The entire chess world wept at his untimely passing on April 18, 1900. Just 26 years old. 10 years after first learning how to move the pieces. Rudolf Charousek seemed to been destined to become World Champion, but…
The great Emanuel Lasker had thought that no one could prevent him from becoming World Champion. Ruben Fine likened him to the poet John Keats. Max Euwe thought him the reincarnate of Paul Morphy.
So impressive are Charousek’s victories…every serious student of the game is advised to analyze them carefully.
Rudolf Charousek (or in Hugarian Rezso Charousek) was one of the truly great stars of the chess world of the late 19th century; he literally appeared out of nowhere , shone brightly for a tragically brief period of time, and then became victim of tuberculosis. Dead before the age of 27
Today Rudolf Charousek is all but forgotten, rarely mentioned except in half decent texts of chess history. A biography appeared a number of years ago ( ”Chess Comet Charousek”by Victor A. Charuchin, 1997) but it has been dismissed by critics as very poorly done.
Born in Prague on 19th of September 1873, Rudolf Charousek’s family soon moved to Hungary, where he stayed for the rest of his life. He became a Hungarian citizen. Charousek learned the moves only at age 16, while still in highschool. A brilliant student, Charousek entered university to study law in Koshice, but soon found himself more interested in chess. He soon made a big impression on the chess community there.
Charousek’s chess talent was enormous. A quick learner, it took just 7 years from the time of learning how the pieces move to actually defeating the World Champion , Dr. Emaneul Lasker , in an over the board competition, at the Nuremberg 1896 international chess tournament!
1. e4Except for a handful of games where he played 1.d4, this was Charousek’s usual way of opening the game.
1…e5 2. f4 !?
Charousek was a big fan of this opening gambit, and he achieved excellent results with it! Although there is some uncertainty of the exact number of official games played by him during his lifetime, evidence suggests that Charousek played this gambit about half the time; most of the remaining games he played 2.Nf3
2… exf4 3. Bc4 The Bishop’s Gambit, which Fischer himself later took up in a famous game against GM Evans at the 1963 USch.
This move is not considered best. Later Lasker will find it hard to maintain his centre.
Chigorin showed a more dynamic treatment in his game with Charousek in Budapest 1896: 8… h6! 9. d4 Ne7 10. Qd3 Nbc6 with a complex position. Now White should play first Bxc6. Instead White got the worse of it after 11. Nb5 O-O 12. Nxc7 Nb4 13. Qd2 Nbxd5 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. exd5 Re8 16. Kg1 g4 17. Ne5 Bxe5 18. dxe5 Rxe5 19. Qxf4 Re1 0-1, Charousek – Chigorin Budapest 1896 (play-off)
9. Bc4 Bg4
Lasker’s plan becomes clear: to castle long and bring his rook into play , hopefully putting the White King into danger.
10. d4 Nd7 11. Kf2!
This fine move exposes the negative side of 8…c6. White now threatens to take on g5, and so Black is faced with having to give up control of the whole centre to his opponent.
11… Bxf3 12. gxf3 O-O-O 13. hxg5!
An exceptional move! Charousek refuses to be intimidated by the World Champion’s tactical skill and instead calls his bluff.
13… Qxg5Forced. Undoubtedly Lasker had prepared 13… Bxd4 14. Qxd4 Qxh1 , but then he realized that after 15. Bxf4 Qh4 16. Bg3 Qxg5 17. Bxf7 Qc5 18. Ne2 Qxd4 19. Nxd4 White has a big advantage.
Another fine consolidating move that required a lot of accurate calculation. The intended 14… Nb6 15. Bxf7 Bxd4 16. Nxd4 Qg3 17. Ke2 Qg2 18. Kd3 , which seems to be very awkward for White, is infact not dangerous at all to White:
After 18…Rxd4 19. Kxd4 Qg7 20. Kd3 Qxf7 21. c3 White’s King will have no problem finding shelter. Then it would just be a question of White converting his advantage.
NOW BACK TO THE ACTUAL GAME CONTINUATION:
15. c3After some excellent and courageous consolidating moves, Charousek has managed to fortify his centre. He will now pick up the weak f-pawn, with a strategically winning position. Worse still, Lasker has few trumps up his sleeve.
Lasker’s enormous tactical skills could not save him in this game.
15… Ne5!? 16. Qa4! Nxc4 17. Qxc4 Now the tide changes. From now on it is White’s initiative.
17… Nf6 There is little point to trying to defend the f-pawn with Bh6 18. Bxf4 Nd7 19. Qa4! a6
20. Qa5 [20. Ng3 immediately was even stronger!] 20… Nf8 21. Ng3 Ne6 22. Nf5
What a great position to have against a World Champion! White is not only a pawn up, but has complete domination of the position. Lasker is helpless.
22… Qf8 23. Bg3 Rd7There is nothing better.
24. Nxg7!A simple but very strong solution to the position. Rather than play for more [24. d5!? with attacking chances] Charousek cashes in on his already big advantage. 24… Qxg725. Qe5!
Fischer-like play! The ending is completely hopeless for Lasker.
When Lasker resigned, he is quoted as saying : ”I shall have to play a championship match with this man some day.”
Despite this defeat, Lasker won the tournament with 13.5 points. Charousek finished in 12th position, with 8.5 points.
According to a local chess journalist , J.Hofer, all of the tournament participants were impressed with the above game, and especially with the apparent genius of the young Charousek:
”All chess experts recognized him as a genius. He possesses exceptional theoretical knowledge, his style of play is innovative and original, and he plays equally well in the middlegame and in the endgame…He is bold and confident in every position, and he is totally unimpressed by authorities.”
By defeating the World Champion in such grande style, Charousek’s fame started to spread