Tidbits on Cambridge Springs 1904

After having exchanged email with an old Montreal friend of mine a while back, Neil Sullivan (we can be carbon- dated back to Arthur Langlois’ Alekhine Chess Club in the early 70’s), I found myself taking a look at the number of books in my chess library. I stumbled across the thin tournament booklet of Cambridge Springs 1904, squeezed in between two massive volumes . I have a rare copy , 1935, first printing, that was given to me by a dear friend from Zimbabwe many years ago.
The book was written by none other than Fred Renfeld. I would not have thought of writing of this tournament on my blog but for the precious introduction written by Fred himself:
”It may seem incongruous, in view of the endless procession of tournaments and matches, to bring out the book of a tournament which ended 31 years ago to the day. Nine of the participants of the Cambridge Springs Tournament , some of them among the greatest masters the game has had,are no longer with us. To honor the dead and at a same time to pay tribute to Frank.J.Marshall’s glorious triumph in one of the most notable tournaments in chess history, seemed to me two tasks which demanded completion….I have been somewhat handicapped in the production of this book by the shameless apathy of those from whom I had every reason to expect some interest in such a volume….” May 19, 1935

I could not resist to write a bit of this famous tournament, if only to honour the memory of the person who gave me the book!

Cambridge Springs International Chess Tournament
The very first great international chess tournament to be held in America took place at the health resort Cambridge Springs, from April 25th to May 19th 1904. The participants included the World Champion, Emanuel Lasker, who had not played in a chess tournament for 4 years. The 16 participants included many of the best in the world, 8 from Europe and 8 from the U.S
Tarrasch declined an invitation to participate because of Lasker’s presence. Maroczy was unable to accept for professional reasons. These were about the only two leading players in the world missing from the tournament.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 Marshall * ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 13.0
2 Lasker ½ * 1 ½ ½ 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 11.0
3 Janowsky 0 0 * ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 11.0
4 Marco ½ ½ ½ * ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 9.0
5 Showalter 0 ½ ½ ½ * ½ 1 1 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 8.5
6 Schlechter 0 1 0 ½ ½ * 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 7.5
7 Chigorin ½ 0 0 0 0 1 * ½ 1 0 1 1 ½ 1 0 1 7.5
8 Pillsbury 0 1 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ * 0 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 7.0
9 Mieses 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 * 1 1 1 0 ½ 1 0 7.0
10 Fox 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 * 1 0 1 1 0 0 6.5
11 Teichmann 0 0 0 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 * 1 ½ 0 1 1 6.5
12 Napier ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 0 * 0 1 1 ½ 5.5
13 Lawrence 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 ½ 1 * ½ 0 ½ 5.5
14 Barry 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 0 ½ * 0 1 5.0
15 Hodges 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 0 1 1 * 0 5.0
16 Delmar 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 0 ½ ½ 0 1 * 4.5
The surprise winner of the tournament was the US Champion, Frank Marshall. He was 26 years old at the time
The tournament was held at the luxury Rider Hotel, a huge complex that included 500 rooms, and a bowling alley!

All of the European participants (including Marshall, who had just won a tournament in Monte Carlo) crossed the Atlantic in the Pretoria, travelling first class. They arrived on April 16 in New York and travelled to Cambridge Springs on April 21. The sponsors were W.D. Rider, I.L. Rice, Erie Railroad Company and subscribers to the Daily Bulletin. Baron Rothschild was also involved.

There was tremendous wealth being created in America at around the turn of the 20th century, with a few individuals having as much as 10 times the wealth of modern day Bill Gates. It is good to see that some of them had interest in chess tournaments!

Cambridge Springs was a health resort in Pennsylvania, famous for its spas and mineral waters. It advertised that it was the town that was halfway between New York and Chicago when you took the Erie Railroad line. It is in northwestern Pennsylvania about 30 miles south of Erie, Pennsylvania.

