Chopping Down Goliath

Chopping Down Goliath

| 49 | Tactics

In general, when a very strong player faces a lesser one, the result is usually easy to guess. However, once in a while the “victim” turns the tables and devours the giant. In this article I will give you six games where the little fish somehow eats the big fish. It’s up to you to see if you could have done the same.

Some are difficult, but this isn’t about ego. Instead, do your best, then look at the hidden notes by clicking the “?” at the bottom of the board (which shows the notes), and just have a good time. Keep in mind that all these games won a brilliancy prize.


Efim Bogoljubov: Born in 1889 (Ukraine), died in 1952 (Triberg Germany). He was sure that he was the world’s best player, and in some tournaments he seemed to prove it (for example, Moscow 1925 against Emanuel Lasker and Jose Raoul Capablanca), and other times he would fall apart.

His best quote: “When I am White I win because I am White. When I am Black I win because I am Bogoljubov.”

Efim Bogoljubov
Efim Bogoljubov. | Image: Wikipedia.

In his prime he was a powerful player who could beat anyone at any time. He won two matches (both ended with a 5.5-4.5 score) against Max Euwe in 1928 and 1929 (Euwe finally won a match in 1941). He also played two world championship matches against Alexander Alekhine, both won by Alekhine. He was also a devoted family man. For example, when he accepted to play in New York 1924, he took out insurance so that if his ship went down his family would be safe.

Mario Monticelli: Born 1902 (Venice), died 1995 (Milan). He got the International Master title in 1950 and the grandmaster title (honorary) in 1985. A lot of people have never heard of Monticelli, but if you look at his opponents, you’ll realize that this guy should not be ignored.

He beat Steiner, drew Gruenfeld, drew Tartakower, he beat Znosko Borovsky, he beat Reti, he beat Mieses, he beat Muffang, he drew Wolf, he bashed Karl Gilg more than once, he drew Capablanca, beat Przepiorka, beat Yates, he drew Spielmann, drew Treybal, drew Marshall, and on and on it goes.


Yes, Bogoljubov was a much stronger player then Monticelli. But having looked at the players Monticelli beat, you’ll understand why he brought down the mighty Bogoljubov…playing the same guy over and over, the better player is bound to lose at least once!


Akiba Rubinstein: Born 1880 in Poland, died in Belgium in 1961. Learned how to play chess at the age of 16, and became one of the world’s best players from 1907 to 1914. In fact, many thought he was the strongest player, period.

When World War One began, Rubinstein started to show moments of mental illness aside from the horrible mental imprints of war (some say he heard a fly constantly buzzing in his ear), and after 1914 he was never quite as good as he was before.

Akiba Rubinstein
Akiba Rubinstein. | Image: Wikipedia.

Sandor Takacs: Born 1893 (Hungary), died 1932. Takacs did well in many strong tournaments: In 1924 he won a tournament in Budapest ahead of Lajos Steiner. He tied for 1st though 3rd in Hastings, with Frank Marshall and Edgard Colle. He also played in the third Chess Olympiad for Hungary at Hamburg 1930; the team won the silver medal.

Here are some of the players he beat and drew: He beat Rubinstein (as you can see in the game!), he beat Gruenfeld three times and drew with him in many games, drew Kmoch, drew Tarrasch, beat Vukovic, drew Reti, beat and drew Spielmann, beat Colle, beat Yates, he beat Endre Steiner, he beat Eugene Znosko Borovsky, he beat Mario Monticelli, drew Tartakower, and drew Frank Marshall.


How could the great Rubinstein lose in such a manner? Because Rubinstein wasn’t Rubinstein anymore. In fact, most think that his prime was around 1907 to 1914.

Yes, he could show some of his powers from time to time, but he was already showing signs of schizophrenia (after making a chess move he would hide in a corner while waiting for his opponent to move). By 1932 he was done, and never played in a tournament again.


Edgard Colle: Born 1897 (Belgium), died 1932. He did well in international tournaments and came in first in Amsterdam ahead of Tartakower and Max Euwe. Sadly, his health was bad. He had surgery three times for a gastric ulcer, and the fourth surgery killed him. He was only 34.

Famous for creating the Colle System, a lot of people today don’t think much of poor Colle, but looking at his victims will change your mind: He beat Euwe six times (!), beat Mieses, drew Maroczy, beat Yates, beat Gruenfeld several times, beat Spielmann more than once, beat Steiner, beat Koltanowski twice, beat Reti more than once, beat Janowski, drew Nimzowitsch, beat Rubinstein, beat Tartakower, and... well... Mr. Colle could play!

Edgar Colle
Edgard Colle. | Image: Wikipedia.

Ernst Franz Gruenfeld: Born 1893 (Austria), died 1962 (he was given the grandmaster title in 1950). Due to an accident, his left leg was amputated at the age of five, and as so many others, he had to fight poverty. Who knows what his young life would have been like in the face of these things. However, when he discovered chess, he immediately knew his fate and never let go.

