Monday, February 23, 2009
Lasker-Napier, Cambridge Springs 1904
It is not often that a player will name one of his losses as the best game he ever played, but such was the case with William Napier’s celebrated game against Emanuel Lasker. In many ways this game is archetypical of Lasker’s play; it mattered little to him whether he stood better or worse, as long as he could maintain the tension.
Lasker - Napier
Cambridge Springs, 1904
B34 SICILIAN DEFENSE, Dragon Variation
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 d6 7. h3
The usual plans for White in thsi “Dragon” variation are Be2 followed by f2-f4, or f2-f3 along with 0-0-0 and a pawn attack on the Kingside. White chooses instead to advance his Kingside pawns before castling, and Black correctly responds by opening the center.
7. ... Nf6 8. g4 0-0 9. g5 Ne8 10. h4 Nc7 11. f4 e5 12. Nde2 d5
Logical, but safer was the preparatory 12. ... Bg4. The text leads to unfathomable complications, which at first glance—and even second or third—seem to favor Black.
13. exd5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 Nxd5
A strong intermediate move; after 15. Nxd5 exd4 Black recovers all of his material with advantage.
15. Nf5 Nxc3 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. Ne7+ Kh8
Note how long the Black Knight remains untouched at c3. Now neither 18. Nxc8 Nd5 nor 18. bxc3 exf4 19. Bd4 Bxd4 20. cxd4 Re8 are satisfactory for White.
With the sudden threat of 19. hxg6 fxg6 20. Nxg6+ Kg8 21. Bc4+ Nd5 22. Bxd5+ Rxd5 23. Ne7+.
18. ... Re8 19. Bc5 gxh5
Preventing the threat described above. White still does not wish to take the Nc3, for after 20. bxc3 Bf8 21. Bb5 Rxe7 22. Bxe7 Bxe7 Black would have more than enough for the Exchange.
20. Bc4 exf4 21. Bxf7 Ne4
A very fine conception, which might well have succeeded against a lesser opponent.
22. Bxe8 Bxb2 23. Rb1 Bc3+ 24. Kf1 Bg4
Despite his extra Rook, White’s position is none too happy – Black threatens ... Rxe8, ... Nxc5, ... Nd2+ and ... Ng3+. But now Lasker returns all the material to retake the initiative, and soon proves that the Black King is less safe than the White.
25. Bxh5! Bxh5 26. Rxh5 Ng3+ 27. Kg2 Nxh5 28. Rxb7 a5 29. Rb3 Bg7 30. Rh3 Ng3 31. Kf3
The once exposed White King becomes a strong attacking pieces, and the Black pawn on f4 cannot be held, as 31. ... Be5 is met by 32. Ng6+.
31. ... Ra6 32. Kxf4 Ne2+ 33. Kf5 Nc3 34. a3 Na4 35. Be3 1-0
For there is no good defense to the threat of g5-g6.