<%-- Page Title--%> TimeOut <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 152 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 30, 2004

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Akiba's sad tale Chess

Everybody knows about the world champions, the awe-inspiring big names. But there are not many to spare a moment for the masters who were almost as good as the champions. Maybe, luck did not smile on them, or they were not at their best at the critical time.

Three or four players can instantly be recognised as the representatives of the 'unlucky lot'. Akiba Rubinstein, the Polish genius, and Estonian Grandmaster Paul Keres were very worthy candidates for the world title during their best years. Rubinstein was unlucky because there was little chess during the First World War, and Keres was overshadowed by the Second Great War.

Rubinstein had a fantastic tournament record in 1912, his annus mirabilis. And it was widely believed that he deserved a match with Emanuel Lasker. But the dream match eluded him, and he was not quite his old self after the war.

He played chess with religious devotion. An American chess author found great similarity between Akiba at the board and a Rabbi on the Torah! The same author wrote, " Deep out of the shadows, out of the middle ages came Akiba Rubinstein, a dark squalid ghetto of Russian Poland was the Bethlehem where his spark of life was kindled in December 1882."

Rubinstein had a solid positional style. To most of the chess players and theorists, he is known for his great virtuosity in the endgame, particularly the rook endings. He enriched the theory of this particular type of ending with some classic wins.

He was soft-spoken and unassuming. But that did not influence the 'chess player' in him. He, too, had the ego that chess players are known for. In a game against Professor Wolf, Rubinstein spurned a draw offer, only to accept it a move later. Asked why he did not accept the professor's draw offer, Rubinstein replied, " Against Wolf, I accept a draw only when I want to, and not when he wants to." That is illustrative of a true chess player's way of thinking!

Rubinstein was also capable of producing wonderful combinations as the following game shows.



White-A Georg Rotlewi
Black-Akiba Rubinstein Lodz, 1907

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.c4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.a3 a6 8.b4 Bd6 9.Bb2 00 10.Qd2 Qe7! 11.Bd3 dxc4 12.Bxc4 b5 13.Bd3 Rd8 14.Qe2 Bb7 15.00 Ne5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5 17.f4 Bc7 18.e4 Rac8 19.e5 Bb6+ 20.Kh1 Ng4! 21.Be4 Qh4 22.g3 Rxc3 23.gxh4 Rd2 24.Qxd2 Bxe4+ 25.Qg2 Rh3!! 0-1





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