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Moscow 1925 Tournament: Player's Diary by Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, part 1

I provided this classical Ilyin-Zhenevsky article (published in 1926) with some stats and links to the mentioned games.

When just a year ago, at the 3rd Soviet Chess Congress, someone requested to organize an international chess tournament in Moscow, many people just smiled skeptically. Our young and immature chess organization seemed not strong enough to undertake such a massive project. I must admit that I wasn't too optimistic as well. The very fact that we started to hold the Chess Congresses every year seemed an incredible achievement. Just a few years ago, our Soviet chess life looked more like some primordial chaos. And now, to organize an international tournament?!
But the Executive Bureau of the Central Chess and Checkers Section worked very seriously and persistently, and after a short while, the Moscow international tournament had become a reality. And so, the opening day has finally come. And what a tournament it turned to be! The best of the best chess players of the world have come to Moscow. The world champion Capablanca agreeing to play in the tournament was an incredible thing by itself - Capablanca very rarely graces international tournaments with his presence. And there's also the ex-world champion, the great and incomparable Emanuel Lasker, undefeatable for 27 years, who only recently lost his crown to Capablanca. Along with them, there are Bogolyubov, Marshall, Rubinstein, Tartakower, Gruenfeld and many more household names. Of course, such a tournament attracted much attention in our country as well as abroad. Together with the foreign masters, many foreign reporters have come, and they created a very tense and excited atmosphere around the tournament. There were also many Russian masters in the participant list. Foreign people didn't know much about them and considered them typical outsiders - as we know, any country organizing an international tournament invites some national masters to play who, after losing a lot of games, disappear from the international chess view forever. This point of view was expressed in the Parisian newspaper "The Latest News" by the White Guard journalist, the ex-Russian maestro E.A. Znosko-Borovsky. Znosko-Borovsky was even indignant that so many Russian outsiders were allowed to participate.
But we had a different view on the Russian masters. We thought that USSR was already ahead of all other countries in our chess development. Our Soviet championships were on par with any international tournaments both in line-up strength and quality of played games. Because of our isolation from the Western chess life, our masters couldn't show their real strength to the foreign players, but we knew everything, and this tournament should have confirmed that they could successfully compete with the Western European stars. 10 Russian chess players were the USSR's best players who took the prizes at the latest USSR Championship.
The opening of the tournament was very grand. The interest towards the tournament was colossal. When I and several other players approached the House of the Unions, where the opening ceremony was to take place, there was a huge crowd on the street trying to get in. Working our way inside, we saw an even denser crowd, and it took a lot of effort to leave our coats in the cloakroom and get to the Blue Hall. Only a small fraction of the general public managed to get tickets and enter the hall. We feared for our foreign guests, but some people were sent out to greet them, and they started to enter the hall, one by one. The public in the packed hall stared at the foreigners with much interest and curiosity. Many people even stood up on their chairs.
Suddenly, applause began. It got louder and louder and transitioned into a full-blown ovation. The applause was for the world champion Jose Raul Capablanca. Smiling and bowing, he got into the first rows and sat in his place. And then the public applauded again. It's Lasker. Lasker hasn't changed much since his last year's Moscow and Leningrad tour. He had many acquaintances. He walked forward slowly, stopping often to talk with some people. New round of applause. That's Bogolyubov, joyful and happy. His broad, good-natured face literally shone. It was a double holiday for him. Firstly, he waited long for a new chance to challenge Capablanca and Lasker, and secondly, the Moscow international tournament is largely a brainchild of Bogolyubov. He spent much effort and energy to organize it, and now he was satisfied with the results.
The public has clearly identified their favourites: Capablanca, Lasker and Bogolyubov. Who's going to be first?
After all the speeches and greetings, we started the drawing procedure. It's one of the most exciting moments of any tournament. You may think that drawing lots shouldn't play any major role. Why should we care which number we get? We'll have to play everyone else anyway. But still, every player is always nervous at the drawing. First, the tournament begins in the very moment he gets his number. No more speeches, the action begins now. Second, many people have some good or bad associations with certain numbers. For instance, the young Mexican Torre drew number 1 and showed it around joyously. He seemed to contemplate the first prize already. But soon, he became a bit disappointed. Number 1 doesn't play in the first round. Everyone else will begin playing, and he won't. But he wants to play so much.
The "unlucky" number 13 was drawn by Romanovsky. But he didn't look dejected. The Soviet chess players aren't superstitious at all. Besides, there's a good example: at the last USSR Championship I drew the number 13, and it didn't prevent me from being in the leading group. This time, I drew number 18. It's a bit bad because I'll have to play more games with Black pieces than with White. But it's nothing compared to what happened with Lasker and Capablanca's numbers. They had to play each other in the first round! The most anticipated game will happen in the very beginning. They'll probably draw it without much struggle. If it was played towards the end of the tournament, there would be a battle without a doubt, because one of them who was behind in the tournament would play for a win. But nothing can be done with that now. I'm going to play Tartakower in the first round. That's good. Better than playing against someone from my own country. I want to test my strength against a foreigner.

