplay Steinitz from this innocuous-looking position. 15...Ne7 16.Nd4 [16.Ne5 Be8 isn't that scary for Black - the bishop is actually reasonable on e8 as it can return to c6 after the e5-knight has been exchanged.] 16...Ng6 17.Rd2 e5 Lasker successfully provokes Steinitz into an ambitious break, which proves only to weaken his position. [17...Ne5 was much more to the point, threatening to exchange off White's bishop pair with ...Nc4. After 18.f4 Nc4 19.Bxc4 Rxc4 20.Nf3 Rcc8 21.Ne5 Be8 would still be equal though, as Black's king is a long way from the central and queenside action. Note that White's king never ends up in danger due to the exchange of queens and very simple nature of the position.] 18.Nf3 Bg4 [18...e4 19.Ng5 forks the e4- and f7-pawns, winning one of them.; 18...h6 stops Ng5 but after 19.Rad1 e4 White can simply go 20.Nxe4 Nxe4 21.Rxd7 winning.] 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.h3 Bxf3+ 21.gxf3 White's doubled pawns are not a weakness at all, but in the last few moves he has exchanged his good light-squared bishop, which is a serious concession as now White's b3-bishop is unopposed and Black's queenside pawns become quite weak. Note also that Black's knights on the kingside have no useful squares to latch onto.  21...Be7 22.Rc1 Kf8


[fen]3r1k2/pp2bppp/5nn1/4p3/1P6/PBN1PP1P/1B2KP2/2R5 w - - 0 23[/fen]


23.Na4 White provokes the weakening move ...b6 as otherwise Nc5 will be unpleasant. 23...b6 [23...Ke8 24.Nc5 Bxc5 25.Rxc5 would already win material as the e5-pawn can't be defended. ] 24.Nc3 [24.Rc7 Rd7 25.Rxd7 Nxd7 26.Nc3 also looked strong, but the assets in Lasker's position won't go away so he doesn't have to rush.] 24...Bd6 25.Rd1 Ne8 26.Nb5 Rd7 [26...a6 27.Nc3 followed by Nd5 will continue to attack the weak Black queenside pawns. Then if Black replied ...b5, both his pawns would be fixed on the same colour as White's powerful b3-bishop.] 27.Bc2 Ke7 [27...a6 was necessary, but then 28.Bxg6 hxg6 29.Nxd6 Rxd6 30.Bxe5 Rxd1 31.Kxd1 leaves White with an extra pawn and a better minor piece, which should give him enough to win the game.] 28.Bf5 Now Black loses an exchange and it's all over. 28...a6 29.Bxd7 Kxd7 30.Nc3 f5 31.b5 axb5 32.Nxb5 Ke6 33.Bc3 Ne7 34.Nxd6 Nxd6 35.Bb4 Nd5 36.Rc1 Nf7 37.Bd2 Nd6 38.Kd3 Kd7 39.e4 Nf6 40.Be3 fxe4+ 41.fxe4 b5 42.f3 Nc4 43.Rc3 Ne8 44.Bc1 Ncd6 45.Rc5 Nc7 46.Rxe5 Ne6 47.Rh5 h6 48.Re5 g5 49.h4 gxh4 50.Rh5 Kc6 51.Rxh6 Nc5+ 52.Kc2 Black resigned. A smashing performance by Lasker who completely outplayed the founding father of chess strategy.  1–0



(125) Capablanca,Jose Raul - Alekhine,Alexander [C01]

World Championship 13th Buenos Aires (1), 16.09.1927


Capablanca was considered to be the best player in the world in simple positions and endgames for his time, but with this win Alekhine challenged Capablanca's previously assumed dominance in this sphere of chess and set up his eventual World Championship Match victory.  1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bd3 This variation was considered good for White at the time of the game as the b4-bishop is misplaced, but what became apparent in this game is that the c3-knight is also misplaced for the pawn structure, and while Black can improve his bishop's placement with a timely retreat to d6 or e7, the white knight on c3 doesn't have a comfortable square to quickly move to.  [5.Qf3 is the trendy approach, aiming to put immediate pressure on the d5-pawn and also get the queen into play before White plays Nge2. ] 5...Nc6 6.Nge2 Nge7 7.0–0 Bf5 This was an important and revolutionary idea - that Black should exchange the light-squared bishops in order to leave himself with the 'better' bishop.  8.Bxf5 [8.a3 Bxc3 9.bxc3 Qd7 would instead be equal - White's bishop pair and doubled c-pawns balance each other out.] 8...Nxf5 9.Qd3 Qd7 In the next few moves Capablanca fails to play with the necessary urgency to put any pressure on the opponent. 10.Nd1 [10.Nf4 was more ambitious, but after 10...Nce7 11.Re1 0–0 Black is not at all worse. He is ready to challenge White for control of the e-file with ...c6, ...Rae8 and ...Ng6. ] 10...0–0 11.Ne3 Nxe3 12.Bxe3 Rfe8 The position is still equal, but the trend of the game starts to turn in Black's favour when White doesn't get to the heart of the position. 13.Nf4 [13.c3 Bd6 14.Rfe1 Ne7 15.Bf4 would instead retain a steady equality.] 13...Bd6


[fen]r3r1k1/pppq1ppp/2nb4/3p4/3P1N2/3QB3/PPP2PPP/R4RK1 w - - 0 14[/fen]


14.Rfe1 [14.Nxd5 Bxh2+ 15.Kxh2 Qxd5 would be a bit better for Black, as his safer king outweighs White's central occupation. ] 14...Nb4 15.Qb3 Qf5 Now Capablanca makes a strange tactical oversight. 16.Rac1 [16.Nd3 had to be played, though 16...Nxd3 17.Qxd3 Qxd3 18.cxd3 Re6 was obviously unappealing as White's pawn structure is worse and Black has the more active bishop. Still you'd think a player of Capablanca's class would be able to hold this position as White against another player of his time.] 16...Nxc2 17.Rxc2 Qxf4 18.g3 Qf5 Black was up a pawn for nothing and he went on to win, though the rest of the game was not without mistakes.  19.Rce2 b6 20.Qb5 h5 21.h4 Re4 22.Bd2 Rxd4 23.Bc3 Rd3 24.Be5 Rd8 25.Bxd6 Rxd6 26.Re5 Qf3 27.Rxh5 Qxh5 28.Re8+ Kh7 29.Qxd3+ Qg6 30.Qd1 Re6 31.Ra8 Re5 32.Rxa7 c5


[fen]8/R4ppk/1p4q1/2ppr3/7P/6P1/PP3P2/3Q2K1 w - - 0 33[/fen]


33.Rd7 Qe6 34.Qd3+ g6 35.Rd8 d4 36.a4 Re1+ 37.Kg2 Qc6+ 38.f3 Re3 39.Qd1 Qe6 40.g4 Re2+ 41.Kh3 Qe3 42.Qh1 Qf4 43.h5 Rf2 0–1


That’s all for this week, but next week we’ll be back with more games of the World Champions!