A Lesson from Spielmann vs. Rubinstein, 1909

Usually instructive endgames attract me more than brilliant combinations and sacrifices. After White’s last move R1c2, we have this position on the board:

Black to play:

Q: Which is better 38…Rxa3 or 38…Rxc2?

A: 38…Rxa3 temporarily wins a pawn but allows enough counter play on 7th rank or against the pawn on d6. In fact the d6 pawn can not be defended so Rxa3 is basically just an exchange of pawns. Looking more closely at the position, the d6 pawn can be protected by Ke7 whilst White’s scattered pawns remains permanently weak. So here Rxc2 is much better choice and in fact winning. White’s rook has to occupy a passive position to defend the weaknesses on a3 and d4 and Black’s king will have a free hand.

The game went as follows:

38…Rxc2 39.Rxc3 Ra8 40.Rc3

Here White can’t generate active play with 40.Rc6 because of 40…Ke7 41.Rc7+ and now 41…Ke8! when the ook has to retreat to c3 and we will have a similar sort of position to the one reached in the actual game. The rest, as they say, is a matter of technique.

Ashvin Chauhan