1st round (11/10/1925)

A large hall of the 2nd House of the Unions, with a glass ceiling. There's a fountain in the middle of the hall that refreshes the air. They say that the fountain might be useful in another way: the noise of falling water will damp the unruly and annoying crowd noise. And there's really a lot of people wanting to watch the tournament. In the morning, some three hours before the games began, I passed by the 2nd House of the Unions and saw a long line of people patiently waiting for the doors to finally open. Someone I knew told me, "You know, I'm 192nd in the line". But many people stood behind him, and the line grew and grew with each minute.
As we could expect, only a fraction of this crowd managed to actually get inside. The huge hall of 2nd House of the Unions couldn't accommodate everyone. And a crowd of thousand or so people remained at the entrance, listening to every bit of information and rumours available about the games. Later, when Capablanca and Lasker drew, and the crowd still stood at the entrance like a wall, the mounted militia men tried to disperse them, screaming, "Draw! Draw! Go away..." But those who actually made it to the hall were overjoyed. This crowd was excited and even rapturous. When Capablanca made his first move, which of course was nothing special, it was greeted with loud applause. Similar applause greeted Lasker's return move. The hall managers had to cut down this inappropriate conduct very quickly.
In the first round, I played against one of the most talented international grandmasters, Savielly Grigorievich Tartakower, who represented France at all tournaments. One of the founding members of the neo-romantic school, deep theoretician and, in the same time, a very sharp player, he always remains a strong adversary and contender for first place even at the strongest international tournaments. I saw Tartakower several times before the beginning. An interesting and witty man, he was always merry and lively, gathering whole crowds of amateur chess players who eagerly listened to every word of the foreign master. But at the board, he was different. Frowning and concentrated, he would sit down or walk around the tables, reluctantly and tersely answering any questions directed at him. The only time he showed his liveliness was in the beginning of the game. He ran around all the ten playing tables incredibly fast and wrote down all the opening variants used in his small notebook. He would do that in the beginning of all rounds. That was his way of enriching his theoretical knowledge.
He chose English opening against me and developed in the newest "hypermodern" way. I defended with old classical methods. But soon, after several exchanges, we came to an obviously drawish position. But neither me nor my partner were willing to be the first to offer draw. Finally we started to repeat moves. Some people that surrounded our table smiled. I looked at Tartakower. With the same serious and concentrated face he repeated the same moves over and over, to which I replied with identical moves as well. Judging by his looks, one could think that he was executing some brilliant and deep combination. Finally, I said, "Draw?" He nodded silently, and we stopped the clock. After that, I had an opportunity to watch other games. Our players held up mostly well. Verlinsky lost to the brilliant Marshall, and Rubinstein methodically and persistently squashed Zubarev who put up a valiant defence, but Dus-Chotimirsky has already drawn his game against the talented Reti, and Rabinovich held his own against the Viennese grandmaster Spielmann (this game also ended in a draw). I breathed in relief. The Soviet players didn't ashame themselves in the first round.

Results and standings:

Bogolyubov - Gruenfeld 1-0; Capablanca - Lasker 1/2-1/2; Dus-Chotimirsky - Reti 1/2-1/2; Gotthilf - Romanovsky 0-1; Levenfish - Bohatirchuk 1/2-1/2; Marshall - Verlinsky 1-0; Saemisch - Yates 0-1; Spielmann - Rabinovich 1/2-1/2; Tartakower - Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1/2-1/2; Zubarev - Rubinstein 0-1.

1-5. Bogolyubov, Marshall, Romanovsky, Rubinstein, Yates - 1. 6-15. Bohatirchuk, Capablanca, Dus-Chotimirsky, Ilyin-Zhenevsky, Lasker, Levenfish, Rabinovich, Reti, Spielmann, Tartakower - 0.5. 16-21. Gotthilf, Gruenfeld, Saemisch, Torre, Verlinsky, Zubarev - 0

2nd round (11/11/1925)

Today I'm playing Spielmann. Spielmann is a very curious chess player. He had great successes at some tournaments and catastrophic failures at others. In 1909, at the St. Petersburg tournament where Lasker, Rubinstein and many other strong players of the time took part, Spielmann was leading the competition and only faltered in the very end, letting Lasker and Rubinstein overtake him. But there were times when Spielmann finished among the outsiders - like in Carlsbad 1923. Anyway, I thought that my current partner was weaker than the last one, and if I managed to draw the game yesterday, perhaps Caissa would keep me from losing today too. But to my disappointment and horror, I fell victim to home preparation and lost a pawn. Losing a pawn without any compensation against a grandmaster almost meant losing the whole game. And it was very annoying to lose to some home-prepared variant, not in a real struggle. Annoyance and resentment gave me strength. I analyzed the position and saw a strange, risky continuation that nevertheless was the only way to complicate things a bit. The move that I ultimately made looked insane. I left my exposed King under attack of my partner's pieces, but managed to launch a counter-attack. It was all or nothing. Who'd be the first to checkmate? But it was the only right way. At least it was better than sitting tight and waiting for defeat without a pawn. Spielmann did launch an attack - isn't an exposed King a good object for it? But he soon noticed that my pieces were looming dangerously over his kingside and, changing tactics quickly, began defending. That was already an achievement on my part. I continued my attack and won two pawns, so now I was a pawn up. The game soon went to the endgame stage, and when the bell rang, telling us that the playing day was over, Spielmann's position was so bad that he could as well resign. But Spielmann calmly, as though his position was all right, wrote his move down and handed the envelope to the arbiter. I observed a curious phenomenon while playing against Tartakower, Spielmann and other foreign players. We all know an unwritten tournament rule: nobody can be lenient towards their partner. If the partner loses on time or doesn't arrive in time, he gets a zero in the table, no questions. But we, Russian chess players, thought that such wins weren't true victories. We even felt some disappointment when our partners lost on time in complicated and interesting positions. But the foreigners' attitude is completely different. When I experienced time troubles against a foreign player, they would watch the clock intently, and some of them would even openly lean to the clock to see whether I lost on time when I played the last control move. The same attitude was towards the adjourned games. Why wouldn't you just resign if the position is hopelessly lost? It's obvious that if your partner defeated you over the board, he'll surely find a clear and fast way to win during the home analysis. We don't usually adjourn hopeless games in Russia. But a foreigner always hopes for some lucky event. There's always time to resign. And what if his partner fails to show up on play-off day? He can earn a full point instead of zero this way. When Spielmann saw me in person and in a good shape on play-off day, he resigned without playing.

