Friday, November 22

The next World Champion

Mention in the previous entry of last year's Breslau tournament turned our thoughts to Rubinstein, co-winner of that event alongside Duras.  Followers of the goings-on in the chess world need hardly be reminded that 1912 marked the apex of Rubinstein's career to date, with the Polish Master claiming first prize at San Sebastian, Pistyan, and Vilna in addition to his shared top honors at Breslau.  In 1913, to our knowledge, Rubinstein has played no serious chess at all, but efforts continue to arrange a Championship contest between him and Dr. Lasker - the two Masters have met to discuss the conditions of play, and our friends at the American Chess Bulletin are currently collecting subscriptions for a book of the proposed match, which volume may be reserved for a minimum contribution of five dollars.

Rubinstein would be a most worthy challenger indeed.   To our mind his past achievements entitle him to pride of place among all pretenders to the throne, and on the basis of last year's results he might even be considered by some a slight favorite to topple Dr. Lasker and become the next World Champion.  Should their mooted match fail of realization, however, or should the Champion fend off the challenge of Rubinstein and retain the crown, there then remains the question of who else among the world's elite might one day capture the title.  Spielmann scored two signal successes this year at Vienna and Budapest, but his recent heavy match loss to Dr. Tartakower certainly represents a serious blow to his Championship hopes. Marshall took first prize at Havana, though we doubt that the American Champion is eager for another title bout with Dr. Lasker after his experience of six years ago.  Three other members of the "old guard," Dr. Tarrasch, Janowski, and Schlechter, have each already fought for the crown; the first two have almost certainly set aside their Championship ambitions, while the third, although in our opinion morally entitled to a rematch on the basis of his drawn contest with Dr. Lasker in 1910, seems not to have pressed his claims in that direction.  A rising player like Alekhine, winner of this summer's Scheveningen tournament, is surely still too young and too unseasoned to fight for world supremacy.

And then there is Capablanca.  Of course, relations between the Cuban ace and the World Champion have soured as a result of hard feelings arising from the former's abortive challenge of two years ago.  That two such fine men should harbor mutual rancor is a pity for the chess world, especially as Capablanca can rightly consider himself a most logical challenger for the Championship.  A Lasker-Capablanca match would represent a fascinating clash of generations between a Champion who first fought for the title nearly twenty years ago and a former child prodigy now grown into a Master of rare gifts, a young man brimming with calm self-assurance and blessed with both a fluid style and a level of endgame expertise that far belies his years.  Such battles between youth and experience always arouse interest, and indeed represent the natural order of things.  This was true half a century ago when the young Morphy issued his challenge to the veteran Staunton; it was true two decades ago when Lasker braved Steinitz; it will be true when - as we are certain will one day occur - Capablanca battles Lasker.  And, if chess endures, we suspect it will still be true a hundred years into the future.       

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