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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rubinstein's Masterpiece

     Since the Rubinsteins have been the subject of a recent post I decided to take a look at Akiba Rubinstein's Immortal Game against Rotlevi.  Rubinstein is best known as a great endgame artist but this game shows he was also a superb strategist and tactician. This game has been annotated hundreds of times, but what interested me here was the fact that is contains an instructive combination of the kind Euwe described as a “compound combination.” 
     Euwe classified combinations as being mating, open-field, and compound and for each classification he had subdivisions. For example under mating combinations there are direct, break up, penetration and lateral. He observed that combinations (generally referred to as “tactics” today) seldom appear in absolute pure form because the pieces are almost always “connected” to each other. Usually a combination will be directed at the weakest point and if the opponent succeeds in defending against the attack, the second weakness can then be taken advantage of. That's what we see in this game: Rubinstein is presented with the opportunity for a mating attack and we see breakup, penetration, overload and lateral combinations in succession. To get the full enjoyment out of this game it should be played over with an actual board and pieces. 
     His opponent, Georg Rotlewi (1889 – 1920) was a Polish master and is probably most famous for his loss in this game. His best results were in 1909 when he finished 2nd behind Alexander Alekhine at Saint Petersburg in the All-Russian Amateur tournament, in 1910 when he tied for 1st with Rubinstein in Warsaw and won the Hamburg tournament which earned him the Master title and an invitation to Carlsbad 1911 where he finished 9th (Rubinstein won) with +7 -5 =8. In 1911 he finished 4th in Carlsbad (Teichmann won), tied for 2nd-4th in Cologne (Levitzky won) and 2nd in Munich (Alapin won). Rotlewi played two matches against Salwe, losing in 1909 (+5 –8 =5) and winning in 1910 (+3 –1 =6). A nervous disorder forced him to give up serious chess and he died in 1920 at the age of 31.


  1. This game is one of my favorites. Like R. Byrne – Fischer or Geller – Euwe from Zurich 1953, you can’t keep from smiling every time you play it over again. By the way, where did you read about Euwe’s method of classifying combinations?

  2. In his book Strategy and Tactics in Chess. My copy is an old one that was autographed by Euwe when I met him in Cleveland, Ohio back in late 1950s...I can't remember the exact year.