The town was founded in the early 1800s by German and Irish families. It was first called Cambridge Township, then Cambridgeboro. In 1897 it was changed to Cambridge Springs to acknowledge the importance of the mineral springs in the area. The mineral waters was supposed to cure almost anything.

In 1903 William Douglass Rider, Jr. wanted an international chess tournament at his resort hotel (constructed in 1895-97). Most of the support and funding was provided by Rider and the directors of the Eire Railroad Company. Additional support was received from chess clubs around the country in the form of subscriptions to the daily chess bulletins. Another financial backer was Professor Isaac Leopold Rice (1850-1915), a millionaire who made his fortune as a corporate lawyer. He was a chess patron who gave his name to the Rice Gambit in the King’s Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Bc4 d5 7.exd5 Bd6 8.O-O Bxe5 9.Re1). Another financial backer was Baron Albert de Rothschild (1844-1911) of Vienna.
Unfortunately, while the tournament was a big success, it was never repeated since Mr. Rider died the very next year. In 1912, the Hotel Rider was sold to the Polish National Alliance College. President William Taft was on hand for the opening ceremonies of the new technical school. The building burned to the ground in 1931. Later rebuilt, the college housed the largest collection of Polish writing in the United States.

Not having played any serious chess in 4 years, Lasker lost to both Schlechter and Pillsbury in the early rounds of the tournament. From then on he had to pull up his sleeves.

Perhaps the most memorable game of the tournament was Lasker vs Napier, of which Napier said later that he was more proud of this loss than any of his victories:

Lasker E. – Napier W.
Cambridge Springs 1904.

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 d6 7. h3 Nf6 8. g4 O-O 9. g5 Ne8 10. h4 Nc7 11. f4 e5 12. Nde2 d5 13. exd5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 Nxd5 15. Nf5 Nxc3 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. Ne7 Kh8 18. h5 Re8 19. Bc5 gxh5 20. Bc4? [20. bxc3 Bf8 21. Bb5 Rxe7 22. Bxe7 Bxe7 23. Rxh5]
20… exf4 [20… Ne4 21. Bxf7 Bg4 22. f5 Nxc5 23. f6 Bf8 24. g6 Red8µ] 21. Bxf7 Ne4 22. Bxe8 22…Bxb2 23. Rb1 Bc3 24. Kf1 Bg4
25. Bxh5!!! Bxh5 26. Rxh5 Ng3 27. Kg2 Nxh5 28. Rxb7 a5 29. Rb3 Bg7 30. Rh3 Ng3 31. Kf3 Ra6 32. Kxf4 Ne2 33. Kf5 Nc3 34. a3 Na4 35. Be3 Bf8 36. Bd4 Bg7 37. g6 [1:0]
I remember playing over this game while still a teenager! What impressed me the most was how Lasker got thru to the ending and was quite content with a small advantage (at least to me at the time) and converted it neatly to a win.
Lasker never wrote a book of his own games, detailing his greatest triumphs. Which is too bad for us fans, since he played so many great players and great games. What is left for us are mostly his sparce comments from chess columns from that period. What a pitty, for example, that he never analyzed his duel with Pillsbury from St. Petersburg 1895-6!
Kasparov, with the aid of a computer, analyzed it in his excellent series of world champions. Quite a remarkable game. I think that in the past, or atleast up until the Soviet chess school appeared, precise, detailed and exact analysis of chess games was not considered important enough for anybody to do it of their games. The scientific approach to chess that the Soviets heralded changed how annotated games would be modeled.
Up to then, it must have been considered sufficient for the readers to merely give general ideas and guiding thoughts of the game in question. As was explained in Lasker’s introduction to the St. Petersburg chess congress (the subject of yesterday’s blog)

The prize fund was 3,100 US dollars, equivalent to more than 100,000 dollars today! First prize was 1,000 dollars. The brilliancy prizes (a total of 100 dollars) was donated by Baron Rothschild. The first brilliancy prize (40 dollars) went to Schlechter for his win against Lasker!
The tournament rules, adopted from the 1895 Hastings Chess Congress, forbade consultation on adjourned games. You could not even enter a room with any other player during the intermission period between 3 pm and 5 pm. No draws were allowed under 30 moves unless it was a forced draw (there were only 2 draws less than 30 moves). Play was from 10 am to 3 pm, then from 5 pm to 7 pm. The time control was 30 moves in 2.5 hours, then 15 moves each hour thereafter.

