A Forgotten Master

Gserper
GM Gserper
Dec 4, 2011, 12:00 AM |
32 | Tactics

While doing my research for the "Classical Games" series, I have discovered many interesting and exciting things. And I am not talking just about games. Today I want to talk about an intriguing chess personality from the past - Josef Cukierman.

I found a bunch of beautiful combinations played by this guy, but I had never heard of him before, so I decided to do some digging. The strange thing is, the more information I discovered the more puzzled I became.

The first piece of information was that Cukierman was a chess master who spent the first half of his life in Russia. That got me really interested. I always loved to browse through old Russian chess magazines and thought that I knew pretty much all the strong Russian players from that time period (Cukierman was born in 1900). You could easily count even strong first category players before WWII and Masters were really scarce!  And here I just discovered a Master I never heard about! I was really shocked till I found the next game that made me feel better. Just look at the next diagram and try to find the best move for White.

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your chess skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)

A nice little game, isn't it?  Except it is not what happened!  Here is the real game:
So why did I feel better after discovering this game?  Because no master would ever play like this! In the position in the first diagram White's combination was so obvious that a real master would find it in a split second, even if it was just a simul!  Instead White played a horrible 4.Ng5?? which allowed Black to play 4...e6 with a reasonable position. So, I thought that Josef Cukierman was incorrectly referred to as a Master and that's why I had never heard about him!
But the next piece of information was just unbelievable. The guy won the Moscow Championship in 1921!  To give you an idea how strong the Moscow championships were, let me just mention that the previous winner (Moscow Championship 1920) was none other than Alexander Alekhine!!  So the case was closed and obviously Josef Cukierman was a Master, but what about the game we just analyzed.  Well, any game vs. an anonymous player (NN) could easily just be made up. So, maybe my harsh critique of Josef Cukierman was based on a game which was never actually played... Instead we need to analyze his games against real opponents, and the next game didn't really help Josef Cukierman's case. 
If you found the combination, congratulations!  You did much better than Josef Cukierman who just resigned in the position shown above, thinking that there was no defense against checkmate. But was this game played either? It doesn't help that Black was Frederic Lazard of Gibaud-Lazard fame.  If you don't know what I am talking about, look at the very end of this article: http://www.chess.com/article/view/typical-patterns-everyone-should-know--the-quickest-way-to-lose-a-game
While Black's combination in Gibaud-Lazard was pretty nice, there is a lot of evidence that that game was never actually played in the Paris championship as it was claimed. So, was the game Cukierman-Lazard just another case of an ultimate chess blindness or it was never actually played?  I don't know.  But what I do know, is Josef Cukierman played many very strong chessplayers and performed very well against them. He drew Capablanca, beat GM Tartakower and Vera Menchik (the first Woman's World Champion!) as well as such strong masters as Thomas, Koltanowski and Duchamp.  Just look at some of his games:
The final Josef Cukierman game I want to present today would be an excellent illustration for my old article:
http://www.chess.com/article/view/typical-patterns-everyone-should-know-the-dangerous-h-file , so if you have troubles finding Black's moves, check this old article first!
After this investigation my conclusion is Josef Cukierman was a good Master who unfortunately was just forgotten.  How many more Masters who devoted their lives to chess were forgotten?! 
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