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St. Petersburg Tournament

Emanuel Lasker13.5/18(+10 -1 =7)[games]
Jose Raul Capablanca13/18(+10 -2 =6)[games]
Alexander Alekhine10/18(+6 -4 =8)[games]
Siegbert Tarrasch8.5/18(+5 -6 =7)[games]
Frank James Marshall8/18(+4 -6 =8)[games]
Akiba Rubinstein5/10(+2 -2 =6)[games]
Ossip Bernstein5/10(+3 -3 =4)[games]
Aron Nimzowitsch4/10(+1 -3 =6)[games]
Joseph Henry Blackburne3.5/10(+2 -5 =3)[games]
David Janowski3.5/10(+2 -5 =3)[games]
Isidor Gunsberg1/10(+0 -8 =2)[games] Chess Event Description
St. Petersburg (1914)

The St Petersburg Tournament of 1914 featured the joint winners of the 1914 All Russian Championship and players who had won at least one major tournament. There were the veterans Blackburne and Gunsberg, established masters such as Tarrasch, Bernstein, Janowski, Nimzowitsch, Alekhine and Marshall as well as the World Champion Lasker and his two most prominent rivals, Rubinstein and Capablanca.

The tournament was divided into two sections. The first stage from the 21st April to the 6th of May was an all-play-all event with the first five finishers proceeding into the second stage which ran from the 10th to the 22nd of May. This second stage was a double round all-play-all with the scores from the preliminaries being carried over to the final.

It was expected that there would be a great struggle between Lasker, Capablanca and Rubinstein, but the latter failed to make the final, leaving Lasker and Capablanca to battle it out. Lasker was 1½ points behind Capablanca at the start of the finals but in the end ran out the winner by a ½ point, by scoring seven points from eight games.

Preliminary crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 1 Capablanca * ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 8 2 Lasker ½ * ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 6½ 3 Tarrasch ½ ½ * ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 6½ 4 Alekhine 0 ½ ½ * 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 6 5 Marshall ½ ½ ½ 0 * 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 6 6 Bernstein 0 1 0 ½ 0 * ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5 7 Rubinstein ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ * ½ ½ 1 1 5 8 Nimzowitsch 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 4 9 Blackburne 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 * 0 1 3½ 10 Janowski 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 * ½ 3½ 11 Gunsberg 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ * 1

Final crosstable:

1 Lasker 6½ ** ½1 11 1½ 11 13½ 2 Capablanca 8 ½0 ** ½1 10 11 13 3 Alekhine 6 00 ½0 ** 11 1½ 10 4 Tarrasch 6½ 0½ 01 00 ** 0½ 8½ 5 Marshall 6 00 00 0½ 1½ ** 8

Prizes amounted to 1200, 800, 500, 300 and 200 Rubles. Each non-prizewinner received 20 Rubles for every game won and 10 Rubles for every drawn game.

A brilliancy prize was being considered for Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch, 1914 after the 5th round's finish, but more than 2 rounds later, it was awarded a 2nd brilliancy prize as the runner-up to the Capablanca vs O Bernstein, 1914 coup.

The main source for this collection was the St. Petersburg 1914 International Chess Tournament book by Dr Siegbert Tarrasch. ISBN 0-939433-17-6.


Original Collection : Game Collection: St Petersburg 1914, by User: Benzol.

