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:




  • 2 years 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.

  • 3 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!

  • 3 years ago


    Great Article!

  • 3 years ago


    thank you nice article:)

  • 3 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.

  • 3 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.

  • 3 years ago


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


    thanks Last puzle names are switched

  • 3 years ago


    Thank you again for such a wonderful article IM Silman.

  • 3 years ago


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

  • 3 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.

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 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!

  • 3 years ago


    two titans of chess  love them

  • 3 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...

  • 3 years ago


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

  • 3 years ago


    great article no patience 

  • 3 years ago


    nice article thanks

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