Akiba Rubinstein and the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation

10/17/2007 – The Polish master (1882–1961) was one of the greatest players never to become world champion, or even get a chance to try. In our Thursday night Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos shows us a game which teaches us a lot about the so-called Frankenstein-Dracula Variation and about an endgame played in superb Rubinstein style. Nine p.m. ET.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Akiba (or Akiva) Rubinstein was one of the greatest players never to become world champion, and possibly the greatest player never given the opportunity to contest for the title. In the years from around 1909 to 1912, he was probably the strongest player in the world, capable of winning every tournament and defeating all rivals – and he just about did. He was a brilliant openings innovator who won beautiful games of every sort, but he's probably best remembered today for his exquisite endgame technique. Accurate, artistic and patient, his endgames offer a model for aspiring players to learn from even today.


One of the great masters: Akiba Rubinstein

As you may have surmised, we'll look at one such ending in this week's show, from his game with Stefano Rosselli del Turco from the Baden-Baden tournament of 1925. Rosselli, with White, started the game on a threatening note with 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Qh5, seemingly inviting the so-called Frankenstein-Dracula Variation with 4...Nd6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nb5 g6 7.Qf3 f5 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 b6. It's a very exciting line, with Black enjoying a lead in development and central space in return for the exchange and a pawn. Alas, it turned out that Rosselli was bluffing, and instead of 5.Bb3 he played the insipid 5.Qxe5+, perhaps thinking that after 5...Qe7 6.Qxe7+ Bxe7 he'd achieve a quick and painless draw with his great opponent.

If so, he was badly mistaken. Though material was even, the board was queenless and the pawn structure was symmetrical, Rubinstein proved that there was plenty of play left in the position. It took him a long time to win, but as we investigate the game, we'll see that it wasn't a dry effort at all. Better still, we can use Rubinstein's ideas in our own games – especially against draw-eager opponents. Maybe the position after move six would be easily drawn in a world championship competition, but for mortals like us – and Rosselli – holding the game against a Rubinstein is not automatic.

I think you'll enjoy the game, learn a lot about the ending, and be entertained by our brief foray into Frankenstein-Dracula theory, too. So tune in this Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET - hope to see you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 11:00h Sydney (on Friday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.


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