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A Rubinstein “swindle” – the answer

In our last blog post we looked at most of a game by the great Akiba Rubinstein, stopping at the point at which he was about to pop off a really sweet little combination. I also said that a “chess engine wouldn’t find it” (or words to that effect); that now appears to have been a misstatement. My good friend (and longtime partner in chess crime) Jeroen van Dorp informs me that Rybka3 does indeed find Rubinstein’s solution, so I stand corrected. I’d tried the position in Rybka4, Fritz12, Shredder12, plus Crafty and a selection of other Winboard/UCI engines, and none of them found Rubinstein’s solution.

That actually makes this a better position for us to admire, because it shows us two things: first, that Marotti had painted himself into a corner, and second, that Rubinstein had enough on the ball to spot his opportunity.

To really get our heads around this position, we’ll need to discover how it comes about. So break out your analysis sets and follow along with the fun!

Rubinstein,Akiba – Marotti,Davide [B38]
London BCF Congress London (7), 1922

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.f3 Bd7 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 0-0 11.Be2 Ne8 12.0-0 f5 13.exf5 gxf5 14.Rfe1 e5 15.Bf2 Bc6 16.Rad1 Rf6 17.c5 Rg6 18.Bc4+ Kh8 19.Bf7 Rh6 20.f4 Qe7 21.Bd5 e4 22.Bxc6 bxc6 23.cxd6 Rxd6 24.Qe2 Rg6 25.Qc4 Nc7 26.Rd2 Rg8 27.g3 Ne8 28.Nd1 Qh4

The Queen is quite safe, of course, because the g3-pawn is pinned by the Rook on g6. The f4-pawn is now hanging, though, and if 29…Qxf4 then the d2-Rook is attacked (and undefended).


Although Rubinstein drops a pawn, the Knight serves a useful dual purpose: after …Qxf4 it blocks an attack on the d2-Rook, plus the Knight is now poised to get into the action. 29.Be3 might have been played instead, but the d1-Knight then would have nowhere useful to go.

29…Qxf4 30.Qf7

Rubinstein decides to mix it up and turn the game into a dogfight. The f5-pawn is attacked twice (by White’s Queen and Knight).


The losing move, believe it or not, and the one which sets up everything which follows. Had Black played …Bf6 (where the Bishop would have been guarded by the e8-Knight) White would have needed to come up with a new plan.

31.Rd8 Qe5 32.Nxf5

Rubinstein levels the material balance but, more important, his forces are now poised for attack.


This is where the light bulb popped “on” in Rubinstein’s head, so hard that I’m amazed Marotti didn’t hear an audible “click” from across the table. What follows is based on the idea that the Black Queen, Rook, and King are all on the same diagonal.

33.Nxh6 Rf8

The position from our last blog post. Had Marotti played 33…Rxh6 instead, Rubinstein would have fired off 34.Bd4, pinning the Queen.

Position after 33...Rf8

Here’s where it gets really, really cool. Marotti as Black is completely sunk here, but Rubinstein still needs to fire the killing torpedo and has his choice of tubes. Most chess engines will find 34.Rxe8 here, with the continuation 34…Qxe8 35.Qxe8 Rxe8 36.Bd4 (pinning the f6-Rook instead of the Queen, with the same idea as in the actual game) Kg7 37.Ng4 which retreats the Knight but piles up on the f6-Rook. If Black defends it with …Ref8 he loses the e4-pawn. Either way, he’s down a fair bit of material.

But instead, Rubinstein opts to win this one with style:

34.Qxf8+!  Rxf8 35.Bd4

and Marotti quits on the spot. The best he has here is the forced 35…Qxd4+ (otherwise he loses his Queen for nothing), then 36.Rxd4 and White is just plain winning being as he’s up a Rook.

Games like this are the reason I’m an Akiba Rubinstein fan — win or lose, he often did it spectacularly.

What??!!?? You don’t have an analysis set??? ChessCentral offers this chess analysis set with roll-up vinyl mini-board, which is the same analysis set I use when I’m on the go.

Have fun! — Steve


2 Responses

  1. Snapfish did it immediately

  2. ok how is this supposedto mean?

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