Short Losses by World Champions, Part 1

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

Two Weeks ago I presented the shortest loss ever by a World Chess Champion – a six mover by Anand.  That got me to thinking, why not present the shortest loss ever by each of the sixteen World Champions?  So I have selected 16 games from all World Champions, ranging from Wilhem Steinitz to Magnus Carlsen. This week we have the shortest losses by the first three World Champions – Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker and Jose Raul Capablanca.  If they can lose quickly, so can your next opponent!

Winawer, Szymon. – Steinitz, Wilhelm 1:0, 1896

This game was played two years after Steinitz lost the World Chess Championship to Emanuel Lasker.  Winawer was also one of the leading players of the day.

  1. e4 e5 2. d4!? Theory holds that the Center Game is not quite sound, but in practice it scores well.

2… exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 O-O 7. O-O-O Re8 The position is slightly better for Black due to the exposed position of White’s queen.

  1. Bc4 Bxc3!? Typical of Steinitz. He grabs material when he can and challenges his opponent to show what he has for it.

[Black retains an advantage after 8… d6 9. f3 Ne5 10. Bb3  -0.44|d15 Rybka4]

  1. Bxc3 Nxe4 10. Qf4 Nf6 11. Nf3 d6 12. Ng5 Be6 13. Bd3 h6 14. h4 Nd5

[Taking the knight may be playable, but it is very risky to open the file for White’s rook. 14… hxg5 15. hxg5 Ng4 16. Be2 Nce5 17. Rh5 Ng6 18. Qd4 N4e5 19. f4 Bg4 20. Bxg4 c5 21. Qe3 Nxg4 22. Qf3 Qd7 23. f5 N6e5 24. Rdh1 f6 25. Bxe5 Nxe5 26. Qd5 Kf8 27. gxf6 gxf6 28. Rh8 Ke7 29. R8h7 Kd8 30. Rxd7 Nxd7 31. Rh7 1-0, Salmensuu Olli (FIN) 2420  – Norri Joose (FIN) 2400 , Finland 1998 Ch Finland]

  1. Bh7 Kh8 16. Rxd5 Bxd5 17. Be4 f6?? When he should be getting White’s attacking pieces off of the board, Steinitz instead creates a giant weakness on the light squares around his king.

[Black is fine if he simply returns the extra material to blunt White’s attack. 17… Rxe4! 18. Nxe4 Ne5 19. Rd1 Bxe4 20. Bxe5 Bh7 21. Qxf7 Qf8 22. Qxf8 Rxf8 23. Bg3  +0.07|d19 Rybka4]

  1. Bxd5! fxg5 19. hxg5 Ne5?? Granted he is dead busted anyway, but this allows a quick mate.

[19… Re5 20. Qg4 Qc8 21. Qg3 Qf5 22. f4 Nb4 Note that the rook can’t move due to Rxh6 mate. 23. Bb3 Nc6 24. gxh6 g6 25. fxe5 Nxe5  +4.66|d12]

  1. g6 There is no good way to stop the threat of 21. Rxh6+gxh6, 22. Qxh6 mate, so Steinitz resigns. […] [1:0]

Bird, Henry – Lasker, Emanuel, 1:0, 1892

Center Game, Danish Gambit

This game was played two years after Steinitz lost the World Chess Championship to Emanuel Lasker. Winawer was also one of the leading players of the day.

