Learning from Lasker: the art of defence

1/4/2007 – Recently our Playchess lecturer Dennis Monokroussos stumbled across a game in which White committed an egregious error, but then hung on to the position with extraordinary tenacity, somehow thwarting Black's attacking efforts. The players: Emanuel Lasker vs Aron Nimzowitsch. The year: 1934. Come watch, with an attentive mind.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

As mentioned on my blog a couple of days ago, we’ll spend this week and probably next week, too, looking at the fascinating game between Emanuel Lasker and Aron Nimzowitsch from Zurich 1934. The game caught my eye a few weeks ago when I went through it without knowing who the players were or what the result would be. White (Lasker) made what looked like an egregious error – because it was! – and I assumed that punishment would be swift, sure, and brutal.


Emanuel Lasker, Aron Nimzowitsch

Instead, the game continued. White was worse – seriously and chronically worse – but somehow Black couldn’t put his opponent away. The advantage would take one form, then another, but White was able to maintain the material balance and keep enough play in the position to cause problems. The longer the game went, the more impressed I was by White’s play! Finally, the players reached a knight ending in which Black had an outside passed pawn, but White’s king was active and the material was greatly reduced – I was starting to think White’s Herculean labors might result in a draw. Unfortunately, his opponent played the ending brilliantly while he committed a nearly imperceptible inaccuracy, and Black finally brought home the point.

Although the typical presentation of a defensive masterpiece will result in a happy ending, life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes one’s best isn’t quite good enough. Even so, this game, and especially Lasker’s defensive play (and Nimzowitsch’s technique in the knight ending), is worthy of our attention. Lasker was a genius when it came to fighting his way out of difficulties, and there is much we can learn from his efforts here. There are also useful lessons about the endgame and about how NOT to play against the French. And all you’ll need to do is show up this Thursday night at 9 pm ET with an attentive mind!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Tuesday). 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 40, 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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