Exercises in Style (1/4): Solutions

by Johannes Fischer
7/14/2017 – The "Exercises in Style" invite readers to have a fresh look at the games of the World Champions. Part 1 presented four games, one each by Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. However, the information who played when and where against whom was hidden. Instead, you were asked to guess which World Champion played which game. A surprisingly difficult task though each game to a certain extent was typical for the World Champion who played it. Here are the solutions.

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Part 1 — Solutions

Game 1

Game 1 was played by José Raúl Capablanca, World Champion from 1921 to 1927. Capablanca defeated Dawid Janowski in the preliminaries of the St. Petersburg tournament 1914 with deceptively simple play. If you know that this is a game by Capablanca you tend to see it as a typical example of Capablanca's style. A phenomenon that is also true for the three other games. If you know who played these games you suddenly discover a number of stylistic characteristics which are much less obvious when you see just the bare moves.

[Event "St Petersburg preliminary"] [Site "St Petersburg"] [Date "1914.05.03"] [Round "9"] [White "Capablanca, Jose Raul"] [Black "Janowski, Dawid Markelowicz"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C68"] [Annotator "Johannes Fischer"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "1914.04.21"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 {The Exchange Variation was a pet line of Lasker, but here Capablanca plays it, probably because he knew that Janowski had found no recipe against it during his 1909 match against Lasker. Lasker also tried the Exchange Variation with White against Capablanca in a crucial game of the tournament in St. Petersburg. Lasker won this famous and important game.} dxc6 5. Nc3 Bc5 6. d3 Bg4 7. Be3 Bxe3 8. fxe3 Qe7 9. O-O O-O-O 10. Qe1 Nh6 {[#]Black indeed does not seem to know where to put his pieces and what to do. But on his sight White's play appears to be rather harmless.} 11. Rb1 $1 {But White's position is not harmless - and White has a clear plan how to proceed. He wants to advance his queenside pawns to attack the black king and to give his knight squares. In the game this simple plan was rather effective.} f6 12. b4 Nf7 13. a4 Bxf3 14. Rxf3 b6 15. b5 cxb5 16. axb5 a5 17. Nd5 {[#]White brings his knight to d5 and then wants to advance his pawns to open the position. Without making a serious mistake Black is already strategically lost.} Qc5 18. c4 Ng5 19. Rf2 Ne6 20. Qc3 Rd7 21. Rd1 Kb7 22. d4 Qd6 23. Rc2 exd4 24. exd4 Nf4 {Now White wins material. But Black's position was already lost.} 25. c5 Nxd5 26. exd5 Qxd5 27. c6+ {Now Black could have resigned - after all, he is a full rook down. But Janowski probably needed to make a few more moves to accept the bitter defeat.} Kb8 28. cxd7 Qxd7 29. d5 Re8 30. d6 cxd6 31. Qc6 1-0

Game 2

This smooth positional game, crowned by an exchange sacrifice, was played by Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official World Champion in the history of chess. It was the 20th game of the World Championship match between the defending champion Steinitz and his challenger Mikhail Tschigorin, Havana 1891/1892. It also was an important game. Winner of the match was the player who first scored ten wins and before game 20 Steinitz was trailing 7-8, but his convincing win equaled the score. The 21. game ended in a draw but then Steinitz won games 22 and 23 and defended his title.