1. e4 e5 2. d4!? Theory holds that the Center Game is not quite sound, but in practice it scores well.
2… exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 O-O 7. O-O-O Re8 The position is slightly better for Black due to the exposed position of White’s queen.
8. Bc4 Bxc3!? Typical of Steinitz. He grabs material when he can and challenges his opponent to show what he has for it.
[Black retains an advantage after 8… d6 9. f3 Ne5 10. Bb3 -0.44|d15 Rybka4]
9. Bxc3 Nxe4 10. Qf4 Nf6 11. Nf3 d6 12. Ng5 Be6 13. Bd3 h6 14. h4 Nd5
[Taking the knight may be playable, but it is very risky to open the file for White’s rook. 14… hxg5 15. hxg5 Ng4 16. Be2 Nce5 17. Rh5 Ng6 18. Qd4 N4e5 19. f4 Bg4 20. Bxg4 c5 21. Qe3 Nxg4 22. Qf3 Qd7 23. f5 N6e5 24. Rdh1 f6 25. Bxe5 Nxe5 26. Qd5 Kf8 27. gxf6 gxf6 28. Rh8 Ke7 29. R8h7 Kd8 30. Rxd7 Nxd7 31. Rh7 1-0, Salmensuu Olli (FIN) 2420 – Norri Joose (FIN) 2400 , Finland 1998 Ch Finland]
15. Bh7 Kh8 16. Rxd5 Bxd5 17. Be4 f6?? When he should be getting White’s attacking pieces off of the board, Steinitz instead creates a giant weakness on the light squares around his king.
[Black is fine if he simply returns the extra material to blunt White’s attack. 17… Rxe4! 18. Nxe4 Ne5 19. Rd1 Bxe4 20. Bxe5 Bh7 21. Qxf7 Qf8 22. Qxf8 Rxf8 23. Bg3 +0.07|d19 Rybka4]

18. Bxd5! fxg5 19. hxg5 Ne5?? Granted he is dead busted anyway, but this allows a quick mate.
[19… Re5 20. Qg4 Qc8 21. Qg3 Qf5 22. f4 Nb4 Note that the rook can’t move due to Rxh6 mate. 23. Bb3 Nc6 24. gxh6 g6 25. fxe5 Nxe5 +4.66|d12]
20. g6 There is no good way to stop the threat of 21. Rxh6+gxh6, 22. Qxh6 mate, so Steinitz resigns. […] [1:0]

Bird, Henry – Lasker, Emanuel
1:0, 1892
Center Game, Danish Gambit
This game was played two years after Steinitz lost the World Chess Championship to Emanuel Lasker. Winawer was also one of the leading players of the day.

1. e4 e5 2. d4!? Theory holds that the Center Game is not quite sound, but in practice it scores well.
2… exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 O-O 7. O-O-O Re8 The position is slightly better for Black due to the exposed position of White’s queen.
8. Bc4 Bxc3!? Typical of Steinitz. He grabs material when he can and challenges his opponent to show what he has for it.
[Black retains an advantage after 8… d6 9. f3 Ne5 10. Bb3 -0.44|d15 Rybka4]
9. Bxc3 Nxe4 10. Qf4 Nf6 11. Nf3 d6 12. Ng5 Be6 13. Bd3 h6 14. h4 Nd5
[Taking the knight may be playable, but it is very risky to open the file for White’s rook. 14… hxg5 15. hxg5 Ng4 16. Be2 Nce5 17. Rh5 Ng6 18. Qd4 N4e5 19. f4 Bg4 20. Bxg4 c5 21. Qe3 Nxg4 22. Qf3 Qd7 23. f5 N6e5 24. Rdh1 f6 25. Bxe5 Nxe5 26. Qd5 Kf8 27. gxf6 gxf6 28. Rh8 Ke7 29. R8h7 Kd8 30. Rxd7 Nxd7 31. Rh7 1-0, Salmensuu Olli (FIN) 2420 – Norri Joose (FIN) 2400 , Finland 1998 Ch Finland]
15. Bh7 Kh8 16. Rxd5 Bxd5 17. Be4 f6?? When he should be getting White’s attacking pieces off of the board, Steinitz instead creates a giant weakness on the light squares around his king.
[Black is fine if he simply returns the extra material to blunt White’s attack. 17… Rxe4! 18. Nxe4 Ne5 19. Rd1 Bxe4 20. Bxe5 Bh7 21. Qxf7 Qf8 22. Qxf8 Rxf8 23. Bg3 +0.07|d19 Rybka4]

18. Bxd5! fxg5 19. hxg5 Ne5?? Granted he is dead busted anyway, but this allows a quick mate.
[19… Re5 20. Qg4 Qc8 21. Qg3 Qf5 22. f4 Nb4 Note that the rook can’t move due to Rxh6 mate. 23. Bb3 Nc6 24. gxh6 g6 25. fxe5 Nxe5 +4.66|d12]
20. g6 There is no good way to stop the threat of 21. Rxh6+gxh6, 22. Qxh6 mate, so Steinitz resigns. […] [1:0]

Bird, Henry – Lasker, Emanuel
1:0, 1892
Center Game, Danish Gambit

This game was played two years after Steinitz lost the World Chess Championship to Emanuel Lasker. Winawer was also one of the leading players of the day.