 page 1 of 3; games 1-25 of 75  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Blackburne vs Lasker 0-1671914St. PetersburgC45 Scotch Game
2. Marshall vs Rubinstein ½-½341914St. PetersburgD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
3. Gunsberg vs Alekhine 0-1301914St. PetersburgC53 Giuoco Piano
4. Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca 0-1421914St. PetersburgC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
5. Janowski vs O Bernstein 0-1391914St. PetersburgD02 Queen's Pawn Game
6. Lasker vs Nimzowitsch ½-½421914St. PetersburgB16 Caro-Kann, Bronstein-Larsen Variation
7. Tarrasch vs Janowski 0-1731914St. PetersburgC78 Ruy Lopez
8. Alekhine vs Blackburne ½-½451914St. PetersburgC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
9. O Bernstein vs Gunsberg 1-0221914St. PetersburgC87 Ruy Lopez
10. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½351914St. PetersburgC42 Petrov Defense
11. Gunsberg vs Tarrasch 0-1351914St. PetersburgA00 Uncommon Opening
12. Marshall vs Lasker ½-½461914St. PetersburgD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Blackburne vs O Bernstein  ½-½351914St. PetersburgC77 Ruy Lopez
14. Nimzowitsch vs Alekhine ½-½371914St. PetersburgC02 French, Advance
15. Rubinstein vs Capablanca ½-½381914St. PetersburgD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
16. Janowski vs Gunsberg ½-½491914St. PetersburgD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
17. Tarrasch vs Blackburne 1-0671914St. PetersburgC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
18. Alekhine vs Marshall 1-0551914St. PetersburgC42 Petrov Defense
19. Lasker vs Rubinstein 1-0661914St. PetersburgC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
20. O Bernstein vs Nimzowitsch ½-½501914St. PetersburgE12 Queen's Indian
21. Marshall vs O Bernstein  1-0301914St. PetersburgD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
22. Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch 0-1321914St. PetersburgD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
23. Blackburne vs Janowski  0-1401914St. PetersburgC45 Scotch Game
24. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½491914St. PetersburgC49 Four Knights
25. Rubinstein vs Alekhine 0-1281914St. PetersburgE43 Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation
 page 1 of 3; games 1-25 of 75  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-28-13  Karpova: The <St. Petersburger Zeitung> (end of June 1914) reported that the entrance fee was 6542 roubles, wherefrom 5811 roubles were acquired due to the Grandmaster tournament. The overall revenues were 20,729 roubles (donations, etc.) and the overall spendings 19,907 roubles (4829 for the the National Russian tournaments - Amateur, Master and Studies). The Grandmaster tournament cost 13,308 roubles with 4500 roubles for Dr. Lasker (about 11,250 K) just for participating and then 1200 roubles for 1st prize. Afterwards, Dr. Lasker donated 500 roubles for the tournament fund. There was not much left for the other 10 chessplayers who got for travel expenses and lodging overall 3800 roubles, so on average about 950 K.

The <Deutsche Wochenschach> was very critical of these extra remunerations, suggesting to invest the money into good prizes, perhaps travel expenses and lodgings, but treat the players equal and use the rest of the money to publish a tournament book, instead.

The chairman of the St. Petersburg Chess Association, Boris F. Maljutin, declared that only one player received such an extra honorarium. Apart from that, they tried to balance the travel expenses and lodging equally - in case of Capablanca and Marshall this was, of course, a much greater sum and may have given rise to the rumours. Rubinstein not only did not receive an extra renumeration, he would even have played without money for the travel expenses and lodging as he felt that it was his duty to participate in the tournament.

Dr. Lasker, in contrast, at first didn't want to play. The public wanted to see him play and, after a great donation from the <Finanz- und Kommerz-Vereines>, the committee decided to grant Dr. Lasker his wish for an extra renumeration.

The result was an argument between Dr. Lasker and Ranneforth (editor of the <Deutsche Wochenschach>):

Dr. Lasker: <Daß ich mich nicht ausnützen lassen will, wie die vielen Schachmeister, die im Hospital gestorben und im Armengrab beerdigt worden sind, ist völlig wahr. Dieses durchaus berechtigte Verlangen aber gibt niemand das Recht, mir vorzuwerfen, daß Geldgewinn das vornehmlichste Motiv sei, das mich bestimmt. ...Herr Ranneforth sieht überall nur das Naheliegende und die niederen Motive, weil das Flache und Gewöhnliche seiner Natur adäquat ist.> ((in short) Dr. Lasker does not want to be exploited end up poor like many chessmasters before him. This gives no one the right to criticise him that earning money was his main motif. (literal) Mr Ranneforth sees everywhere just the self-evident and the base motives, because the flat and ordinary is adequate to his nature.)

Ranneforth ('Wochenschach', Nr. 28, 1914) replied that Dr. Lasker should have been more faithful in quoting him. They had substantiated their claim that Dr. Lasker mainly participated in St. Petersburg 1914 to earn money, at length, and added that they don't criticise him for doing so. They merely took exception to Dr. Lasker trying to create the impression in the <B. Z. a. M.> (cited in the Nr. 4/9 of the 1914 'Wiener Schachzeitung') that he participated in St. Petersburg 1914 only to solve problems affecting the whole mankind.