Results and standings:

Bohatirchuk - Tartakower 1/2-1/2; Gruenfeld - Gotthilf 1/2-1/2; Rabinovich - Zubarev 1-0; Reti - Marshall 0-1; Romanovsky - Capablanca 1/2-1/2; Rubinstein - Saemisch 1-0; Torre - Dus-Chotimirsky 1-0; Verlinsky - Levenfish 1-0; Yates - Bogolyubov 0-1; Ilyin-Zhenevsky - Spielmann 1-0.

1-2. Bogolyubov, Marshall - 2; 3. Rubinstein - 2; 4-5. Ilyin-Zhenevsky, Romanovsky - 1.5; 6. Rabinovich - 1.5; 7. Tartakower - 1; 8. Capablanca - 1; 9. Bohatirchuk - 1; 10-11. Torre, Verlinsky - 1; 12. Yates - 1; 13-14. Lasker, Levenfish - 0.5; 15-19. Dus-Chotimirsky, Gotthilf, Gruenfeld, Reti, Spielmann- 0.5; 20-21. Saemish, Zubarev - 0.

3rd round (11/12/1925)

Today my partner is a Soviet player, Nikolay Mikhailovich Zubarev from Moscow.
Zubarev was the last Russian player to get invitation to the tournament. At the 4th USSR Championship he failed to get a prize, and so a small tournament in Moscow was held for him and some other strong Russian chess players who played badly at the championship or didn't take part at all. The winner would get an invitation to the international tournament. Zubarev won that tournament brilliantly, defeating all other players - even such well-known players as [Benjamin] Blumenfeld, [Nikolai] Grigoriev, [Vladimir] Nenarokov and [Alexey] Selezniev. Zubarev is a very interesting and strong chess player. His chess talent is diverse. Having an inclination towards defensive playing, he doesn't shun aggressive variants, has good vision in complicated positions, and his attacks are very thought-out and energetic. His chess destiny is in a way similar to my own. His talent became apparent quite early, and his results were stable - nothing too bad, nothing too brilliant. I remember the debates on whether to invite him to the 3rd USSR Championship. Some people said that Zubarev's strengths and weakness are well-know, and we can't expect much from him. I protested vehemently. And the last year became successful for him as well as for me. At the USSR Championship he got a USSR national master title, having a good 8-game undefeated run at the end, and then he took the first prize at the aforementioned strong Moscow tournament.
The Moscow International tournament didn't bring him much success, but this can be explained, on the one hand, by the tournament's exceptionally strong lineup, and, perhaps more importantly, that he had to work during the tournament (Zubarev was an economist - Sp.) It's incredibly hard to play in a tournament and work at the same time. I experienced that firsthand during the latest USSR Championship. So in our game, Zubarev didn't play at his full strength. He allowed me to get the c-file and allowed my Queen to get to his 2nd rank, and then, already in a hopeless position and severe time trouble, just lost a Rook. Winning my game, I went to watch other boards. Capablanca drew his third game out of three. He's either out of form or, which is quite possible, others became stronger, so now he's rather the first among the equals rather than clean first. Our players still held up well. Levenfish drew against Reti, Gotthilf drew Yates, Rabinovich drew Saemisch, Bohatirchuk drew Spielmann, and only Romanovsky lost, but to whom... to Lasker. It was forgivable. The youngest player, almost a boy, Carlos Torre left a good impression with his fresh playing and rich ideas. Yesterday he won beautifully against Dus-Chotimirsky, and today he defeated the American champion Frank Marshall. Many already tout him for the first place. And, judging by his games, I think he can finish at a high place, if not necessarily first.

