Thursday, May 22

St. Petersburg tournament, Final group, Round 8: Capablanca loses second straight game; Cuban falls to Tarrasch after opening blunder; Lasker now clearly in lead; Alekhine, Marshall play to draw

José R. Capablanca lost his second game in succession at the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament, falling to Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch in the eighth round of the winners' group. Capablanca, who had remained undefeated through fourteen games before a loss to World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker in the previous round, committed a blunder in the opening, overlooking a threat of checkmate by Dr. Tarrasch, and in consequence suffered the loss of a piece. The Cuban Master put up a heroic and tenacious resistance in the ensuing play, but was at last forced to strike his colors at the 83rd move. Capablanca, who could have joined Dr. Lasker in first place with a victory, now trails the Champion by a full point, 12 to 11, with only two games remaining for each man. In the day's other contest Alexander Alekhine assured himself of at least a tie for third place with a draw vs. Frank J. Marshall. Dr. Lasker had the bye.

Scores after Round 8 of the winners' group: Lasker* 12; Capablanca* 11; Alekhine 10; Marshall*, Tarrasch 8.
Players marked with an asterisk (*) have had the bye.

Capablanca chose the Four Knights' Game vs. Tarrasch, who at the 7th move varied from the usual 7...d6 in favor of the sharp 7...d5, as suggested by the Swedish analyst Svenonius. Capablanca at his 13th move attacked the Black Queen with 13.Rfd1; to have done so with the Queen's Rook instead would have been superior, as soon became apparent. Nevertheless, the Cuban's true error occurred at the following move, when with 14.Qg3?? (far better was 14.Rxd6) he initiated a sequence in which after 14...Bxd1 15.Bxe5 White seemed ready to regain his temporarily sacrificed piece at his next turn with either 16.Bxf6 or 16.Rxd1. Black, however, had at his disposal the resource overlooked by Capablanca, 16...Qd2!, threatening checkmate, a reply that would be without purpose were the White Rook on f1. The first player thus remained a piece in arrears, but Capablanca thereafter fought with such doggedness that the contest lasted a further sixty-seven moves before he was at last forced to resign. Dr. Tarrasch thereby at last recorded his first victory of the winners' group after scoring only one half-point from his previous six games. 

The endgame deserves comment. Virtually every chess player is aware that Bishop and Rook's pawn cannot win against a lone King if the Bishop does not command the pawn's queening square. Such is not the case, however, if each player is also in possession a Rook: in that instance the superior side can indeed achieve victory, although considerable skill is required, skill that a player of the caliber of Dr. Tarrasch certainly does not lack. We urge our readers to study carefully the Doctor's methods and to examine with particular care the variations given at the close of the struggle. The man who makes the effort to master them may find that effort well repaid in the future.

Alekhine vs. Marshall, another Four Knights' Game, saw complete symmetry for the first eight moves, after which Alekhine employed the suggestion of the Danish analyst Dr. Krause, 9.Kh1, a move that to our knowledge had not been played previously in a Master game. White conducted the entire contest in sacrificial style, offering the temporary sacrifice of a piece at the 11th move, a pawn at the 18th, the exchange at the 20th - all investments that he later recouped as the struggle progressed. But that was all. Marshall defended ably, and this sharp clash between two inveterate fighters came to an end via repetition of position after Black's 45th turn. Alekhine now leads both Marshall and Tarrasch by two points with two rounds yet to be played; Tarrasch, with only one game remaining, cannot hope to equal the young Russian's score, but Marshall, who faces Capablanca and Lasker in the closing rounds, still retains slim hopes of doing so.

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