[Event "World-ch04 Steinitz-Chigorin +10-8=5"] [Site "Havana"] [Date "1892.02.18"] [Round "20"] [White "Steinitz, William"] [Black "Chigorin, Mikhail"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [Annotator "Johannes Fischer"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "1892.01.01"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "23"] [EventCountry "CUB"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. e3 e6 4. c4 Be7 5. Nc3 Nbd7 6. c5 {White indicates that he wants to play on the queenside. From today's perspective this an early commitment but in the game Black countered White's advance much too late and was smashed.} c6 7. b4 O-O 8. Bb2 Qc7 9. Be2 Ne8 $6 {Black heads for a Stonewall structure but this maneuver is too slow. Better was 9...e5 or 9... b6 with approximate equality.} 10. O-O f5 11. Qc2 Nef6 12. a4 Ne4 13. b5 { White's opening strategy was successful and White is clearly better.} Rf6 { Black wants to attack on the kingside but four moves later this rook will retreat to f8, a clear indicator that Black could not come up with a convincing strategy.} 14. a5 Nxc3 15. Bxc3 a6 {Weakening b6 and giving White an entry square. But if Black does not play ...a6, White will push his pawn to a6, weakening Black's queenside.} 16. bxa6 bxa6 17. Rfb1 Rf8 {The rook hurries back to stop White from penetrating on the b-file.} 18. Rb2 Bb7 19. Rab1 Rfb8 20. Ne1 {White calmly improves his pieces to attack Black's weaknesses on a6 and c6.} Bc8 21. Nd3 Rxb2 22. Rxb2 Bf6 23. Qa4 Kf7 24. Qa3 Bd8 25. Bd1 Rb8 {[#] } 26. Rb6 $1 {An obvious - but strong - exchange sacrifice. White attacks the weaknesses on a6 and c6 and Black is more or less forced to take the exchange which allows White's pieces to penetrate Black's position.} Nxb6 27. cxb6 Qb7 28. Ne5+ Kg8 ({After} 28... Ke8 {Steinitz intended} 29. Bh5+ g6 30. Nxg6 hxg6 31. Bxg6+ Kd7 32. Qf8 {with a devastating attack.}) 29. Ba4 Qe7 ({After} 29... Bd7 {wins with} 30. Qd6) 30. Bb4 Qf6 31. Qc3 h6 ({Black is helpless. After} 31... Bb7 {White wins with} 32. Nd7) 32. Bd6 {[#]} Rxb6 {Black sacrifices a whole rook to get rid of the strong white pawns. But now White is a whole piece up and wins quickly.} 33. axb6 Bxb6 34. Qxc6 Qd8 35. Bc5 Bc7 36. Ng6 Kh7 37. Be7 Bd7 38. Bxd8 Bxc6 39. Bxc6 Bxd8 40. Nf8+ Kg8 41. Nxe6 1-0

Game 3

In game Alexander Alekhine, World Champion from 1927 to 1935 and from 1937 until his death in 1946, had the black pieces. There are, of course, more spectacular games by Alekhine but he still shows his trademark dynamic and powerful chess that here culminates with a mating attack in the endgame.

[Event "World-ch13 Alekhine-Bogoljubow +11-5=9"] [Site "GER/NLD"] [Date "1929.11.03"] [Round "22"] [White "Bogoljubow, Efim"] [Black "Alekhine, Alexander"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C76"] [Annotator "Johannes Fischer"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "1929.09.06"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "25"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. c3 Bd7 6. d4 g6 7. Bg5 f6 8. Be3 Nh6 9. O-O Bg7 10. h3 Nf7 11. Nbd2 O-O 12. dxe5 dxe5 13. Bc5 Re8 14. Bb3 b6 15. Be3 Qe7 16. Qe2 {White did not get much from the opening and Black soon seizes the initiative.} Ncd8 17. Bd5 Bc6 18. c4 Bxd5 19. cxd5 f5 20. Nc4 Nb7 21. Rac1 Rad8 {Black attacks White's center and now seriously threatens ...dxe4, after which White's pawn on d5 will fall. To parry that threat White releases the tension in the center.} 22. d6 Nbxd6 23. Nxd6 Rxd6 24. Qxa6 Qd7 {Black occupies the d-file and eyes White's kingside.} 25. Rc2 c5 26. a4 f4 27. Bd2 g5 28. Qb5 { White wants to simplify the position but after the queen exchange Black still keeps the initiative.} Qxb5 29. axb5 Rd3 30. Ra1 Nd6 31. Ra6 ({Or} 31. Nxg5 Nxb5 32. Nf3 Nd4 33. Nxd4 exd4 34. Bxf4 Rxe4 {with a clear advantage for Black. }) 31... Rb8 32. Bc3 Nxe4 33. Bxe5 Bxe5 34. Nxe5 {[#] White managed to avoid material losses but now succumbs to a mating attack in the endgame.} Rd1+ 35. Kh2 Nd2 36. h4 Re8 37. Nf3 ({The engines here recommend} 37. Ng4 Ree1 38. Nh6+ Kg7 39. Kh3 Kxh6 40. Kg4 {as more stubborn. But White is still lost.}) 37... Nxf3+ 38. gxf3 Ree1 39. Kh3 h5 {White resigned - he can't prevent being mated.} 0-1