Results and standings

Bogolyubov - Rubinstein 1/2-1/2; Capablanca - Gruenfeld 1/2-1/2; Gotthilf-Yates 1/2-1/2; Lasker - Romanovsky 1-0; Levenfish - Reti 1/2-1/2; Marshall - Torre 0-1; Saemisch - Rabinovich 1/2-1/2; Spielmann - Bohatirchuk 1/2-1/2; Tartakower - Verlinsky 1-0; Zubarev - Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0-1

1. Bogolyubov - 2.5; 2. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 2.5; 3. Rubinstein - 2.5; 4. Tartakower - 2; 5. Torre - 2; 6. Marshall - 2; 7. Rabinovich - 2; 8. Lasker - 1.5; 9-10. Bohatirchuk, Capablanca - 1.5; 11. Romanovsky - 1.5; 12. Yates - 1.5; 13-16. Gotthilf, Gruenfeld, Levenfish, Spielmann - 1; 17. Verlinsky - 1; 18. Reti - 1; 19. Saemisch - 0.5; 20. Dus-Chotimirsky - 0.5; 21. Zubarev - 0

4th round (11/13/1925)

Friedrich Saemisch, the Berlin champion and my today's partner, is one of the most sympathetic foreign players of the tournament. A young, attractive, smiling man, he made a very good impression on us Russians. Besides, he's a former binder, and he seems to hold much more sympathy towards the Soviet state system than the others, so it was quite easy to converse with him. His chess achievements are very unstable. Just look at his results in this year, 1925. In Baden Baden, he came third after Alekhine and Rubinsten, and in a much weaker Marienbad tournament, just a couple of weeks later, he comes 13th. It's probably because of his youth. His greatest successes are still ahead of him. He's also very sensitive and nervous. It's enough to watch him dart around the tournament hall in his light, youthful step, adjusting his hair constantly, or sit at the board thinking over a difficult position, digging his fingers deep into his blonde hair and smoking one cigarette after another. Towards the end of the tournament the performance of Saemisch, who, like some other participants, didn't have a particularly strong health, faded noticeably. In the 16th round, playing Bogolyubov, he passed out from overstrain, and the game had to be stopped for an hour. But now, he was still fresh, and his sharp attacking style made me play very carefully to prevent any unfortunate incidents. I played Sicilian with white pieces, gained some space in the opening, but then I made an inaccurate move, and Saemisch instantly attacked me with all his pieces. I switched from attacking to defending and played very carefully, and so I managed to weaken his attack with several exchanges and finally draw the game. Capablanca finally won his first game against Yates. But he didn't show anything extraordinary in that game. He just exploited his partner's weak playing.

Results and standings

Bohatirchuk - Zubarev 1-0; Dus-Chotimirsky - Marshall 0-1; Gruenfeld - Lasker 1/2-1/2; Rabinovich - Bogolyubov 0-1; Reti - Tartakower 0-1; Rubinstein - Gotthilf 1-0; Torre - Levenfish 1-0; Verlinsky - Spielmann 1-0; Yates - Capablanca 0-1; Ilyin-Zhenevsky - Saemisch 1/2-1/2

1. Bogolyubov - 3.5; 2. Rubinstein - 3.5; 3. Tartakower - 3; 4. Torre - 3; 5. Marshall - 3; 6. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 3; 7. Capablanca - 2.5; 8. Bohatirchuk - 2.5; 9. Lasker - 2; 10. Verlinsky - 2; 11. Rabinovich - 2; 12. Gruenfeld - 1.5; 13. Romanovsky - 1.5; 14. Yates - 1.5; 15. Saemisch - 1; 16-17. Levenfish, Spielmann - 1; 18. Gotthilf - 1; 19. Reti - 1; 20. Dus-Chotimirsky - 0.5; 21. Zubarev - 0

5th round (11/14/1925)

Up till then, fate kept me from losing, but in the 5th round, I've finally succumbed to the inevitable. I lost to the USSR champion E.D. Bogolyubov. Bogolyubov only recently, in 1924, appeared on the Soviet horizon. He's of Russian ancestry and began his chess career in Russia, but was interned in Germany during the war and lived there for the past 10 years. His greatest chess achievements that propelled him to the top of the chess world also happened abroad. His first visit to Russia after ten years of absence greatly impressed everybody. He almost effortlessly won the USSR Championship, without losing a single game and with only four draws. Such a colossal success showed the Russian chess players that they still had a lot of weaknesses and inspired them to learn to play better. And just a year later, the increase of Russian chess players' strength was obvious. At least, Bogolyubov had to put much more effort into winning the 1925 USSR Championship, losing two games and drawing 6, including the one against me. So I had the right to hope for something better than a simple loss. But Bogolyubov got a good position in the opening. I've spent too much time on thinking how to equalize, and when the decisive moment came, I've had to play a tempo, in other words - without thinking much. No wonder that my position worsened quickly, and in the end, I even missed a mate in two. It's always bad to lose, but I had some small consolation - I've lost to the USSR champion and one of the tournament's favourites.
That day was also marked by the first serious victory of our Soviet master over a foreigner. Romanovsky beat Gruenfeld. He finished the game with a well-executed Knight sacrifice, after which one of his passed pawns was going to be Queened by force. Still, Gruenfeld didn't resign that day, preferring, as the other foreign masters, to adjourn the game and resign on the play-off day.