1. e4 e5 2. d4!? Theory holds that the Center Game is not quite sound, but in practice it scores well.
2… exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 O-O 7. O-O-O Re8 The position is slightly better for Black due to the exposed position of White’s queen.
8. Bc4 Bxc3!? Typical of Steinitz. He grabs material when he can and challenges his opponent to show what he has for it.
[Black retains an advantage after 8… d6 9. f3 Ne5 10. Bb3 -0.44|d15 Rybka4]
9. Bxc3 Nxe4 10. Qf4 Nf6 11. Nf3 d6 12. Ng5 Be6 13. Bd3 h6 14. h4 Nd5
[Taking the knight may be playable, but it is very risky to open the file for White’s rook. 14… hxg5 15. hxg5 Ng4 16. Be2 Nce5 17. Rh5 Ng6 18. Qd4 N4e5 19. f4 Bg4 20. Bxg4 c5 21. Qe3 Nxg4 22. Qf3 Qd7 23. f5 N6e5 24. Rdh1 f6 25. Bxe5 Nxe5 26. Qd5 Kf8 27. gxf6 gxf6 28. Rh8 Ke7 29. R8h7 Kd8 30. Rxd7 Nxd7 31. Rh7 1-0, Salmensuu Olli (FIN) 2420 – Norri Joose (FIN) 2400 , Finland 1998 Ch Finland]
15. Bh7 Kh8 16. Rxd5 Bxd5 17. Be4 f6?? When he should be getting White’s attacking pieces off of the board, Steinitz instead creates a giant weakness on the light squares around his king.
[Black is fine if he simply returns the extra material to blunt White’s attack. 17… Rxe4! 18. Nxe4 Ne5 19. Rd1 Bxe4 20. Bxe5 Bh7 21. Qxf7 Qf8 22. Qxf8 Rxf8 23. Bg3 +0.07|d19 Rybka4]

18. Bxd5! fxg5 19. hxg5 Ne5?? Granted he is dead busted anyway, but this allows a quick mate.
[19… Re5 20. Qg4 Qc8 21. Qg3 Qf5 22. f4 Nb4 Note that the rook can’t move due to Rxh6 mate. 23. Bb3 Nc6 24. gxh6 g6 25. fxe5 Nxe5 +4.66|d12]
20. g6 There is no good way to stop the threat of 21. Rxh6+gxh6, 22. Qxh6 mate, so Steinitz resigns. […] [1:0]

Bird, Henry – Lasker, Emanuel 1:0, 1892
Center Game, Danish Gambit


At the time of this game, Lasker was two years away from taking the World Chess Championship from Wilhelm Steinitz.  Bird had been a major player on the European scene since the 1840’s.

  1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3!? The Danish Gambit. It makes for exciting play, but it is not considered to be quite sound.

3… dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5. Bxb2 Qg5!? Early development of the queen is not good.

[The modern method, first recommended by Carl Schechter about a century ago, is to return the two extra pawns to get the queens off the board with an equal position. 5… d5 6. Bxd5 Nf6 7. Bxf7 Kxf7 8. Qxd8 Bb4 9. Qd2 Bxd2 10. Nxd2 Re8  -0.12|d16 Rybka4]

  1. Nf3 Qxg2? Some have claimed that the Golden Rule is, “Never take the queen knight pawn with your queen.” That should probably apply to the king knight pawn too. Obviously this is the point of Black’s last move, but it is never-the-less bad.  Black’s queen is exposed to attack and he is horribly behind in development.

[Black still has a good position after 6… Qa5 7. Nc3 d6 8. O-O  +0.20|d17 Rybka4]

  1. Rg1 Bb4? If Lasker was not lost already, this seals his fate because it leaves the g-pawn undefended.

[7… Qh3 8. Bxf7 Kd8 9. Rxg7 Qh6 10. Rxg8 Rxg8 11. Bxg8  +2.24|d15 Rybka4 White is up a piece for a pawn.]