Harry Pillsbury was the strongest American player since Morphy . I quote from Hannak:”And thereby hangs a tale which chess players all over the world have been enjoying for half a century. Remember Lasker’s sensational triumph over Pillsbury in the St.Petersburg Tournament of 1895-6, the game that won the brilliancy prize and turned the tables of the tournament in Lasker’s favour. Now in that game, as soon as Pillsbury had made his 7th move (which turned out to be the source of all his subsequent troubles) he felt that he should have made another move, never tried in that variation and yet-so it seemed to Pillsbury-likely to lead to a rather more advantageous line. That very night, after his shattering defeat, Pillsbury sat down for many hours, analysing his new idea and satisfying himself that indeed it would have given him the advantage. During the next weeks and months, he burned a good deal more midnight oil in the privacy of his room, analyzing his new variation so thoroughly as he knew how; but he did not tell anybody about it. Since the opening concerned was a variation of the Queen’s Gambit very popular in those days, Pillsbury had countless opportunities to give his new line the practical test; but he would not waste his great secret; he would spring that surprise on no one less than Lasker.
It had become almost an obsession with Pillsbury, yet the years rolled by and the opportunity never arose. Whenever he did play Lasker, Pillsbury either did not have the White pieces or it so happened that he could not steer the opening into that particular variation. At long last, already a doomed man and playing in what was to be his last major tournament, Pillsbury go the chance he had worked for, yearned for, and dreamed about for eight long years and four months to a day.”

Pillsbury H. – Lasker E.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5. Bg5 cxd4 6. Qxd4 Nc6 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Qh4 dxc4 9. Rd1 Bd7 10. e3 Ne5 11. Nxe5 fxe5 12. Qxc4 Qb6 13. Be2 Qxb2 14. O-O Rc8 15. Qd3 Rc7 16. Ne4 Be7 17. Nd6 Kf8 18. Nc4 Qb5 19. f4 exf4 20. Qd4 f6 21. Qxf4 Qc5 22. Ne5 Be8 23. Ng4 f5 24. Qh6 Kf7 25. Bc4 Rc6

26. Rxf5! Qxf5 27. Rf1 Qxf1 28. Kxf1 Bd7 29. Qh5 Kg8 30. Ne5 [1:0]

This was Pillsbury’s last tournament. He died 2 years later at the age of 33, of syphlis. Lasker , being a gentleman, wrote instead that he had died of ‘over exertion of the mind’.

A dashing Napier. Life must go on! He started dating Pillsbury’s niece and married her!

One last note. The opening ”Cambridge Springs Defence” dates back to this tournament, even though it had been played a bit earlier!


Tuesday’s 5-second tactics!





Vienna, 1898!  An oldie but goodie.  Position after 24 moves of play.  Curiously, Steinitz was doing well up to a couple of moves ago…but advancing age had reduced his ability to maintain the same level of play for the duration of  the entire game.  Here, in the position above, the ex-world champion overlooked a shot.  Do you see it?




Harry Pillsbury was America’s greatest player after Paul Morphy and before Bobby Fischer.  He died young, at age 33.  June 17  1905.

gm  LASKER, Em



Cambridge Springs, 1904.  The greatest American tournament of the first part of the 20th century!  You can find an old blog article on this magnificent tournament HERE.

Position after  24 moves of play.  Pillsbury was always a difficult opponent for the world champion!  Here Lasker’s King is very exposed.  Too exposed.  White can maintain the upper hand with the pedestrian 25. Rxf5+ followed by 26.Rf1—the Queen is more important here than the two Rooks.  HOWEVER, Pillsbury was an artiste!  He  found much better than this!