Results and standings

Bogolyubov - Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1-0; Capablanca - Rubinstein 1/2-1/2; Gotthilf - Rabinovich 0-1; Lasker - Yates 1-0; Levenfish - Dus-Chotimirsky 1-0; Romanovsky - Gruenfeld 1-0; Saemisch - Bohatirchuk 1/2-1/2; Spielmann - Reti 1-0; Tartakower - Torre 1/2-1/2; Zubarev - Verlinsky 1-0

1. Bogolyubov - 4.5; 2. Rubinstein - 4; 3. Tartakower - 3.5; 4. Torre - 3.5; 5. Capablanca - 3; 6. Lasker - 3; 7-8. Ilyin-Zhenevsky, Bohatirchuk - 3; 9. Rabinovich - 3; 10. Marshall - 3; 11. Romanovsky - 2.5; 12. Verlinsky - 2; 13. Spielmann - 2; 14. Levenfish - 2; 15. Saemisch - 1.5; 16. Gruenfeld - 1.5; 17. Yates - 1.5; 18. Zubarev - 1; 19. Gotthilf - 1; 20. Reti - 1; 21. Dus-Chotimirsky - 0.5

6th round (11/15/1925)

The triumphal day for Emanuel Lasker. He won a very difficult game against Rubinstein. The public, which watched this fight of giants intently and excitedly, lost control and awarded Lasker with a long round of applause. The defeated A.K. Rubinstein applauded as well. Of course, such noisy reactions, no matter what caused them, don't belong to a tournament where other players haven't stopped playing yet, and N.D. Grigoriev, chairman of the organizational committee, stepped on the tribune and explained that to the public. And a couple of days later, there was a new poster in the hall, "Applause is strictly forbidden". And Capablanca still cannot win. Today, he made his fifth draw. Though this draw made us happy, because he drew a Soviet master, I.L. Rabinovich.
On that day, I played against one of the youngest participants, the USSR master Solomon Borisovich Gotthilf. Gotthilf is both young and inexperienced. He came to prominence only in the last few years. His greatest success was in the 1921 tournament that included Leningrad's  strongest chess players and grandmaster E.D. Bogolyubov. Gotthilf almost got the first prize, and only a loss in the last round allowed Bogolyubov and Romanovsky overtake him. Still, he finished higher than Rabinovich, me and other Leningrad players. In the latest USSR Championship he proved his class by sharing 6-8th places with me and Romanovsky and earning the right to take part in the tournament. Gotthilf is indeed a very gifted player. Future holds much for him if he will study chess seriously. But now his playing style is in some crisis that he needs to seriously think over. Getting used to high places, he become much more calculating and started to prefer a guaranteed draw to taking risks and play to win. It's a dangerous inclination, especially for a young player. Knowing this peculiarity of Gotthilf's play and not wanting to get stuck in drawing variations, I've immediately started to attack him, sacrificing a pawn on the move 6. My attack was very consistent, soon he lost the right to castle and his position became difficult. But in the decisive moment I couldn't find the right continuation and, despite winning back the pawn, allowed a Queen exchange, and the game came to a dead draw. We made some more moves, then agreed to draw. Two next days will become a serious ordeal for me: I'm playing against Capablanca and Lasker. If I lose both these games, I'll lose my good standings in the tournament as well.

Results and standings

Bohatirchuk - Bogolyubov 1/2-1/2; Dus-Chotimirsky - Tartakower 1/2-1/2; Marshall - Levenfish 1-0; Rabinovich - Capablanca 1/2-1/2; Reti - Zubarev 1/2-1/2; Rubinstein - Lasker 0-1; Torre - Spielmann 1/2-1/2; Verlinsky - Saemisch 1-0; Yates - Romanovsky 0-1; Ilyin-Zhenevsky - Gotthilf 1/2-1/2

1. Bogolyubov - 5; 2. Lasker - 4; 3. Tartakower - 4; 4. Torre - 4; 5. Rubinstein - 4; 6. Marshall - 4; 7. Capablanca - 3.5; 8. Bohatirchuk - 3.5; 9. Rabinovich - 3.5; 10. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 3.5; 11. Romanovsky - 3.5; 12. Verlinsky - 3; 13. Spielmann - 2.5; 14. Levenfish - 2; 15. Saemisch - 1.5; 16. Gruenfeld - 1.5; 17. Zubarev - 1.5; 18-19. Yates, Reti - 1.5; 20. Gotthilf - 1.5; 21. Dus-Chotimisky - 1.

7th round (11/18/1925)

