Saturday, February 23

Havana tournament, Round 6: Janowski defeats Capablanca, takes sole lead; Marshall, Kupchik, Corzo tally victories

The course of the Havana international chess Masters' tournament took a most unexpected turn in yesterday's sixth round when veteran campaigner David Janowski of Paris inflicted a convincing defeat upon tourney leader José R. Capablanca, discomfiting the young Cuban's many admirers and supplanting him atop the score table as the event nears the halfway mark.  All other games likewise finished decisively, with Marshall defeating Blanco, Kupchik scoring against Chajes, and current Cuban Champion Corzo registering his first win in artistic style vs. Jaffe.

Janowski, as first player in a Queen's Pawn Game, displayed his finest form in besting his powerful opponent, displacing the Black King in the opening and later compelling Capablanca to station that piece on the rather exposed f6 square in an attempt to hold his threatened position.  The French representative, by means of some well-executed maneuvers with his Queen, masterfully exploited the weaknesses in Black's game, gaining first one pawn, then a second, at last bringing about a Knight endgame in which the Cuban's formidable defensive prowess could only delay, but not deny, the inevitable result.  With this victory Janowski assumes the lead in the tournament, a fair reward for the fighting chess he has displayed thus far:

Blanco,who chose the Four Knights' Game against United States Champion Marshall, seemed from the outset to strive only for the draw, readily exchanging pieces and creating no threats whatsoever against the opposing position.  Alas, as so often occurs in such circumstances, the player who seeks the draw finds a loss, and it was just this fate that befell Blanco, who lost first a pawn at the 24th move and then the game after a terrible oversight at the 33rd:

Kupchik and Chajes contested a remarkably eventful and vicissitudinous game, with the chessboard mayhem first breaking out when the latter, as second player in a Ruy Lopez, sacrificed a Bishop against White's castled position at the 13th move.  This speculative offer, most untypical of the steady Chajes, and perhaps better suited for a skittles or rapid transit encounter, soon proved ineffective, as White easily warded off the enemy attack and subsequently began to gain ground on his own.  Indeed, as pointed out by Sr. Capablanca, had Kupchik at his 26th turn advanced his a-pawn, preparing the deadly threat of 27.Ba4+, the battle might well have ended at once.  Kupchik's choice, 26.Qxe5, which appeared strong at first glance, in fact allowed Chajes to regain his lost piece with the surprise stroke 26...g3!, whereupon there followed a skirmish leading to a position in which Black, in possession of an extra pawn, held excellent winning chances.  Still, the reversals of fortune were not yet at an end, as Chajes, after having made good progress toward victory, began at the 45th move to play unaccountably weakly, first abandoning an open file with his Rook and two moves later blundering fatally with 47...h4??  After Kupchik's 48.Rf5+, Chajes, faced with the loss of his Rook after 48...Kd6 49.Ne8+, or checkmate after 48...Kxe4 49.Bc2, found himself compelled to resign.  Kupchik thus joins Marshall and Capablanca in joint 2nd-4th places with 4 points, one-half point shy of Janowski:

Cuban aficionados dispirited by the defeat of Capablanca could take solace from Corzo's fine victory over Jaffe, a Giuoco Piano in which their incumbent national Champion at last demonstrated his full strength, securing his first full point of the tourney and crowning a worthy effort with an attractive Queen sacrifice at the 29th move.  That Jaffe, whose position might well have justified immediate resignation, chose to play on, only to stumble into an unforced checkmate four moves later, is powerful evidence of the lingering after-effects of a surprise blow like the one landed by Corzo on his unsuspecting opponent:

Scores after 6 rounds: Janowski 4 1/2; Capablanca, Marshall, Kupchik 4; Jaffe, Blanco, Corzo 2, Chajes 1 1/2.

Today being a free day, the tourney will resume tomorrow, the 24th.    

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