Sunday, April 27

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.  


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