It's one thing to play a "mere mortal" player, even as good as E.D. Bogolyugov, and a whole other thing to play the world champion J.R. Capablanca. You become a hero of that day. First of all, you're seated on a luxurious silky gilded stool in a special area reserved for Capablanca, you become the center of attention for the public that is especially dense around this table, and your game is demonstrated on large diagrams in all the rooms and halls. But I'm a very experienced chess fighter, so all this excitement doesn't affect my playing. I see before myself only the chess board, piece positions and problems I need to solve. Sometimes Capablanca thinks on his moves seriously. Then I lift my head and start looking at him. He's really a good looking man. I see deep thinking on his open and very handsome face. He's fighting, but in the same time he's thinking, calmly and sublimely. I'm trying to imagine the angry face of the boxing world champion Dempsey when he's defending his title in a vicious fight. It's completely different here. The entire figure of Capablanca radiates warmth and comfort. Yes, chess is very different from boxing. Sometimes I get to thinking too. Then Capablanca slowly stands up from his chair and goes for a walk between the other tables, as though he's resting. But there's some kind of inner fire in his eyes, he's looking absently at the public but still deeply immersed in thought. He's thinking about the game. And there's a real tempest on the board. Capablanca furiosly attacks my kingside while I prepare threats at the queenside. Finally, the position becomes incredibly sharp. It's clear that the game should be decided in the next few moves. He either checkmates me or gets into serious trouble. I'm waiting for his decisive combination, and he begins it. This combination didn't surprise me. I've been thinking about it through and through. I saw the serious mating threats, but, on the other hand, I saw that by sacrificing my Queen, I would save myself from the checkmate and get a very promising position with strong passed pawns. But Capablanca still played it. And he thought so much before that move. Was I mistaken? I'm thinking about each move and still can't see what's Capablanca counting on. So, there's the climax of the combination. I'm sacrificing my Queen, Capablanca quickly captures it, as though it was planned, but then he begins to think seriously, as though he's surprised. It seems that he didn't expect this position. It gives me strength. I invade his second rank with my Rooks, and even though I have to give one of my passed pawns away, the second one heads straight for promotion. Now, Capablanca goes away after each move, as though he's not interested in the game anymore. Finally, my pawn reaches the 3rd rank. Capablanca, who disappeared again, suddenly reappears and, overturning his king, shakes my hand in resignation. There are murmurs in the crowd that watched the game intently. Everyone knew that Capablanca's position was bad, but they hoped for some miraculous salvation that he would devise. After all, he's the greatest chess player and probably sees things everyone else doesn't. But these hopes didn't come true. Capablanca resigned. David defeated Goliath.
I barely manage to get through the excited crowd. Someone shakes my hands, I'm getting grabbed from all sides, but the hall managers surround me and help me get to the press bureau where I should write my new report.
Late at night, when I left the tournament hall, a huge crowd still waited for me and greeted me with applause and cheers.

Results and standings

Bogolyubov - Verlinsky 1-0; Capablanca - Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0-1; Gotthilf - Bohatirchuk 1/2-1/2; Gruenfeld - Yates 1-0; Lasker - Rabinovich 1/2-1/2; Romanovsky - Rubinstein 0-1; Saemisch - Reti 1/2-1/2; Spielmann - Dus-Chotimirsky 0-1; Tartakower - Marshall 1/2-1/2; Zubarev - Torre 0-1

1. Bogolyubov - 6; 2-3. Rubinstein, Torre - 5; 4-5. Lasker, Tartakower - 4.5; 6. Marshall - 4.5; 7. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 4.5; 8. Bohatirchuk - 4; 9. Rabinovich - 4; 10. Capablanca - 3.5; 11. Romanovsky- 3.5; 12. Verlinsky - 3; 13. Spielmann - 2.5; 14. Gruenfeld - 2.5; 15. Saemisch - 2; 16. Dus-Chotimirsky - 2; 17. Levenfish - 2; 18. Gotthilf - 2.5; 19. Reti - 2; 20. Yates - 1.5; 21. Zubarev - 1.5

8th round (11/19/1925)

Today I'm playing against Dr. Lasker. A big crowd came to watch our game. The public is very greedy for sensations. And many people thought that if I defeated Capablanca yesterday, I could defeat Lasker today as well. But I didn't expect so much from myself, though I've had no intentions to lose, that's for sure. I'd be quite satisfied with a draw. And so, the bell rings, and I sit opposite Lasker. I play White. Lasker chooses the Sicilian defence. I know this variant well, and I know all the disadvantages for White if they deploy their pieces in classical way. In the yesterday's game Capablanca fianchettoed one of his Bishops. It seemed a good idea to me. And now, against Lasker, I decided to play even more originally and fianchetto both my Bishops. My position seemed good. My pieces occupy strong squares, I feel no difficulties. I even threaten to win a pawn. To save the pawn, Lasker has to lose a tempo and move his King. "Now is the perfect time to exchange Queens", I thought. But what's that? Instead of exchanging Queens, Lasker captures my pawn. I can't understand that at all. By capturing that pawn, Lasker doomed his Queen. He does exchange it for a Rook, Bishop and pawn, but surely it's not a good compensation for a Queen? Am I missing anything? I'm staring at the board, my clock is ticking, but I still can't see any combination. There's much excitement in the hall. After each move, it becomes more and more noisy. It seems that the public also worries about the game, in their own way. No. There's no combination planned by Lasker. I can just win the Queen. I make two or three moves, and Lasker's Queen goes off the board. It's incredibly noisy at that point. The crowd just can't hold their excitement. There are so many people around the demonstration boards that the hall managers have to intervene. Only Lasker is majestically quiet; he smokes his cigar and thinks about his next move. His face is completely motionless, as though made of stone. Only the eyes indicate his wisdom and strong will. I stand up to warm up my numb limbs. Our masters stop by me, and ask increduously, "What does that mean? Did Lasker just miss it?" I just shrug. Some people, including Bogolyubov, even start congratulating me already. Returning to the board, I see that Lasker made a quiet move. It's obvious that he has no forced combination, and the game will continue with this material balance. I begin to think what plan should I execute to win quickly. Moving the kingside pawn seems good enough, but this exposes my King, and I don't want to risk. Perhaps I'll weaken his position with my pieces alone. And I choose this latter plan. But I have too little time. A difficult opening and Lasker's sacrifice cost me a lot of time, and now I just don't have enough. We make a few moves. Lasker plays quietly, thoroughly thinking about each move, and I play quickly, fearing to lose on time. And then I suddenly lose an exchange. It's hard to express how upset and dejected I was. I had such a good game and lost it so stupidly! After losing the exchange, my game, of course, became completely hopeless, and Lasker indeed soon forced me to resign with his determined and brilliant play. Many spectators tried to console me. Everyone thought that after I won the Queen, I should have won the game. But the fate turned against me this time. Bogolyubov was especially upset by my defeat - Lasker was his closest rival in the struggle for the first place. Besides, he also suffered his first defeat today - he lost to the talented Reti. Many people asked whether Lasker just missed the loss of his Queen or made that move intentionally. Lasker, of course, denied any possibility of blunder. He said that he considered a Rook, a Bishop and a pawn an equal compensation for the Queen and intentionally made that move, considering that his position was impregnable and he could always draw. I can't agree with that point of view and would be very glad if someone else pulled a similar trick against me. Rook, Bishop and pawn can't compensate for a Queen in a quiet position, though it's hard to win against them indeed.

