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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chess Champion's Winnings Confiscated

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 18, 1923...
Austrians Impound Prize Won by Rubinstein at Chess 
Akiba Rubinstein, who, as in 1912, is again getting the habit of monopolizing the best there is to be had in the way of cash emoluments at the tournaments in which he takes part, had a curious, not to say shocking experience after the conclusion of the recent international congress at Vienna. As his share of the booty distributed among the masters in the form of prizes, he had the snug sum of 8,000,000 crowns in Austrian currency – considerable luggage all will admit. 

NOTE: Vienna was a hard-fought event with only 32 draws in 103 games and this is not just due to the top players beating up the amateurs; there weren't many of them to beat up on! The tournament was a great success for Rubinstein, who scored 11.5 – 2.5 and finished a point and a half ahead of Tartakower, two points ahead of Heinrich Wolf and two and a half points ahead of Tarrasch, Maroczy and Alekhine who was probably the pre-tournament favorite. 

     Continuing from the article...Departing from that once gay city and arriving at the border, the great master, who established his chess reputation as a Russian, but now represents Poland, ran afoul of the frontier officials, who, it appears, took a livelier interest in his cash holding than in the rest of his belongings. At any rate, the net result of the painful interview was that the 8,000,000 crowns were impounded which, of course, meant that Rubinstein and his Austrian money parted company and he continued his journey alone, or with whatever foreign change he may have had in his pocket. The reason advanced for this strange procedure was that releasing these home made funds and permitting them to run amuck in strange hands would assuredly result in the further depreciation of Austrian exchange! At this writing and basing calculations on present New York quotations, the value of the amount involved, in American dollars is exactly $120. (NOTE: about $1,700 in today's currency) 

Evidently, Rubinstein must have procured a through ticket, for he finally reached Hastings safely in time for the opening of the chess festival there. He holds an official receipt for the money that he left behind, but the authorities clearly are not good correspondents for his letters of protest, so far, are without reply. At Hastings 1922, Rubinstein barely managed to finish first with an advantage of only half a point over Reti and Siegheim. This was due to the fact that he lost a game to J.A.J. Drewitt, former Oxford player in the sixth round. In addition, he drew three games. 

1) Rubinstein 6.5 – 2.5 
2-3) Reti and Siegheim 6-3 
4-5) Conde and Norman 5-4 
6) Yates 
7-8) Blake and E. Sergeant 3.5 – 5.5 
9) Drewitt 3-6 
10) P. Sergeant 2-7

     The third Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held at the end of the year 1922. As with the previous installments of the event, more participants were invited to join the Premier tournament, with the roster increasing to ten in this edition. Among the notable participants this time around were Akiba Rubinstein and Richard Réti. The non-British participants dominated over their English opponents, with Rubinstein finishing clear first at the final with 6.5. As with other early editions of Hastings, the complete tournament game scores are not known. 
     Here is the first round game between Rubinstein and relatively unknown Siegheim who so well defended himself that after Rubinstein's attack failed he managed to draw by perpetual check. It was openings like this that lead to Capablanca declaring that chess was played out in his day.

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