Checkmate Monday has arrived once more and this time we are looking at some fine finishes by Efim Bogoljubov.
Bogoljubov was the unsuccessful challenger for the World Championship in 1929 and 1934, losing to World Champion Alexander Alekhine on both occasions.
History has not treated him particularly kindly, partly because he is seen as lightweight challenger at a time when the world was much more interested in a return match between Alekhine and José Raúl Capablanca
True, he was not the strongest challenger in 1934, but his credentials for a title match in 1929 are not in doubt.
He won the Soviet Championship in 1924 and 1925 and the Moscow International Tournament of 1925 by an impressive margin of one and half points (ahead of Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker and numerous other chess stars). In 1928 he won two matches against Max Euwe for the FIDE Championship (this was before FIDE controlled the World Championship). Euwe went on to dethrone Alekhine, albeit temporarily.
Elk and Ruby’s book, The Creative Power of Bogoljubov Volume I: Pawn Play, Sacrifices, Restriction and More, is essential reading for anyone to develop a deeper understanding of this fine player’s life and games. Sample pages are available here.
Bogoljubov played sharply and had an excellent eye for tactics and checkmating attacks.
Even though he remains the only player to actually be checkmated on the board during an official title match, his own attacking skill should never be underestimated.
Queen, Knight and Bishop
Here are four checkmating attacks from Efim Bogoljubov. It is White to play in all cases.
Efim Bogoljubov – Carl Johan Margot Carls
20 Nf7+ and Black resigned, 1-0.
This looks almost as if it is going to be checkmate following the famous Philidor’s Legacy sequence of moves, but all of the reconditions are not in place. Not that they need to be, as this is still a forced checkmate.
21 Nh6+ Kh8
22 Qg8 checkmate (or 21 …Kf8 22 Qf7 checkmate) both do the job.
Alternatively, Black can try 20 …Kg7 21 Bh6+ Kg8 22 Qe8+ Nf8 23 Qxf8 checkmate, which doesn’t make much difference at all.
Two For the Price of One
Efim Bogoljubov – Rudolf Spielmann
Casual Game, Stockholm, 1919
A trinket, albeit one with an attractive finish.
25 Rdxd5 Rxd5
26 Rxd5 Bxd5
Two rooks for the price of one, but Black is the one left counting the cost after the next move.
27 Qc8 checkmate.
Black’s pieces are very badly placed and cannot help the king.
Efim Bogoljubov – Siegbert Tarrasch
Tarrasch is another player who should be celebrated much more than he is at the moment. An English-language biography is long overdue. It is strange to see such a ‘correct’ player with his king running around the board. Bogoljubov is never going to allow such an easy target to escape.
20 a4+ Kc4
21 Qf4+ Kxd5 (or 21 …Kb3 22 Qe4! and 23 Ra3 checkmate)
22 0-0-0+ Kc6
23 Qd6 checkmate.
Just as the king seems to be retreating to safety the white queen returns to the square it was on in the previous diagram, only this time it is checkmate.
Efim Bogoljubov – Richard Reti
A bishop sacrifice to deflect the rook, in order to weaken Black’s back rank.
Trying to drag the white king into the open, but Bogoljubov keeps him safe.
25 Ke3 Rxh5
Accepting the sacrifice after all, but the pressure against f7 was immense.
Another sacrifice, this time to destroy part of the black king’s pawn shield.
Now White can force checkmate.
27 Rg8+ Ke7
27 …Qxg8 28 Rxg8+ Ke7 gives White the choice between 29 Qf8 and 29 Qf6 – both of which deliver checkmate.
28 Qxf7+ Kxf7
29 R1g7 checkmate.
Yes, the great Efim Bogoljubov certainly knew how to attack!
There are many more beautiful checkmating patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf. This course won third place in our Chessable Awards for 2020.
There is a shortened, free version of the course here.