Today’s chess quiz


GM  Frank Marshall (1877-1944)

Legendary.  There is no better word to describe Frank Marshall.   One of the first great American players. His fame continues to the present day on account of his gambit in the Ruy Lopez, but his contributions to opening theory go far beyond that one idea. He was the shock winner of the very strong Cambridge Springs tournament of 1904, U.S. Champion from 1909 to 1936, one of the original five  grandmasters (at St. Petersburg 1914) , a title given by the Czar.  Marshall  is still an enormously important figure in American chess.
Lasker (seated, left) , Tarrasch (seated,right) Alekhine (standing left), Capablanca (middle), Marshall
The original 5 grandmasters


Try your hand at these examples!  They are all taken from games of the legendary American champion Frank Marshall. The ‘dot’ indicates who is to move (and win!).  Solutions can be found here.  Good luck!


Marshall and his wife Carrie

Marshall was born in New York City but his family moved to Montreal early on and he lived there from ages 8 to 19.  He learned chess at age 10 and quickly developed into on of the city’s best players.  You can find out a lot more about Marshall’s life here.
When I grew up and first learned the game I was given the wrong impression by the Fred Renfeld books that Marshall was little more than a swindler (!).  It was only later, as a mature grandmaster, that I took a closer look at this legendary figure and discovered that he was infact an all round player with excellent technique!
It is curious how often in the chess world one’s reputation in chess is sabotaged by jealous writers who themselves are failed players.  Marshall, it is true, had a decided penchant for aggressive play and wonderful combinations.  BUT there was much  more to him than that!  I advise the reader to get a hold of ” Best Games of Chess” by Marshall himself  (formerly titled: My 50 years of Chess)
Marshall was primarily a tournament player and not a match player, as was demonstrated convincingly in his match for the World Championship with Lasker in 1907.  Althought Marshall was Lasker’s equal in the opening and middlegame, he lacked the patience and necessary polish to be able to conclude a hard fought game.
Swindler or not, no one can deny his combinative genius.  Witness his 23rd move in his game with Levitsky (1912), a move that many consider the most brilliant move ever played in chess!





Magnus Carlsen standing beside a bust of Marshall at the Marshall Chess Club in NYC.
Before leaving Marshall, it should be mentioned that his chess club still exists to this day and is one of the most active chess clubs in the US.  It even has its own website.  Originally called the Marshall Chess Divan (founded in 1915) the club moved around in the early years before finding its permanent home at 23 West 10th Street.  There is hardly a single grandmaster in the world who passes thru NYC without visiting the club!


Wijk aan Zee 2011: snapshots


One of the longest running chess festivals in modern times, Wijk aan Zee  came to a close this past weekend. There were 3 major events –all GM level–but the  ‘A’ tournament dominated as the centre of attention.  Not only does 99% of the major chess news services focus on this star-studded tournament, but the impression created by all of the build up and fan-fare is that Wijk aan Zee is the centre of the chess world for 2 weeks every January!
Nakamura after the tournament.  He becomes the first American to win since Seirawan’s surprise win in 1980.
This year’s winner was something of a surprise for most pundits–Nakamura–even though the American GM is no stranger to such top level tournaments.  In 2010 he finished a very respectable 4th place at Wijk aan Zee.  This year the 23 year old (born December 1987)  found himself counted as one of the 10 highest rated players in the world going into the tournament– and  he performed exactly like that!  Nakamura lost only one game-against Carlsen–but he really steam-rolled the bottom half of the table, scoring 5.5 points out of 6 against the tail enders.


Amongst his colleagues the affable American has not been taken very seriously in recent times.  I am not sure why–Nakamura is one of the hardest working players at the top–but perhaps his addiction to bullet chess has something to do with it!

