Friday, May 16

St. Petersburg tournament, Final group, Round 3: Capablanca retains lead with victory over Tarrasch; Marshall falls to Alekhine after blunder

Cuba's José R. Capablanca recorded his first victory in the winners' group of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament by defeating Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch in 35 moves from the Black side of a Ruy Lopez. With this triumph Capablanca, who sat idle with the bye in the first round of the final group and played to a draw vs. World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker in the second, has now re-established his one and one-half point lead over the Champion, himself free on the day. Joining Dr. Lasker in joint 2nd-3rd places is Alexander Alekhine, who added a full point to his score when U.S. Champion Frank J. Marshall committed perhaps the worst blunder of the tournament to date, allowing a forced checkmate in two moves while in a favorable position. Today's loss was Marshall's second of the event as a whole, both coming at the hands of Alekhine, who had previously bested the U.S. Champion in the tourney's preliminary round.

Scores after Round 3 of the winner's group: Capablanca* 9 1/2; Lasker*, Alekhine 8; Marshall* 7; Tarrasch 6 1/2.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have had the bye.

Dr. Tarrasch opened with the Ruy Lopez vs. Capablanca, playing 5.Nc3 in place of the more common 5.0-0 at the 5th move, presumably so as to avoid the possibility of facing his own favorite Open Defense. The contest followed the course of Tarrasch's 2nd-round loss vs. Janowski until White's 10th turn, at which point the Doctor chose to deviate with 10.c3. Black nevertheless obtained a good game, and with 17...Bxf3 shattered the enemy King-side pawns, as Tarrasch preferred to maintain material equality rather than sacrifice his d-pawn via 18.Qxf3. But the d-pawn soon fell nevertheless, followed shortly thereafter by White's foremost f-pawn, as Capablanca meanwhile easily warded off his opponent's efforts to develop an attack. At the 30th move Tarrasch, short of time, eschewed the opportunity to exchange Queens; in the resultant endgame his passed a-pawn may yet have offered certain counter-chances. As played, Capablanca with a few deft strokes brought the contest to a victorious conclusion five moves later. Dr. Tarrasch, who was beaten only by Janowski in the preliminary round-robin, has now lost his first three games in the final group, where the succession of mighty opponents is relentless: in the next round he faces the Champion.

Alekhine chose the French Defense in reply to Marshall's opening with the King's pawn, but then handled the McCutcheon Variation rather inexactly; the young Russian's 5...c5, for example, is considered inferior to 5...dxe4, as used twice by Tarrasch in his World Championship match vs. Lasker in 1908. As played, the two Masters after 6.e5 h6 7.Bd2 arrived at a position not to be found in our card index. Marshall's Queen's Knight proved most agile, traveling from b1-c3-b5-d6-c8-d6, all within the first 17 moves, during which time it deprived the Black King of its right to castle, captured the Black Queen's Bishop on its home square, and escaped to freedom. Had White seen fit to ask a just bit more of this trusty steed, the result of the game might well have been altered, as with 20.Nxe4 Marshall could have gained a pawn and remained with much the better position. Instead, the American's 20.f4 initiated a phase of complicated play that saw White's advantage diminish before the blunder 24.Rb3??, allowing mate in two, brought matters to a sudden and dramatic end. Whether Marshall will suffer any lingering ill effects from this unexpected denouement will perhaps be seen in the next round, when he will handle the Black pieces vs. Capablanca.


No comments: