Tuesday, April 29

St. Petersburg tournament, Round 4: Lasker, Alekhine win to join Bernstein in lead

World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker and Russian co-Champion Alexander Alekhine scored victories in the fourth round of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament to join Dr. Ossip Bernstein atop the score table with 3 points each. Lasker defeated his proposed match opponent Akiba Rubinstein, against whom he had lost in their only previous encounter five years ago during the last great international tourney held in this city. Alekhine displayed fine endgame technique in besting United States Champion Frank J. Marshall, himself a renowned endgame performer. Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch likewise recorded a win, his second in succession, topping England's Joseph Henry Blackburne in a long Knight endgame, while Bernstein and Aron Niemzowitsch played to a draw after a most colorful struggle. In the day's final contest David Janowski and Isidor Gunsberg played to a draw in a Rook endgame, Gunsberg thereby scoring his first half-point of the competition. José R. Capablanca had the bye.

Scores after four rounds: Bernstein, Lasker, Alekhine 3; Capablanca*, Dr. Tarrasch* 2; Janowski*, Marshall, Niemzowitsch 1 1/2; Blackburne, Rubinstein* 1; Gunsberg 1/2.
The top five finishers from the preliminary round-robin will advance to a double-round final.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have already had the bye.

Lasker vs. Rubinstein, an Open Defense to the Ruy Lopez, saw White obtain the superior position based on his mobile King-side pawn majority and Black's inability to advance his c-pawn. Rubinstein seems to have missed an opportunity to offer a stronger defense at the 25th move, when by exchanging Queen and pawn for White's Rooks he could have placed significant obstacles in the Champion's path to victory. At the 54th move the Polish Master at last advanced 54...c5, but the resultant Rook endgame proved to be won for White. This loss represents the second consecutive disappointment for Rubinstein against one of his main rivals, as in the previous round he failed to win a promising endgame vs. Capablanca. Nevertheless, with seven rounds yet to be played, there remains ample time to make up lost ground.

Alekhine-Marshall, a Petroff Defense, followed a course well-known to the American, who had been faced with the position after 8.Nbd2 in his second-round game here vs. Capablanca, and that after 10.Qe2 in his encounter with Janowski last year at New York. On this occasion the second player's chosen procedure (10...Qxe2+ in place of 10...Bxd2+, as he played vs. Janowski) caused him certain difficulties, and Alekhine with strong and straightforward moves gained a significant advantage in time. The first player brought his Rook into the game via the open e-file, ultimately resulting in the win of a pawn. The young Russian's handling of the subsequent play was of a high order, and he gained the full point at the 55th move, with Marshall as usual prolonging his resistance until the last gasp.

Blackburne, as second player in a Ruy Lopez vs. Dr. Tarrasch, repeated the 3...Nd4 defense that he had earlier essayed against Alekhine. White gained an advantage by dint of his efforts on the King-side, and, following a Queen incursion, won a pawn at the 27th move. The two players shortly thereafter arrived at a Knight endgame in which after much maneuvering Dr. Tarrasch gradually turned his material superiority to account while simultaneously warding off his opponent's final efforts on the Queen's wing. White won at the 63rd move. After beginning with a bye and a loss, Dr. Tarrasch has with two consecutive victories lifted himself into a tie for 4th-5th place; the first five finishers, we remind our readers, will advance to the double-round final.

Bernstein and Niemzowitsch produced an engaging contest that began with the irregular 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 b6, a defense for which we know no name. In the middlegame White's Bishop twice visited the h8-square, slowing Black's attacking attempts with the threat of a Queen checkmate on g7. The lively tussle, which we are certain will provide much fodder for analysts, was at  last drawn by perpetual check in a Queen endgame at the 50th move.    

Gunsberg offered his best showing of the tournament to date, drawing on the Black side of a Queen's Gambit Declined vs. Janowski and so bringing to an end his skein of three consecutive defeats. The old Master might even have won had he handled the delicate Rook endgame a bit more subtly; nevertheless, this latest contest will encourage those who hope to see him demonstrate his former form.


Sunday, April 27

Baden gambit tournament, Round 14: Spielmann 1st, Reti 2nd after victories; Johner loses second straight game

Rudolf Spielmann reclaimed sole leadership of the international Masters' gambit tournament at Baden by defeating Gustaf Nyholm while former co-leader Paul Johner was losing his second straight game to a player in the bottom half of the score table, the Swiss Master falling on this occasion to fellow countryman Hans Fahrni. Richard Reti with a win vs. Karel Opocensky vaulted past Johner into sole second place and stands only one half-point behind Spielmann with four rounds yet to be played. In other contests, Carl Schlechter recorded his eleventh draw from fourteen games, sharing the point with Dr. Saviely Tartakower in 16 moves, while Gyula Breyer bested Karel Hromadka. Schlechter and Johner lag only one point behind the leader, but the former will need to increase his percentage of victories, and the latter to halt his losing slide, if either hopes to prevail in the dash to the finish line. Spielmann and Johner are set to meet in the next round in a game likely to have a large bearing on the ultimate destination of first prize.

Scores after 14 rounds:  Spielmann 9 1/2; Reti 9; Schlechter, Johner 8 1/2; Tartakower, Breyer 8; Fahrni 5 1/2; Hromadka 5; Nyholm, Opocensky 4.

Spielmann showed his fine eye for tactics on the Black side of a Danish Gambit vs. Nyholm. The clever 17...h6, allowing the White Bishop to capture the Black Rook on f8, was based on the idea 18.Bxf8 hxg5 19.Bb4 Nxc4 20.Rxc4 Bb5!, regaining the exchange and remaining a pawn to the good. Nyholm nevertheless possessed considerable drawing chances owing to the activity of his Rook and Bishop, but the Swedish Master soon blundered with 26.Bb8?, thinking to win a pawn but in reality losing a piece after 26...Na5, whereupon White resigned.

Johner, in an Evans Gambit vs. Fahrni, chose the rare 8.Ba3, a move that on this occasion did not demonstrate its worth. Black's 8...exd4 9.cxd4 Bg4 forced White to take measures to defend his d-pawn, measures which led to the exchange of two sets of minor pieces and preserved a continuing material advantage for the second player. Even the doubling of White's Rooks on the open g-file proved harmless, as Fahrni showed with 24...Nxf4! Johner resigned in a hopeless position at the 30th move.

Reti topped Opocensky in a Scotch Gambit that transposed to a Two Knights' Defense.  Black with 13...Re8? hoped to avoid the weak pawn resulting from 13...fxe6, but some well-calculated play by his opponent allowed White to emerge from the complications a pawn to the good. Opocensky sacrificed a second pawn to free his King's Rook, although the ensuing double Rook endgame proved hopeless.

Breyer defeated Hromadka in a King's Gambit Declined whose critical moment likely came at the 23rd move when Black with 23...Re8 sacrificed his a-pawn in order to activate his Rook. The resultant passed White a-pawn required the attention of the second player throughout the remainder of the contest. White gathered two additional pawns as the game went on, and received Black's resignation at the 54th move.

Schlechter and Tartakower played to a short draw - by perpetual check at the 16th move - in a Scotch Gambit. Among Schlechter's draws to date are one with Reti in 25 moves, another with Johner in 19, and two with Spielmann in 17 and 14 moves. Nevertheless, with three victories and no losses to his credit and standing only a point off the lead, the Austrian Master may yet claim overall victory in the tourney, and thus the efficacy of his procedure can hardly be faulted. We must confess, however, that we do ask ourselves whether this is the sort of chess intended and desired by the organizers of a tournament devoted to gambit play. Only they could supply the answer.

St. Petersburg tournament, Round 3: Bernstein maintains lead; Tarrasch defeats Gunsberg; Other games drawn

The third round of the international Masters' tournament at St. Petersburg featured fighting chess but only one decisive game, as Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch opened his account with a win over Isidor Gunsberg, leaving the latter as the only man in the field yet to score. Tourney leader Dr. Ossip Bernstein maintained his hold on first place with a draw vs. J.H. Blackburne, while World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker gained a pawn vs. Frank J. Marshall, but later allowed the American to demonstrate his combinational prowess in sharing the point. Yet another draw was recorded in the contest between two players widely touted for top honors, as Akiba Rubinstein won a pawn from José R. Capablanca but failed to convert his advantage into victory in the face of his opponent's vigorous counterplay in a Queen endgame. The day's final clash saw the co-winners of the recent All-Russian Masters' tourney Aron Niemzowitsch and Alexander Alekhine again finish on level terms, with Alekhne sacrificing a pawn to force perpetual check in a double Rook endgame. David Janowski was free.

Scores after 3 rounds: Bernstein 2 1/2; Dr. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine 2; Marshall 1 1/2; Tarrasch*, Rubinstein*, Janowski*, Niemzowitsch, Blackburne 1; Gunsberg 0.
The top five finishers from the preliminary round-robin will advance to a double-round final.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have already had the bye.

Gunsberg, who, to speak frankly, barely survived the opening in his first two encounters, chose the irregular debut 1.e3 d5 2.b3 Bf5 3.Bb2 e6 4.Ne2 vs. Tarrasch. White seemed to achieve an acceptable position from the opening on this occasion, although as the contest progressed his efforts to advance on the Queen-side began to redound to his disadvantage. At the 33rd move Gunsberg, already in difficulties, played a mistaken combination that Dr. Tarrasch easily brushed aside, with the concluding move 35...Re2 making a pleasing impression.

In Blackburne-Bernstein White chose a slow form of the Ruy Lopez, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3. The first player's unhurried opening play allowed Black to advance his d-pawn and lay siege to the resultant weak White pawn on d3. Blackburne defended cleverly (see, for example, the 22nd move), although it appears that Dr. Bernstein may have missed an opportunity for advantage when he played 25...Bf8 in place of the stronger 25...Nf4. In the event, White succeeded in summoning sufficient resources to the defense of the threatened pawn, and the game was drawn by repetition of position at the 35th move.

