Thursday, April 24

St. Petersburg tournament, Round 2: Bernstein alone in lead

Dr. Ossip Bernstein defeated Isidor Gunsberg in 22 moves to take the lead after two rounds of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament with a perfect 2-0 score. Close behind Bernstein with 1 1/2 points are World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker, José R. Capablanca, and Alexander Alekhine, three first-round winners who drew their second-round encounters vs., respectively, Aron Niemzowitsch, Frank J. Marshall, and Joseph Henry Blackburne, colorful games all. In the day's final contest David Janowski recovered from his defeat at the hands of Dr. Bernstein to score an impressive victory over Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, the Praeceptor Germaniae making his tournament debut after a first-round bye. Akiba Rubinstein was free.

Scores after 2 rounds:  Bernstein 2; Dr. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine 1 1/2; Janowski, Marshall 1; Rubinstein*, Blackburne, Niemzowitsch 1/2; Gunsberg, Tarrasch* 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.

Dr. Bernstein chose the Ruy Lopez vs. Gunsberg, whose 11...Ne8 took the game into uncharted waters - waters that proved quite perilous for Black. With the rest of his army on the the first two ranks Gunsberg moved his Queen six times between the 12th and 19th moves, all while Bernstein continued to bring his own fighting forces into full battle array. Bernstein with 20.Nc5 achieved a winning position, trapping the Black Queen after the further 20...Be6 21.g4! Qxc2 22.Rd2, whereupon Gunsberg resigned. The first two games have gone quite badly for the veteran, about whose prospects in the present tourney we expressed some rather sanguine sentiments a few months ago. Perhaps he will begin to demonstrate some of his former strength in the rounds yet to come.

Lasker-Niemzowitsch, a Caro-Kann Defense, saw several changes of fortune. Niemzowitsch at the eighth move offered a pawn with 8...h5, a sacrifice that Lasker, taking up the gauntlet, immediately accepted. White's 15.Ng3 allowed Black to regain the pawn via 15...Qd5; after the further 16.Kb1 Qxg2 17.Rdg1 Qxf2 it was Niemzowitsch who enjoyed a material advantage. As the game approached the time limit at the 30th move the two players repeated the position; soon thereafter, Lasker once again undertook active measures with 32.Rg8. The crisis came after Black's 38...Nh5, as Lasker with 39.Rxf7! sacrificed a Rook to force perpetual check, a course of action requiring the most precise calculation, as the reader may observe in the notes. A fitting end to a worthy effort by both players.

In Capablanca-Marshall, a Petroff Defense, Black varied at the 9th move from last year's Capablanca-Black encounter at the Rice Chess Club Summer Tournament, a game won by the Cuban in only 15 moves. The present clash was distinguished by a short, sharp skirmish beginning at the 18th move and leading to a Queen endgame in which neither side could entertain realistic winning hopes.

Alekhine-Blackburne, a meeting of the youngest and oldest players in the tournament, saw White with 11.Nd2?? unaccountably allow his veteran opponent to win a piece for a pawn via 11...Qa5. Alekhine thereafter fought mightily, winning a second and then a third pawn for the missing piece and gaining strong drawing chances. At the end Blackburne unnecessarily exchanged his last pawn when he might still have striven for victory. All in all an exciting, if uneven, game.

Janowski, on the Black side of a Ruy Lopez, won a long and difficult game from Tarrasch, gradually reducing White to helplessness and immobility in a style very much reminiscent of some of his adversary's best efforts. If the Frenchman can retain the form he displayed here, he will become a force to reckon with in the tournament.



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