Capablanca vs Alekhine 1927
Alexander Alekhine was born in Moscow, Russia in 1892. He began to take chess seriously at the age of 12. During school classes he would analyze games in his head without looking at the chessboard. At age 16, a victory in the Moscow Autumn Tournament (1908) led to his appearance in the strong All Russian Amateur (1909) tournament. He won, earning the Russian national master title. A shared first with Aron Nimzowitsch at the All Russian Masters St Petersburg (1914) qualified him for the great St Petersburg (1914) tournament, featuring most of the best players in the world. Alekhine finished third, behind world champion Emanuel Lasker and Jose Raul Capablanca, ahead of Siegbert Tarrasch, Frank James Marshall, and Akiba Rubinstein.
| ||Argentinian newspaper photo. Click here for larger view.|
Alekhine now conceived a long term plan to become world champion. His strategy was to finish first in every tournament he entered and so earn the right to challenge Capablanca, whom he predicted would soon be champion. Capablanca indeed won the world title on April 20, 1921. His first challenge came from Akiba Rubinstein on September 7, 1921. Alekhine challenged two months later, after he won both Budapest (1921) and The Hague (1921). After The Hague (1921), Dutch chess officials proposed a "Candidates Match" between Alekhine and Rubinstein, to be held in the Netherlands on or after March 1922. Both masters agreed to the idea. In December 1921 the American Chess Bulletin reported that Capablanca would honor Rubinstein's challenge first, unless the proposed Dutch candidates match should produce a "decisive victory for one or the other." When Alekhine arrived in the Netherlands in January 1922, he stated that a candidates match was no longer possible because Rubinstein had been admitted to a sanitarium after he played Triberg (1921), due to a mental disturbance. Shortly afterwards the Dutch press demonstrated that Alekhine's claim was false, but the match still didn't take place.
After London (1922), where Alekhine placed second to the champion, the top eight finishers signed "the London Rules," Capablanca's proposal for all future title match conditions. The rules stipulated that the world champion "need not defend" his title "for a lower purse than $10,000 U.S. dollars." Capablanca now gave Rubinstein until December 31, 1923 to meet the new financial demands, but Rubinstein couldn't meet the deadline. Alekhine continued steady negotiations for a title match, but he was unable to raise the $10,000 purse. A title challenge from Frank Marshall in 1923 also came to nothing. In 1926 Nimzowitsch challenged for the title, followed by a renewed challenge from Alekhine in the same year. Alekhine had secured a "firm commitment" from the Argentine Chess Federation to finance the match. William Hartston suggests that the federation did so because "they simply felt it was time to give Capablanca, hero of Latin America, a chance to demonstrate his superiority again somewhere close to home soil." Capablanca accepted Alekhine's challenge, but also told him that he had given Nimzowitsch until January 1, 1927 to meet the purse requirement. Nimzowitsch failed to meet his deadline and Capablanca finally agreed to face Alekhine in a world championship match.
Prior to the match, Capablanca dominated New York (1927), finishing 2½ points in front of Alekhine, who took second. Alekhine had never won a single game from Capablanca, so it was perhaps understandable that some doubted he could win six match games against him. Geza Maroczy predicted victory was bound to go to Capablanca, and Rudolf Spielmann said he would be surprised if Alekhine "were to win even a single game." Richard Reti, on the other hand, concluded "that there are no fundamental reasons for affirming with such certainty that the Cuban grandmaster must necessarily defeat the talented Slav player."
The match began in Buenos Aires on September 9, 1927. Conditions followed the London Rules: games to be played at 2½ hours per 40 moves, with the match awarded to the first to win 6 games, draws not counting. Capablanca would receive $2,000 of the purse as a fee, with the remainder split $4,800 to the victor and $3,200 to the loser. The Argentine Chess Club provided the venue, except for two games played in the Jockey Club. Dr. Carlos A. Querencio served as referee, and Daniel Deletang was Alekhine's second.
Alekhine won the first game on the black side of a French Defence. Every subsequent game would be contested with a Queen's pawn opening. After ten games Capablanca led 2-1, but he dropped two in a row and a long series of draws followed. According to Garry Kasparov, Capablanca let slip "an enormous positional advantage" in Game 17. After Alekhine notched his fourth win in Game 21, Capablanca opined that "there can hardly be a stronger player in the world than the Slav master." Capablanca did well to save the draw in Game 22, and Kasparov maintains that the Cuban now played the match with increasing power until he missed the win in the "completely won" 27th game. After winning Game 29, Capablanca trailed the match by just a point, and optimistically remarked that "the match takes on fresh interest..." Kasparov believes that Capablanca missed a win in Game 31, and then, later in the game, settled for a draw when he was a pawn up, and could well have played on. A win would have tied the match. Alekhine characterized his win in Game 32 as "well-contested" and "full of ideas" from both players. Now Alekhine needed just one more win to take the title.
With adjournments, the 34th and final game took four days to complete, ending on November 29 when Capablanca did not show up to resume play. Instead, he sent a congratulatory resignation note. Nor did the ex-champion show up for the closing ceremony on December 8. Alexander Alekhine, the fourth world chess champion, did attend. He thanked the Argentine Chess Club for its work and declared he was against any changes to the world title match rules, the London Rules.
FINAL SCORE: Alekhine 6; Capablanca 3 (25 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Capablanca-Alekhine 1927]
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
- Jan Kalendovsky and Vlastimil Fiala, Complete Games of Alekhine Vol 1, 1892-1921 (Olomouc 1992), pp.6-7
- Kalendovsky and Fiala, pp.24-25
- Leonard Skinner and Robert Verhoeven, Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games 1902-1946 (McFarland 1998), p.738; Kalendovsky and Fiala, Complete Games of Alekhine Vol 1, 1892-1921 p.48
- Rod Edwards, All-Russian Championship, St. Petersburg (1914)
- Skinner and Verhoeven, p.89
- Shakhmaty v SSSR No.3 (March 1956), pp.87-89. In Sarah Beth Cohen, "Encounters with Alekhine"
- Edward Winter, Capablanca: a compendium of games, notes, articles, correspondence, illustrations and other rare materials on the Cuban chess genius José Raúl Capablanca, 1888-1942 (McFarland 1989), pp.186-187
- Toni Preziuso, AMERIKA! AMERIKA! In "KARL" no.3 2013, pp.34-39
- American Chess Bulletin Sept-Oct 1922, p.150. In Winter, Capablanca p.188
- Edward Winter, Capablanca pp.191-197
- Edward Winter, Capablanca pp.193-194
- Alexander Alekhine, On the Road to the World Championship 1923-1927 G. Feather transl., (Pergamon 1984), p.117
- William Hartston, The Guinness Book Of Chess Grandmasters (Guinness World Records Limited 1996), p.82
- Alekhine, p.131
- Skinner and Verhoeven, pp.294-296
- La Nación (14 Sept. 1927), p.12. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 5665
- Sonntagsbeilage der Augsburger Postzeitung (25 June 1927), p.104. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 5338
- Edward Winter, "The London Rules" (2008); La Prensa 14 Sept 1927. In Edward Winter, "Capablanca v Alekhine, 1927" (2003)
- Yuri Shaburov, Alexander Alekhine- The Undefeated Champion (The Voice 1992), p.161
- Alekhine, p.151
- Garry Kasparov, On My Great Predecessors Part I (Everyman Chess 2003), p.316
- Edward Winter, Capablanca p.200
- Kasparov, pp.316-318
- Edward Winter, Capablanca p.201
- Kasparov, pp.323-328
- Alekhine, p.209
- Magazine Actual (May 1997), p. 25. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 3428