Marshall-Lasker, a Queen's Gambit Declined, entered new ground after 10...c5, with which World Champion deviated from 10...Bb7, as played twice by Erich Cohn at the Barmen Hauptturnier A in 1905. Dr. Lasker continued his Queen-side advance with 12...c4 and, after attending to the defense of his King, later won a pawn via 28...Qxd4. At his 30th turn, however, the Doctor uncharacteristically faltered, as his 30...Qd6? allowed the ingenious American to complicate matters with 31.Bf5! White regained his pawn at the next move after 31...Re8 32.Bxe6+. The two players soon reached an unbalanced but equal Rook endgame, drawn at the 46th move. All in all a contest that will prove of interest to the analysts.

Also likely to generate pages of analytical exegesis is the Queen endgame from the meeting between Rubinstein and Capablanca. Black seems to have somewhat mistimed his opening moves, as Rubinstein through 12.Ne5 forced the win of a pawn, although Capablanca admittedly gained free play for his pieces in return. A series of exchanges brought about the aforementioned endgame at the 26th move. Black, who enjoyed a pawn majority on the Queen's wing, soon gained a passed pawn, whose threatened advance posed such dangers for White that Rubinstein was forced to rush his own h-pawn forward merely to hold the balance. The game was agreed drawn by perpetual check at the 38th move; those seeking a means of improving White's play may wish to begin with 28.c4, suggested by one of our clubmates, in place of the game's 28.Qxc5.

Niemzowitsch-Alekhine, a French Defense, saw White choose the 3.e5 variation often favored by Steinitz. After a period of maneuvering and exchanges, White with 25.g4 and 26.f4 began to advance on the King-side, and indeed by the 36th move appeared to have obtained a small advantage owing to his pressure on the Black f-pawn. Alekhine, however, had foreseen the neat thrust 36...d4!, after which the game immediately concluded in a draw by perpetual check.  


Friday, April 25

Baden gambit tournament, Round 13: Johner's string of victories ends with loss to Opocensky; Spielmann moves into tie for lead

Paul Johner saw his string of four consecutive victories come to an end with a hard-fought defeat at the hands of Karel Opocensky in the 13th round of the international Masters' gambit tournament at Baden. The result came as a surprise to many observers, as Johner had displayed good form of late, while Opocensky had yet to win a game. Nevertheless, the young Czech displayed admirable mastery, safely navigating through a stormy sea of complications to take the point from his Swiss foe. Johner, the tourney's sole leader entering the day, thus remains on 8 1/2 points but still retains a share of first place alongside Rudolf Spielmann, who played to a short draw vs. Carl Schlechter. In joint 3rd-4th place with Schlechter, one half-point behind the leaders, is Richard Reti, who drew vs. Karel Hromadka. In the day's other games Guyla Breyer displayed excellent technique to defeat Dr. Saviely Tartakower in an endgame with two Rooks against his opponent's Queen, while Gustaf Nyholm, who shares the bottom position with Opocensky, recorded his second victory of the tourney, checkmating Hans Fahrni at the 38th move.

Scores after 13 rounds: Johner, Spielmann 8 1/2; Schlechter, Reti 8; Tartakower 7 1/2; Breyer 7; Hromadka 5; Fahrni 4 1/2; Nyholm, Opocensky 4.

Opocensky-Johner, a Falkbeer Counter-Gambit featuring the new move 6...Qd5, developed into an open fight from the early stages. White forced the displacement of Black's King via 11.Nd6+ and then with 16.d3 threatened to inaugurate a devastating attack through 17.Bxh6 and 18.Qxf7+. Johner responded by seeking to create complications on the e-file, but Opocensky, with an extra Rook in play, always seemed to hold the upper hand. The fall of the Black d-pawn at the 27th move signaled the imminent end of the struggle, as Johner's advanced Knight thereby lost a vital prop and could no longer receive adequate protection. White resigned at the 29th move.


Spielmann and Schlechter, who both appear to have been peaceably inclined, agreed to a draw after only 14 moves of another Falkbeer Counter-Gambit.

In Hromadka-Reti, a King's Gambit Accepted, Black followed his game vs. Rosselli from the 1912 Abbazia Gambit tournament until the 16th move. The players soon thereafter reached a heavy-piece endgame in which White's King-side threats forced Reti to give perpetual check.

Breyer defended well against the Evans Gambit of Tartakower, and by the 23rd move had achieved a position with two Rooks vs. his opponent's Queen. Dr. Tartakower at his 33rd turn eschewed the opportunity to eliminate Breyer's passed c-pawn, a decision the first player came to regret, as the later advance of that pawn decided the contest in favor of Black.

Fahrni-Nyholm, a Scotch Gambit, saw Black slowly mount an attack against the White King. Fahrni missed at least two opportunities to strengthen his play (28.Qxa5 and 29.Re2), after which the assault became overwhelming. Nyholm, who himself overlooked a quicker finish (30...Bxh3!) delivered mate at the 38th move.