Tuesday, February 26

Havana tournament, Round 8: Leaders keep pace; Marshall, Capablanca remain level after victories; Janowski holds 3rd, defeats Kupchik

Tourney leaders José R. Capablanca of Cuba and United States Champion Frank J. Marshall remain tied for the lead after registering victories in yesterday's eighth round of the Havana international chess Masters' tournament, with Capablanca topping countryman Juan Corzo and Marshall scoring an easy win against New York's Charles Jaffe.  In other contests, David Janowski of Paris maintained his grip on third place, defeating his closest pursuer, Abraham Kupchik, while local ace Rafael Blanco scored his second victory of the competition, taking the full point from Oscar Chajes.  For the third round running all games finished decisively, a tribute to the fighting spirit that prevails among the Masters here assembled.

The Jaffe-Marshall encounter, a Queen's Pawn Game, came to an abrupt and unexpected end soon after the former, in an even position, blundered at the 20th move, his 20.Qxd5?? leading immediately to the loss of the Queen.  There the story ought to end, but in the interest of truth we feel compelled to report to our readers that certain suspicions have been raised in Havana, including by Sr. Capablanca himself, to the effect that Jaffe's loss in this game - as well as his failure to win from a most favorable position against the same opponent in the first round - was deliberate, and designed to aid Marshall in the race for first prize in the tourney.  This is a most serious allegation, bordering on a charge of fraud, and to our mind those making it are obliged in good conscience to proffer evidence, and not mere suspicion, of the offense, especially in a case such as this, where the object of the inculpation is an invited guest in a foreign land.  And let us state it boldly: a blunder is not evidence of collusion.  Indeed, Corzo, in the 5th round of the present event, and Blanco, in the 6th, committed similarly egregious errors against Marshall: surely they are not to be suspected of intentionally aiding the American in his struggle with Capablanca?  The intense mental strain of Master chess leads inevitably to occasional grievous oversights, as were seen, for example, in the recent New York tournament in the games - limiting ourselves only to contests involving those in the top half of the score table - Marshall vs. KupchikStapfer vs. Jaffe, and Janowski vs. Kupchik, not to mention perhaps the most notable blunder of the entire event, that committed by Capablanca himself in his 11th round battle against none other than Jaffe.  Whether that defeat, which ended the Cuban's prospects of making a perfect score in New York, has colored his perception of today's affair is a matter about which we prefer not to speculate.  We would observe only that Capablanca, in addition to the usual nerve-racking  tension attendant to participation in an international chess tournament, bears an additional burden in the present competition as the hope and cynosure of his countrymen, a heavy load even for his able shoulders, and one whose oppressive weight may well have led him, in a moment of fatigue and frustration, to utter certain animadversions that do no credit to himself and were surely best left unsaid.

To return to the games, Capablanca employed the Ruy Lopez against Corzo, who chose the Open Defense in reply.  White at his 12th move offered a pawn, which his opponent may well have done better to decline, as after its capture the first player soon obtained such a sizeable advantage in position that the young Maestro, as he himself told it afterwards, deliberately refrained from winning a full Rook, preferring instead to press on with the attack.  which he duly brought to a victorious conclusion at the 35th move:

Janowski, as first player in a Queen's Gambit  Declined, defeated Kupchik in fine style after the latter strayed from accepted paths in the opening.  White first built up a strong center, with his Knights in particular being exceptionally well-posted, and later sacrificed the exchange in order to gain complete control over the position.  A final methodical advance on the King-side left Black without an adequate defense, and Kupchik resigned at the 36th move.  Janowski has to date played some of the most interesting chess of the tournament, and yesterday's win can take a deserved place among his best artistic achievements:

Blanco chose the Dutch Defense against Chajes' Queen's Pawn opening, obtaining a superior position on the King-side after White's pawn advance on the opposite wing bore little fruit.  Black's steady pressure forced an error at the 32nd move when 32.Re4? was answered by the pretty 32...Nxg3+, shattering White's defenses and winning the exchange.  The remainder of the game was not without interest, however, and Blanco could have saved himself several anxious moments by first playing 41...Rh3+ before recapturing White's Knight, for the immediate recapture left the White King in a stalemate position and so allowed the first player to pursue the Black monarch for more than a dozen moves with his Rook, said Rook remaining immune from capture throughout the chase.  Blanco nevertheless discovered a path for his King that led at last to the breaking of the stalemate, at which point White resigned.  We have in the past heard the stratagem attempted by Chajes at the end of this contest called a "mad Rook," and readers who have never before witnessed such a thing are particularly invited to examine the score of the game.

Scores after 8 rounds: Marshall, Capablanca 6; Janowski 5 1/2; Kupchik 4; Blanco, Jaffe 3; Chajes 2 1/2; Corzo 2.

The ninth round is scheduled for today.

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