  1. Ke2 Qh3
  2. Bxf7! Kd8

[Obviously not 9… Kxf7 10. Ng5 Ke8 11. Nxh3  +8.34|d14 Rybka4]

  1. Bxg7 Ne7 11. Ng5 Due to the threat of Ne6+ Lasker has to give up his queen to avoid checkmate.

11… Qh4 Instead he decides to commit suicide. 12. Ne6# [1:0]

Sometimes the old guys get in their licks.

Marshall, Frank James – Capablanca, Jose Raul, 1:0, 1909

Queen’s Gambit, Orthodox Defense

At the time of this match Marshall was the U.S. Chess Champion.  Capablanca, from Cuba, was ostensibly in the U.S. to study engineering at Columbia University, but in reality he spent most of his time playing chess.  Capablanca won the match 8 – 1 with 14 draws, but Marshall’s one win was memorable.

  1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 Ne4 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. Bd3 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Nd7

[Another game from the same match – 8… dxc4 9. Bxc4 b6 10. Qf3 c6 11. Ne2 Bb7 12. O-O O-O 13. a4 c5 14. Qg3 Nc6 15. Nf4 Rac8 16. Ba2 Rfd8 17. Rfe1 Na5 18. Rad1 Bc6 19. Qg4 c4 20. d5 Bxa4 21. Rd2 e5 22. Nh5 g6 23. d6 Qe6 24. Qg5 Kh8 25. Nf6 Rxd6 26. Rxd6 Qxd6 27. Bb1 Nc6 28. Bf5 Rd8 29. h4 Ne7 30. Ne4 Qc7 31. Qf6 Kg8 32. Be6 fxe6 33. Qxe6 Kf8 34. Ng5 Ng8 35. f4 Re8 36. fxe5 Re7 37. Rf1 Kg7 38. h5 Be8 39. h6 Kh8 40. Qd6 Qc5 41. Qd4 Rxe5 42. Qd7 Re7 43. Rf7 Bxf7 0-1, Marshall Frank J (USA) – Capablanca Jose Raul (CUB), New York 1909 Match]

  1. Nf3 O-O 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Qb3 Nf6 12. a4 c5 13. Qa3 b6!? The pawn just becomes a target on this square.

[13… Ne4 14. O-O Be6  +0.05|d16 Rybka4]

  1. a5 Bb7 15. O-O Qc7 16. Rfb1 Nd7?! Always try to avoid passive defense.

[16… Ne4 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Nd2 cxd4 19. cxd4 Bd5  +0.43|d19 Rybka4]

  1. Bf5 Rfc8 18. Bxd7 Qxd7 19. a6! Bc6 20. dxc5 bxc5 21. Qxc5 Rab8? Allowing Marshall to undermine the defense of the bishop. Capablanca’s position was already difficult due to passive defense, now it is critical.

[21… Rc7 22. h3 h6 23. Rb2 f6 24. Nd4 Rac8 25. Qa3 Qe8 26. Rab1  +1.02|d15]

  1. Rxb8 Rxb8 23. Ne5 Qf5 24. f4 Rb6?? Instantly fatal.

[He would still have a slim chance after 24… Ba8 25. Qxa7 Rf8  +2.67|d18 Rybka4]

 

  1. Qxb6!! Brilliant! Capablanca resigns.

[Capablanca was no doubt hoping for 25. Nxc6?? Rb1 26. Rxb1 Qxb1 27. Kf2 Qc2 28. Ke1 Qc1 29. Ke2 Qc2 30. Kf3 Qe4 31. Kg3 Qg6 32. Kh4 Qh6 33. Kg4 Qg6 34. Kf3 Qe4 35. Kg3 Qg6 36. Kh4 Qh6 37. Kg4 Qg6 38. Kf3 Qe4 Draw by three fold repetition.]

[…]

[He has to take the queen, but it loses quickly. 25… axb6 26. Nxc6 Qe4 (26… Qd7 27. a7 Qxc6 28. a8=Q Qxa8 29. Rxa8#; 26… Qc8 27. Ne7 etc.) 27. a7 Qxe3 28. Kh1 h5 29. a8=Q  +10.40|d14 Rybka4]

[1:0]

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