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The Power of Counterplay

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Spielmann, Rudolf - Nimzowitsch, Aron

Carlsbad, Czech Republic 1923 Caro-Kann, Exchange Variation In this game we're going to see how Black turned the nature of the game completely, in a seemingly quite line Nimzowitsch starts to attack White's kingside with a typical pawn storm then regroup his pieces seamlessly and in less than 20 moves White was already lost. For those who would like to view the game as a chessbase format or download it as pgn you can do that from this link: http://www.viewchess.com/cbreader/2020/4/11/Game43368543.html

Spielmann was a romantic player known for his aggressive and attacking style and was one of the strongest players in the early 1900's. Nimzowitsch was one of the most influential players in modern chess history, his book "My System" is considered by many to be one of the best books in history. He's known for his deep strategic play, though in this game we will also see his aggressive side.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c3 Now in the modern theory 4.c4 is the main move

4...Nc6 5.Bf4

5.Bd3 is the main move now preventing Bf5

5...Bf5 6.Nf3 e6 7.Qb3 threatening b7,it will be clear that this wasn't a good choice because he will need the help of his queen on the kingside later

7.Nbd2 right away was better to meet 7...f6 with 8.Nh4 g5 9.Qh5+ Kd7 10.g4! and a very unclear position arises, but even such an aggressive player as Spielmann wasn't sure about this continuation

7...Qd7 8.Nbd2 8.Bb5 f6 with similar plans as in the game


8...f6! Secures the e5 square and prepares for a general advance on the kingside. It appears as though black's center isn't that stable but as we shall see black's pawns are all protected and this advancement is very justified, such aggressive play wasn't popular at the time which shows Nimzowitsch's high class and his innovation

9.Be2 Here 9 c4 was indicated, e.g. : 9 c4 Bb4 10 cxd5 exd5 11 Bb5 with an even game; or 9...Nb4 10 Rc1 and White has nothing to fear.

9.h4 preventing g5 was a better alternative, though black can play 9...Nh6 followed by Ng4/Nf7 intending e5 breakthrough

9...g5 10.Bg3 h5 black starts his pawn avalanche on the kingside

11.h3 11.h4 preventing further advances is met by 11...g4 12.Nh2 Bg6 followed by Bh6 and f5–f4 or Ne7–f5

11...Nge7 12.0–0 c4 would no longer improve matters, e.g. : 12 c4 dxc4 13 Bxc4 Nd5 with a strong knight in center; nevertheless this line was preferable to the text.

12.c4! trying to hit the center can be met by the calm 12...Kf7! 13.cxd5 Nxd5 and black has a very strong hold on d5

12...Bh6 planning g4 hitting both knights

opening lines with 12...h4 13.Bh2 g4 14.hxg4 Bxg4 was also a good alternative


13.Ne1? white loses the h3 and opens new lines for black's attack

white had to admit to his mistake and go back with his queen with 13.Qd1 so that 13...g4 fails to 14.hxg4 hxg4 15.Nh2 and black has some attack going but white can defend successfully; 13.Nh2

13...g4 14.Qd1 Bxd2 This wins a pawn

15.Qxd2 as scary as it looks white had to go 15.hxg4 hxg4 16.Qxd2 the h file is totally open but it's not that fatal with concrete defense, play could continue 16...Ng6 17.f4 (17.f3 gxf3 18.Nxf3 Qh7 19.Kf2) 17...gxf3 18.Nxf3 Qh7 19.Qe3 and a very unclear position arises, although black has a decent advantage according to engines

15...gxh3 now white's position is getting increasingly difficult to defend, all white's options from now on will still lead to a losing position

16.Nd3 b6 16...Kf7 was better meeting 17.Nc5 with 17...Qc8 and transferring the queen to the queenside with decisive advantage

17.Rfe1 17.Nf4 was necessary meeting 17...h4 with 18.Bh5+ Kd8 19.Bxh4 hxg2 20.Rfe1 with some counterplay, though with accurate play black's attack will tell

17...h4 18.Bh2 Kf7 18...0–0–0?? loses to the beautiful 19.Nc5!

19.g4 Other moves also lose.

19.gxh3 also losses to 19...Rag8+ 20.Kh1 e5!

19...hxg3 20.Bxg3 h2+ 21.Kg2

21...Be4+ a decent move, though

21...e5! was much quicker, play could continue 22.Kh1 Be4+ 23.f3 Bxd3 24.Bxd3 Rag8 followed by Qh3 with decisive attack

22.Bf3 22.f3 Bxd3 23.Bxd3 e5 similar to previous note

22...Nf5 and white is defenseless, he's now totally lost as black's attack decides the game

23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Nf4 24.Rxe4 losses to 24...Qd5 25.Qf4 Nxg3 26.fxg3 f5 and black will move his king next move and white will lose his rook

24...e5 25.Ne2 Nh4+ 26.Bxh4 26.Kh1 Qh3 27.Bxh4 Qf3+

26...Qg4+ 0–1 play could continue 27.Ng3 (27.Bg3 Qf3+) 27...Qf3+ 28.Kxh2 Rxh4+ 29.Kg1 Rg8 Lessons from this game - How to generate an attack

- The importance of a strong and intact center before a flank attack - The power of pawn storms


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