Lasker's Defense

Vinny Puri (2246) - Steve Stoyko (2293) [D57]

Las Vegas Masters/Las Vegas, NV USA (7) 2006


The following game from the recently completed Las Vegas Masters offers a good example of Lasker's Defense to the Queen's Gambit Declined. FM Steve Stoyko, who takes Black here, lectured on the subject at the Kenilworth Chess Club last year. The ending, where White's active Queen and Rook help hold a draw despite being a pawn down, is also worth some attention.

1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. d4

White can sidestep QGD transpositions several ways, including by 3. b3

 

3... Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5

Steve considers the Exchange Variation with 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 more of a challenge for Black.

 

5... O-O 6. e3 h6

Lasker used to play the Knight move immediately with 6... Ne4 possibly to avoid 6...h6 7.Bxf6 and White gains time in exchange for the Bishop pair.

 

7. Bh4 Ne4










The standard Lasker's Defense idea. Black seeks to exchange off pieces and reduce White's attacking force. He will then pursue a break by . ... c5 or ....e5 with equality.

 

8. Bxe7 Qxe7 9. Bd3

Probably not White's best, though frequently played. Alternatives include:

a) 9. Rc1 is the most challenging move.

b) 9. Nxe4 dxe4 10. Nd2 f5 is good for Black, who has chances of developing a kingside initiative.

c) 9. cxd5 Nxc3 10. bxc3 exd5 11. Qb3 Rd8 12. c4 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Nc6!=

9... Nxc3 10. bxc3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 c5

I have also seen Steve try 11... b6 12. O-O Ba6!? 13. Bxa6 Nxa6 14. Qb3 c5 15. Ne5 Rac8 16. Rfe1 Rfd8=

 

12. O-O Nc6

12... b6 13. Qe2 Bb7 14. e4 Nc6 15. Rad1 Rad8 16. Rd2 e5 17. d5 Na5 18. Bd3 Bc8 19. Ne1 Rfe8 20. Bb5 Bd7 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. Nf3 Nb7 23. Rb2 Nd6 24. c4 Rb8 25. Nd2 1/2-1/2 Cramling,P-Krogius,N/Genova 1989 (25)

 

13. Bb5!?

To trade off the good Knight and make Ne5 possible.

13. Qe2 e5 14. d5 Na5 15. e4 Bg4 16. Bd3 Qf6 17. Qe3 Bxf3 18. gxf3 b6 19. Kh1 Nb7 20. Bb5 Nd6 21. Bc6 Rab8 22. Rg1 Kh8 23. Rg4 Nc4 24. Qe2 Nd6 1/2-1/2 Lugovoj,M-Gejko,V/Korolev 1999 (24)

 

13... Bd7 14. Qe2 Rac8 15. e4 cxd4 16. cxd4 a6 17. Bxc6 Bxc6 18. Rfc1 Qa3!










19. h3

Black has a bit of pressure down the c-file and on the back rank and so White takes precautions. He has to be careful of things like 19. Ne5? Bxe4! or 19. Rc5?! Bb5!

 

19... Bb5 20. Qe3 Rxc1+! 21. Rxc1!?

White decides to surrender a pawn in order to get his Rook to the 7th. White will have lots of activity in the heavy piece ending that follows. Meanwhile, hanging onto the pawn is no fun:

21. Qxc1 Qxc1+ 22. Rxc1 Rd8 23. Rd1 Bc6 (23... Be2 24. Rd2 Bxf3 25. gxf3 b5) (23... Be2 24. Rd2 Bxf3 25. gxf3 b5) 24. Re1 f5!

 

21... Qxa2 22. Rc7 Bc6

22... b6! 23. Ne5 Qe2! may offer Black better chances of converting the pawn.

 

23. Ne5 Qa1+!?

Black plans a series of checks that force the exchange of minor pieces without disrupting his pawns by Nxc6 bxc6. But the resulting heavy piece ending will be difficult to win, especially since White's Rook remains on the seventh.

A better idea is to keep the minor pieces on and grab a second pawn by 23... Qb1+! 24. Kh2 Bxe4! (but not 24... Qxe4?? 25. Nxc6!)

 

24. Kh2 Qa5 25. Re7 Qd8

Or 25... Qb4 26. Nxc6 Qd6+!

 

26. Nxc6 Qd6+!

26... bxc6 27. Rb7

 

27. Qg3 Qxc6

Black is up a straight pawn, with a wonderful connected passer pair on the queenside. It appears he should win, but White has lots of counterplay. White's Rook is much more active than Black's, his Queen is more active, and his d-pawn is faster and better supported than Black's two pawns.

 

28. Qf4 b5 29. Rc7!










29... Qa8!?

It may be that Black's best chance at victory is to keep the Queen nearer to the passed pawns so that they can be pushed up together. For example: 29... Qb6 30. d5 a5 31. d6 (31. Rc6?! Qd4) 31... b4 32. d7 (32. e5 a4 33. Rc4 b3! 34. Rb4 Qc6 35. Rxa4? b2) 32... Qb8 (32... Qd4!?) 33. Qd6 Rd8 34. e5 b3

 

30. Qe5 Qb8!?

30... Rc8!

 

31. d5 exd5 32. exd5 b4

32... Re8?! 33. Qf4 Re7? 34. d6!!

 

33. d6 b3 34. Rc1 Rd8 35. Rd1 a5 36. Qxa5 Rxd6 37. Qe5 Rb6

The Rook ending appears at first winnable for Black, but close analysis suggests that it is drawn with best play. Black must improve before this point. These heavy piece endings are certainly difficult.

 

38. Qxb8+ Rxb8 39. Kg3

 

 

39... b2?!

"Too commital" said NM Scott Massey, who went over some lines with us at the Kenilworth Chess Club. But even trying to bring up the Black king more quickly did not result in real winning chances.

a) 39... Kf8 40. Kf3 Ke7 41. Ke3 Ke6 42. Rb1 (42. Kd2?? Rd8+) 42... Ke5 (42... f5 43. Kd3 f4 44. Kc3 Kf5) 43. Kd3 Rb6 44. Kc3 Rg6 45. Rg1!? Ke4 46. Re1+ (46. Kxb3 Kd3) 46... Kd5 47. Rg1 Rb6 48. Rb1=

b) 39... Rb6 40. Kf3 Kf8 41. Ke3= (41. Ke4?! Rg6 42. Kf3 Rf6+ 43. Ke3 Ke7 44. Rb1 Rg6 45. Kf3 (45. Rxb3!?) 45... Rb6 46. Ke3=)

 

40. Rb1 Rb3+ 41. Kf4 g5+

a) 41... Kf8 42. Ke4 Ke7 43. Kd4 Ke6 44. Kc4 Rb8 45. Kc3 Kd5 46. Rxb2 Rxb2 47. Kxb2 Kd4 48. Kc2 f5 49. Kd2 g5 50. g4 fxg4 51. hxg4 Ke4 52. Ke2 Kf4 53. f3 Kg3 54. Ke3=

b) 41... Kh7 42. Ke4 Kg6 43. Kd4 Kf5 44. Kc4 Rb8 45. Kc3 Ke4 46. Re1+ Kf4 47. Rb1 f5 48. Rxb2 Rxb2 49. Kxb2 Ke4 50. Kc2 f4 51. Kd2 f3 52. g3 Kd4 53. Kc2=

 

42. Ke4 Kg7 43. Kd4 f5 44. Kc4 Rb6 45. Kc3 g4 46. hxg4 fxg4 47. Rxb2 Rxb2 48. Kxb2=

Agreed drawn.

1/2-1/2

Game in PGN