Game 9
July 11, 1926

Geza Maroczy - Jose Raul Capablanca [B13]

Lake Hopatcong/Lake Hopatcong, NJ USA (5) 1926


1. e4 c6 2. d4

2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Ne5 (which I like to call the Apocalypse Attack) is another way to play the Exchange Variation, but not something they'd have considered back in 1926.

 

2... d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3

4. c4 is the Panov-Botvinnik Attack and quite a different game from the Classical Exchange Variation.

 

4... Nc6 5. c3 Nf6

Black has two common alternatives:

a) 5... e5 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Bb5+ leaves Black with the long-term liability of an isolated pawn.

 

b) 5... Qc7!? (preventing Bf4) 6. Ne2 Bg4 7. Qa4 (7. Bf4 Qxf4 8. Nxf4 Bxd1 9. Kxd1 e6=) 7... Nf6 8. Bf4 Qd7 (White's kingside Knight is now developed more passively than usual.) 9. Nd2 e6 10. O-O Be7 11. Rfe1 O-O 12. Bg5 Bh5 13. Nf4 Bg6 14. Nxg6 hxg6 15. Qd1 Rab8 16. Re3 Nh5 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. a4 a6 19. Qg4 Nf6 20. Qh3 Qc7 21. Qh4 Nh5 22. Be2 Qf4 23. Qh3 Nf6 24. Qg3 1/2-1/2 Yudasin,L-Benjamin,J/New York 2005 (24) - once the Queens are off, Black can pursue the typical minority attack with ... b5-b4xc3 and has good long-term chances.

6. Bf4

Black gains easy equality after natural moves such as 6. h3 e5= or 6. Nf3 Bg4=

 

6... Bg4

The fianchetto 6... g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 is a more modern treatment.

 

7. Qb3!

The downside of Black's Bg4 is that the b-pawn is undefended. Reinfeld says Black equalizes easily after 7. Ne2 Bh5!? (or 7... e6 8. Qb3 Qd7 9. Ng3 Nh5!=) 8. Qb3 Qd7 9. Ng3 Bg6=

 

7... Na5

Black's alternative ways of protecting the b-pawn allow White a straightforward development edge:

a) 7... Qc8 8. Nd2 e6 9. Ngf3 Be7 10. O-O O-O 11. Ne5 1-0 Browne-Larsen, San Antonio 1972 (43)

 

b) 7... Qd7 8. Nd2 e6 9. Ngf3 Bxf3 10. Nxf3 Bd6 11. Bxd6 Qxd6 12. O-O O-O 13. Rae1 Nd7 14. Qc2 g6 15. Re3 Qf4 16. Rfe1 Rab8 17. Qe2 Rfc8 18. h3 Rc7 19. Nh2 Ne7 20. Ng4 Kg7 21. Rf3 Qg5 22. Bb5 Nc6 23. Rxf7+!! Kxf7 24. Qxe6+ Kg7 25. Qd6 Qd8 26. Bxc6 Rxc6 27. Qe7+ Kh8 (27... Qxe7 28. Rxe7+ Kh8 29. Rxd7 followed by Rxd5 leaves White with three pawns for the Exchange) 28. Qf7 Rc7 29. Re7 Qg8 30. Qf4 Qf8 31. Rf7 Qg8 32. Nh6 Qd8 33. Qe3! Rbc8 (33... Rc6 34. Re7!+-) 34. Re7 Qf8 35. Nf7+ Kg8 36. Qe6 Rc6 37. Nd6+ Kh8 38. Rxd7 1-0 Yudasin,L-Benjamin,J/Minneapolis 2005 (38)

8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Qc2 Qb6 10. Nf3 e6 11. O-O

Bobby Fischer demonstrated the improvement on Maroczy's play in his famous game with Petrosian, where he kept the Black Bishop out of the b5-square by playing 11. a4! Rc8 12. Nbd2 Nc6 13. Qb1 Nh5 14. Be3 h6 15. Ne5 Nf6 16. h3 Bd6 17. O-O 1-0, Fischer-Petrosian, USSR v World 1970 (39)

 

11... Bb5!

Exchanging Black's "bad bishop" for White's "good bishop."

 

12. Nbd2 Bxd3 13. Qxd3 Rc8

Not 13... Qxb2? 14. Rfb1 Qa3 15. Qb5+ Nd7 16. Ne5 Rd8 17. Nb3! and White easily regains his pawn with a big edge.

 

14. Rab1 Be7 15. h3

The idea is to provide a retreat square for the Bishop along the h2-b8 diagonal that helps to control e5. But this move is too slow. White's most natural move is 15. Ne5 laying claim to the important e5 square as a permanent base of operations. Reinfeld points out that Ph3 also has the drawback of depriving White of attacking ideas based on the Rook lift Rfe1-e3-h3.

