#3 What is the threat? Dangling pieces

Emanuel LaskerNowadays the talk is all about the youngsters in chess. The young generation rules the chess world. Therefore it is hard to imagine that somebody who is over sixty is able to compete with opponents who could have been his grand children.

It is what Emanuel Lasker did when he was well into his sixties. He was 67 when he played the newly crowned world champion Max Euwe in the Nottingham tournament of 1936. Lasker was more than thirty years older than Max Euwe.

In his encounters with Lasker Euwe had a bad track record. They played three games and Euwe lost them all. Okay, they played one more game against each other. In fact Lasker lost in a simul from the nineteen year old Max (1920). But that doesn’t count.

Lasker had a positive score against almost all the great players of his time. Just to mention a few:

  • Janowski +20
  • Steinitz +18
  • Tarrasch +9
  • Alekhine +2

Lasker had a negative score against only two of his great contemporaries:

  • Capablanca -4 and Salo Flohr -2

Tarrasch stated about Lasker ‘He is a coffeehouse player who wins his games only thanks to dubious tricks!’ Tricks the arrogant Tarrasch readily fell for so it seems. By the way, they were no tricks, bud the inflexible Tarrasch didn’t understand the way Lasker played.

But let’s not dwell on this too long and get back to Lasker versus Euwe. The game itself is hardly worth showing. Euwe equalized without any trouble very early in the game. Nobody would have been astonished if they had signed a peace treaty on move 16 or so. In fact Euwe with black had a slight advantage. Why didn’t one of them propose a draw?

It is hard to say. Maybe Lasker thought: ‘Hey young guy, you’re slightly better, but it is absolutely nothing to write home about. If you want a draw, propose and maybe I will accept!’

What went through Euwe’s mind? Maybe he thought, being the new world champ: ‘I have something to prove!’

Anyhow the game lingered on for a couple of insignificant moves until the diagram position was reached.

White has just played 23. Kd3 and attacked the black knight on c4. So what is the big deal? If black plays for instance 23. … Nd6 or 23. … Nb6 he maintains a tiny advantage.

The isolated white pawn on d4 is not a problem. It can be attacked three times and defended with the same amount of pieces. The white position has no other weaknesses.

But Euwe didn’t think about withdrawing his knight. He had other plans and tried to complicate things a bit. He played 23. … Ba5. It’s tit for tat. You dare to attack my knight? Than I attack yours!

After this bold move both knights are dangling. But one of them maybe slightly more than the other. Which threat was overlooked by Euwe? Why is 23. … Ba5 such a huge blunder?

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