Monday, April 21

St. Petersburg tournament begins today

The long-awaited international Masters' tournament at St. Petersburg begins today, with eleven competitors set to take part, the list of entrants being: World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker, Akiba Rubinstein, Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, José R. Capablanca, David Janowski, Frank J. Marshall, Dr. Ossip Bernstein, Joseph Henry Blackburne, Isidor Gunsberg, Alexander Alekhine, and Aron Niemzowitsch.  Also invited, but declining to play, were Amos Burn, Oldrich Duras, Geza Maroczy, Carl Schlechter, Richard Teichmann, Max Weiss, and Szymon Winawer. Alekhine and Niemzowitsch were granted entrée following their joint first place in the recent All-Russian Masters' tourney, a tie that two subsequent play-off games failed to break. The composition of the rest of the roster of invitees is attributable to the fact that the organizers chose on this occasion to invite only those Masters who had previously taken first prize in a major international tournament, thus excluding from consideration such players as Spielmann, Dr. Tartakower, Mieses, and Dr. Perlis - all participants at St. Petersburg, 1909 - while including several veterans whose last appearance in top-level international chess came a number of years ago. Two of the latter, Blackburne, at 72 years of age, and Gunsberg, at 59, have entered the lists, and we wish them well in their coming battles against much younger foes.

The tournament will consist of two stages: an initial single round-robin, whose top five finishers will then meet in a double-round final, with the players' scores from the first stage to carry over into the second. Owing to the short duration of the initial stage - each Master will play only ten games - the competition for places in the final is likely to be keen, and tension high, as a single unexpected setback may well prove fatal to a player's chances. There is thus the danger that one or more of the favorites will fail to advance; on the other hand, those who do reach the second stage will by tourney's end have faced each other three times, thereby providing additional entertainment and instruction for chess aficionados everywhere.

The participation of Dr. Lasker is a most welcome development after his long absence from official play. The state of the Doctor's current form, however, remains to be seen.  He has not played in a tournament since St. Petersburg, 1909, when he shared first place with Rubinstein, and has played no serious chess at all since his 1910 match vs. Janowski. In the interim Capablanca rose to prominence by virtue of his great triumph at San Sebastián in 1911 and Rubinstein enjoyed a string of successes in 1912, although the Polish Master may also perhaps find himself a bit out of practice, having to our knowledge played no chess at all in 1913. In any event, the meetings of these potential challengers with the Champion will be eagerly watched by the entire chess world. Neither should the chances of the other participants be discounted: veteran campaigners Dr. Tarrasch, Janowski, and Marshall surely harbor hopes for success, while the young Russian contingent of Dr. Bernstein, Alekhine, and Niemzowitsch, each endowed with great gifts and playing on home soil, may yet produce a surprise winner. Our own opinion is that Capablanca, whose recent series of exhibition games on the European continent has impressed us deeply, is the man to beat. Let the battles begin.      

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