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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Kingshakers - Akiba Rubinstein: Total Chess
 NM Farzad Abdi
  June 2015
Looking back on some of history’s great players, we have an unfortunate tendency to pigeonhole based upon their most prominent aspects. Ironically, those so remarkable in one portion of the game tend to have that overshadow their other merits. In the case of Akiba Rubinstein, an otherworldly technical prowess is the aspect most etched in collective memory, and that undersells one of the most complete chess players of his era or any other. 
Sadly, the other aspect of Rubinstein which clouds our assessment of him is his later life, mired in the tragedy of mental breakdown and illness. It leads us to perceive him lamenting what could have been rather than appreciating just how truly great he was. 
The Polish-born Rubinstein learned the game aged 16 – he was born in 1880 - and came to the fore of world chess shortly after the turn of the century. He demonstrated in this era a grasp of strategy far beyond his time, adhering to crucial principles of play which would not be formalized by Nimzowitsch until years later. Adding to this, his tactical play was superb and his endgame technique exemplary. But perhaps most important of all, he knew how to combine all these attributes into a complete battle plan, turning early strategic developments into blueprints for masterful endgame conversions or, given the opportunity, brilliant exploitations of tactical possibilities.
In the era just before the First World War, one could argue – and many do – that he stood alone as the world’s best, and in the next scores I present he displayed his dominance against a pair of all-timers. 
In the following game, Rubinstein, facing future world champion Alexander Alekhine with the black pieces, displays a complete strategic vision, beginning with the laying of a defensive groundwork and dominance of key squares, all of which then flow comfortably into a devastating counterattack when his opponent presents the opportunity through a bit of suboptimal play.
Alexander Alekhine
Akiba Rubinstein
All-Russian Masters Vilnius, Russia
Ruy Lopez [C83]

It is worth noting that at this time, Rubinstein defeating Alekhine was no great upset. Though certainly an elite player, and named one of the five original grandmasters two years later, Alekhine would not be world champion himself for 15 years. His Polish rival, on the other hand, was already waiting in the wings for a match for the crown, which he had earned magnificently a few years prior in a remarkable display of calculation and technique against the reigning Emanuel Lasker:
Akiba Rubinstein
Emanuel Lasker
St. Petersburg
QGD – Tarrasch [D32]
But alas, the match Rubinstein had rightfully earned was not to be. Delayed for years through Lasker’s demand of Rubinstein to raise funds adequate to hold a match, it was eventually scheduled for October of 1914.
By that time, though, war had broken out in Europe, and the match was not to be rescheduled again. Following the war, Rubinstein’s play would falter, though he did still manage occasional triumphs at major events. By the early 1930’s, the grandmaster had broken down mentally and faded from tournament play. He spent a good deal of the remainder of his life in a sanatorium, and died in 1961.
But the tragedy of his tale should not distract us from the magnificence of Rubinstein as a player. And to that point, there is one aspect of his play that I have not discussed: his ability to concoct wild combinations and tactical flourishes to rival any Romantic master. As it has already been written about in depth, I present now without comment Rubinstein’s Immortal:
Georg Rotlewi
Akiba Rubinstein
QGD – Tarrasch [D32]