In Wijk aan Zee Nakamura was on a roll right from the first round when a soul-searching Grischuk over ambitiously sacrificed a piece for insufficient compensation.  With the White pieces in this tournament the American scored very impressively: 5.5 points out of 7 games.  With Black Nakamura played mostly aggressive systems (Dutch, Benoni-Kings Indian setups) against the closed openings–though he twice resorted to the solid and patient Nimzo-Indian/Queen’s Indian;  and Nakamura mixed his 1.e4 defences with the Sicilian and Caro Khan. 
Overall, the impression is given that everything worked out well, perhaps better than it should have under normal conditions!  We will have to see how the rest of the year develops for him to see if this tournament was just an isolated success, or marks the arrival of a contender for the world championship.
Alexi Shirov (born 1972) almost won the 2010 edition of this tournament, but found himself this year unable to get out of the starting gate and he seemed destined for the cellar. In all, Alexi lost 6 games (almost half of his games!) and his only victory was over the hapless Grischuk.  Even so, Alexi remains a favourite of fans and spectators everywhere.  His sharp and compromising style always leads to entertaining, brilliant chess.
I know Shirov very well and have worked with him on a number of occasions.  His recent results have been uncharacteristic of such a great player: at last year’s Grand Slam he finished in last place without winning one game; at the Tal Memorial he finished in second to last place–losing 4 and winning only once.  Combined with this year’s last place in Wijk aan Zee, it is probably time for Alexi to stop and take a look at what is not working and why.
As an observer and coach, it seems to me that there are 2 areas that Alexi must address.  First, he is soon going to be 40 years old and doesn’t look as healthy as he should be.  Second, Alexi’s Black-pieces opening repetoire has become an easy target for his computer-grinding, database focused colleagues.
In the first case, some players experience difficulties and changes when they approach 40 years of age.  Not all–Viktor Korchnoi, for example actually started to play better chess at that stage of his life–but most need to make adjustments.  The body changes–often weight gain with remarkable ease–yet the mind continues to think that it is still 20 years old!  Alexi is one of the most active GMs in the world and has one of the busiest schedules of any of the elite.  He almost never takes a break, and this can have negative  impact on his play and results. In chess energy is everything, and when we are young we don’t think much about this because we seem to have an infinite supply of it.  But when the body starts to age we soon realize that energy needs to be replenished from time to time.   In Wijk aan Zee he lost 21 rating points, and if Alexi is to remain one of the elite players then he can not afford too many similar results.
In the second case–his opening repetoire with the Black pieces–I think that Alexi needs to be less predictable and more practical in his approach.  In the past year-with very few exceptions–he almost always answered e4 with e5 (favouring the Bc5 Spanish lines), and against d4 he answered d4 with d5.  His results do not justify such confidence in having a limited repetoire, and in the case of his specialty–the Cambridge Springs Defence–I count not less than 5 defeats and no wins in the past 12 months at the classical time control!  At Wijk aan Zee he scored back to back losses against Aronian and Anand, the latter being especially painful.


Alexi was the second oldest participant in this tournament (Anand was the oldest (!), aged 40), but all the same he played some of the most interesting chess in the tournament.  Shirov has a natural gift for complex and messy positions and so he prefers to head towards this kind of fight in each game.  He has been faithfully served by this style of play in the past.  But one has to wonder if it is not time for Alexi to become a bit more conservative in his style as he approaches middle age.  The tremendous drain on his energy from his constant playing and travelling–as well as from the demands of having to play such sharp chess–is not a factor that should be ignored for very long.
Be that as it may, I have no doubt that Alexi will overcome the present difficulties he faces and that he will demonstrate his class for many years to come.  To the joy of all of his fans–this one included!

