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  WCC Overview
Capablanca vs Alekhine 1927
Buenos Aires

 Argentinian newspaper photo. Click here for larger view.
Alexander Alekhine was born in Moscow, Russia in 1892.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] A shared first with Aron Nimzowitsch at the All Russian Masters St Petersburg (1914)[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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).[7] 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.[8] 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."[7] 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.[8]

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."[9] Capablanca now gave Rubinstein until December 31, 1923 to meet the new financial demands, but Rubinstein couldn't meet the deadline.[8] Alekhine continued steady negotiations for a title match, but he was unable to raise the $10,000 purse.[10] A title challenge from Frank Marshall in 1923 also came to nothing.[10] In 1926 Nimzowitsch challenged for the title, followed by a renewed challenge from Alekhine in the same year.[11] Alekhine had secured a "firm commitment" from the Argentine Chess Federation to finance the match.[12] 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."[13] Capablanca accepted Alekhine's challenge, but also told him that he had given Nimzowitsch until January 1, 1927 to meet the purse requirement.[11] Nimzowitsch failed to meet his deadline and Capablanca finally agreed to face Alekhine in a world championship match.[14]

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.[15] Geza Maroczy predicted victory was bound to go to Capablanca,[16] and Rudolf Spielmann said he would be surprised if Alekhine "were to win even a single game."[17] 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."[16]

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.[18] The Argentine Chess Club provided the venue, except for two games played in the Jockey Club.[19] Dr. Carlos A. Querencio served as referee, and Daniel Deletang was Alekhine's second.[20]

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.[21] 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."[22] 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.[23] After winning Game 29, Capablanca trailed the match by just a point, and optimistically remarked that "the match takes on fresh interest..."[24] 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.[25] A win would have tied the match. Alekhine characterized his win in Game 32 as "well-contested" and "full of ideas" from both players.[26] 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.[27] 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.[27]

click on a game number to replay game 1234567891011121314151617181920

click on a game number to replay game 2122232425262728293031323334

FINAL SCORE:  Alekhine 6;  Capablanca 3 (25 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Capablanca-Alekhine 1927]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #11     Capablanca vs Alekhine, 1927     0-1
    · Game #34     Alekhine vs Capablanca, 1927     1-0
    · Game #1     Capablanca vs Alekhine, 1927     0-1


  1. Jan Kalendovsky and Vlastimil Fiala, Complete Games of Alekhine Vol 1, 1892-1921 (Olomouc 1992), pp.6-7
  2. Kalendovsky and Fiala, pp.24-25
  3. 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
  4. Rod Edwards, All-Russian Championship, St. Petersburg (1914)
  5. Skinner and Verhoeven, p.89
  6. Shakhmaty v SSSR No.3 (March 1956), pp.87-89. In Sarah Beth Cohen, "Encounters with Alekhine"
  7. 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
  8. Toni Preziuso, AMERIKA! AMERIKA! In "KARL" no.3 2013, pp.34-39
  9. American Chess Bulletin Sept-Oct 1922, p.150. In Winter, Capablanca p.188
  10. Edward Winter, Capablanca pp.191-197
  11. Edward Winter, Capablanca pp.193-194
  12. Alexander Alekhine, On the Road to the World Championship 1923-1927 G. Feather transl., (Pergamon 1984), p.117
  13. William Hartston, The Guinness Book Of Chess Grandmasters (Guinness World Records Limited 1996), p.82
  14. Alekhine, p.131
  15. Skinner and Verhoeven, pp.294-296
  16. La Nación (14 Sept. 1927), p.12. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 5665
  17. Sonntagsbeilage der Augsburger Postzeitung (25 June 1927), p.104. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 5338
  18. Edward Winter, "The London Rules" (2008); La Prensa 14 Sept 1927. In Edward Winter, "Capablanca v Alekhine, 1927" (2003)
  19. Yuri Shaburov, Alexander Alekhine- The Undefeated Champion (The Voice 1992), p.161
  20. Alekhine, p.151
  21. Garry Kasparov, On My Great Predecessors Part I (Everyman Chess 2003), p.316
  22. Edward Winter, Capablanca p.200
  23. Kasparov, pp.316-318
  24. Edward Winter, Capablanca p.201
  25. Kasparov, pp.323-328
  26. Alekhine, p.209
  27. Magazine Actual (May 1997), p. 25. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 3428