Source: Page 103 of the May-June 1915 'Wiener Schachzeitung'.

Feb-15-14  Karpova: Tournament report titled <Das Großmeisterturnier in St. Petersburg> on pages 80-108 of the February-May 1914 'Wiener Schachzeitung'.

The report includes the tournament conditions: <2. Eingeladen werden Meister, die in großen internationalen Meisterturnieren mindestens einmal an erste Stelle gelangt sind, [...].> (Invited are Masters who reached 1st place in great international tournaments at least once).

Apart from the other basic tournament information (player portraits; chart with round numbers, dates, openings, results; crosstable), there are also reprinted articles from several other newspapers.

Recurring discussions are criticism of two main points:

1. The concept of a Grandmaster tournament, i. e. a tournament to which only so-called Grandmasters are admitted.

2. The unual mode with preliminary and main tournament, when a double-round robin was perfectly possible.

The Brilliancy prizes were also criticised, as Capablanca vs O Bernstein, 1914 was not generally considered to have been the best game.

The biggest part makes up the description of the tournament progress itself, for sure.

Other interesting information: A German named Hermann, who lives in St. Petersburg, donated an extra prize for the one who scored best against the prize winners. Fabergé awarded beautiful cups to every participant, the best ones were reserved for the prize winners.

At the award ceremony (May 22), Lia Marco, the well-known author and wife of Dr. Lasker, recited verses - the verses are also printed there (p. 97). They played a blitz tournament and Capablanca and Dr. Lasker reconciled.

This all was done to show the level of detail in that report.

Yet, one detail is conspiciously absent: The alleged Grandmaster title awarded by the Tsar. When even the verses by Dr. Lasker's wife were reprinted, why should this have been left out, if it occurred?

The point of the tournament was not to instate the first original Grandmasters, it was a tournament only Grandmasters were admitted to. Furthermore, the then current World Champion was participating - wouldn't it have appeared strange to award to him the title of Grandmaster, i. e. a lower title?

In C.N. 2080, Louis Blair (Knoxville, TN, USA) <quotes a passage (referring to the period of the St Petersburg, 1914 tournament) from page 198 of Nicholas II by Dominic Lieven (New York, 1993):

‘The imperial family spent April and May 1914 in the Crimea. The Council of Ministers no longer had an effective chairman, but the monarch was hundreds of miles from his capital with communications passing by post and courier.’>

Mar-25-14  Amarande: From what I understand, the brilliancy prizes here were affected partly by history: Tarrasch's two-Bishop sacrifice game (Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch, 1914) was notably given the Second Brilliancy Prize, and it's a common thought among chess authors (particularly Edward Lasker and the Chernev-Reinfeld duo) that it failed to receive the First Brilliancy Prize largely because of derivacy from Lasker vs J Bauer, 1889.

Capablanca-Bernstein is a much more original matter, and moreover, it shares a typical thread with most Brilliancy Prize games - the usual nature of such games is for them to be won by sustained attack, and moreover, for a "bolt from the blue" tendency: the attack tends to originate from a position that seems relatively peaceful on the surface and often without the appearance of the victim having committed a transgression of suitable severity as to call down such a storm.

As for other candidates that may come to mind, it should be noted that rarely, if ever, is positional play even of the greatest caliber awarded a brilliancy prize; this is one of the reasons why Reti vs Bogoljubov, 1924 is so notable, for instance. Certainly, Lasker vs Capablanca, 1914 is by far the most famous game of the tournament, and a prime candidate for the best played game by the victor, but as far as the winning methods go it is distinctly dry compared to what the masses tend to expect of a "brilliancy": the direct attack is not commenced until White already has a clearly won game, and the only sacrifice even offered is a mere Pawn (Reti-Bogoljubov at least involves the offer of a minor piece as its capstone, by comparison).

