Endgame Riddle: Reti vs Rubinstein, Gothenburg 1920

by Karsten Müller
8/18/2021 – At the height of his career Akiba Rubinstein (1 December 1880 - 15 March 1961) was considered a possible challenger for World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker, but the two never played a World Championship match. Rubinstein was considered to be particularly strong in the endgame, and Rubinstein's victory over Richard Reti in the tournament in Gothenburg 1920 is regarded as a typical example of his endgame skills. Karsten Müller has now taken a closer look at this endgame to find out whether and when the position was actually won for Black. And invites ChessBase readers to join him in his search for the truth about this fascinating endgame. | Photo: Deutsche Schachzeitung 1908

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R. Réti vs A. Rubinstein, Gothenburg 1920

In this endgame we once again see how a knight fights against a bishop. However, in this example the bishop has the better of it because White's position suffers from a number of weaknesses and Black not only has an active king but also a very mobile bishop.

Black indeed won the game and Rubinstein's way of playing the endgame seems to be a model for this type of positions in which Black plays on both sides to seek for a win.


But are things really that clear? Was Rubinstein really winning at the beginning of the endgame, or could Réti have defended better at some point? The reader is invited to join the search for the truth: did Réti have a draw at some point? And if so, when, where and how?

Share your analyses, ideas and discoveries in the comments!

Chess Endgames 1 to 14

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Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.
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Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/20/2021 05:07
Frits Fritschy: Yes 31.d4 should draw according to the engines as far as I can see...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/20/2021 03:46
31 d4 looks good, as getting in h4 gives a fortress (black doesn't seem to get anything done without letting the white knight get to e3, which really is a fortress, I think). However, 31... g5 may complicate things. I'll leave that to the engine crunchers.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/19/2021 10:13
brian8871 and malfa: I agree.
malfa malfa 8/19/2021 09:24
I am not sure that 31.g4 was so necessary, though maybe not the losing mistake. What about 31.d4, keeping on dark squares as many pawns as possible, and use the king in order to prevent its colleague invasion on the kingside?
brian8871 brian8871 8/19/2021 07:16
Instead of 37. Ke2, Reti should have played Kd2 instead. It looks like it holds the fort.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/18/2021 05:39
feellikeapawn: But how to achieve that?
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 8/18/2021 05:38
mehmet17: 37.Ke2? indeed is a mistake. But 37.gxh5? gxh5 38.h4 Bh3 loses as well...
feellikeapawn feellikeapawn 8/18/2021 05:33
White should put pawns on dark squares with Knight on e3 and King to b2. Fortress.
mehmet17 mehmet17 8/18/2021 04:17
37.Ke2 seems like a mistake. gh5-gh5 and h4 or 37.d4 seems better to me.