Results and standings

Bohatirchuk - Capablanca 0-1; Dus-Chotimirsky - Zubarev 1-0; Levenfish - Tartakower 1/2-1/2; Marshall - Spielmann 1-0; Rabinovich - Romanovsky 0-1; Reti - Bogolyubov 1-0; Rubinstein - Gruenfeld 1-0; Torre - Saemisch 1-0; Verlinsky - Gotthilf 1/2-1/2; Ilyin-Zhenevsky - Lasker 0-1

1. Bogolyubov - 6; 2. Torre - 6; 3. Rubinstein - 6; 4. Lasker - 5.5; 5. Marshall - 5.5; 6. Tartakower - 5; 7. Capablanca - 4.5; 8. Romanovsky - 4.5; 9. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 4.5; 10. Rabinovich - 4; 11. Bohatirchuk - 4; 12. Verlinsky - 3.5; 13. Reti - 3; 14. Dus-Chotimirsky - 3; 15. Spielmann - 2.5; 16. Levenfish - 2.5; 17. Gruenfeld - 2.5; 18. Gotthilf - 2.5; 19. Saemisch - 2; 20. Zubarev - 1.5; 21. Yates - 1.5

9th round (11/21/1925)

Today, I'm playing against one of the most brilliant Soviet players, Petr Arsenievich Romanovsky. As early as in 1909, being a gymnasium student, P.A. Romanovsky turned attention to himself when he became the only one to defeat A.A. Alekhine who won the tournament. Since then, Romanovsky began a very rich and interesting chess career. In 1920, at the first USSR Championship, he received the master's title after finishing second, ahead of all Russian masters and behind the only grandmaster in the field, A.A. Alekhine. In 1923, at the 2nd USSR Championship, Romanovsky took the first prize and thus became the champion. Only after E.D. Bogolyubov's return to Russia Romanovsky ceded (though not without a fight) the champion's title to him. These are P.A. Romanovsky's brilliant achievements. But Romanovsky's chess career is interesting not only because of his achievements (Romanovsky had some serious failures as well), but also because of lots of rich and multifaceted ideas discovered by him on his chess journey. I can't remember any other Soviet chess player who won as many consistently brilliant games as Romanovsky. It's interesting that Romanovsky plays best when he feels unwell. In the previous round, Romanovsky felt so ill that he doubted whether to go to play at all. He was to play against I.L. Rabinovich. He finally decided to go playing and said he was going to play very quickly and without much thinking, because it would be impossible to him to sit out all the 7 hours. And the game indeed ended very quickly... with a brilliant win from Romanovsky. He spectacularly sacrificed a piece and then forced a checkmate with quiet moves. Having such an example before my eyes, I've been preparing for a very interesting game and intense struggle, as always in my games against Romanovsky. But Romanovsky, beginning the game very strongly and making me defend, missed a Queen move that threatened to mate and attacked a piece in the same time. It wasn't possible to save the piece, and Romanovsky resigned after a few more moves. So this potentially curious and interesting game ended rather quickly and lacklustrely. Finishing the game, I went to walk among the other boards. Torre, still undefeated, was slowly losing to Bogolyubov. But the most sensational was Capablanca's game. Capablanca performed an insane feat yesterday: he went to Leningrad to give a simultaneous display. During a serious tournament. Of course, he was very tired and played quite badly. In the opening he got his Queen stuck so badly that he barely managed to save it. But it got worse. His opponent, our Soviet player Verlinsky, got an attack and persisted until he got a material advantage: two minor pieces and pawn for a Rook. Capablanca didn't finish the game today and adjourned it, but in the play-off day he resigned after just a few moves. That's how he was punished for taking the tournament not seriously enough. After losing a second game, Capablanca lost all chances to win the tournament.

