When I first saw this game as a young teenager I immediately became a fan of Rubinstein. This game is a perfect example of the importance of ideal and efficient development in the opening phase of the game. A couple of White’s moves in the opening (10 and 11) give Black an easy opening, leading to Black gaining the initiative on his 15th move. White then plays three dubious moves in a row (moves 17-19) that allow Black to initiate a winning attack. Nowadays, one would be hard pressed to see a good player (Master level or above) make such weak opening moves, yet this should not take away from Rubinstein’s exact play; his moves are incredibly forcing and precise throughout the entire game.
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 This opening line is known as the Tarrasch Defense. Black typically winds up with an isolated pawn but has some dynamic compensation for it. 4.c4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.dxc5 White should have perhaps maintained the tension in the center a little longer. The main continuation here is 6.a3 a6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.b4 Ba7 9.Bb2 0-0 10.Qc2 Qe7. 6…Bxc5 7.a3 a6 8.b4 Bd6 9.Bb2 0-0 10.Qd2?! Instead of 10.Qd2 White should have played 10.cxd5, 10.Qc2, or even 10.Rc1. This move costs White a tempo on move 14, though it wouldn’t have necessarily done so if it was followed up with a better 11th move: 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Qxd5 (this Queen move does not present a loss of tempo). 10…Qe7! A subtle move that will soon show the imprecision of 10.Qd2. 11. Bd3? This move is bad due to the fact that White loses a tempo with it due to Black’s next two moves. Better was 11.cxd5. 11…dxc4 12.Bxc4 b5 13.Bd3 Rd8 This move by Black shows the point of his earlier 10…Qe7. Now White has to move the Queen again in order to get the her off the open file now occupied by Black’s Rook. 14.Qe2 Bb7 15.0-0 Ne5!
16.Nxe5 Bxe5 17.f4!? While this is an attractive attempt by White at blunting Black’s initiative and simultaneously launching his own counter-offensive, it is possibly not the best move here. A safer alternative for White is 17.Rfd1 which, after 17…Qc7, could be followed up by 18.f4 (18…Bxc3 19.Rac1 Nd5 20.Bb1) or 18.Rac1 (18…Bxh2+ 19.Kh1 Qb8 20.a4). Another safe alternative is 17.Rac1 which would be followed by 17…Bxh2+ 18.Kxh2 Qd6 19.Kg1 Qxd3 20.Qxd3 Rxd3 21.Ne2. A more unintuitive move for White is 17.Na4, which could possibly be followed by either 17…Rxd3 or 17…Bxb2. 17…Bc7 18.e4?! This move by White opens the position up, but this will only benefit Black due to his better piece development! Imperative for White was to get a Rook centralized with 18.Rfd1 (18.Rad1 or 18.Rac1 are viable alternatives). 18…Rac8 A classic Rubinstein move: he prefers to go with simple development rather than complicate matters with 18…h5 or 18…Nh5. 19.e5?? The decisive mistake which gives Black a winning attack. As with move 18, White needed to develop a Rook to a central file. 18…Bb6+ 20.Kh1
20…Ng4! 21. Be4 There is no better move for White. For example:
- 21.Qxg4 Rxd3 22.Ne2 Rc2
- 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7 22.Qxg4 Rd2
- 21.Ne4 can be met by either 21…Qh4 (22.h3 Rxd3 23.Qxd3 Bxe4 24.Qxe4 Qg3 25.hxg4 Qh4#) or with 21…Rxd3 (22.Qxd3 Bxe4 23.Bxe4 23.Qxe4 Qh4 24.h3 Qg3 25.hxg4 Qh4#)
- 21.h3 can be met with either 21…Ne3 or 21…Qh4 (22.Be4 Rxc3 23.Bxc3 Bxe4 24.Qxg4 Qxg4 25.hxg4 Rd3).
21…Qh4 At first glance this may look like a patzer’s move that carries a threat easily nullified by White. But Black is no patzer! Another winning move for Black is 21…Nxh2 (followed by …Nf1 and …Ne3). 22.g3 Again, there is no better defense for White. If 22.h3 then 22…Rxc3! and White has two options:
- 23.Bxc3 Bxe4 24.Qxg4 Qxg4 25.hxg4 Rd3 and White has a completely won game
- 23.Qxg4 Rxh3+ 24.Qxh3 (24.gxh3 Bxe4+ 25.Rf3 Qf2 with mate soon to follow) 24…Qxh3+ 25.gxh3 Bxe4+ and White has to either accept a quick mate with 26.Kh2 or stave it off for a while with 26.Rf3.
22… Rxc3!! The point is to get rid of a protector of the e4 square. 23. gxh4 Black may as well accept the Queen sacrifice, though 23.Bxb7 is White’s best response but 23…Rxg3 still gives Black a winning attack. 23… Rd2!! The point is to deflect the Queen away from its protection of the e4 square. 24. Qxd2 No matter what White does here, there is a swift mate to follow. 24… Bxe4 25. Qg2 Rh3! White resigns, 0-1.
White resigns in face of the imminent and inescapable checkmate (e.g. 26.Rf3 Bxf3 27.Qxf3 Rxh2#). Note that Rubinstein played the correct 25…Rh3 instead of the blunder 25…Bxg2 which is what many patzers (such as myself) might immediately play in such a position. This move is inferior due to the fact that it leaves the door wide open for White after 26.Kxg2 Rc2+ 27.Kg3 Ne3.