Tim's Tournament Book Blog VIII: Vienna 1922
By Larry Evans
Foreward by John Donaldson
Russell Enterprises Inc. 2011
Vienna 1922 was a blockbuster tournament featuring most of the top players of the day. Lacking only Lasker and Capablanca, it was a spirited fighting tournament where only 26% of the games were drawn. In the end, the surprise winner was Akiba Rubinstein who did not lose a single game enroute to capturing first place. Sadly, it was the last great flash of the brilliance of this one time world title contender. The other surprise of the tournament was Alekhine finishing tied 4th-6th. After a huge string of successes in the early 1920’s, Vienna must have been a sobering experience as the Russian grandmaster lost three games one of them a devastating loss at the hands of Grunfeld.
For this tournament, I looked at Alekhine, Rubinstein, and Wolf but I also looked at Larry Evan’s introduction comments for every game to help me pick the games to look over.
Games of Note
Tartakower-Samisch Round 1: Excellent use of development by white to create a monster passed pawn. The game ends with a bold king walk to the middle which is always very cool!
Kmoch-Alekhine Round 2: Passive set up versus aggressive action ending with a brutal attack by Alekhine.
Rubinstein-Bogoljubow Round 3: This game won the brilliancy prize. Evans commented that he was puzzled as to why. I think it was because white sacrificed his queen. Rubinstein uses the c file to attack with great skill.
Alekhine-Smisch Round 3: Another great display of Alekhine’s attacking skill this time against an uncastled king.
Reti-Kmoch Round 5: Interesting game in which white foregoes positional advantages to continue with his attack but then in the end grasps a positional advantage to seal the win.
Alekhine-Konig Round 9: This time the Russian uses his development lead to totally slaughter his opponent.
Rubinstein-Alekhine Round 10: Great clash of positional elements versus looking to attack at all costs. Alekhine can’t seem to coordinate his pieces for the attack and Rubinstein exploits the dark square weakness to win.
Reti-Rubinstein Round 13: Good display of defensive skill by Rubinstein who wins a pawn, parries all of white’s attacks, then turns the tables for the win.
I chose the following two games to highlight. This was a tough choice as there were a lot of great games but these two stand above the rest in my opinion. As always all comments are my own.
First we have an epic draw between Reti and Alekhine.
Next we have a battle between Tarrasch and Reti that ends with the good doctor boldly marching his king into the fray.
Story of the Tournament
There is some information mainly from John Donaldson’s excellent foreward but the lat Larry Evans also discusses Rubinstein in some detail in his preface. The author also discusses his own personal connection to two of the participants which makes for good reading. Before each round, Evans also briefly outlines the results and the current standings.
The annotation in this work are mainly pithy but very educational. Evans gets right to the point whether its with words or variations. He introduces each game with a sentence giving an overview of the game. For example he introduces the Tartakower-Grunfeld game from round 3 by noting it was “A swindle in Tartakower’s finest style.” Other intros tell the student exactly what to look for when they analyze. “White mishandles the opening and never recovers” keys the reader right into the crux of the matter when studying Reti-Bogoljubow from Round 9.
Evans also makes some witty remarks. After white’s 32nd move in the Round 15 clash between Bogoljubow-Tarrasch he remarks, “Resigns was the best move.”
Evans style and approach to the games makes the annotations both useful and a joy to read.
There is very little on the players although Donaldson makes some remarks on Alekhine and Wolf while Evans comments on the tragic career of Rubinstein. However, the personal reminisces of Evans regarding Kmoch and Koing makes for interesting reading. There are also pictures of the players scattered throughout the text.
Coverage of Games
All 103 games are included and annotated to varying degrees. Each game has the ECO code given for the opening.
This another supple paperback from Russell Enterprises. The print is crisp and clear, the diagrams sharp. The publishers convinced Evans to re-examine his annotations for this edition as well as add diagrams and the end product is a good one. There is a cross table at the beginning and an index of player games but no opening index. Obviously it was the intention of the publishers to stick to the original mimeographed(!) product with some minor enhancements.
This was a tough call between essential and recommended. In the end, I went with recommended as I was torn between two thoughts. One the one hand, the book has all the great games of this tournament supported by good analysis. The introduction to each game is a nice touch allowing players to skip over some games while looking at ones they might otherwise have missed. Evans does not get bogged down with notes and while some more depth might have been nice, his approach works well here. On the other hand, if this book had included background information about the players and well as the progression of the tournament I would have hardily endorsed it as essential. While I understand that the intention was to capture Evan’s original work, adding some more notes would’ve enhanced the readers experience. What is puzzling is that the addition of the historical tournament information could’ve been handled by an editor and I am left wondering if any effort was made to broach this subject with Mr. Evans. If that was the case and turned down such an approach then I do respect that but I think it was a missed opportunity to take his book into the ranks of elite tournament books.
Bottom Line: Evans produced a great book that captured the richness of the games. It is a shame that an opportunity was missed to create a tournament book that could’ve become a staple in the collection of every player.