In a final round marked by high tension and unexpected changes of fortune, Alexander Alekhine and Aron Niemzowitsch recorded hard-fought victories to share first place at the St. Petersburg All-Russian Masters' tournament. Alekhine, the 21 year-old Muscovite of aristocratic birth, survived some uneasy moments to defeat Semyon Alapin when the old Master at last went astray in a heavy-piece endgame. The Latvian Niemzowitsch, six years Alekhine's senior, similarly recovered from a poor position, fending off a dangerous King-side assault by Grigory Levenfish to score the point in a delicate Rook and Bishop finale. Alekhine and Niemzowitsch will now engage in a play-off to determine the allocation of the All-Russian title and, perhaps of equal importance, to decide which of the two young lions will be accorded an invitation to participate in the great international Masters' tournament planned for St. Petersburg in April, a contest at which stars of the very first magnitude - Dr. Lasker, Capablanca, Rubinstein, Marshall, Janowski, Dr. Tarrasch, and others - are expected to compete. The aforementioned play-off is set to begin in a very few days' time, and we shall of course report on it in this space.
The tourney's final round proved a tragedy for Alexander Flamberg, who entered the day having won four games in succession and in sole possession of first place by half a point, a position he had assumed only at the close of the penultimate round. For several hours an overall tournament victory by the Warsaw-born Flamberg seemed by far the most likely result, as the tourney leader held a superior position vs. Znosko-Borovsky, while both Alekhine and Niemzowitsch found themselves struggling to avoid decisive disadvantage. Further play, however, saw Flamberg's bright hopes darken. His strong pressure against the position of Znosko-Borovsky dissipated, leaving a lost endgame behind, a reversal of fortune that allowed his rivals for top honors to overtake him with the victories that they, battling doggedly against adversity, ultimately achieved. We congratulate Flamberg on his showing and wish for him the strength to shoulder what must be a very heavy disappointment indeed.
Fourth prize, despite a final-round loss to Andrey Smorodsky, fell to Moishe Lowtzky, while Grigory Levenfish maintained his hold on fifth place, notwithstanding defeats in each of the last two rounds. Those familiar with the immense strain on one's physical and mental resources attendant to tournament chess will well understand that even the strongest, worn out by the race, can stumble near the finishing post. Special recognition for fighting to the last must go to Bernhard Gregory, who after tallying only 1 1/2 points from the first 15 rounds (including, however, a most unexpected defeat of Alekhine) won his final two games to more than double his score.
We give the full table of results from the concluding round below, along with the tourney's final standings.
Znosko-Borovsky 1-0 Flamberg
Alapin 0-1 Alekhine
Niemzowitsch 1-0 Levenfish
Smorodsky 1-0 Lowtzky
Bogoljubow 1-0 Eljaschoff
Evensohn 1-0 Taubenhaus
Lebedev ½-½ Salwe
von Freymann 0-1 Evtifeev
Gregory 1-0 Levitsky
Final standings: Alekhine, Niemzowitsch 13 1/2; Flamberg 13; Lowtzky 11; Levenfish 10 1/2; Znosko-Borovsky, Smorodsky 10; Bogoljubow 9 1/2; Evensohn 9; Alapin, Salwe 8 1/2; von Freymann 7; Levitsky 6 1/2; Taubenhaus 6; Lebedev 5; P. Evtifeev 4 1/2; Eljaschoff, Gregory 3 1/2
Alekhine and Niemzowitsch to play off for first place.
We have four games from the final round to offer our readers today, including those of the three leaders. We begin with the contest between Znosko-Borovsky and Flamberg, in which the latter, on the Black side of the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, succeeded in binding White's entire army to the defense of the pinned Knight on e4 - see, for example, the position after 24...Nf6. Flamberg, however, proved unable to land a finishing blow (our friend Herr Fritz believes that he missed his chance at the 28th move, as indicated in the notes) and an exchange of pieces left Znosko-Borovsky with an endgame advantage typical of this variation, in that White's sound majority of pawns on the King-side proved far superior to Black's damaged surplus on the other wing.
Alapin-Alekhine saw another Ruy Lopez, with the veteran Master opting for the continuation 5.Qe2, of which he is quite fond. Alekhine feels that his opponent missed an opportunity for advantage at the 34th move; the heavy-piece endgame that arose shortly thereafter, again according to Alekhine, ought to have resulted in a draw, and ended in Black's favor only after White's blunder 45.Qg2? The notes included with the game score have been kindly provided by the winner.
Niemzowitsch, too, emerged unscathed from difficulties, thanks to certain inaccuracies on the part of his opponent Levenfish. 22...Rxe3!, says the joint tournament victor, would have have given Black an undisputed advantage. As played, the game developed into a hard-fought battle that began to incline in favor of White after his 41.Bc1 forced the win of a pawn. The following endgame still required skillful handling, of which Niemzowitsch proved himself quite capable. Notes by the winner.
Our final offering is a victory by Evensohn, who carried out a decisive attack against the King-side of Taubenhaus.