Game 4

This leaves on Emanuel Lasker as the winner of game 4. From 1894, when Lasker beat Steinitz in their title match, to 1921, when he lost the title to Capablanca, Lasker was World Champion, longer than any other player before or after him. To a certain extent the game against Forgacs which was played at the St. Petersburg tournament 1909 is typical for Lasker's style. He treats the opening without much ambition and allows his opponent to equalize and seize the initiative but in the middlegame Lasker plays creatively and with a very fine eye for his chances and the hidden nuances of the position.

[Event "St Petersburg Chigorin Memorial"] [Site "St Petersburg"] [Date "1909.02.16"] [Round "2"] [White "Lasker, Emanuel"] [Black "Forgacs, Leo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C62"] [Annotator "Johannes Fischer"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "1909.02.15"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "19"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2016.10.25"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. d4 Bd7 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Bg5 Bb4 8. O-O Bxc3 9. bxc3 h6 10. Bh4 Qe7 11. Qd3 a6 12. Ba4 {White did not get anything from the opening and Black has several ways to reach a comfortable and equal position. The textmove is okay but 12... 0-0-0 or 12...g5 are other options.} Rd8 13. Qe3 g5 $5 ({More solid is} 13... O-O 14. Rfd1 Rfe8 15. Bb3 Be6 { with an equal position. The textmove is more active - and for a while Black now indeed sets the pace.}) 14. Bg3 b5 15. Bb3 Nh5 16. Ne1 $1 {[#]This move - or, to be more precise, this and the following moves - shows Lasker's defensive skills. He parries Black's immediate threats and at the same time prepares to exploit the weaknesses Black created with ...g5 and ...b5.} Na5 17. Nd3 Nf4 18. f3 Rg8 19. Rfd1 Rg6 20. Bf2 Bc8 21. Qe1 $1 {Reminding Black that c5 is still weak.} Nxd3 $6 {After this move Black's attack is over before it really began.} ({Better was} 21... g4 22. Nxf4 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 exf4 24. fxg4 Bxg4 25. Rd2 {with a double-edged position with chances for both sides.}) 22. cxd3 Nxb3 {This exchange leads to a position with opposite-colored bishops. Black probably hoped that his white-squared bishop would help to get Black's finally going. But in the resulting position Black's weaknesses are more serious even though they might be less obvious.} 23. axb3 c5 24. b4 cxb4 25. cxb4 g4 26. Bc5 Qg5 27. fxg4 Qxg4 28. Ra2 $1 {[#]With this simple move White parries all threats and is now clearly better: Black's f-pawn and weak and Black's king is exposed.} Be6 29. Rf2 Bc4 30. Qf1 Bb3 31. Ra1 Qd7 32. Rf3 Qc6 33. Qf2 Rd7 34. Qb2 $1 {Attacking e5 and b3.} Qe6 35. d4 exd4 ({After} 35... Bc4 36. d5 { Black loses material.}) 36. Qxb3 Qxe4 37. Qd3 Qd5 {A tactical oversight in a lost position.} 38. Qxg6 $1 1-0

The second part of the "Exercises in Style" will follow soon. With games by Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov and Mihail Tal.



Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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Resistance Resistance 8/1/2017 02:41
Got 2 right: Capablanca (I knew the game) and Lasker.
Peter B Peter B 7/16/2017 05:30
I got all 4 wrong!
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 7/15/2017 12:57
Yup, definitely very tricky... I knew 2 could easily be Steinitz, and said as much, but I went with 3... so I got them all wrong. And I HAD seen the first one, I think, in Soltis' book 'The Greatest Tournaments and Their Stories'. Just didn't know it was a Capa. In hindsight, 4 being Lasker makes sense. He didn't seem to care too much about pawn structure in the opening... I never ever would have said Alekhine for number 3, though. Ever. :) So, did anyone get these right in the comments? I think I remember one fellow having weird guesses like this, and I think he might have gotten them all right...
airman airman 7/13/2017 08:23
Well I got 2 right. mixed steintz and lasker
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