 

15... O-O 16. Rfe1 Nc4 17. Nxc4 Rxc4!

The more natural recapture 17... dxc4 18. Qe2 Nd5 19. Bg3 Qa5 20. a3 leaves Black with fewer options for developing a queenside initiative.

 

18. Ne5 Rcc8 19. Bg5 Qd8 20. Bxf6 gxf6!?

Again, the more natural recapture 20... Bxf6= would be equal but drawish. By taking with the pawn, Capablanca unbalances the position and drives White's Knight out of e5.

 

21. Ng4 Kh8 22. f4 f5

Black must prevent Pf5 for White.

 

23. Ne5 Bd6 24. Qf3 Bxe5! 25. Rxe5

25. fxe5 Rg8 gives Black even better prospects along the half-open g-file than in the game.

 

25... Rg8 26. Re2 Qh4 27. Kh2 Rg6

All of Black's pieces are prepared to join a kingside attack.

 

28. g3 Qf6 29. Rg1 Kg7 30. Qd3

It is always difficult to play a passive defense, but that may be White's best option here. Howell writes: "at a disadvantage on the K-side, [White] now evolves a plan to break through on the Queen side. However, as he can hardly hope to win such a game, it would be better for him to simply keep his pieces ready to shift to whichever side Black attacks and hold the draw in hand. With only the heavy pieces left Black probably could not break through."

 

30... a6 31. Rc1 h5 32. h4 Kh6 33. c4 dxc4 34. Rxc4










White has achieved his break on the queenside, but his pieces are now distracted from kingside defense.

 

34... Rxg3!

A safe gamble on Capablanca's part, especially considering that slower methods of developing the attack are far from clear:

a) 34... Rcg8 35. Rg2 Rg4 36. d5 Qg6 (threatening Rxh4+) 37. Qf3 e5 (37... exd5 38. Rd4=) 38. b3 e4 39. Qf2 Qd6 40. Qc5 and White's passed d-pawn should give him sufficient counterplay.

 

b) 34... Rd8 35. Rc7! Rxd4 36. Qc3 Ra4 37. Qxf6 Rxf6 38. b3 Rb4 39. Rd2= followed by doubling Rooks with Rdd7, and White may even be better.

35. Qxg3?

White misses his chance for a likely draw following 35. Kxg3 Rg8+ 36. Kh3!

(a) 36. Kh2? Qxh4+ 37. Qh3 Qxf4+ 38. Kh1 Rg3!-+)

(b) 36. Kf2? Qxh4+ 37. Ke3 Rg3+ 38. Kd2 Rxd3+ 39. Kxd3 Qxf4-+)

(c) 36. Kf3? Qxh4 37. Ke3 Rg3+-+)

36... Rg4 37. Kh2! Qxh4+ 38. Qh3 Qf6 39. Qf3! and Black has no better option than to repeat the position beginning with 39... Qh4+=

 

Howell writes: "there were four chances for White to lose and only one way to draw--sufficient to justify the surprise move on Black's part." Based on the different amounts of time used by the competitors, we can also speculate that Capablanca wished to take advantage of Maroczy's time pressure. And, given that alternative plans were not obviously better, the Champion risked little in allowing a drawing line.

 

35... Rxc4

Black is up a pawn, has fewer pawn islands, and controls the initiative.

 

36. Rd2 Qg6 37. Qg5+

The alternatives may have put up more resistance:

a) 37. Qxg6+ Kxg6 38. Kg3 Kf6 39. Kf3 Ke7 40. d5 gives White some drawing chances in the Rook ending...against anyone other than Capablanca, of couse.

 

b) 37. Qa3!? Rc8! 38. Qe7 Rg8! 39. Qg5+ amounts to something similar to the game but does require precise play by Black.

37... Qxg5 38. hxg5+ Kg6 39. Kg3 Rc6!

Preventing counterplay by Pd5.

 

40. Kf3 Rd6 41. Kg3 f6 42. gxf6 Kxf6 43. Kf3

43. Kh4 Rd8! 44. Rd1 Rg8! 45. d5 Rg4+ 46. Kxh5 exd5 47. Rxd5 Rxf4

 

43... h4 44. Rh2 Rxd4 45. Rxh4 b5 46. Rh6+ Ke7 47. Rh7+ Kd6 48. Ra7 Ra4 49. a3 Kd5

White resigned. Reinfeld sums up Black's winning plan nicely: "If [White's] Rook remains on the [a-file] Black's King goes to [b3]. If White's Rook is planted on the [e-file], then .. .[a5] followed by ..[b4] forces the issue." Maroczy must have figured that if he could see it, so could the World Champion (especially having more time on the clock).

 

Maroczy used three hours, Capa half that at one and a half hours.

0-1

[Michael Goeller]

Game in PGN