SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The following little known game was played at the 1st Lasker Chess Tournament in Tel Aviv in 1939. The opponents–Moshe Czerniak and Victor Winz were both born in Poland and were top notch masters of that era. Both played on the Palestine Olympic Team in Buenos Aires in 1939
This game stands out not so much for the accuracy of its play but for the outstanding fighting spirit demonstrated by both players and especially for the richness of their ideas. Both players sought to win and turned down quieter lines that might lead to equal play. In the end Black won, but it was a bitter fight to the very end. Enjoy!
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 13th MOVE (13.Rxa7)
A truly chaotic position. Black’s Queen Rook is being attacked and he can not exchange on a7 without allowing White’s b-pawn to advance and threaten to promote. Black’s only chance is to seek salvation in complications, which abound here since the position of the White King in the centre gives rise to numerous tactical motives and direct threats. In particular, the Black pawn on e3 is a valuable asset in Black’s design.
Very tempting now is 13…Qf6!? with a mate threat on f2. However, after 14.Qe2! ( 14.Nf3 looks better but is infact worse: after 14… Qxb6! 15.Rxa8 Qxb2! White is in trouble ; Nor is 14.Qc2 particularly effective after 14… Qf2!? 15.Qxf2 exf2 16.Kd2 ( 16.Kxf2 Bd4 17.Kg3 Rxa7 18.bxa7 Bxa7 ) 16…Bd4! and Black stays on top ) 14…Qh4! 15.Kd1 Bg4 16.Nf3 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Nd7 18.Rxa8 Rxa8 19.bxc7 and now 19…Bxc3 and 20…Qe7 leads to an approximately balanced position with chances for both sides.
For this reason Black seeks fortune in another Queen move (which, however, is less strong):
Bad now would be 14.Ke2?? as after 14…Qf2 ( 14…Nc6!? is also not so bad) 15.Kd3 Qxb2! 16.Qc2 Qxb6 17.Rxa8 Na6 18.Rxa6 Qxa6 19.Kxe3 Qxf1 etc and White is in a bad way. White has little choice but to block with his g-pawn:
14.g3 Bxc3! 15.bxc3 Qxe4
A truly original position! Black just keeps ignoring the White attack on his Queen rook….
Now bad would be 16.Qf3?! Qb1! 17.Qd1 Qxb!6 18.Rxa8 Qf6! 19.Nf3 Qxc3 20.Ke2 Qb2 and White can resign ; also bad is 16.Rxa8?! Qxh1 17.Rxb8 Qxh2 with a winning position.
Simple but strong! White defends against the Black threat while maintaining his own threat… A wise old master once wrote chess is really quite a simple game, provided you don’t make any mistakes!
There is really nothing better. Now weak would be 17.Be2?! Nd7 when Black has solved all of his problems and even stands better!
But White can get the upper hand with the sharp 17.Bd3! when it appears that Black has little better than to simplify: 17… Qxf3 18.Qxf3 Bxf3 19.Rxa8 cxb6! ( 19…Bxh1 20.bxc7 ; 19…Nd7? 20.Rxf8 Kxf8 21.bxc7 Nb6 22.d6 ) 20.O-O ( 20.Rf1 Bg2 21.Rg1 Bxd5 22.Ke2 might be a bit better ) 20…Bxd5 and White is better but Black hás good drawing chances
Instead, White gives in to temptation and takes the Rook on a8, which has been hanging for quite a while now:
To be fair, it is difficult to fault White for this last move, as the postion remains wild and unclear. White threatens (sometimes) to win directly with bxc7. Black must play with great precision the next phase of play:
17…Bxf3 18.Qd3 Qe5!
The only move! Exchanging Queens and taking the Rook on h1 would lose because of bxc7.
Now White can maintain the balance with 19.Rg1! cxb6 ( 19…Bxd5 might be worth taking a closer look at ) 20.Bg2 Bh5 21.Bh3!? (White forces a draw as playing for a win is too risky)… Bf3 22.Bg2 Bh5 etc.
INSTEAD, WHITE WANTS MORE AND THIS GIVES BLACK THE CHANCE TO GAIN THE UPPER HAND:
19.bxc7?! Qxc7 20.Rg1
White’s last move was forced. So we have now a postion where White is an exchange up (for a Pawn or two–and these are weak) but his King and pieces lack coordination. Black’s problems include that he does not want to exchange his last Rook and therefore he has to keep his Knight on b8! A very odd position…
Never the less, Black can maintain some initiative with 20…Bxd5! 21.Qxd5 Qxc3 22.Kd1 ( 22.Ke2?? Qb2 23.Kxe3 Qb6 24.Qd4 Re8 ) 22…Rc8 though after 23.Ke2! White is fighting and he has excellent drawing chances.
However, Black wrongly thought that he saw an even stronger continuation:
Black defends his e-pawn and sometimes threatens to infiltrate with his Queen to b1 or b2. He also sometimes has the move …e2, attacking the Rook on g1.
