Riddle: Is active defense always best?

by Karsten Müller
4/29/2024 – A week ago we showed you a famous game, played between Siegbert Tarrasch and Akiba Rubinstein in 1911. It ended in a draw, and is given as a model example for an active defence in rook endings. However, that was not the clear conclusion to draw from the game, and we asked you whether you could find the mistakes in the game play strategy? Wolfram Schön provided a very deep answer.

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Here's the original riddle we posted a week ago: Is active defense always best? It tells about the San Sebastián tournament of 1911 and how in round six Akiba Rubinstein got into trouble against Siegbert Tarrasch, in a double rook endgame, and lost a pawn on the queenside. This famous endgame is analysed by R. Fine in his classical book "Basic Chess Endings" from 1941. Later, Levenfish/Smyslov in "The theory of rook endings" (1957), Y. Averbakh in "Turmendspiele 2" (1984), Donaldson/Minev in "The life and games of Akiva Rubinstein 1" (2006), J. Pinter in "1000 Rook Endings" (2007) and A. Panchenko in "Theory and practice of chess endings 2" (2009) approved the original annotations.

Based on Rubinstein's successful play to save his critical position, it is cited in all sources as a prime example of an active defence. But Wolfram Schön has analysed the endgame in depth and reached amazing new conclusions. Click on the notation or the diagrams to get a special replay board with engine support.

Wolfram Schön, born 5.6.1967, is an International Master 1987 and a grandmaster in correspondence chess since 2006. Greatest success: third place in the Correspondence Chess World Chamionship 2003-05.

Wolfram is a programmer and an asset manager by profession.

Previous riddles

Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.
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