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Monday, August 3, 2015

A True Story?!

    What do you do if you don't want to look at your opponent's ugly face during a game? Using this alleged Nimzovich tactic may be the answer.
     The St. Petersburg Chess Club organized the All-Russian Masters Tournament in 1914. On January 3rd the players were welcomed by the tournament committee and lots were drawn for the pairings. 
     There was still an open slot in the list of participants. The name of the absent player was not revealed by the committee because they still weren't sure if he was going to play. When the lots were drawn Nimzovich had to play the unknown player in the first round and so he was forced to delay his game for a few days. In the end, the unknown player failed to reply, so before the second round started the committee admitted a player named Smorodsky who had finished second in a qualifying tournament.  They also revealed that the unknown player was Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky. It wasn't said exactly why he refused his invitation, but some thought it may have been due to his wanting an appearance fee or possibly some other consideration. 
     The result was that Nimzovich ended up having to finish two games in one day...an adjourned game against Levitsky from the second round plus his first round game against the replacement, Smorodsky. It was a disaster when Nimzovich lost in 24 moves and, as it turned out, it was an important loss. In addition to that loss, Nimzovich lost his individual game to Alekhine, and had he even drawn with Smorodsky, he would have edged Alekhine  for first place by half a point.  For his part, Alekhine lost three games: Levitsky, Bogoljubow and one of the tailenders, Gregory.
     Nimzovich and Alekhine emerged tied for first when in the last round Flamberg, who was leading by a half point, lost to Znosko-Borovsky; the loss dropped him to third place behind Nimzovich and Alekhine.  According to the rules then, those two had to play a four game match to determine first place. First place was very important because the winner would be seeded into the historic St. Petersburg tournament which was scheduled to be played in April, 1914.
     Alekhine won the first game and Nimzovich the second and that's when Nimzovich proposed they declare the match drawn and share first place; the committee agreed, giving both players the right to play in the upcoming tournament. 
     An interesting, and some believe an apocryphal, story about the second game was printed by Dus-Chotimirsky. In describing the second game he wrote, “The second game was conducted by Nimzovich in a very unusual way. In order to play against Alekhine, he stipulated that he should be allowed to play using only his pocket chess set, and he justified this claim by his reluctance to look at the unsympathetic face that Alekhine apparently offered to him. The requirement was met. Alekhine sat at the board against an invisibe opponent, while Nimzovich went around the room among the audience with his pocket set in his hands, offering smart remarks and announcing his moves through his second. Nimzovich's psychological attack achieved its goal: Nimzovich won the second game and equalized the match score.” 
     True or not? It's hard to believe such conduct would be tolerated by the tournament committee, much less Alekhine and, besides, the game was adjourned twice which makes his account even harder to believe. On the other hand, Dus-Chotimirsky DID publish the story and it's also possible he was an eyewitness.


  1. Hard to believe.

  2. Have you seen Lucas Chess? It might be a candidate for your Instruction heading.

  3. Thanks for the lead! I am not familiar with it but will investigate. I did see that it got excellent reviews on chessdotcom a few years ago.