ETCETERA : CHESS

Of all the great champions I ever met, Emanuel Lasker - whose death in 1941 affected me deeply - struck me as the best example of a brilliant all-rounder. Mathematician, philosopher and a dab hand at bridge, he was the world champion one would most desire as a dining companion. Here is one of his best games, played exactly a century ago.

White: Harry Nelson Pillsbury

Black: Emanuel Lasker

St Petersburg 1896

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bg5

A modern master would play 5.cxd5.

5...cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Qh4 Be7 8.0-0-0

With typical American bravado, Pillsbury goes for an attacking on opposite wings sort of game.

8...Qa5 9.e3 Bd7 10.Kb1 h6 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Nd4 0-0 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.Qh5 Nxd4 15.exd4 Be6 16.f4

With the threat of f5, forcing the bishop to retreat, or g4 and g5, barging forward on the K-side, White must have felt things were going well. A rude awakening awaits him.

16...Rac8 17.f5 Rxc3! (see diagram)

Bravo! Black plans to meet 18.bxc3 with 18...Qxc3 19.fxe6 Qb4+ 20.Ka1 Rc8!! threatening Rc2 or Rc1+!

18.fxe6 Ra3!!

Always the charming host, Lasker insists that his offer be accepted.

19.exf7+ Rxf7 20.bxa3 Qb6+ 21.Bb5!

The best chance to divert the queen. Instead 21.Ka1 Bxd4+ 22.Rxd4 Qxd4+ 23.Kb1 Qe4+ 24.Kc1 Rf2 is fatal.

21...Qxb5+ 22.Ka1 Rc7

Again threatening either 23...Rc2 or 23...Rc1+! 24.Rxc1 Bxd4+.

23.Rd2 Rc4 24.Rhd1 Rc3

Some churlish commentators have dared to suggest that 24...Qc5 would have won more quickly. But why prefer speed over elegance?

25.Qf5 Qc4 26.Kb2 Rxa3!!

The echo of his 18th move comes louder than the original.

27.Qe6+ Kh7 28.Kxa3 Qc3+ White resigned.

29.Ka4 b5+ 30.Kxb5 Qc4+ 31.Ka5 Bd8+ 32.Qb6 axb6 is mate.

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