The problem with Black’s last move is that it gives his opponent a chance to jump back into the game, perhaps even having some winning chances! White should play the very cool: 21.Be2! and after the more or less forced 21…Bxe2 22.Kxe2 Qb2 23.Kxe3 Qxh2 24.Rb1 Qxg3 25.Kd2 Qf2 26.Qe2 Qf5 27.Rb5 while it is still a very unclear game, Black must be very careful: his Knight is still undeveloped and the White d-pawn can become a very dangerous threat.
Once more White should parachute with 22.Be2! Rxd5 23.Rxb8 Kg7 24.Rxb7 Qd6 25.Qxe3 Bxe2 26.Qxe2 Re5 27.Rb2 when White should hold the ending.
Perhaps White simply underestimated Black’s next move
22…Rxd5!! 23.Rxb8 Kg7
So Black never did move that Knight on b8! Now White can not try to save his Queen with 24.Rxb7? as after 24…Rxd3 25.Rxb6 Rd1# . We now reach by force an ending where the White pieces can not hold it together
24.Rxf3 Rxd3 25.Bxd3 Qc7!
No doubt this move escaped White’s calculations. This nasty Queen move leads to the decisive win of material! Black attacks the Rook on b8 and the pawn on c3 and there is simply no way to avoid losing material…the next moves are all virtually forced:
26.Re8 Qxc3 27.Kf1 [27.Ke2 Qd2! ] 27…Qxd3 28.Kg2 Qd2 29.Kg3 e2 30.Rfe3
The Black pawn can not be held, but the problem from White’s point of view is the awkward position of his King.
30…Qe1 31.Kh3?! Slightly better was 31.Kf3 Qf1 32.Kg3 Qg1 33.Kf3 ( 33.Kh3 Qf2! ) though it would not be enough to save the game 31…Qf1 32.Kg3 Qg1 33.Kh3 Qf2!!
White can not take the pawn because he gets mated after 34…Qf3 and 35…g5! Essentially White is in a zugzwang position and can not improve the position of his King. The next moves came quickly:
34. R8-e5 b5 Probably 34…f6! would is faster 35.g5 h5 36.R5e4 b4 37.Rxe2 Qf3 38.Kh4 b3 39.R2e3 Qf2 40.Kh3 b2 41.Re8
Playing for the spectators! Resigning immediately is an excellent option, but White saw little to lose in setting up a stalemate opportunity that Black might fall into :41…b1=Q?? 42.Rg8! Kxg8 43.Re8 Kg7 44.Rg8! Kxg8 stalemate!
However, Czerniak’s reply destroys that dream:
41…Qxe3 ! [0:1]
An exciting struggle where both players deserve much credit for their imaginative play
The 1939 Palestine Olympiad team. Left to right: Porat, Czerniak, Rauch, Reischer (Women’s world championship representative), Winz, Kleinstein. Photo: 64 Mishbatzot, No. 3 (April 1956), p. 51.
Czerniak (left) playing Capablanca at the 1939 Olympiad
Moshe Czerniak 1956
In 1930 Moshe Czerniak took ninth at Warsaw in an event won by Paulino Frydman. In 1934 Czerniak emigrated from Poland to Palestine (then the British Mandate). In April 1935, he tied for 7th–8th in Tel Aviv (the 2nd Maccabiah Games, Abram Blass won). He was Palestinian Champion in 1936 and 1938. In April 1939, he played in the First Lasker Chess Club Championship in Tel Aviv. In June 1939, he became the champion of Jerusalem. Czerniak played for his adopted country at first reserve board in the 6th Chess Olympiad at Warsaw 1935 (+6 =2 −5), and at first board in the 8th Olympiad at Buenos Aires 1939 (+4 =2 −10).
In September 1939, when World War II broke out, Czerniak, along with many other participants in the 8th Chess Olympiad, decided to stay in Argentina.
Immediately after the 8th Olympiad, in October 1939, he tied for 3rd–4th with Gideon Stahlberg, behind Miguel Najdorf and Paul Keres in the Buenos Aires 1939 chess tournament (Circulo). In 1940, he tied for 7–9th in Argentine championships (Torneo Mayor). In 1941, he won in Quilmes. In 1941, he took 2nd, behind Paulino Frydman in Buenos Aires, and tied for 6th–8th in the Mar del Plata 1941 chess tournament. In 1943, he took 2nd, behind Najdorf, in Rosario, and took 3rd in Buenos Aires. In 1944 and in 1948, he won in Buenos Aires. In 1949, he took 4th in Mar del Plata, and tied for 3rd-4th in Argentine championships (Torneo Mayor). In 1950, he tied for 9th–11th in Mar del Plata.
In 1950 Czerniak settled in Israel. Czerniak was awarded the International Master title in 1952.
He wrote many chess books in three languages. In 1956 he founded the first Israeli chess magazine, 64 Squares. For more than thirty years he was the chess editor of the Israeli daily Haaretz. He was also the chess teacher of IM and study composer Yochanan Afek.
In 1976 he got a special award from the Israeli education ministry for his life-long contribution to the education of chess. The yearly chess festival in Tel Aviv is named after him. (wiki)