Rubinstein's Queenless Masterpieces

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Oct 24, 2013

One of the classical players who influenced me the most was Akiba Rubinstein, born in 1882. Rubinstein was, along with Paul Keres, the best player never to play a match for the world championship.

Rubinstein is known for his very objective and classical approach to chess. He was not the kind of grandmaster to engage in speculative attacks, and his openings were strictly solid and classical. He was considered one of the best endgame players ever, so it is not surprising that his games would end up in my column.

I spent many hours when I was fifteen to sixteen years old playing through Rubinstein's games. Now join me in looking through some of his most beautiful and instructive queenless middlegames.

First, here is a game by Rubinstein against his perennial rival Georg Salwe, in which he exploits the two bishops to perfection:

In the following game Rubinstein defeats Oldrich Duras in very instructive positional style:

And here we see him on the other side of the two bishops issue, against Aron Nimzowitsch.

Nimzowitsch (incidentally, considered by many to not really believe in the advantage of the two bishops) tries too hard to make something of his "minor exchange" and Rubinstein slowly pushes him to the back of the board:

Finally, here are some puzzles from the end of Rubinstein's endgames:




  • 23 months ago


    Outstanding article with educational material and academic writing. Can you please plan an article on the prophyactic of Rubinstein or Nimzo? I believe that would display your natural authorship capabilities above all other strategic ideals. Thank you so much for contributing to the education of expert level players - an underserviced group, until recently.

  • 2 years ago


    My favourite game Genial polisch Grandmaster with Kuban World champion Capablanca[Event "San Sebastian It"]

    [Site "San Sebastian"]

    [Date "1911.??.??"]

    [Round "?"]

    [White "Rubinstein, Akiba"]

    [Black "Capablanca, Jose Raul"]

    [Result "1-0"]

    [ECO "D33"]

    [Annotator "Khalifman, A"]

    [PlyCount "83"]

    [EventDate "1911.??.??"]

    [EventCountry "ESP"]

    [Source "Convekta"]

    [SourceDate "2004.01.01"]


    1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 e6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. g3 Be6 {Chcialem

    przejoć z przetartych szlakow normalny ruch to  6...Sf6  . Wybrany przez biale

    sposob rozwoju figur zostal wprowadzony do praktyki turniejowej przez

    Schlechtera, a potem rozpracowany przez Rubinsteina. Biale stopniowo

    koncentruj>= figury przeciwko pionkowi d5 "(Capablanca)} (6... Nf6) 7. Bg2 Be7

    8. O-O Rc8 {Diagram #} (8... Nf6) (8... h6 {!?}) 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Ng5 {!} Nf6

    11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Bh3 {Razuwajew napisa=/+ '' Pocz>=tek skomplikowanej

    kombinacji.T o nie jedyny sposob rozwinięcia inicjatywy.Zas=/+ugiwa=/+o na

    uwagę 12.e4} (12. e4 {!?} d4 13. Na4 Be7 (13... Qe7 {?!} 14. Nxc5 Qxc5 15. Qb3)

    14. Qb3 $16) (12. e4 dxe4 13. Qb3 Qe7 14. Nxe4 $16) (12. e4 dxe4 13. Nxe4 Qxd1

    14. Rxd1 Nxe4 15. Bxe4 O-O 16. Be3 $16 {Razuvaev}) 12... Qe7 13. Bg5 $14 O-O {?

    } (13... Rd8 {%03'better is'}) 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 {"Analizowalem 14...g:f6 ze

    znoon>= gr>= , jednak uznalem kombinację bialych za niepoprawn>= i dlatego jej

    nie przeciwdzila=/+em Capablanca"} (14... gxf6 {%03'better is'} 15. Nxd5 exd5

    16. Bxc8 Rxc8 17. Qxd5+ Kh8 $16) 15. Nxd5 {Diagram # !} Qh6 (15... exd5 {?} 16.

    Qxd5+ Kh8 17. Bxc8 $18) (15... Bxf2+ {?} 16. Kg2 Qf7 17. Nf4 $18) 16. Kg2 {!} (

    16. Bg2 {?} Ne5 {!} 17. Nf4 (17. Rc1 Qxc1 {!!} 18. Qxc1 Bxf2+) 17... Ng4 18. h3

    (18. Nh3 Bxf2+) 18... Nxf2 19. Rxf2 Bxf2+ 20. Kxf2 g5 $19 {Capablanca}) 16...

    Rcd8 17. Qc1 $18 {B=/+yskotliwe z gory zaplanowane uderzenie, zadziwiaj>=co

    podobne do partii z Laskerem Petersburg 1909 (runda iii).Rubinstein pokona=/+

    obydwu mistrzów owiata analogicznym manewrem!} exd5 (17... Rxd5 {?} 18. Qxh6

    gxh6 19. Bxe6+ $18) (17... Qxc1 18. Bxe6+ $18) 18. Qxc5 Qd2 19. Qb5 Nd4 20. Qd3

    Qxd3 21. exd3 Rfe8 22. Bg4 {!?} (22. Rfe1 Nc2 23. Rxe8+ Rxe8) 22... Rd6 {!} 23.

    Rfe1 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Rb6 {!} 25. Re5 {Diagram #} (25. b3 Ra6 26. Re5 Rxa2 27.

    Rxd5 Nc6 (27... Nxb3 {?} 28. Be6+ Kf8 29. Rf5+) 28. Be6+ Kf8 29. Rd7 Ne5 30.

