Monday, December 28, 2015

A wild fox hunt: Lasker vs Thomas, London 1912

Edit: In the actual game Lasker actually checkmated with 18. Kd2. Sorry for the mistake.


Today we will look at a short but interesting game featuring the attack on the king. Some of you will find this game familiar, but there is no loss in looking at it again and appreciating the tactics behind Edward Lasker's (note: Edward Lasker, not the 2nd World Champion Emanuel Lasker!) queen sacrifice.

In this classic, White was able to obtain better piece coordination and control of the centre. Together with Black's lag in development, he lost no time in creating an attack on the enemy king, thus following one of the many fundamental chess principles as formulated by Wilhelm Steinitz:

"When a sufficient advantage has been obtained, a player must attack or the advantage will be dissipated."
-- Wilhelm Steinitz

So sit back and enjoy the game:

Lasker, Eduard vs Thomas, George
London 1912

1. d4 f5
2. Nf3 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. Bxf6 Bxf6
6. e4 (D)

Position after 6. e4

White wants to open up the centre for an attack on the kingside.

6... fxe4
7. Nxe4 b6
8. Bd3 Bb7
9. Ne5

Allowing the Queen access to h5. Many of us would prefer the natural 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd2 where Black can consider 10... d6 followed by c5 attacking the centre. Notice that here Black has a slight edge due to his bishop pair, and the semi-open f-file for his rook.

9... O-O
10. Qh5! (D)

Position after 10. Qh5

10... Qe7?

Black saw the threat of 11. Ng5 and defends accordingly (11. Ng5? g6! forcing the enemy queen to retreat and winning the knight.). However, he missed another threat. The other variations are:

10... g6? which does not work due to 11. Nxg6! hxg6 12. Qxg6+ with Nxf6 to follow.

The best defence was 10... Bxe5! (removing the powerful knight on e5) 11. Nd2 (11. Ng5? h6; 11. dxe5? Rf5 12. Qg4 Rxe5) 11... g6 12. Qxe5 Nc6 13. Qg3 (D)

Position after 13. Qg3

Black has completed development and is ready to counterattack.

Returning to the position after 10... Qe7 (D): Can you spot the best move for White?

Find the best move for White

11. Qxh7+!!

A stunning queen sacrifice. White lures the king out from the safety of his base, and releases the hounds for a fox hunt.

11... Kxh7
12. Nxf6+ Kh6

12... Kh8 13. Ng6#

13. Neg4+ Kg5
14. h4+ Kf4
15. g3+ Kf3
16. Be2+ Kg2
17. Rh2+ Kg1
18. O-O-O# (D)

Position after 18. 0-0-0#

Of course Kd2 mates too, but it is not everyday you get to castle with checkmate!

David Hooper, Steinitz' Theory, British Chess Magazine Vol. 104, p.370 Sept 1984

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