Ståhlberg’s lecture

Ståhlberg’s lecture

On his way back to Sweden from the 1931 Prague olympiad 23-year old Gideon Ståhlberg visited the Aros chess club in Aarhus, Denmark on July 30th. He gave a lecture and showed the club members 5 of his games from Prague, wins against Cruusberg, Weenink, and Erdélyi, a draw against Bogoljubow and a loss against Alekhine. After the lecture he gave a simul with 25 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses.

The next day the local newspaper Demokraten published a photo of Ståhlberg in front of a demonstration board.

“Gideon Ståhlberg in Amalie Street last night.”

Ståhlberg annotated 3 of the games from the lecture in Tidskrift för schack for August-September 1931. The notes are translated from swedish:

Efim Bogoljubow – Gideon Ståhlberg
Prague olympiad 1931, round 12
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Rc1 c6 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. Rxc3 e5 13. Bb3
Bogoljubow chose the same continuation in an earlier game in Prague against the Romanian Erdelyi. The latter continued 13… e4 but got the worst of it. The text move is preferable.
13… exd4 14. Qxd4 Nf6
Besides this move 14… c5 came strongly into consideration.
15. Rc5 Bg4 16. Re5 Qd7 17. Qf4 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Qc7 19. Kh1 Rae8

Black simplifies into an endgame where white has more space, so black must play accurately to hold.
20. Rxe8 Nxe8 21. Qxc7 Nxc7 22. Rd1 Na6! 23. Rd6
After 23. Rd7 Nc5 24. Rc7 Nxb3 25. axb3 Rb8 the rook endgame is drawn with correct play. In the worst case scenario black can exchange his 3 queenside pawns against white’s 2, when white’s damaged pawn formation on the kingside doesn’t give him any real winning chances.
23… Nb8 24. f4 Re8 25. e4 Kf8 26. e5 g6
This amounts to a pawn sacrifice which seems to be perfectly correct. 27. Rf6 Re7 28. e6 Kg7 29. exf7! Nd7 30. Rd6 Nf8 with a safe position and threatening Re4 and Re2.
27. h4 Re7 28. Kg2 Nd7

Black seems to have completely secured his position. The great optimist Bogoljubow declined a draw offer, however, thinking that he could force his way through.
29. f5
An assault in Bogoljubow’s typical style. At first it looks very threatening for black, if 29… Nxe5 then 30. f4 Nd7 31. f6 winning a piece or 30… Ng4 31. f6 Re8 32. Rd7 and white wins.

Efim Bogoljubow (from Pariser Zeitung, 3/9 1941)

29… Nxe5! 30. f4 Nd7 31. f6 Nxf6 32. Rxf6 Rd7!
An unpleasant surprise for white! Black now threatens Kg7, but luckily for Bogoljubow he can save the game.
33. Be6!
Black can regain the piece with 33… Rd2+ 34. Kf3 Ke7 35. Rxf7+ Kxe6 but after 36. Rxb7 the rook ending is drawn. Black decides to force the draw in a simpler way.
33… Rc7 34. Bb3
Of course not 34. Bh3 because of 34… Ke7.
34… Rd7 draw agreed.
Source: Tidskrift för Schack 8-9/1931 pp. 145-146.

Gideon Ståhlberg – Stefan Erdélyi
Prague olympiad 1931, round 15
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. e3
The closed Queen’s Gambit has recently become fashionable mainly because it has not been analyzed to death.
5… Be7 6. Bd3 a6
Can hardly be recommended because it loses a tempo and slightly weakens the pawn formation.
7. b3 c5 8. O-O Bd6
Loses another tempo and gives white the initiative. To develop the bishop to e7 and then move it to d6 is admittedly quite common in similar positions but is basically a sign of weakness.
9. Bb2 b6 10. Qe2 Bb7 11. Rad1
Instead of this standard developing move white should have played 11. cxd5!, for example 11… exd5 12. e4 or 11… Nxd5 12. Nxd5 exd5 13. dxc5! with advantage to white.
11… O-O 12. h3
Preparing e4 which doesn’t work immediately because 12… cxd4 13.Nxd4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Qh4 would liberate black’s game. With the following aggressive counter manouvre black crosses white’s plans. 12. Qc2 would give white better chances.
12… Ne4! 13. dxc5
White decides to give black the famous hanging pawns which is quite risky here because black obtains free piece play.
13… Nxc3 14. Bxc3 bxc5 15. Bb1 f5 16. cxd5 exd5

17. Rd2!
Prepares the following exchange sacrifice. With passive play by white, black would get serious attacking chances.
17… Qe7 18. Qd1 Bc7 19. Rxd5! Bxd5 20. Qxd5+ Qf7
As expected by white. But even after 20… Kh8 21. Bxf5 white is better because he has two pawn and the bishop as compensation for the exchange.
21. Qxf7+!
Black had probably underestimated this endgame. White wins an extra pawn for the exchange.
21… Rxf7 22. Ng5 Re7
If 22… Rff8 then 23. Ne6 wins.
23. Bxf5 Nf8 24. Bd3 h6 25. Bc4+ Kh8 26. Nf3 Ng6
26… Rd7 would be better but still very difficult.
27. Rd1 Ne5 28. Nxe5 Bxe5

