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.


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