Friday, December 25, 2009

Levenfish on Moscow 1925

Today we offer another extract from Grigory Levenfish's 1967 book Selected Games and Reminiscences.

...The Moscow International Tournament was set to begin on November 9th. The organizing committee did not repeat the mistakes made in connection with the St Petersburg tournament of 1914. The preparatory work had already begun in April, and the entry consisted of 10 Soviet and 11 foreign masters. The committee managed to secure the participation of the world champion Capablanca, the ex-champion Lasker, as well as Rubinstein, Reti, Marshall, Tartakower, and Spielmann, so the entry was truly a strong one.

The Fountain Hall of the Hotel Metropol was chosen as the playing site. This hall is not directly connected to the outside atmosphere. The ventilation system had been designed for approximately 200 restaurant patrons, but during the tournament the number of spectators approached 1,000. The fountain only made the situation worse, and the “climate” can only be described as damp and tropical. Capablanca, who was used to the heat of Havana, told me he would not object if the participants were allowed to wear bathing costumes during play. The order was given to make the ventilation system more powerful, but that was going to take more than a week, and meanwhile the players had to tolerate the heat and the noise. Rubinstein and Spielmann in particular had trouble adapting to the conditions. On the other hand Bogoljubow felt fine, being the picture of health to start with. In the second half of the tournament I managed to acclimatise myself to some extent, but it was already too late. I finished the tournament in 15th place, winning two prizes: one for the best result over the last five rounds, and the other for the best score against the foreign players.

I was amazed by Lasker's adaptability. At the age of 57 he played the whole tournament with great energy and ended up in second place.

All in all the tournament went extremely well. Every day a huge crowd of people would surround the booking office in search of tickets, and the mounted police had to be called in to maintain order.

In the end Bogoljubow achieved the very best result of his chess career. For some time he considered it necessary to go along with Soviet chess organisers, even though he had been living in Triberg continuously since 1914. But when the All-Union Chess Section suggested that Bogoljubow refrain from competing in certain events abroad, he refused to comply and was excluded from the ranks of Soviet chessplayers.

Earlier I referred to the extraordinary interest in the tournament shown by the public. In spite of the high admission price it was not easy to find tickets. However, among the spectators one could spot a number of flashily-dressed women – apparently the wives of new capitalists – who did not understand anything about chess, but who thought it important to make an appearance at such a popular and well-attended gathering. The hot-blooded Capablanca was especially popular with these women, and after the tournament he was able to relate more than one adventure reminiscent of The Decameron...

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.