29. Be1!
White keeps the bishop pair making it hard for black to cover his pawns.
29… Bf6 30. Kf1 a5 31. a4 Bb2
To play the bishop to b4 and free the a8-rook from the tedious task of guarding a5.
32. Rd6! Ba3 33. Bc3
Threatens mate and helps the e-pawns march forward.
33… Kh7 34. e4! Bb4 35. Bb2 Rae8
Black wants to return the exchange after e4-e5, but white is not in a hurry.
36. f3 Rc8 37. e5 Rf8 38. e6 Rf4 39. Rd7
Black has no defence against white’s manouvres.
39… Rxd7 40. exd7 Rf8 41. Ke2!
Stops Bd2.
41… Rd8 42. Be6 and black resigned.
The only way to stop the threatened Bb2-e5-c7 is to sacrifice the c-pawn which gives white an easy win (42. Be6 c4 43. bxc4 Be7 44. Bd4 Rb8 45. c5 Rb4 46. c6!
An interesting game throughout.
Source: Tidskrift för Schack 8-9/1931 pp. 151-152

Gideon Ståhlberg – Axel Cruusberg
Prague olympiad 1931, round 17
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. e3 c6 6. Bd3 Bd6
Besides the so-called Meran Defence (6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5) even 6… Be7 is regarded as perfectly satisfactory for black. The text move has disappeared from the grandmaster’s repertoire, however, since it has been shown that white gets a freer game after 7. e4.
7. e4 dxe4
If 7… dxc4 then white gets the advantage efter 8. Bxc4 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 (or 9… Bxe5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. Be2!) 10. Nxe5 Bxe5 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. Bxf7 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Nxe4 14. O-O Nxc3 15. Bb2 Rf8 16. Bb3 Ne2+ 17. Kh1 g6 18. Rad1+ Kc7 19. Be5+ etc. according to an analysis by Grünfeld.
[This analysis is from the Bad Pistyan 1922 tournament book, p. 45. Ed.]

8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Bxe4 Bb4+
This simplification is probably black’s best chance. After 9… O-O 10. O-O Qc7 11. Bc2 white has good attacking chances.
10. Bd2 Bxd2+ 11. Qxd2 O-O 12. O-O Nf6 13. Bc2 b6 14. Rad1 Bb7 15. Qf4
Basically a rash attacking attempt. More solid was 15. Rfe1.
15… Qe7 16. Qh4 h6 17. Rfe1 Qb4!
Black gets the opportunity to completely free his position.
18. b3 c5 19. Ne5 Rad8 20. Re3

20… Rd6?
Gives white a valuable tempo for his attack. After 20… Rxd4 21. Rxd4 cxd4 22. Qxd4 black had nothing to fear.
21. a3!
Not the immediate 21. Rg3 because of 21… Rxd4.
21… Qxa3
If 21… Qa5 then 22. b4!.
22. Rg3 Kh8 23. Rxg7! Kxg7 24. Qg3+ Kh8 25. Qf4

25… Kg7
White has a forced win after this move. The task is much more difficult after 25… Nh7 and 25… Ng8. The white attack seems to break through, though.
A. 25… Nh7 26. Nxf7+ (if 26. Qxh6 then there is the parry 26… f5) 26… Kg7! 27. Qe5+ (leading to new complications are 27. Qxh6+ Kxf7 28. Qxh7+ Ke8 29. Qxb7 Qb2! 30. Bg6+ Kd8 31. Qb8+ Ke7) 27… Kxf7 28. Qxd6 Kg7! 29. Qg3+! Ng5 (if 29… Kh8 then 30. Qg6 Nf6 31. Qxh6+ Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kh8 33. g4! and white wins) 30. h4 Qb2 31. Bb1.
B. 25… Ng8 26. Nxf7+ Kg7! 27. Qxd6 Rxf7 28. Qg3+ Kh8 (28… Kf8 29. dxc5) 29. Qe5+ Nf6 (29… Rf6 30. dxc5 Qxc5 31. Qxc5! bxc5 32. Rd7) 30. Qxe6 Kg7 31. d5! and black doesn’t seem to have a satisfactory defence.
[Looking over this analysis with an engine is not flattering for Ståhlberg. Best play is 25… Ng8! 26. Nxf7+ Kg7 27. Qxd6 Rxf7 and now not 28. Qg3+? Kh8 29. Qe5+ because 29… Rg7! is winning for black. Instead white has to take the perpetual with 28. Qe5+ Nf6 29. Qg3+ Kf8 30. Qd6+ Kg7 31. Qg3+. Ed.]
26. Qg3+
White repeats the position to get out of time trouble.
[This differs from the version of the game in various databases, which omits the repetitions beginning at move 26 and at move 31. Ed.]
26… Kh8 27. Qf4 Kg7 28. Ng4! Nxg4 29. Qxg4+ Kf6
If 29… Kh8 then white wins with 30. Qf4 Kg7 31. Qg3+! followed by Qxd6.
30. Qh4+ Kg7 31. Qg4+ Kf6 32. Qh4+ Kg7 33. Qg3+ Kf6 34. Qxd6 Qb2
If 34… Rg8 then 35. Qe5+ and Qc7+. If 34… Rc8 then 35. Qe5+ Ke7 36. d5.
35. Qxf8 Qxc2 36. Qxh6+ Ke7 37. Qd2 Qxb3
37… Qg6 would have offered longer resistance but still wouldn’t have been difficult for white to win.
38. dxc5 bxc5
Black was in severe time trouble which explains the text move.
39. Qd8 mate
Source: Tidskrift för Schack 8-9/1931 pp. 155-156.

Axel Cruusberg.

In his autobiography Ståhlberg wrote: “My achievements at the 1931 chess olympiad strengthened my confidence. I had more and more switched from open to closed openings and the results in Prague indicated that I was on the right path even if my development was far from finished.”
I kamp med världseliten (1958) p. 21.

2 Replies to “Ståhlberg’s lecture”

  1. The diagram after 28…Bxe5 in Stahlberg-Erdelyi is wrong. It’s the same diagram as after 25. Qf4 in Stahlberg-Cruusberg

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