Alexander Grischuk (born 1983) reminds me a lot of Boris Spassky.  Tremendously gifted  and possessing enormous will power; though seemingly always needing a good reason to push himself.   In Wijk aan Zee Grischuk never seemed to be in the race for the top spots.  Before that tournament I was curious about how ambitious the Russian superstar would be given that he must be very focused on the upcoming Candidates in several months time. (I believe that he is capable of winning it!) Would he treat Wijk aan Zee as a warm up tournament or would he reveal his opening preparation and secrets in a seriouls effort to win first prize?
In the end, it appears that Grischuk could not decide what he wanted and his final result was a bit of a disappointment to his fans.  His chess lacked the class and practical fighting qualities that have become his trademark .  While Grischuk did not run away from complications and struggles in his games, he seemed too unrealistic (optimistic) in assessing his chances and found himself risking too much when ordinary moves might have been wiser.  His failure in this tournament was, in my opinion, more noticeable than Shirov’s, though he managed to escape last place.
In round 1 we were to get a glimpse of where Grischuk’s head is at.  In a complex position–instead of holding tight and defending–he tried to take control of the game with a blitz-game style sacrifice: 18…Bxg4?!  It did not work and he soon found himself with no good moves left.


Here Grischuk played the superficial 16…Rxf3?! instead of the quite acceptable 16…Qf7 and 17…Nxd5.  Hao only needed to play a couple of precise moves inorder to achieve a winning position.


The position after 24 moves.  Grischuk is, once more, down material but has a very solid-looking position.  But once more Grischuk had mis-judged his chances and failed to take into account the resources in White’s position.  Shirov won his only game of the tournament.

Grischuk has played with typical disrespect for material.  A dynamic position has resulted, but one where it is necessary to play with precision and finesse: qualities that Grischuk did not show in Wijk aan Zee.  Here Grischuk should play  26…Rc8, a move that the engines consider slightly better for Black.  Instead, he played the common pawn-grubbing 26…Bxe4?! and his opportunities evaporated quickly. 


Grischuk’s mind elsewhere in Wijk aan Zee


Canadian GM Mark Bluvshtein (born 1988, Russia). A psychologically difficult tournament.

I thought it was a kind of mistake for Mark to participate in the ‘C’ tournament instead of playing in the prestigious open tournament in Gibraltar. While the ‘C’ tournament is not a bad tournament in its own right (Category 11; Mark was ranked 3rd before the start), Mark had little to win by participating: the ‘C’ tournament has no superstars, no prestige and is always recorded just as a footnote  to Wijk aan Zee’s ‘A’ super-tournament.  Psychologically it is difficult to maintain focus on your priorities and play your normal game when the world attention, the spectators and the world chess press ignores your tournament.   Even the first prize –1,000 euros–is noticeably inferior to the 10,000 euros first prize in the ‘A’ tournament.
We will have to wait to read Mark’s personal observations on the tournament and his own performance, but from what I can read between the lines by playing over his games is that half way thru the tournament Mark was already playing well below his normal game strength.  He could have  very well have been negatively influenced by the exceptional circumstances under which the the tournament was held.
In anycase, Mark was able to salvage his reputation by winning his last 2 games and finishing with plus-2, limiting his rating loss to 6 points. His last round opponent–the very strong Serbian GM Ivan Ivanisevic–found himself with a lost position right from the opening!  The highlight of the game was Mark’s 22nd move:




Mark has taken a year off to play chess since graduating from the University of Toronto.  His next tournament will be the very strong (and prestigious) Aeroflot tournament which will begin shortly.  After that he will head back home for a rest.
There is no doubt that Mark is an exceptionally talented chess player, perhaps one of the very best of his generation.  In Wijk aan Zee , with the possible exception Ivanisevic (whom I know quite well), Mark was clearly the best player in the ‘C’ tournament, but was unable to show it.
Lack of motivation might also be another factor in Mark’s performance.  Mark has played in much better tournaments (the Montreal Internationals, which allowed Mark the opportunity to play such superstars as Ivanchuk, Nakamura, Kamsky and others).  It might be worth considering for the future avoiding participating in such tournaments.  Also at the last Canadian Zonal Mark failed to win even though he was 10 times better than anyone else in the tournament.