Friday, January 24

St. Petersburg All-Russian tournament, Round 12: Gregory beats Alekhine in stunning upset; Flamberg, Niemzowitsch edge closer to lead with draw

In a stunning turn of events, tournament tail-ender Bernhard Gregory defeated front-runner Alexander Alekhine in the 12th round of the All-Russian Masters' tourney at St. Petersburg. Gregory, with only one half-point to his credit from eleven previous games, confounded all expectations by outplaying Alekhine in a strange and complicated struggle, at last forcing the resignation of the young Muscovite Master at the 51st move with an unanswerable threat of mate in two. The startling defeat has halted the seemingly relentless victory march of Alekhine, who since an opening-round loss to Moishe Lowtzky had tallied 9 1/2 points from ten games, including wins over his two nearest pursuers, Aron Niemzowitsch and Alexander Flamberg. The question of top prize in the tourney - and invitation to the great St. Petersburg international tournament slated to begin in April - now becomes very much an open one, with Alekhine on 9 1/2 points still clinging to first place, followed closely by Niemzowitsch and Flamberg, who played to a draw in their twelfth-round encounter and so increased their total to 9 points each. Fourth and fifth places, a further point behind, are shared by Grigory Levenfish, victor over Georg Salwe, and Lowtzky, who fell to Eugene Znosko-Borovsky. The round's full results were as follows:

Alekhine  0-1  Gregory
Flamberg  ½-½  Niemzowitsch
Salwe  0-1  Levenfish
Lowtzky  0-1  Znosko-Borovsky
Bogoljubow  ½-½  Evensohn
Taubenhaus  1-0  Smorodsky
Alapin  ½-½  Lebedev
Eljaschoff  0-1  v. Freymann
Levitsky  1-0  Evtifeev

Standings after 12 rounds:  Alekhine 9 1/2; Niemzowitsch, Flamberg 9; Lowtzky, Levenfish 8; Bogoljubow, Evensohn 7; Salwe, Alapin, Znosko-Borovsky 6 1/2; Smorodsky 6; von Freymann, Levitsky 5 1/2; Taubenhaus 4 1/2; Lebedev 3 1/2; Evtifeev 3; Gregory, Eljaschoff 1 1/2

We begin, of course, with the Alekhine-Gregory encounter, a game whose very first moves - 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 Qd6 - seemed to presage unusual doings. Alekhine forced the early displacement of Black's King and soon brought about the sort of knotty complications in which he so delights: by the 21st move, for instance, both White Rooks stood en prise to Black Knights stationed deep inside enemy lines. White, however, proved unable to land a finishing blow, and immediately following the exchange of Queens Gregory's 27...Nxc2! converted an endgame a pawn to the bad for Black into one a pawn to the good. Yet the adventures were far from finished, as Alekhine with 35.Nxb6 regained the pawn, only then to find his Knight unexpectedly trapped via 37...Kc6. The tourney leader fought manfully thereafter, despite his missing piece, and advanced his passed a- and b-pawns to the seventh rank, escorted by the King, in a last attempt to save the game. Finally, though, Gregory's 51...Qd5 put an end to White's faint hopes, whereupon Alekhine resigned. We highly commend this rich and vicissitudinous battle to the attention of our readers.


Flamberg and Niemzowitsch contested a rather quiet but by no means uninteresting Philidor Defense in which neither side ever seemed likely to develop a decisive advantage. The draw was agreed at the 42nd move.

The other two games that we have to share with our readers today were decided by blunders. Smorodsky's 11...b5? allowed Taubenhaus to play 12.g5 and 13.Nd5, winning immediately.

Eljaschoff, for whom the tourney has been rough going, tried too hard to win vs. von Freymann and in so doing created a sort of self-mate problem in a pawn endgame. Young and inexperienced players would do well to note the predicament into which White puts himself so that they may avoid just such a catastrophe in their own games at some later date.

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