Larry Evans, Vienna 1922 (Russell Enterprises 2011). 144 pp. $19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
Russell Enterprises (RE) regularly republishes tournament books from classic events, two especially notable examples being New York 1924 and Nottingham 1936, both by Alexander Alekhine. Those books are justly famous and unquestionably deserved to republished, but there are other, less well-known events that have been commemorated by tournament books, and RE has brought these back into print as well.
The latest such event is Vienna 1922, a 15-player event with such famous players as Alexander Alekhine, Akiba Rubinstein, Siegbert Tarrasch, Efim Bogoljubow, Richard Reti, Savielly Tartakower, Rudolf Spielmann, Geza Maroczy, Ernst Grünfeld and Fritz Sämisch. (Another interesting participant was Vladimir Vukovic of The Art of Attack fame.) Tarrasch was a little past his peak, and perhaps Rubinstein was too, while the other players listed were already very strong but still developing.
It was a hard-fought event, with only 32 draws in 103 games (Spielmann missed his last two games due to illness), and this is not just due to the top players beating up the amateurs - for one thing, there weren't many outsiders to beat up on! The tournament was a great success for Rubinstein, who scored 11.5/14 and finished a point and a half ahead of Tartakower, two points ahead of Heinrich Wolf (an Austrian master who had the tournament of his life) and two and a half points ahead of Tarrasch, Maroczy and Alekhine. Alekhine, who was probably the pre-tournament favorite along with Rubinstein, played some very nice games, but an early loss to Grünfeld (in a Grünfeld!) and late losses to Rubinstein and Wolf left him a disappointing result.
Now about the tournament book, which has the curious distinction of being both the first book and the last book Larry Evans wrote, and without being his only book. He wrote the original version in 1948, as a 16-year-old national master, and upon prompting from the publisher last year made some revisions. The opening references were not updated, but he added some annotations while fixed some analytical mistakes with the computer's help. Regarding the work's appearance, he changed the notation to algebraic and added some diagrams. There's a new preface, and John Donaldson wrote a foreword. There are also pictures of each of the participants, along with photos of the young and the old Evans. As the revision was completed in October of last year, shortly before his death from complications following gallbladder surgery in November, this was thus his last book as well.
As noted, the tournament was of a very high caliber, but does that mean you should buy the book? The notes are light by contemporary grandmaster standards, but they're "friendly" for an amateur looking to replay some old classics. It's not a must-have by any means, but I can recommend it to history buffs. It would also make a nice gift for a youngster, to introduce him to some of the game's old-time greats. (I'd probably select New York 1924 or Nottingham 1936 first, but Vienna 1922 has a place in the gallery of great early 20th century tournaments.)