Chess

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The Independent Culture
WATCHING, ON television and tenter-hooks, the England footballers' desperate struggle on Wednesday night, I recalled the great Emanuel Lasker's famous dictum: "There's nothing harder to win than a won game." (Or should that be "There's nothing harder than to win a won game?").

In any case, the point of course, is in the word "won". Although there are chess positions (an extra piece for no compensation say) so overwhelming that, barring an extraneous catastrophe, victory is absolutely certain; any sensible opponent will resign them.

But what Lasker had in mind was the many practical positions reached in which, while you may feel certain that "perfect play" would lead to a win, there are many pitfalls on the way: and the technical problem of surmounting these, allied with possible pressure due to shortage of time and the increase of psychological tension due to the proximity of victory can often lead to precisely the opposite: painful defeat.

Another sort of pressure occurs at the end of a tournament when the leader will often only need to draw. And this can be magnified still further in team tournaments, when last-round jitters can overturn even an apparently impregnable lead.

So great were Emanuel Lasker's escapalogical skills that he was accused of "Black magic" or "practising hypnotism upon his opponents". The notes to this famous escape are based on those in one of my favourite chess books (Volume 2 of) The Middle Game by Euwe and Kramer.

Lasker played the opening execrably and 11...Bc5! would already have forced the win since if 12 b4 Bxd4 13 Bxd4 Qg5 14 h4 (14 Nb5 Nxd4 15 Nxd4 Qe5+) 14 ...Qe7 15 Rc1 Bc4+ 16 Ne2 Rxd4 etc. Black was still on top but there were already pitfalls like 13 ...a6? 14 Qc1! to avoid. Not 15 Nxa7+? Kc7 16 Nab5+Kb6 17 fxe3 Qxe3+ winning. But instead of 17 Rc3?! when 17 ...Qxc3+! 18 Nxc3 Nxd4 is very nice for Black, Lasker could have played 17 Nxa7+ Kb8 18 Naxc6+ bxc6 19 Nxc6+ Kb7 20 Qc2! (not 20 Nxd8+ Rxd8 21.Qc2 Rc8) when 20 ...Bh4+ 21 g3 Bxg3+ 22 hxg3 Qxg3+ 23 Kf1 Qf4+ is a draw.

18...Qxc3+ 19 Nxc3 Bf6 20 Ncb5 Bxd4! (not 20 ...Nxd4? 21 Qc1+ Kb8 22 Qf4+ Ka8 23 Nc7+ Kb8 24 Na6++ Ka8 25 Qb8+ Rxb8 26 Nc7 mate) 21 Nxd4 Nxd4 was still fine for Black but after 20 Rxf6! he was slaughtered.

White: Emanuel Lasker

Black: David Janowsky

Berlin 1910 (10th match game)

Queen's Gambit Declined

1 d4 d5

2 c4 e6

3 Nc3 c5

4 cxd5 exd5

5 Nf3 Be6

6 e4 dxe4

7 Nxe4 Nc6

8 Be3 cxd4

9 Nxd4 Qa5+

10 Nc3 0-0-0

11 a3 Nh6

12 b4 Qe5

13 Ncb5 Nf5

14 Rc1 Nxe3

15 fxe3! Qxe3+

16 Be2 Be7

17 Rc3?! Bh4+

18 g3 Qe4

19 0-0 Bf6

20 Rxf6! gxf6

21 Bf3 Qe5

22 Nxa7+ Kc7

23 Naxc6 bxc6

24 Rxc6+ Kb8

25 Rb6+ Kc8

26 Qc1+ Kd7

27 Nxe6 fxe6

28 Rb7+ Ke8

29 Bc6+ 1-0

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