Thursday, May 15

St. Petersburg tournament, Final group, Round 2: Capablanca, Lasker play to 100-move draw; Alekhine defeats Tarrasch

The second round of the winners' group of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament brought the second-ever meeting between tourney leader José R. Capablanca and World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker, a contest that ended, like their first encounter in the preliminary section, in a draw, on this occasion after a struggle lasting a full 100 moves. That result may in a sense be considered both a success and failure for Capablanca, as with the drawn result he maintained his position atop the score table but simultaneously let slip an opportunity to increase his advantage over the Champion, his nearest rival, after striving unsuccessfully for hours to force the victory in an endgame with two minor pieces vs. Lasker's Rook. In the day's other game Alexander Alekhine defeated Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, handing the German his second loss in succession and climbing into a tie for 3rd-4th places with the idle Frank. J. Marshall. Pairings for the third round are Tarrasch-Capablanca and Marshall-Alekhine. The World Champion will have the bye, a circumstance that will allow Capablanca, should he score a victory, to re-establish the one and one-half point lead that he enjoyed entering the final.

Scores after Round 2 of the winners' group: Capablanca* 8 1/2; Lasker 8; Alekhine, Marshall* 7; Tarrasch 6 1/2.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have had the bye.

Dr. Lasker, as Black, chose the Open Defense vs. Capabanca's Ruy Lopez, with the game following the course of the 11th-round preliminary contest between Drs. Bernstein and Tarrasch until Black's 10th move, when the Champion chose the immediate 10...d4 over the earlier 10...Be7. A series of exchanges ensued, after which Capablanca invaded Black's position with his Queen's Rook, cramping the enemy game. At his 19th turn the Cuban Master sacrificed a pawn in order to increase the pressure; a most interesting position arose shortly thereafter, when Lasker's 21...Rf5!?, at first sight a blunder, allowed Capablanca to play for the win of a piece via 22.g4. Such a course, however, would in fact have led by force to a situation in which the Champion possessed full material compensation for the missing piece, while the White pieces would have lost much of their coordination. Capablanca took a different path, and sprang a small surprise of his own just as Lasker appeared to have overcome all his difficulties, when with 30.Bd2! White forced the gain of two minor pieces for a Rook. Now the technical battle began. The resulting position, unlike any we can recall having seen before, with Rook vs. Bishop and Knight and the King-side pawns standing on identical files, was defended most ably by Dr. Lasker, who erected a defensive pawn bulwark and sought constasntly to make his opponent's progress as difficult as possible. The key moment came at the 77th move, as White, having at long last advanced his King-side pawns and laid bare the target on g7, proved unable to capture the last enemy pawn without allowing Black to reach an immediate draw. Twenty more moves of maneuvering did not alter this situation, and peace was at last agreed at the 100th move after a marathon struggle.

Alekhine, who has employed a number of unusual openings as the tournament progressed - e.g., the Center Counter (or Scandinavian) Defense, the Albin Counter-Gambit, and the nameless 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 - essayed Bird's old favorite 1.f4 vs. Tarrasch, with the players reaching a Falkbeer Counter-Gambit after 1...e5 2.e4 d5. Tarrasch's 6...Bf5 was an innovation, but one likely to find few followers, as White emerged from some colorful opening complications with both an extra pawn and a sound position. From the 20th to the 35th move the young Russian sought to arrange his forces in such a way as to secure the position of his Knight on d4 and launch a decisive King-side attack, which duly commenced with 35.Nf5 and concluded with the resignation of Tarrasch five moves later. Alekhine, whose previous record vs. the Doctor had consisted of a loss at Hamburg in 1910 and a draw in the preliminaries of the present tournament, thus recorded his first win over the Praeceptor Germaniae.



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