Saturday, September 10, 2005

Capablanca-Ilyin Zhenevsky, Moscow 1925

White to play and win after 24...Nde5

I have been looking at the games from Moscow 1925 in Bogoljubow's book of the tournament ever since I picked up the German Olms edition from Fred Wilson at the recent New Jersey Open. Scott Massey will be giving a lecture on the tournament at the Kenilworth Chess Club later this month focusing on how it marked the beginning of Soviet interest in chess and potentially the development of the "Soviet School" of chess. I think he was inspired to give the lecture after seeing "Chess Fever" at the club, which was filmed at and takes place during the tournament. Among the games he is planning to discuss is Capablanca-Genewski (a.k.a. Ilyin Zhenevsky), which is a famously deep strategic game where Black's counter-attack on the Queenside is more effective than White's direct assault on the Kingside. I was using Fritz to look at the critical moments of the game and I feel rather certain that I've stumbled upon a way for Capablanca to have won from the diagram above. He played 25.Qf2?! which met with 25...Ng4! Capa had the right idea but probably the wrong move (though I show he likely still could win).

This is such a rich game that I'm sure Scott won't mind my posting it with my analysis ahead of his lecture. After all, you really have to play this game over several times to understand it.

I would not be surprised to learn that I am not the first to claim a win for Capablanca in this famous game. After all, I am sure the Soviet analysts have gone over it for years, though I think it would take someone working with Fritz or a similar program to crack the case. Didn't Capa miss it? Knowing it is there (and, in fact, there may be three ways to win) should make your task easier even if you choose to go it on your own "without a calculator."

You can play over the game online, download the PGN or get it as text below. .

[Event "Moscow International Tournament"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1925.??.??"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Capablanca, Jose Raoul"]
[Black "Zhenevsky, Ilyin A"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B25"]
[PlyCount "74"]
[EventDate "1925.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 $1 {"Black wants to control the d4 square for as long as possible" writes Bogoljubow.} 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nge2 d6 6. d3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O 8. h3 a6 ({"More energetic is} 8... Rb8 {" writes Bogoljubow.}) 9. Be3 Bd7 10. Qd2 Re8 {"In order to avoid the exchange of Bishops by Bh6."} 11. Nd1 Rc8 12. c3 Qa5 13. g4 Red8 14. f4 Be8 15. g5 Nd7 16. f5 {"White plays all out to attack on the Kingside, while Black plays equally to attack the Queenside." Who will break through first?} b5 17. Nf4 b4 18. f6 Bf8 (18... exf6 19. Nd5 fxg5 20. Bxg5 f6 $1 21. Nxf6+ Bxf6 22. Bxf6 Nxf6 23. Rxf6 $36) 19. Nf2 $6 { As my notes suggest, this move is not as bad as most claim. Bogoljubow writes that "this loses at least two tempi in developing the attack, but it is difficult to suggest how the front line is to be supplied."} ({If} 19. h4 { with the idea Bh3 then} Nde5 $1) ({Fritz suggests} 19. Qf2 e5 (19... e6 $5 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. f7+ Kh8 22. fxe8=Q Rxe8 $13) (19... exf6 $6 20. Nd5 $40) 20. Nd5 Nb6 21. Bd2 bxc3 22. bxc3 Rb8 23. N1e3 $14 { and suddenly White's pieces are working well together.}) 19... bxc3 20. bxc3 e6 21. h4 Rb8 22. h5 Rb6 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Nd1 ({ "White must begin to move the Rook!" writes Bogoljubow. Perhaps instead} 24. Rab1 Rdb8 (24... Rb5 $5) 25. Rxb6 Nxb6 26. Ng4 $13) 24... Nde5 25. Qf2 $6 ({ Bogoljubow writes: "Capablanca indicates that better was} 25. Bh3 $6 { but if Black answers simply} Rdb8 $1 {it is difficult to see how White develops his attack or averts catastrophe on the Queenside."}) ({White appears to have a winning resource here, which I found with the aid of Fritz:} 25. Qe1 $1 Ng4 $1 (25... Rdb8 $2 26. Qh4 $1 Rb1 27. Rxb1 Rxb1 28. Kf2 $3 $18) 26. Rf3 $1 ({also possible is} 26. Qh4 $5 Nce5 27. Re1 { followed by Nf2 as described below}) 26... Rdb8 27. Rc1 $3 {The critical move--creating a line of defense at c1 that prevents Black's Queenside attack from penetrating to the Kingside.} (27. Rh3 Rb1 28. Rxb1 (28. Qh4 Nh6 29. Rxb1 Rxb1 30. gxh6 Rxd1+ 31. Kh2 Kh7 $17) 28... Rxb1 29. Bf1 $5 Qxa2 30. Be2 Nce5 31. Qh4 Nh6 32. gxh6 Ba4 $1 $17) 27... Rb1 (27... Qa4 28. Rh3 Rb1 29. Qh4 Nh6 30. Nf2) 28. Rh3 Qa3 29. Qh4 Nh6 30. Ne2 $3 $18 Qxa2 31. gxh6 $1 {White has eno ugh time to let the defensive line collapse, though he could instead hold fast with} (31. Bf1 $5 Rxc1 32. Bxc1 Rb1 33. Nf2 $1 $18) 31... Qxe2 32. h7+ Kh8 33. Bh6 $18 { and the deadly threat of Bg7+ forces Black to suffer large material losses.}) 25... Ng4 26. Qh4 Nce5 (26... Nxe3 $2 27. Nxe3 Qxc3 28. Rac1 Qb2 29. Nc4 $18) 27. d4 $2 {"Out of despair, White tries to get a Tower to the h-file before he is finished" writes Bogoljubow.} (27. Re1 $3 { with the idea of Nf2 still holds out hope for the attack.} Rdb8 28. Nf2 Nxe3 $2 (28... Nxf2 29. Kxf2 $18) (28... Nxf6 29. gxf6 Qxc3 30. N4h3 $1 (30. Rac1)) ( 28... Nf3+ 29. Bxf3 Nxe3 30. Rxe3 Qxc3 31. Bd1 $3 $18) 29. Rxe3 $18) 27... Nxe3 $19 28. Nxe3 Qxc3 29. dxe5 { "Eliminates the last hinderance to the afformentioned plan."} Qxe3+ 30. Kh1 dxe5 $3 31. Rf3 exf4 $1 {"The Queen sacrifice destroys the last mate hope; now Capablanca must believe in the overwhelming power of the Black position!"} 32. Rxe3 fxe3 33. Qe1 Rb2 34. Qxe3 Rdd2 35. Bf3 c4 36. a3 { "Black's doubled Rooks are an awesome power which cannot be fought off."} Bd6 37. Qa7 c3 {"A sensational game of the first rank! Zhenevsky excellently conducted the defense as well as the counter-attack. He fully earned the point over Gandmaster Capablanca. Why this game remains little-known is beyond me."} 0-1

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