Jun-09-14  Lutwidge: Hello - I'm working a bit on an article celebrating the centennial of this tournament, and have already several questions I've yet to figure out out. First off, why was Gunsberg part of it? He hadn't played in any serious capacity for practically a decade, and his heyday was in the 80's (or even before as the operator of "Mephisto"). Was is simply because so many other players refused to participate for political reasons? Also, on a related note, anyone have a copy of the original tournament book that they'd like to mail me? :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: One could equally ask why Blackburne played, as his best days were also well beyond the rear view mirror.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Lutwidge: Hello - I'm working a bit on an article celebrating the centennial of this tournament, and have already several questions I've yet to figure out out. First off, why was Gunsberg part of it? He hadn't played in any serious capacity for practically a decade, and his heyday was in the 80's (or even before as the operator of "Mephisto"). Was is simply because so many other players refused to participate for political reasons? >

Way too late for your article, but <Karpova> already supplied the answer: the committee wanted to invite grandmasters, defined as chessmasters who had won an international tournament. Gunsberg qualified (Hamburg (1885)) even though he was at least 20 years past his prime. As perfidious points out Blackburne was even older, but played much sprightlier games -- just ask Nimzowitsch.

Blackburne vs Nimzowitsch, 1914

<Also, on a related note, anyone have a copy of the original tournament book that they'd like to mail me? :)>

Brandreth did a translation of Tarrasch's book, supplemented with additional notes and some computer analysis.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: The link to the photograph in the intro is stale.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: From the intro:

<It was expected that there would be a great struggle between Lasker, Capablanca and Rubinstein, but the latter failed to make the final, [...]>

The first two certainly were well expected as finalists for 1st, but Rubinstein?

According to EDOchess, both Alekhine and Marshall rated higher than Rubinstein at the time of the tournament:

And none of them were within striking range of Lasker and Capablanca.

What might be said is that it was surprising that Rubinstein didn't make it to the finals. Similarly for Nimzowitsch, though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: A little more can be found here:

Not to denigrate the efforts of the fine authors here on <CG>, but to read an article like the one in the link above is to almost be transported back to the tournament itself.

Aug-20-16  Retireborn: <z> Certainly Rubinstein's Russian/Polish supporters were expecting him to do well at Petersburg, recalling the five tournaments he won in 1912, no doubt.

In Winter's Capablanca book he quotes Capa writing in Capablanca Magazine about the Mannheim tournament, held a little later that year. Capa points out that the "five strongest players in the world today" were absent; he lists them as Lasker, Rubinstein, Schlechter, Teichmann and himself.

I'm somewhat agnostic as to the meaning of retrospective ratings, but Rubinstein's wiki page does quote Chessmetrics rating him world no 1 between mid-1912 and mid-1914.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: Before this tournament Rubinstein had a plus score against both Lasker and Capablanca. Lasker lost to him in 1909 and Capablanca in 1911.
Aug-20-16  Retireborn: <Benzol> Indeed, a plus score against all of the participants except Bernstein (1-1 with several draws), Blackburne (1 draw), and Gunsberg (no previous encounters.)
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Perhaps I should moderate my comment above... given that the pre-history must factor out the results of the tournament itself.

One trouble is the lack of tournament play by both Rubinstein and Lasker in 1913.

Rubinstein peaked in 1912 according to EDO:

But his peak, 2656 isn't enough to challenge Lasker's relative minimum of 2715 of 1910.

(EDO has Lasker playing 0 games in 1911, 1912, 1913.

EDO has Rubinstein playing 0 games in 1913)

Capablanca had reach 2730 during a very busy 1913 (54 games). Clearly he was a contender for 1st.

But Alekhine was also very active in 1913, having reached a rating of 2623 with 35 games.

To summarize, one must assume Capablanca and Lasker belong to the 1st class contenders alone, assuming Lasker's strength equivalent to 1910 (it wasn't, he was actually stronger!).

And if Rubinstein is to be mentioned, then, at a minimum, Alekhine had already earned his mention as well.

Of course, one could avoid all this detailed analysis by finding a contemporaneous source which agrees with the intro's assessment!

(As concerns my heavy reliance of EDO chess, suffice it to say that Tim Harding across quotes heavily from this source as well - it's a great, informative and well organized source - one of the best on the net).

Aug-20-16  Retireborn: <z> It's interesting that Rubinstein didn't play at all in 1913. I wonder why that was? Lack of practice may well have been a factor in his relative failure here.

