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Salomon Flohr vs Jose Raul Capablanca
Nottingham (1936)  ·  Queen's Gambit Declined: Tartakower Defense. Exchange Variation (D59)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  refutor: From Alekhine's "The Book of the Nottingham International Chess Tournament"

(After Capablanca's 37. ... ♕c8??)

"A terrible oversight which throws away a position which was by no means desperate and which has improved in the last twelve to fifteen moves. The explanation of his blunder has been given by Capablanca himself in the Soviet magazine "64" (20th August, 1936). He writes : 'Both players were very short of time. When four moves remained to be made our table was surrounded by a crowd of journalists, participants and others. It is impossible to play under such circumstances.'

'Max Euwe, who stood close to the table, spoke several times to Flohr, telling him the number of mvoes remaining to be made, as both players had stopped writing down the moves. As I requested him to keep quiet he started to argue with me, and tried to persuade me that he was entitled to speak.'

'This interference on the part of Euwe was absolutely inadmissable; but the tournament director was at that time busy with his own correspondence, and as a result of this interference I made a grave error, losing the exchange.'

The simplest was to return with the R to Q2."

i guess the quote about never beating a healthy man applied to the great Capablanca as well ;)

Jun-25-03  drukenknight: well that as an interesting interpretation.

In my opinion, Flohr is a smart person who is good at working combinations but he doesnt play chess like a true master. Most players will invariably attempt to exchange when they are ahead. Yes even by only a pawn.

Flohr goes about his business w/o really trying to do that. He obviously has the intellect to do that if only he knew the secret. We've seen him go many moves with ALekhine, there is no doubt the man was smart, but time and again everybody seems to beat Flohr.

ONe small example in this game; look at 19 Bf5; hes trying to win material. This will not work against a player who is playing well and is already down in material. FLohr need to force exchanges. This goes on the whole game, Flohr has the lead in material and will not attempt to exchange. Capablanca and Alekhine must have chuckled to themselves because Flohr will never beat anybody if doesnt know when to exchange.

Anyhow, now move up to move 59. Why does he bring the K back to f4? What if he brings it over to the Q side and swaps material there?

Its the very same problem. NObody has told Flohr how to really play chess!

Jan-18-04  sleepkid: No. Flohr is correct on move 59. There is no need for Flohr to go over to the Queenside and swap material (which would involved giving up the rook.) As long as he keeps the King pinned to the back rank and the bishop tied to the defense of the b-pawn, Flohr's King can eliminate the Kingside pawns (after exchanging the e-pawn.)

Flohr was a strong player, but never quite world class. His losses to the British players in the Nottingham tournament are quite dreadful.

Jan-24-04  Resignation Trap: With both players running short of time, and a crowd of journalists surrounding the table, it is only natural that the quality of play suffered just before the time control was reached (36 moves in two hours).

Since move 16, a primary focus of attention was Black's isolated Pawn on d5, but neither Flohr, nor Capablanca, nor Alekhine noticed 35. Rxd5! (instead of 35. Nd4). Back-rank weaknesses prevent Black from playing 35...Qxd5. Capablanca would simply be down a Pawn without compensation.

Aug-26-04  capanegra: I heard too the version of Euwe's interference in the game. It looks very plausible to me that Capablanca could have been distracted because of this intrusion. If someone stood near the board during a tournament game and made advises to my opponent, I would feel very upset. Euwe's conduct was totally inappropriate.
Premium Chessgames Member
  notyetagm: Damn, its' amazing that Flohr, Capa, and Alekhine all missed 35 Rxd5!, exploiting the overworked queen on the back rank. Astonishing tactical oversight by players as strong as them.
Aug-26-04  Shah Mat: Chernev calls Flohr a genius...not a word thrown around lightly, even in chess circles; especially in chess circles.
Dec-20-05  Whitehat1963: <notyetagm> 35. Rxd5 does seem like an interesting possibility. What do you think, <Crafty> (or anyone with a decent chess program)?
Jan-03-06  whatthefat: <Whitehat>
It is indeed clearly better for white.
After 35. Rxd5, Fritz 8 assesses the position as about +1.4 (depth=14)

Both players were unusually inaccurate in this game, with white repeatedly establishing some advantage, then letting it slip a little. Capablanca's blunder decides it in the end.

Aug-26-06  paladin at large: <capanegra> I agree, it is quite plausible that the hubbub around the table and Euwe's inappropriate conduct affected Capablanca. Euwe obviously wanted Flohr to win, since Flohr was no threat to win the tournament. This early round loss eventually cost Capablanca sole possession of first place at Nottingham. To put Capablanca's play in perspective, in 1936, at age 47, this was his only loss in tournament play:

Margate 5+ 0- 4=
Moscow 8+ 0- 10=
Nottingham 7+ 1- 6=

Aug-26-06  euripides: Fascinating rook play before the blunder.