    Rxb7 $18 {Razuvaev}) 25... Rxb2 26. Rxd5 Nc6 27. Be6+ Kf8 28. Rf5+ (28. Rd7 Ne5

    ) 28... Ke8 29. Bf7+ Kd7 30. Bc4 a6 {?!} (30... Kd6 {!?} 31. Rb5 Rxb5 32. Bxb5

    Nd4 {!} 33. Ba4 b5) (30... Kd6 31. Rf7 Ne5 32. Rxg7 Nxc4 33. dxc4 a5) (30...

    Kd6 31. Rf7 b5 32. Bb3 Nd4) 31. Rf7+ Kd6 32. Rxg7 b5 33. Bg8 a5 34. Rxh7 a4 35.

    h4 b4 36. Rh6+ Kc5 37. Rh5+ Kb6 38. Bd5 {?} (38. Bc4 {!  'with the idea' 39.

    Rb5$18}) 38... b3 {Ostatni>= szans>= na uratowanie partii by=/+ ruch 38...W:a2}

    (38... Rxa2 {!!} 39. Bc4 (39. Bxa2 b3) 39... Rc2 40. Rb5+ Kc7 41. Bg8 a3 42. h5

    a2 43. Bxa2 Rxa2 44. h6 Ra6 {!  =  Capablanca}) (38... Rxa2 39. Bc4 Rc2 40.

    Rb5+ Kc7 41. Bg8 a3 42. h5 a2 43. Bxa2 Rxa2 44. h6 Ra8 {?} 45. g4 $36) (38...

    Rxa2 39. Rh6 {!} Rc2 40. h5 b3 41. Re6 b2 42. Ba2 Rc1 (42... Kc5 43. h6 Nb4 44.

    h7 Nxa2 45. h8=Q b1=Q 46. Qe5+ $18) 43. h6 Ra1 44. h7 Rxa2 45. h8=Q b1=Q 46.

    Qb8+ $18) (38... Rxa2 39. Rh6 Rc2 40. h5 a3 41. Re6 a2 42. Re1 Nd4 43. h6 b3

    44. h7 Rc8 45. Bg8 $18 {Razuvaev}) 39. axb3 {Diagram #} (39. Bxb3 $18) 39... a3

    (39... axb3 40. Rh6) 40. Bxc6 {Ta wymiana kończy walkę} Rxb3 (40... a2 41. Rb5+

    Ka6 42. Rb8 a1=Q 43. Ra8+) 41. Bd5 a2 42. Rh6+ {Pomimo tej pora?ki Capablanca

    zdo=/+a=/+ jednak wygrać ca=/+y turniej.} ({Ka5} 42. Rh8 {'with the idea'

    Ra8$18}) ({Kb5} 42. Bc4 {'with the idea' Ra6$18}) 1-0

  • 2 years ago


    @ JAMORANGE You are right ( about mental energy ).Deep positional understanding ( intuition)+ good caunting + strong nerves. Strong nerves= mental energy or good balance (good psy- balance leeds to big energy ).Carlsen is unique in all components , but Anand is greate in such components too and he have big expierence ,and he will play at home. I think chances are about equal- we will see big struggle- very big psychological struggle!

  • 2 years ago


    Great Article!

  • 2 years ago


    thank you nice article:)

  • 2 years ago


    In the last puzzle, the players are named incorrectly, or this is actually a Mieses victory.  This caused me some confusion!

    Otherwise, a wonderful article.  Studying Rubinstein (and Petrosian) basically got me to USCF 2007 at one time; just on the strength of my queenless middlegame play, which is what I was focussed on in those days.

    Alas, my play has slipped a bit since then! ;)

    Thank you for the wonderful selection of material and the article.

  • 2 years ago



    An interesting comparison of Rubinstein and Carlsen. However, Carlsen has an amazing chess psychology. He has an incredible amount of mental energy and grinds out his opponents in the endgame. And he does this on a consistant basis. Carlsen will be a world champion, unlike Rubinstein.

  • 2 years ago


    "Akiba Rubinstein,"
    by Y. Razuvaev and V. Murakhveri,
    Fiskultura and Sport, Moscow, 1980
  • 2 years ago


    thanks Last puzle names are switched

  • 2 years ago


    Thank you again for such a wonderful article IM Silman.

  • 2 years ago


    In the last puzzle, I think the names are switched.

  • 2 years ago


    Is anyone else curious about why the bishop fork was included? Surely, there are better endgame examples than that. Besides that, great article as usual.

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    My first chess book was Rubinstein's "The ideas behind Chess Openings" which paved my way into realizing that there were whys  behind moves when I was just learning to play about age 9.  I owe a lot to the man.  He taught me to attack!

  • 2 years ago


    two titans of chess  love them

  • 2 years ago


    of course- Akiba was artist of endings ( and in openings too- Alekhine), but he had one very bad component- was very weak in psychology (for example-Capa , Botvinnik, Lasker, Slechter, Flohr- very balanced players ).Carlsen is new Rubinstein , but he very strong in this component (balanced).Of course- Akiba was stronger before war- he was young and his nerves -too.Strong nerves are absolutely necessary for endings and subtle realization .Cool. P.S. Keres was not strong in psychology and "nerves" too - he was little bit naive (Botvinnik).Chess is not only geometry...

  • 2 years ago


    Great!! thanks

  • 2 years ago


    Your writing is mature, and has dignity. Rubinstein is truly a master. thank you. 

  • 2 years ago


    great article no patience 

  • 2 years ago


    nice article thanks

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