According to “Karpova”, Georg Marco wrote a short article about Gruenfeld. The two highlights: 1) “Gruenfeld only started to occupy himself with chess in 1910.” 2) “Siegfried Reginald Wolf could be called his mentor. They played about 300 or 400 games against each other. Thereby, Gruenfeld became quite strong quickly.”

Looking at the endless games (in ChessBase) between Gruenfeld and Siegfried Reginald Wolf, it seems that Marco might well be right.

Gruenfeld was an opening expert, and his best creation was the Grunfeld Defense, which is constantly played today. I personally like the man’s name as Gruenfeld, while I prefer the opening name as Grunfeld.


Colle was much stronger than people think. Gruenfeld’s demise might have been overconfidence, or it was just a good day for Colle.


Theo Wildschuetz: Born 1910, but when did he die? If he is still alive then I can only guess that he is immortal and carries a sword. I would like to get more information about this man, so feel free to write me to

Ludwig Rellstab: Born 1904 in Germany, died 1983 in Germany. He won the German Chess Championship in 1942, and did well in three Olympiads (1950, 1952 [he won the individual gold medal on second board], and 1954). He was given the International Master title in 1950.


It’s clear that Wildschuetz had tactical skills, which means that anything can happen. Also, though Rellstab was a better player, he wasn’t that much better. In this case, it was just meant to be.


C.H. Alexander: Born 1909 (Ireland), died 1974 (England). A strong chess player, he won the British Chess Championship twice (1938 and 1956), and he represented England in the Olympiad six times. He was given the International Master title in 1950 and he was given the International Master title for correspondence chess in 1970.

His best tournaments were Hastings 1946/47 where he won first ahead of Tartakower, and Hastings 1953/54 where he shared first with Bronstein (Alexander was undefeated and beat Bronstein and and Tolush). In 1946 he beat Mikhail Botvinnik in a team radio match against the Soviet Union.

Interestingly, he assisted MI5 and became a codebreaker in 1940 during World War 2 (to crack the German codes), and he became deputy head of Hut 8 under Alan Turing. In 1944 he left the German codes and tackled the Japanese codes.

Ludek Pachman: Born 1924 (Czechoslovakia), died 2003 (German). A writer and grandmaster (he was given the title in 1954), he was also a political activist. In 1972 he was arrested, put in prison, and was tortured for months. Close to death, world-wide condemnation put enough heat against the Czech communists that they allowed him to emigrate to West Germany.

He won many strong tournaments, but his favorite (Havana 1963) was sharing 2nd - 4th with Tal and Geller (Korchnoi came in first). He also won the Czechoslovak championship seven times, and he played (usually first board) in eight consecutive Chess Olympiads (1952 to 1966).


Someone has to win (or draw). Both Pachman and Alexander were strong players, though Pachman was a strong grandmaster and Alexander was an IM with very good skills and lots of experience (he probably would have gotten a grandmaster title nowadays). I would guess that Pachman was a bit stronger, but it’s close. From what I could see, those two had several draws, a win for Alexander, and a win for Pachman. You can’t get closer than that!


Walter Niephaus: Born 1923 (Germany), died 1992. He was a strong master, but never got a title (in my opinion, he deserved an IM title). Nevertheless, when he was “on” he could show some very impressive chess. For example, he beat grandmaster Alberic O’Kelly de Galway in a match 3.5 to 1.5. On the other hand, Niephaus got wiped out in a match against an old Bogoljubov 5 to 1 (Bogoljubov died two years later).

Paul Felix Schmidt: Born 1916 (Estonia), died 1984 (United States). A very strong player (he was given the International Master title in 1950), he somehow had a connection with the great Keres. They both were born on 1916. They played 17 games with the result of six wins for Keres, six wins for Schmidt, and five draws. In fact, in the 40s his historic rating was 2696 and he was number nine in the world (keep in mind that this is Paul Schmidt, not grandmaster Lothar Schmid nor grandmaster Wlodzimierz Schmidt).

I mentioned his title, but he was much better than that. Here are some of his tournaments:

  • He came first (in 1935) in a tournament in Tallinn ahead of Keres.
  • He drew a match against Keres (three wins, three loses, one draw).
  • In 1936 he came in first in the eighth Estonian Championship.
  • In 1937 he won Estonia’s first international tournament ahead of Salo Flohr and Keres and Gideon Stahlberg.

This guy was a monster! So why doesn’t anyone know who he was? Because he decided to ditch chess for chemistry. He got his PhD in 1951 in Heidelberg University. After that he moved to Canada and, eventually ended up in the U.S. permanently (Philadelphia). He spent the rest of his life as a leading scientist int he field of semiconductors.


After all the accolades about Schmidt, you might wonder why he got roasted by a player that was much weaker. The reasons are: Any IM can, once in a while, beat a grandmaster on a good day. By 1950 Schmidt wasn’t into chess; instead, his new love was chemistry.

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