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Thursday, December 9, 2010

St. Petersburg 1895

This was one of the strongest tournaments ever played. The four strongest players in the world, Lasker, Steinitz, Pillsbury, Chigorin played 6 games each against the other 3 competitors.

The final results were:
1. Lasker    +8 -3 =7   11-1/2
2. Steinitz    +7 -6 =5   9-1/2
3. Pillsbury  +5 -7 =6   8
4. Chigorin  +5 -9 =4   7

By his score Lasker clearly maintained his right to claim the World Championship despite the fact that he had a minus score of +1 -2 =3 against Pillsbury. Pillsbury was the most dangerous opponent that Lasker faced during the first years of his reign and between 1893 and 1904 they faced each other in 12 tournament games. The final score was +5 -4 =3 in Lasker’s favor.

The openings in this event were mostly QP, Ruy Lopez, Petrov and the Evans Gambit. Steinitz was experimenting with his line against the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6) without much success and later abandoned it in favor of 3…a6 followed by 4…d6. It was also rumored that in three of their game Pillsbury and Steinitz agreed to open with 1.d4.

Blunders. Lasker hardly made any while Steinitz and Pillsbury (most of Pillsbury’s were because of time pressure) made a fair share. Chigorin also made quite a few, but his seemed to have mostly been caused by fatigue, perhaps due to illness.

In the following game, while Steinitz wastes a lot of time maneuvering on the K-side, Lasker methodically builds up his position and when Steinitz blunders on move 26, it’s all over. You’ll like Lasker’s refutation of Steinitz’ mistake and it’s worth playing through the final moves several times trying to visualize the possibilities.

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