Akiba Rubinstein: A master of precise positional play!

May 19, 2009, 1:08 AM |
Akiba Rubinstein (Aufnahme um 1907)

Akiba Rubinstein (wikipedia link) was the first master of chess history, who impressed me through his chess style. I admired the precise logic of his moves and deep inside of me was created the wish to play like him.

So I have not reached that aim till yet :-) , but the fascination and the wish still exists. And I would say, that in over  forty years my chess style has become a bit more similar to that one of Rubinstein. Perhaps after another forty years ...:-)-


He had  surely the strength to become a world champion between Steinitz and Lasker ( 1. and 2. world champion). But as it was the fate of other princes in chess history he never became it.

Rubinstein is still famous today for his -"clear as a crystal"- positional play. There were not many players in chess history like him enabled to accumulate small positional advantages and increase them - often in endgames - to victory.

Here a game, which illustrates his way of playing chess very good :

1. Create a weakness

2. Fix or blockade the weakness

3. Attack the weakness

4. Exploit the weakness ( or create a second one)

Rubinstein - Salwe                                                                               Lodz 1908

1. Creating of a weakness

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3.c4 e6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nc3 Nf6 6.g3 Nc6 7. Bg2 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qb6 9.Nxc6 bxc6



This is a "hanging pawns" ( c6/d5) -position. This means a small group of two isolated pawns. This is a small disadvantage in pawn structure and happens in some openings permanently. As long as there exists a compensation for it - normally better piece play - there is nothing wrong with it.

But here we can see, that there is already  weakness in black`s position. It is the backward pawn on c6. Rubinstein now began to fix it!

2. Fixing the weakness

10. 0-0 Be7 11. Na4 Qb5 12. Be3 0-0 13. Rc1 Bg4 14.
f3 Be6 15. Bc5!


Rubinstein had now succeeded in fixing the weakness. Now he started to attack the backward pawn on c6 with his heavy pieces

3. Attacking the weakness

15. ...Rfe8 16. Rf2 Nd7 17 .Bxe7 Rxe7 18. Qd4! (c5 has to be hindered ) Ree8 19. Bf1 Rec8 20.e3 Qb7 21.Nc5 (again the blockade of c6-pawn.) 21. ...Nxc5  22. Rxc5 Rc7 23. Rfc2


Rubinstein had reduced material and the c-pawn was blockaded and under permanent attack of heavy pieces. Could he win that pawn a had he to create a second weakness?

4. Exploiting the weakness

23. ...Qb6 24. b4 a6 25 .Ra5 Rb8? (Allowed later tactics Rb7 would have been  better) 26. a3 Ra7 27. Rxc6! with clear white advantage. After an accurately played endgame Rubinstein won the game 


So here happens something what happens often in similar position. Being under permanent positional pressure Salwe made a mistake and overlooked a tactical resource. The pawn c6 got lost.

But even without that unintended help Rubinstein would have had good winning chances. Presumably he would have gone on with a nowadays well known method in those positions:                                                                           

" If you cannot exploit a weakness, create a second one!"

Here he presumably would have had tried to open a file at king side, starting with the advance of his h-pawn!