Friday, February 8

New York tournament: Summary

The Second American National Tournament, just concluded, afforded further evidence of the consummate chessboard prowess of José R. Capablanca of Havana.  The young Cuban, still but 24 years old, threatened to make a runaway of the event, and only his unexpected loss to Jaffe in the 11th round put an end to speculation that he might achieve a clean score against the gathered collection of international, national, and local stalwarts.  Capablanca after his defeat took the sensible decision to strive for no more than a draw in his final two games, a policy directed at ensuring his overall success in the tourney.  His final margin of victory, one-half a point over Marshall, perhaps somewhat understates the extent to which the Cuban dominated the tourney, and we congratulate him heartily on his success.  For our taste, Capablanca's best game was his victory over Janowski, a world-class Master; many of the outsiders, in confronting the mighty Cuban, simply appeared overmatched, and thus did not allow him the opportunity to display his full strength.

Much credit must also go to Marshall, our American Champion, who himself delivered an excellent result, and whose final sprint near the finish - six victories in succession in rounds 7 through 12 - proved just barely insufficient to overtake the leader. Marshall's encounters with Kline and Rubinstein demonstrated that he is ever capable of scoring a point with lightning speed, while his victories over Whitaker and Morrison gave  vivid evidence of the patience and force of will often required to achieve success at the highest level.  His second place is a worthy addition to his catalogue of achievements.

For Jaffe, the third place finisher, the tournament was perhaps both the greatest success and the greatest disappointment of his career.  The New York Master more than held his own against the three favorites, defeating Capablanca and Janowski and drawing with Marshall.  Indeed, in games played among the first four finishers Jaffe took top honors with 2 1/2 points, besting Capablanca and Marshall, who tallied 1 1/2 each, and Janowski, who trailed with 1/2 point.  Only late losses to Rubinstein in the 10th round and Zapoleon in the 13th - games Jaffe might well have been expected to win - kept him from the most magnificent of success.  We suspect that before the tourney began Jaffe would have expressed satisfaction at the prospect of a third place finish; as events unfolded, he must reckon with the possibility that first prize might well have been his.  Howbeit, he is to be commended for an excellent showing.

Janowski, in fourth position, did not live up to our expectations, nor, we daresay, to his own.  He voiced dissatisfaction with the state of his health and with the weather in New York, and seemed unable to find his stride until the tournament was nearly complete, winning his final three games and producing fine efforts against Whitaker in the 11th round and Kline in the 12th.  We feel that he still retains his old force, though he is perhaps unable to display it as consistently as in the past.  Surely, though, there are chessboard gems yet to come from the brilliant Frenchman in the future.

Chajes and Stapfer, in equal 5th and 6th places, performed most creditably, and it is to be regretted that the latter finds himself unable to participate in the forthcoming Havana event, to which his showing earned him an invitation.  As noted earlier in this space, Stapfer's place will be taken by the seventh-place finisher, young Kupchik, who in New York lost his games against the first four finishers but scored 6 1/2 from 9 versus the rest of the field.  The young Master, we feel, needs but a bit more experience against the strongest possible opposition in order to advance in the chess world, an opportunity that the Havana tourney will surely provide.

Tenenwurzel and Whitaker shared 8th and 9th places with 5 1/2 points, a result likely more satisfactory to the former than the latter, who lost games to Capablanca and Marshall that he might well have held, inexperience again playing its role.  As for the rest, we would single out the Canadian Morrison, who drew with Jaffe, Janowski, and Chajes, surely a sign of promise.  Even those at the bottom of the score table had their moments in the sun: Liebenstein overcame a most discouraging start to register two victories, while Zapoleon drew with Marshall and then, after having passed the entire length of the tournament without scoring a game to his credit, inflicted on Jaffe a most damaging defeat in the final round.

There was fine chess, and there were blunders; there were miniatures and marathon endgames; shocking surprises shared the stage with sure successes.  Such is a Master chess tournament; so was New York, 1913.  Onward now to Havana, whither the players sail on the Saratoga today.

**Added, 9 February 1913: We have received word from an acquaintance present at the scene of the departure of the Masters on the Saratoga yesterday afternoon that Capablanca arrived by taxicab and boarded the ship with but minutes to spare, remarking as he did so, with the same coolness he so often displays at the chessboard, "I have never lost a game on time limit yet."  Thus the full band of chess brothers is at present en route to warmer and sunnier climes, and we wish all a safe and pleasant journey.      


No comments: