Saturday, March 9

Thoughts on the Havana tournament

The Havana tournament has concluded, and, after a few days' reflection, we venture to offer our thoughts on the contest and the participants therein.

Cuba is well-known in the chess world for the respect and hospitality it affords its guests, and the present tourney was certainly no exception to this deserved reputation.  The competitors were welcomed, feasted, and attended to in fine style, worthy of the city Steinitz once called "the El Dorado of chess."  If the organizers and public had, as is understandable, expected to celebrate another triumph for Capablanca, their native son, they were no less effusive in their praise and applause for the victory of Marshall.  Only an unfortunate undercurrent of suspicion, alluded to in one of our earlier reports, dulled the brilliance of this worthy event.  Our sympathies in the above affair lie with Jaffe, who found himself faced with the impossible task of proving a negative: namely, that he did not blunder intentionally as a means to aid the cause of Marshall.

As for Marshall, he demonstrated that not only is he capable of scoring many victories - defeating each of the other seven participants in succession in rounds 5 through 11 - but also that he is a most difficult man to defeat, and often at his most wily and dangerous when in an inferior position, as was discovered by ChajesCapablanca, and Kupchik in consecutive rounds.  The United States Champion's reputation for "swindles" will only increase after this tourney, as will, certainly, his standing in the chess world.

That Capablanca's second place finish is viewed by many as a blow to his reputation is evidence of the lofty standards to which he is held, by himself no less than by his admirers.  He played much excellent chess, with his first-round game against Corzo being awarded the brilliancy prize.  We believe that, with the possible exception of Dr. Lasker, against whom he has not yet contested a serious game, Capablanca is a match for any Master in the world, and more than a match for most.  But if at times the chess gods choose to smile on another participant in a tournament, as it seems they directed their beneficent gaze toward Marshall in Havana, then the young Cuban maestro should not begrudge his rival their attention.  Many more successes await Capablanca, perhaps even the greatest of all.

Janowski gave an excellent account of himself, his victory over Chajes being notable for fighting spirit, and that vs. Capablanca standing as a fine example of overall mastery.  The latter game must have afforded great satisfaction to Janowski, who let slip a similar chance against the same opponent at San Sebastian two years ago.  His Havana result demonstrates that the veteran of so many chessboard struggles possesses life and sparkle within him yet, for which we can all be grateful.

The first three finishers were the only competitors to end the event with a plus score, all the others having more games lost than won on their balance sheet, and with Chajes and Kupchik, the next nearest to Janowski in the rankings, trailing the Frenchman by the large margin of two and one-half points.  We can think of no more striking example of the difference between an average Master and a player of world class.  To discuss the others briefly:  Kupchik was up when Chajes was down, and vice versa, the former beginning well with 6 points from 10 games, only to lose three of his last four; while the latter, after recording only 2 1/2 points through nine rounds, tallied four wins from 5 games at the close.  It is perhaps fitting that, after such variable swings to and fro, they should have finished the event on the same score.  Jaffe never displayed the same form he had recently shown in New York, and, for the reason mentioned above, was quite content to see the tourney draw to a close.  Blanco lost all six games played against the top three finishers, but achieved a score of 5-3 against the other four, defeating each once, and can with justification claim to be the equal of any of them.  And, finally, Corzo, despite finishing in the bottom place, produced much lively chess, and can take solace in the fact that his lone win, scored against Jaffe in the sixth round, was brought about by a pretty Queen sacrifice.  Such bright moments keep all of us returning to chess again and again, even in our darker days.

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