20 February 2007

A Fictional Account of St. Petersburg 1914

In A Master Knows When to Break 'The Rules', I wrote, 'Trailing the Cuban by one point with three games to be played, [Lasker] needed to win.' This turns out to be inaccurate. How did I make this mistake?

There were five players in the double round robin final, meaning that five rounds would be played in each half, each player getting a bye once. When the leaders met in the second round of the second half, Capablanca had had his bye in the first round. In his introduction to the Lasker - Marshall game, which I'll look at next time, Soltis wrote:

What is often forgotten about St. Petersburg is that Capablanca was still in excellent position to win first prize after [the game with Lasker]. With three games to go, he had 11 points. Lasker had 12 but only two games remaining. In the next round Capablanca made one of the worst blunders of his life against tailender Tarrasch and [lost]. Lasker could only draw against Tarrasch in the next round while Capa won, so on the final day he led the Cuban by half a point. The World Champion had White against Marshall while Capablanca was White against Alekhine.

Since both Lasker and Capablanca won the last round, the running score for the tournament was as follows...

C: 8.0 : 3.0 : - 0 0 1 1 : 13.0
L:  6.5 : 3.5 : 1 1 - = 1 : 13.5

...where the first two numbers are the players' scores in the preliminary and first half of the final. Hannak's account does not agree with Soltis's. Assuming Soltis is right, I've indicated the discrepancies by '[]' in quoting Hannak:

By beating his rival, the World Champion had merely caught up with him. They now had 12 points each [this never occurred], and since there were two more rounds [three] to be played the result was still in doubt and the most probable outcome was a tie for first and second place. But such was the emotional shock Capablanca had suffered that next day the unexpected happened. He lost to Tarrasch, and since Lasker won his game against Marshall [Lasker had the bye] he was now leading by a full point, with one more round to go. Capablanca was so shaken that he very nearly lost to Marshall, but he finally managed to save and even to win the game. As for Lasker he took no chances this time and drew his game with Tarrasch [Lasker's next-to-last and last games are switched], the half point being just sufficient to ensure his first prize in the tournament.

Pachman said nothing about the last two rounds. Kasparov wrote, 'In order to take clear first place, [Lasker] still had to win to order in his final game.' This confirms the Soltis account.

It appears that Hannak's account, which I followed for the first post, was wrong in a number of places. Was this translator error or sloppiness on Hannak's part?


Wahrheit said...

I recall a 'Chess Note' where E. Winter exoriated Hannak's book for the large number of errors it contains. According to him, not a good idea to trust the biographical or chess details...

I have read the book, and enjoyed it, however. Too bad it's not very reliable.

Mark Weeks said...

Thanks for pointing that out. Winter's 'Chess Explorations' lists six errors on a single page of Hannak's English work. One of them was by the translator, Heinrich Fraenkel, better known as Assiac.

In C.N. 4705, Winter quoted Hannak, 'He died next day, on 13 January 1941’, and then noted that Lasker died on 11 January 1941. This also appears to be translator error. The German edition gives the correct date. - Mark

ALD said...

I second the idea that Hannak's writing has a large number of errors.