As for contemporaneous sources, the following link to Levenfish might be interesting (scroll down a bit to #3):

[The remark about Marshall having a dash of Indian blood made me laugh, I'm afraid!]

It's true that after WWI Rubinstein would lose to Alekhine and Nimzowitsch rather more often than he beat them (and some of those games are quite famous.) But in 1907-1914 he would have been expected to finish ahead of them in tournaments, I think.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Yes, perhaps. Knowing his decline was in effect by 1914 colors my view I suppose.

And the tournament photograph did feature him, prominently sitting across from Lasker at the table.

Of course, Burn is also given a central role, and he's not even a participant (I believe he was there as Field reporter primarily).

I'm sure <offramp> will say it's because the Russian were rather taken with his beard!

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <RB> thanks to you and <Rishi9> for the Levenfish reminisces on the tournament.

Quite revealing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Levenfish finishes with this:

<The tournament produced many fine specimens of chess artistry, and one can only regret that so far no collection of games from this first-class event has been published in Russian...>

He died in 1961, and his writing was published posthumously, but still... that's a shocking omission on the part of the Russians/Soviets.

Aug-20-16  Retireborn: <z> Many interesting things in that photo: Lasker's confident gaze, Alekhine's uniform (?), Nimzo looking in the wrong direction, Marshall's possibly Indian hair(!) and so on.

I do wonder about the Wainstein standing next to Marshall. Probably not an ancestor of Garry, although it would be neat if he was.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <RB> you might need to buy a vowel...
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: OK, here's my best version of the group photograph, plus some other handsome portraits...

Maybe I should post this over at Doll?

<CG> How about using the group photo above?

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Surprised noone has commented on Alekhine's hat.

Here's maybe a better version of the same photo:

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <zanzibar> Courtesy of Karpova, here is Capablanca's assessment of Rubinstein, in 1912:

<Rubinstein, who, at the chess board, is the glory of Russia, was born in Łódź in 1882, and is thus 30 years old. He is extremely astute and a profound student of the game; it is related that he studies for two or three hours every morning; he is a great admirer of Morphy, whose games he probably knows by heart. He is very observant and when, in San Sebastián in 1911, I was amusing myself playing fast games against Dr Bernstein, his compatriot, he always came to watch the contest, often making the observation that I possessed tactical ability superior to anyone else’s. This is clear proof of the great Russian expert’s modesty.

Rubinstein has made a special study of the queen’s pawn opening, and his opponents can be entirely sure that as White he will open with 1 d4. There have been occasions when he has varied, but these have been rare. With Black he almost always plays the French Defense against 1 e4 and he has made a special study of this opening too.

His openings are irreproachable because he plays only what he has studied in the greatest depth. His middle-game play is worthy of the great master that he is, while it is generally agreed that he is extraordinarily strong in the endgame. From this it may be deduced that the Russian master is very difficult to defeat. To beat him it is necessary to proceed step by step and with great care because he is forever preparing traps for his opponent.

His main successes have been Carlsbad, 1907, first prize; Ostend, 1907, first and second prizes equal with Bernstein; St Petersburg, 1909, first and second prizes equal with Lasker, the world champion, whom he beat in their individual game; San Sebastián, 1911, second and third prizes equal with Vidmar, and finally San Sebastián, 1912 first prize.

Rubinstein has never been lower than third in an international tournament, which is a record matched by no other player except Lasker. <Today Rubinstein is, in my opinion, the strongest European player, leaving aside Lasker, who, as world champion, has the right to be considered the first.>>

I think that is what pretty much anyone would have said going into the St. Petersburg tournament, except they might not agree that Lasker (who had not played serious chess since 1910) was entitled to outrank Rubinstein.

Jul-18-17  ZonszeinP: Great Rubinstein missed an opportunity here, to show the world he was the best at the time
Jul-18-17  JimNorCal: Yes, this was Rubinstein's first slip, I believe. Nathan Divinsky wrote a fictional "Rubinstein diary" covering the tournament. It's fictional and not everyone's cup of tea but it does IMO give a plausible description of the emotions that must've been swirling.
Jul-23-17  ZonszeinP: Nowadays nobody wears hats like Alkehine's

Good old days
Gone for good

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