Thursday, March 7

Havana tournament, Round 14: Marshall wins tourney despite last-round loss; Capablanca 2nd after draw with Kupchik

United States Champion Frank J. Marshall survived a final-round defeat at the hands of David Janowski to capture first prize in the Havana international chess Masters' tournament.  Marshall, scoring 10 1/2 points from 14 games played, finished one half-point ahead of José R. Capablanca, who drew his final game against Abraham Kupchik.  The result represents an exact reversal of the positions occupied by the two players at the recent New York tourney, where Capablanca claimed victory over his American rival by a similar narrow margin.  Third prize in Havana fell to Janowski, with 9 points, while the fourth and fifth prizes were shared by Kupchik and Oscar Chajes, each with 6 1/2, the latter capping a splendid finish by defeating Juan Corzo to record his fourth victory over the last five rounds.  In the day's final game Rafael Blanco defeated Charles Jaffe in a game marked by a matched set of nearly incomprehensible blunders.

Marshall, who led Capablanca by a full point entering the final day's play, stood alone through 13 rounds as the only competitor not to have tasted defeat, a distinction the American Champion had likewise achieved in New York.  His overall success in the tourney thus appeared secure, as only a loss for Marshall, combined with a Capablanca victory, would allow the Cuban to claim a share of first prize.  Yet Janowski accomplished what others had not, gradually gaining the advantage in a Queen's Gambit Declined, and then, owing to the strength of a passed d-pawn in a Rook endgame, forcing the tournament leader to strike his colors at the 47th move.  Though analysts on the scene feel that Marshall may have missed a drawing chance with 29...Re6, Janowski's technique was of a high standard, and with this victory he adds a fine finish to a commendable third place performance.  As for Marshall, today's defeat can do but little to tarnish a most shining achievement, one worthy of being added to his already long list of similar successes: 


Capablanca, in need of a win at all costs as Black against Kupchik, saw a promising position turn sour, and narrowly escaped defeat himself.  After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 the Cuban chose the uncommon 3...g6, reckoning that the intricacies of that line would prove unfamiliar to his young opponent.  Indeed, by his 30th turn Capablanca had seized the initiative, and seemed to enjoy fair prospects for a successful attack on the King-side, yet over the next several moves Black's own King came under such heavy assault that he soon found it necessary to bring about a perpetual check by means of a Rook sacrifice.  (Even this drastic measure may not have sufficed with best play: our Herr Fritz asks whether Kupchik at the 48th move might not have tried 48.Bg2, avoiding the perpetual check and winning for White - see the game score below.)  In the players' defense it should be mentioned that the many spectators at the Ateneo not only created a sweltering atmosphere, but, carried away by the excitement of the final round, raised a genuine din in the hall, conditions hardly conducive to faultless play, and perhaps responsible for the large number of oversights and outright blunders in this final round.  His second place finish here in the place of his birth is undoubtedly a disappointment to Capablanca, though we are certain not only that other successes await him, but that, given the level of support he enjoys from his countrymen, the opportunity will one day once again present itself for him to demonstrate his full chess prowess on his native soil:

Corzo, fighting to the last, opened with the King's pawn and directed his attack against the castled position of Chajes, who chose the Sicilian Defense.  The game stood in balance when the Cuban Champion, with 34.b4, initiated a mistaken combination involving the sacrifice of the exchange, having overlooked the simple rejoinder 36...Qd6, which extinguished the nascent attack almost before it began and left Black with an easily won game.  Thus did Chajes equal the 6 1/2 point score of Kupchik to share the 4th and 5th prizes:

Finally we come to Blanco vs. Jaffe, which is perhaps best looked upon as evidence that playing conditions during the final round were rather less than ideal.  We can think of no other reasonable explanation for a Master game in which each player in turn blunders away a full Rook, Jaffe losing his Rook to a pair of obvious checks and Blanco, even more remarkably, simply leaving his own Rook en prise one more thereafter.  These instances of chess blindness left Blanco in possession of an extra pawn in an endgame, which, it must be admitted, he conducted well.  And there the tourney ended:

Final scores:  Marshall 10 1/2; Capablanca 10; Janowski 9; Kupchik, Chajes 6 1/2; Jaffe 5 1/2; Blanco 5; Corzo 3.

We expect to share some further thoughts on the tournament in the coming days.


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