In Andrew Soltis's book The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked, his number 1 game is a correspondence game between Yakov Estrin and Hans Berliner, from the 1965–1968 World Correspondence Championship. This is of course a provocative choice, and Soltis, when making his selection, evidently believed that Berliner's play was sound. Soltis quotes Berliner as offering to play anyone from the position after Black's 9th move (as Black) for stakes of $1,000, provided he was given draw odds.

I have a rather old engine, but I decided to see what it thought of the game. It says that Estrin could have significantly improved at move 12. This critical position is diagrammed below.

[FEN "r3k2r/p1p2ppp/3b4/1p1n4/3Pp1bq/5PN1/PP1P2PP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 2 12"]

Here, Estrin played 12.Bxb5+ but my engine prefers 12.Qe2, and gives the main line as 12...O-O 13.fxg4 Bxg3+ 14.Kd1 with an advantage to White.

Is my engine missing something or does this line refute Berliner's play?

  • 1
    What engine are you using, and how significant of an advantage is it indicating? Note that black is supposed to have draw odds.
    – Scounged
    Apr 26, 2020 at 0:18
  • It's Rybka 2.3.2a and it's giving an advantage of about +1.2. Apr 26, 2020 at 4:08
  • It would be nice if you posted the full game here.
    – AKP2002
    Apr 26, 2020 at 11:52
  • The game may be found here. Apr 26, 2020 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


The move you gave looks fine. In my correspondence database I have 9 games in the position after 11...Bd6. Eight went for 12.Bxb5+, but one game (featuring a 2397 player from 2010) chose 12.Qe2. Even though the game is old, it gives some backing to 12.Qe2 because of the player's strength. Meanwhile, the strongest evidence in correspondence for 12.Bxb5+ comes from it being chosen in two more recent 2015 games by a 2166 and 2000 rated player. Both moves seem to indicate an advantage for White, given the results in correspondence (even though the latest games were from 2015, engine use was permitted).

At over depth 40, Stockfish 11 gives me around +3.48 for 12.Qe2. Meanwhile, 12.Bxb5+ hovers close to +2. After 12.Qe2 0-0 (12...Be6 13.Qf2 exf3 14.Bxb5+ Kd8 15.gxf3 is winning; meanwhile, 12...Bxg3+ 13.hxg3 Qxh1 14.Qxb5+ Bd7 15.Qxd5 is also extremely good) 13.fxg4 Bxg3+ (or 13...Nf6 14.g5 Ng4 15.Kd1 Bxg3 16.Kc2) 14.Kd1, we've followed your line. Stockfish gives over +3 for White, and that 2010 correspondence game I mentioned also reached this position. White went on to win the game without much trouble.

TLDR: the line looks to be safely refuted for Black after 12.Qe2.

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