The fifth round of the St. Petersburg international Masters' tournament proved to be of immense interest, and featured four decisive games along with perhaps the most eagerly-awaited confrontation of the entire event. Alexander Alekhine seized sole possession of first place by defeating Akiba Rubinstein, a loss that has now seriously endangered the latter's chances of reaching the final group. In an encounter much anticipated by the entire chess world, José R. Capablanca and World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker at last met in an official game, the two Masters playing to a draw after 49 moves of a carefully-contested Four Knights' Game. Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, whose relations with Aron Niemzowitsch have not always been friendly, scored what must have been a deeply satisfying victory over the Russian co-Champion, with the German Master offering both Bishops and driving the opposing King the length of the board before delivering checkmate at the 32nd move in a contest that will surely contend most strongly for the first brilliancy prize. Meanwhile, David Janowski recorded his second victory of the competition by outplaying Joseph Henry Blackburne from the Black side of a Scotch Game, and U.S. Champion Frank J. Marshall displayed his tactical skill to refute the combination and trap the Queen of former tournament leader Dr. Ossip Bernstein. Isidor Gunsberg was free.
Scores after 5 rounds: Alekhine 4; Lasker 3 1/2; Bernstein, Tarrasch* 3; Capablanca*, Marshall, Janowski* 2 1/2; 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.
Alekhine, who to our knowledge had heretofore never defeated Rubinstein in a tournament game, chose as Black the unusual defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4. At the 13th move Rubinstein erred with 13.e4?, allowing his young opponent to initiate complications leading to the win of a pawn via 13...cxd4 14.cxd4 Qc3! White with 19.Nf5 sacrificed the exchange in return for attacking chances, but went astray shortly thereafter: 23.Ne7+ in place of the game continuation 23.Nh6+ would have left the result very much an open question. As played, Alekhine warded off all danger and collected the point at the 28th move.
Capablanca, who first challenged Dr. Lasker to a title match a few years ago, at last found himself face-to-face with the Champion at the board. The Cuban Master gained the advantage with White in a Four Knights' Game, as the numerous weaknesses on the Black King-side were sufficient to cause concern to even the most sanguine of the Champion's supporters. Nevertheless, White's pressure lessened with each subsequent exchange of pieces, leaving one to wonder whether perhaps Capablanca mis-handled the position. The draw was agreed in a Bishop vs. Knight endgame after the 49th move of a game in which, to our eye at least, the two players' circumspection arising from an awareness of each other's strength was most evident. With this result the Champion has made the best score in the three-man round robin among those generally reckoned beforehand as top contenders for first prize, as Lasker has drawn with Capablanca and beaten Rubinstein, while the two latter-named played to a draw vs. each other.
Dr. Tarrasch, employing his favorite ...c5 defense to the Queen's Gambit, won a beautiful game from Niemzowitsch. White with 11.cxd5 and 14.dxc5 brought about a position in which Black possessed the so-called "hanging" pawns, considered a weakness by many Masters but reckoned a strength by Tarrasch. In the present encounter the Doctor supported his opinion brilliantly, offering one Bishop at the 19th move and another at the 21st, a combination made famous by the young Emanuel Lasker vs. Bauer at Amsterdam a quarter-century ago. Niemzowitsch fought on, but the White King, driven from shelter, at last met its end far from home, checkmated at the 32nd move on the d7-square. A memorable game that will bring delight to lovers of chess a century hence.
Dr. Bernstein, as Black in a Slav Defense to the Queen's Gambit, suffered his first loss of the tournament vs. Marshall. The early-round leader played a combination, culminating in 18...Rxc3, whose refutation was spotted by the American Champion: 19.Qd2!, after which Bernstein lost his Queen. Black resigned at the 30th move.
Blackburne with 6.Nd2 chose a quiet treatment of the Scotch Game vs. Janowski. Black obtained free play for his pieces and already enjoyed the superior position when the English veteran's 30.Rbd1? allowed the decisive 30...Re3! Blackburne resigned ten moves later.