The luck of the draw assigned a bye to tournament leader José R. Capablanca in the opening round of the winners' group of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament, and World Champion Emanuel Lasker took advantage of his rival's enforced idleness to move to within one half-point of the Cuban ace by defeating Russian co-Champion Alexander Alekhine from the White side of a sharp Albin Counter-Gambit. Capablanca and Lasker will meet in the second round, with the former having the move. In the day's other contest U.S. Champion Frank J. Marshall took the full point from Germany's Dr. Siebert Tarrasch, employing Tarrasch's own favorite 3...c5 defense to the Queen's Gambit to defeat its greatest advocate and exponent. Marshall will have the bye in the second round, while Alekhine will handle the White pieces vs. Tarrasch.
Scores after Round 1 of the winners' group: Capablanca* 8, Lasker 7 1/2; Marshall 7; Tarrasch 6 1/2; Alekhine 6.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have had the bye.
Lasker and Alekhine engaged in a hand-to-hand fight whose lively nature was presaged by the opening moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5, and whose many complications will provide much grist for the annotators. The Champion made no effort to retain the gambit pawn acquired via 3.dxe5, preferring instead to develop his pieces expeditiously. The two players castled on opposite sides of the board, with White's advance on the Queen-side at first proceeding more rapidly that Black's on the other wing. The Champion's light-squared Bishop played a powerful role on the long diagonal and provided needed support for the White pawn that had reached the b7-square, where it stood directly in front of the enemy King. Alekhine, however, fought back hard, profiting from White's misplacement of his Queen's Bishop at the 18th move (18.Bb2?!) to further his own attack via 20...f4, and landing a pretty blow with 23...Ne3! The crisis came three moves later, when Alekhine by choosing 26...Nc3? in preference to 26..Nxf2! appears to have let slip an opportunity to maintain the balance; the reader will find a few illustrative variations included with the game score. Alekhine resigned at the 35th move, there being no defense against 36.Rf8.
Marshall, as noted above, forced Dr. Tarrasch to fight against his own weapon, 3...c5. The American achieved a good position from the opening and gave the game a distinctive character with the pawn advance 10...c4, to which Tarrasch replied 11.Bc2, a questionable decision, as the White Bishop was soon driven to the b1-square, imprisoning the Queen's Rook, and remained at that post until the 34th move. Marshall, profiting from his numerically superior forces in play, gained two pawns in the endgame, although Tarrasch, with his Bishop and Rook at last liberated, continued to offer stiff resistance. At his 47th turn the German Master erred, as his 47.Rxa6? led to the loss of a piece following some clever play on the part of Marshall. The game thereafter soon resolved itself into a battle between Black's Rook, Knight and pawn against White's Rook and pawn, an unequal contest resulting in a win for Marshall after 72 moves, the last several of which Dr. Tarrasch might have spared himself.