Russia suffered numerous defeats at the hands of Japan and remained engaged in the war due in part to the will of the tsar, Nicholas II. After faring poorly early in the war, Nicholas II, convinced that Russia would ultimately obtain victory, chose to remain engaged in the war; at first, to await the outcomes of certain naval battles, and later on, upon realizing imminent defeat, to preserve the dignity of Russia. The war concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by U.S President Theodore Roosevelt.
This game was played by two Russian soldiers in Manchuria on the eve of the Battle of Sha-ho. Captain P.N. Perwago, the winner, was a strong amateur who took a prize in the international Rice Gambit Tournament of the "Monde Illustre."
Before the outbreak of the war he was in garrison at Piatigorsk in the Caucasus. In the fall of 1904 he had volunteered for service in Manchuria where he commanded a battalion of infantry in the Army Corps.
Captain Perwago was killed in the assault on Putiloff Hill (see page 393 of link HERE for more on this battle) and his comrade-in-arm, Lieutentant Denn was seriously wounded. The loser sent the game to Simon Alapin with the attached note: "The furious attack of the Captain during the battle was equal to the present brilliant encounter."
A word about Black's 3...Bb4: It had me snickering until I saw who has played it, besides Alapin, in the past: Herman Steiner, Mark Taimanov, Velimirovic (see my post dated February 16th), Johnny Hector (many times), Paul Motwani, Miguel Illescas Cordoba, and the strong Cuban-American master Blas Lugo. My database also had one game with this move played last year by some guy named Magnus Carlsen. An interesting move; I can't wait to try it out!