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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 Marshall8/18(+4 -6 =8)[games]
Ossip Bernstein5/10(+3 -3 =4)[games]
Akiba Rubinstein5/10(+2 -2 =6)[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 (Alekhine and Nimzowitsch) 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 among 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, including a celebrated victory over Capablanca.

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. Janowski vs O Bernstein 0-1391914St. PetersburgD02 Queen's Pawn Game
2. Blackburne vs Lasker 0-1671914St. PetersburgC45 Scotch Game
3. Gunsberg vs Alekhine 0-1301914St. PetersburgC53 Giuoco Piano
4. Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca 0-1421914St. PetersburgC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
5. Marshall vs Rubinstein ½-½341914St. PetersburgD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
6. Tarrasch vs Janowski 0-1731914St. PetersburgC78 Ruy Lopez
7. Lasker vs Nimzowitsch ½-½421914St. PetersburgB16 Caro-Kann, Bronstein-Larsen Variation
8. O Bernstein vs Gunsberg 1-0221914St. PetersburgC87 Ruy Lopez
9. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½351914St. PetersburgC42 Petrov Defense
10. Alekhine vs Blackburne ½-½451914St. PetersburgC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
11. Marshall vs Lasker ½-½461914St. PetersburgD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
12. Gunsberg vs Tarrasch 0-1351914St. PetersburgA00 Uncommon Opening
13. Rubinstein vs Capablanca ½-½381914St. PetersburgD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
14. Nimzowitsch vs Alekhine ½-½371914St. PetersburgC02 French, Advance
15. Blackburne vs O Bernstein ½-½351914St. PetersburgC77 Ruy Lopez
16. Janowski vs Gunsberg ½-½491914St. PetersburgD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
17. O Bernstein vs Nimzowitsch ½-½501914St. PetersburgE12 Queen's Indian
18. Lasker vs Rubinstein 1-0661914St. PetersburgC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
19. Alekhine vs Marshall 1-0551914St. PetersburgC42 Petrov Defense
20. Tarrasch vs Blackburne 1-0671914St. PetersburgC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
21. Nimzowitsch vs Tarrasch 0-1321914St. PetersburgD30 Queen's Gambit Declined
22. Marshall vs O Bernstein 1-0301914St. PetersburgD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
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)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 4 OF 4 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Aug-20-16  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.

Aug-20-16  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!

Aug-20-16  zanzibar: <RB> thanks to you and <Rishi9> for the Levenfish reminisces on the tournament.

Quite revealing.

Aug-20-16  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.

Aug-20-16  zanzibar: <RB> you might need to buy a vowel...
Aug-21-16  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?

Aug-23-16  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

Sep-29-18  JimNorCal: The discussion on the Grand Master title is interesting. I think Marshall discussed it in one of his books but I don't recall if he gave a photo of a medallion or proclamation or anything. I don't have the Marshall book anymore.

I don't recall Alekhine, Capa, Lasker or other sources talking about it.

Here's a snip from Wikipedia
"According to Marshall's 1942 autobiography ... Tsar Nicholas II conferred the title of "Grandmaster" on Marshall and the other four finalists. Chess historian Edward Winter has questioned this ..."

Sep-30-18  TheFocus: <JimNorCal: The discussion on the Grand Master title is interesting. I think Marshall discussed it in one of his books but I don't recall if he gave a photo of a medallion or proclamation or anything. I don't have the Marshall book anymore.>

Marshall gave a photo on pg. 20 of <My Fifty Years of Chess> with the first five finishers. Written on it is "the five woodshifters".

On pg. 21, he says: <It was at this tournament that the Tsar of Russia conferred on each of the five finalists the title "Grandmaster of Chess">.

This is just fiction by Marshall.

Sep-30-18  TheFocus: Certainly Rubinstein was a much stronger player than Marshall. Very hard to believe that a Tsar had the power to grant grandmaster titles on anyone.
Sep-30-18  john barleycorn: <TheFocus: ... Very hard to believe that a Tsar had the power to grant grandmaster titles on anyone.>

That comes with feudalism. The Tsar did not give rules and/or regulations but titles and benefits.

Sep-30-18  JimNorCal: Yeah I'm sure the Tsar could proclaim any darn thing he wanted. There was no FIDE to grant titles.

Did Lasker, Capa, Tarrasch or Alekhine--for that matter, any contemporary publications or others of the masters-- mention anything?

Oct-02-18  john barleycorn: <JimNorCal: ...

Did Lasker, Capa, Tarrasch or Alekhine--for that matter, any contemporary publications or others of the masters-- mention anything?>

I have not seen any tournament/match book that would mention the title grandmaster. Take New York 1924 by Aljechin. Never says GM Em. Lasker vs. GM Capablanca etc pp. Even Tarrasch never shy to praise his accomplishments mentions his GM title, afaik

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: < ZonszeinP: Nowadays nobody wears hats like Alkehine's >

For good reason!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: I strongly recommend tournament book by Siegbert Tarrasch, now translated into English and updated with more modern comments as well as the contemporary witty annotation of Georg Marco that often disagreed with Tarrasch's. It is available from Amazon at

Tarrasch has an undeserved reputation for dogmatism, fostered by both the Soviet school agitprop and by Aron Nimzowitsch But his notes belay that reputation. In fact, this tournament twice saw the opening later called the Nimzo-Indian, and Tarrasch had no criticisms, and even said that White should not have allowed the doubled Ps, one of the main points of this defence.

Tarrasch was also known as a bitter rival to Emanuel Lasker In the notes to Lasker's games, he notes the apparent sorcery of Lasker that prompted opponents to play some bad moves. But this is more than balanced by the effusive praise for the quality of Lasker's play. Tarrasch notes Lasker's appearance fee of 4,500 rubles, and says in emphatic font, “I do not think this was too high”, and that Lasker deserved even more for his great games.

Oct-16-19  ewan14: Impressive result by Lasker
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Jonathan Sarfati: I strongly recommend tournament book by Siegbert Tarrasch, now translated into English and updated with more modern comments as well as the contemporary witty annotation of Georg Marco that often disagreed with Tarrasch's. It is available from Amazon at

For both Homers all but nodding their heads off, see Tarrasch vs Janowski, 1914.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: <keypusher:> a very good piece of analytical work there.
Apr-17-22  Albertan: Revisiting Saint Petersburg 1914-(April 21,1914-May 22,1914):

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