If one saw Black's play from moves 22-26, without knowing the name of the player, but knowing they were a world champion, I think very few people would guess it was Capablanca.

Premium Chessgames Member
  karik: Is the Rxd5 possibility long known? If not then a false move order could explain it. Maybe 34. -Rd7 was actually played before Ba6.
Oct-24-06  RookFile: Wow, Euwe became FIDE president - I never knew he did this.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: < karik: Is the Rxd5 possibility long known? If not then a false move order could explain it. Maybe 34. -Rd7 was actually played before Ba6.> I'm sure <karik> is guessing right. No way they didn't see 35.Rxd5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <drukenknight> <In my opinion, Flohr is a smart person who is good at working combinations but he doesnt play chess like a true master.> Anthony Saidy would disagree with you. Flohr was relevant enough to be included in his book "The March of Chess Ideas".

I quote Saidy:

"Salo Flohr (1908-1983) carried on the classical tradition. He had little to do with the avant-garde; rather, his best efforts were very reminiscent of Capablanca. Usually he did not extend himself against his foremost opponents in a tournament, being content to draw with them while defeating the lesser lights, often with fine endgame technique. The books are filled with spectacular brilliancies. Instead, it should be instructive to see an example of Flohr's dry, quiet play, much closer to the bread-and-butter chess that wins modern tournaments."

Saidy then reproduces the following games:

Flohr vs Euwe, 1932
Flohr vs Lasker, 1936

Saidy adds later that Flohr strategically linked Capablanca and Petrosian. A fine positional player, in my opinion.

Aug-26-07  2021: According to Purdy, Capablanca's 9... Nxe7 is not the best. Better is 9... Qxe7.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: On 37. ... Qc8??

"When four moves remained" -Capablanca in '64'

Time control: 36 moves in two hours - Resignation Trap

What apparently happened, then, is that Euwe tried to inform the players that they had reached the somewhat unusual time control. Capablanca was unable to process the info and blitzed the blunder. Even in '64', after the fact, he thought the time control was at 40 moves.

Another mystery solved. :-)

Apr-07-09  CharlesSullivan: Capablanca's 36...Rc7 (an error that Alekhine did not catch in his annotations--best was 36...Re7!) allows the very nice tactical shot 37.e4!!

<Analysis diagram after 37.e4!!>

click for larger view

that Flohr missed, perhaps because of his (perceived?) time pressure. (The move may be more subtle than I suppose, because Alekhine did not point 37.e4 out in the tournament book.) Black's best chance is 37...h5! 38.exd5 Rd6 39.Bc2 h4 40.Qe3 g6 41.Nc6 Qf6 42.Ne5, but White has an extra pawn and a probable win:

<Analysis: White is winning>

click for larger view

For those interested, my website contains a thorough examination of Alekhine's annotation oversights in the Nottingham 1936 and New York 1924 tournament books.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: <whatthefat: ***
Both players were unusually inaccurate in this game *** .>

To a large degree, the mutual inaccuracies were due to mutual time pressure. It was so severe that Capablanca's decisive blunder came at move 37, even though move 36 completed the first time control.

The fact that the influence of time pressure continued even after the first TC had been completed is is especially interesting in light of the interference attributed to Euwe. Although Euwe's actions were apparently intended to assist Flohr and were no doubt irksome and distracting to Capablanca, insofar as Euwe helped Flohr keep track of the move count, Capablanca should also have been able to benefit from this specific information.

Jun-26-09  AnalyzeThis: What Euwe did was pretty outrageous.
Jul-01-09  whatthefat: <Peligroso Patzer>

Thanks. Not that time trouble is an excuse for either player, but I wasn't aware of the circumstances.

Jul-01-09  WhiteRook48: 35 Rxd5!! would win
Nov-21-09  Whitehat1963: More excellent endgame play from the Player of the Day.
Apr-07-12  King Death: <sleepkid: ...Flohr was a strong player, but never quite world class...>

That depends on what you think world class is I guess. Here's a snippet from a post today from a man that I think you may have heard of.

<From the book Championship Chess by Philip W Sergeant: "...Before he left the (United) States (in 1933), (Alekhine) was induced to say whom he thought likely challengers for his title in the future. He named two Americans, Kashdan, who was favourably known in Europe already, and R. Fine, whose achievements were so far mainly in his own country, and the Czecho-Slovakian, Flohr...">

Apr-07-12  King Death: < RookFile: Wow, Euwe became FIDE president - I never knew he did this.>

And he may have been the best FIDE ever had. For sure he's 10 times better than those clowns Campomanes or Ilyumzhinov. Without him and Lothar Schmid as the arbiter Fischer-Spassky may never have gotten off the ground.

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