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Rubinstein by Bobrov
May 2007

Thanks to WilhelmThe2nd of


 Akiba Rubinstein’s first major tournament was the Third All-Russian Master’s tournament in Kiev in 1903. While researching the Prince Dadian of Mingrelia webpage  page with SBC [yours truly], I came across round-by-round reports from this event in the Moscow newspaper 'Moscovskie Viedemostie'. These reports gave vivid descriptions of the games, the players and interesting incidental information about them. The reports were signed with the name “LASHIN” which may have been a pen-name for 'Moscovskie Viedemosti'’s regular chess columnist Pavel Pavlovich Bobrov (1862-1911). In addition to describing the events of the round, each report profiled one of the tournament’s participants. The following is Lashin’s write-up about Rubinstein, who ultimately placed 5th in the tournament. (Translated from the original Russian from 'Moscovskie Viedemostie', September 22nd, 1903, p.4):

“Mr. Chigorin’s opponent in the 12th round was Mr. Rubinstein who, for some reason, is officially listed as coming from Vilnius, although in actual fact he comes from Bialystok. Mr. Rubinstein himself does not know exactly how old he is. He only knows that in the present year he was called up for compulsory military service and that is why he is therefore no more than 21 years old.

However, Mr. Rubinstein knows precisely where he was born; it was in Lomza gubernia. If however one were to judge by appearances one could think that Mr. Rubinstein was born in Nagasaki or in Tokyo. His eyes, having a slanting cut, shout especially loudly about this; they are precisely the same, half weak-sighted, half sleepy, look that a true Japanese has. A dark-yellowish complexion and unusually black coloured hair on the head, in the eyebrows and on the tip of the chin are witnesses to his Japanese origin. Of some of the only contradictory indications of this origin it is necessary to consider his too tall height for a Japanese. The mineralogical origin of his surname also indicates that he in actual fact belongs not to the Mongol race but to another.

Mr. Rubinstein began to play chess four years ago not at his birthplace in the Lomza gubernia but already at his home in Bialystok. His teacher was a textbook of chess play in the classical Hebrew language that he unearthed once by chance.

Now there's the end of doubting the extraordinary antiquity of the invention of the game of chess! For goodness’s sake! The biblical Jews already knew of it and created for it textbooks for study with which one can still even now prepare the matadors of this art!…

Learning the classical Hebrew textbook very well, Mr. Rubinstein went to Lodz to test his strength in a match with Mr. Salwe. They played 17 games and of these each won 6 and 5 were drawn.

Up until the present tournament Mr. Rubinstein had no other opportunity arise for him to test his strength. Judging from his play in this tournament, and on its very decent results, the classical Hebrew textbook of chessplay that had been in the hands of Mr. Rubinstein was not quite that bad…

All the same though Rubinstein lost the game with Chigorin.”

[A group photograph of the participants of the 1903 All-Russian Master's tournament can be found here (scroll to the bottom)]

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