Results and standings

Bogolyubov - Torre 1-0; Capablanca - Verlinsky 0-1; Gotthilf - Reti 0-1; Gruenfeld - Rabinovich 1-0; Lasker - Bohatirchuk 1-0; Romanovsky - Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0-1; Saemisch - Dus-Chotimirsky 1-0; Spielmann - Levenfish 1-0; Yates - Rubinstein 1-0; Zubarev - Marshall 0-1

1. Bogolyubov - 7; 2. Lasker - 6.5; 3. Marshall - 6.5; 4. Torre - 6; 5. Rubinstein - 6; 6. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 5.5; 7. Tartakower - 5; 8. Capablanca - 4.5; 9-10. Verlinsky, Romanovsky - 4.5; 11. Reti - 4; 12. Bohatirchuk - 4; 13. Rabinovich - 4; 14. Spielmann - 3.5; 15. Gruenfeld - 3.5; 16. Saemisch - 3; 17. Dus-Chotimirsky - 3; 18. Yates - 2.5; 19. Levenfish - 2.5; 20. Gotthilf - 2.5; 21. Zubarev - 1.5

10th round (11/22/1925)

Today I'm playing against the German champion Ernest Gruenfeld. Gruenfeld is a dangerous adversary in any tournament. He can hold his own both in quiet and sharp positions. But he's especially dangerous in the opening. His opening knowledge is extensive. He didn't get his nickname "The greatest theoretician of all times" for nothing. In our tournament, he managed to defeat some players by "catching" them with home-prepared variations that they didn't know a thing about. Sitting down with him, I thought, "I mustn't let him catch me in the opening". Some Gruenfeld's habits during the games are curious. For instance, he drinks a lot of water while playing. In course of one evening, he would drink two large jugs of water specially placed for him at the table. It seems that drinking water calmed him. At least I saw that the harder his position is and the more worried he is, the more water he drinks.
Gruenfeld played Alekhine's defence against me. I think, "he probably has something prepared here as well", and, fearing to fall for some trap, I'm thinking 10 minutes on each move. Time passes. I manage to get out of the opening with a great position. All my pieces are positioned greatly. But I'm looking at the clock and see with dread that I have too little time to think. To clear the way for my attacking pieces, I'm sacrificing a pawn. Now my pieces loom very dangerously over his kingside. I feel that there should be some decisive, winning combination. I want to sacrifice a Bishop or a Rook to expose his kingside completely. But each sacrifice should be thought through, and I don't have time for that. If only I had an extra 15 minutes, I would surely decide between those two sacrifices. But now, I can't make each of them. And, looking at the clock again, I'm making a quiet move, hoping to find the way to victory without sacrifices. But alas, I can see by Gruenfeld's reply that my move was wrong. He defends his weak points and threatens to exchange one of my important Bishops. I got nervous and made another decisive mistake that allowed Gruenfeld to win with a subtle manoeuver. I stood up from my seat, stunned. "How should I have played?" I thought. Was there an error in my evaluation, and I had no win? No. My plan was right. The home analysis showed that the Rook sacrifice that I saw but ultimately decided against it due to time pressure gave me a forced win. Instead of one point, I got zero. A cruel twist of fate.

Results and standings

Bohatirchuk - Romanovsky 1/2-1/2; Dus-Chotimirsky - Bogolyubov 0-1; Levenfish - Zubarev 1/2-1/2; Marshall - Saemisch 0-1; Rabinovich - Yates 1-0; Reti - Capablanca 1/2-1/2; Tartakower - Spielmann 1-0; Torre - Gotthilf 1-0; Verlinsky - Lasker 0-1; Ilyin-Zhenevsky - Gruenfeld 0-1

1. Bogolyubov - 8; 2. Lasker - 7.5; 3. Torre - 7; 4. Marshall - 6.5; 5. Tartakower - 6; 6. Rubinstein - 6; 7. Ilyin-Zhenevsky - 5.5; 8. Capablanca - 5; 9. Romanovsky - 5; 10. Rabinovich - 5; 11. Gruenfeld - 4.5; 12. Reti - 4.5; 13. Bohatirchuk - 4.5; 14. Verlinsky - 4.5; 15. Saemisch - 4; 16. Spielmann - 3.5; 17. Levenfish - 3; 18. Dus-Chotimirsky - 3; 19. Yates - 2.5; 20. Gotthilf - 2.5; 21. Zubarev - 2


  • hace 6 meses


    Great piece of work. thank you.

  • hace 21 meses


    The tournament on wikipedia:


    the top elite of the 20 th together - incredibly strong field

  • hace 21 meses


    Great article I'm looking forward to Part 2

  • hace 21 meses


    This is just GREAT! Thnx for this article!

  • hace 21 meses


    Whew... This took me a long time to read and play through all the games.  What a great insight into the mind of one of the founders of Soviet Chess!  While his description of the various players is gratifying, I most enjoyed that of Capablanca as well as his story of his victory over the Chess Machine.   Thanks once again!

  • hace 21 meses


    Brilliant article! Can't wait for next sequel...

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