 page 1 of 1; 6 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Capablanca vs Alekhine 1-0421927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchA47 Queen's Indian
2. Capablanca vs Alekhine 1-0361927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchD52 Queen's Gambit Declined
3. Alekhine vs Capablanca 1-0411927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchD64 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack
4. Capablanca vs Alekhine 1-0701927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchD52 Queen's Gambit Declined
5. Alekhine vs Capablanca 1-0631927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
6. Alekhine vs Capablanca 1-0821927Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship MatchD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: The additional $5,000 was donated by something called: <The commission for the encouragement of touring throughout Cuba.>


Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: Checking <chancho>'s source above (Capablanca: A Chess Biography), I found it mentioned that Marshall also inquired about a match with Capablanca but gave up after learning about the $10,000 requirement.

So, the list of matches that did not happen because of the $10,000, as far as I understand, is:

Rubinstein-Capablanca (1921)
Nimzowitsch-Capablanca (1921)
Alekhine-Capablanca (1921)
Marshall-Capablanca (1923)
Bogoljubov-Capablanca (1925)
Nimzowitsch-Capablanca (1927)

I don't have information on how much money these challengers were actually able to raise.

Jun-30-17  Petrosianic: Yes, Marshall did look into it, which is kind of incredible chutzpah on his part. If a Marshall in his prime got stomped by a Young Capablanca, what chance would a late 40's Marshall have against a Capa in his prime? I think Capa's reputation would have suffered if he'd defended against Marshall over those more worthy contenders.

<So, the list of matches that did not happen because of the $10,000, as far as I understand, is:

Rubinstein-Capablanca (1921)
Nimzowitsch-Capablanca (1921)
Alekhine-Capablanca (1921)

Since the London Rules didn't exist until 1922, I'm not sure how this is possible.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Petrosianic>
<I'm not sure how this is possible> Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch and Alekhine mounted challenges in 1921, within a few months of those Capablanca promulgated the London Rules, and all three challenges withered. You can draw whatever conclusion you like.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <So far, on the <$10,000 was excessive> side, we have: Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Bogoljubov and Capablanca were never able to raise the stakes, it took Alekhine 5 years and some luck to raise the stakes, Alekhine said it was <difficult to imagine> raising the stakes, and FIDE said it was <impracticable> to raise the stakes.>

The Bradley Beach bid of 1928 seems to have been genuine enough, so the financing of this match (whether played in 1929, as originally planned, or later) was probably viable. In 1930 and 1931, Capablanca also mooted plans of playing in Cuba, Mexico or New York, but Alekhine's stated desire to play in Europe rendered them academic.

It's worth noting that $10,000 was just the prize fund. Travelling and match living expenses were also part of the deal (which they weren't in 1921), never mind all the other organisational costs, so you can surely add a few thousand more.

< it took Alekhine 5 years and some luck to raise the stakes>

The history of Alekhine's efforts are not recorded, but it seems unlikely that any efforts he was making in from 1921-1922 bore fruit with regard to the Buenos Aires match.

<Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch and Alekhine mounted challenges in 1921>

I'm not aware of Nimzo's challenge. What are the details?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <MissScarlett> <I'm not aware of Nimzo's challenge. What are the details?>

It's mentioned in a few present-day sources (notably, wikipedia's bio of Capablanca), but I have not been able to trace it back to a 1920's source. So it might be a myth, or some author mixing up the dates decades later.

You're still planning to post more details about the Bradley Beach bid, right?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: What I found from NY Times archive on the 1921 bids was: First Rubinstein, then Alekhine challenged Capablanca. Rubinstein got the precedence because he challenged first. And then:

NY Times, Sept. 8, 1921:
<CAPABLANCA AGREES TO PLAY RUBINSTEIN World's Chess Champion Willing to Defend Title Against European Expert. HAVANA, Sept. 7. Josť R. Capablanca, the world's champion chess player, today accepted a challenge from Akiba Rubinstein, the Russo-Polish master, for a match for the title. Rubinstein at present is in Stockholm. In his letter of acceptance, Capablanca said he shortly would outline the conditions under which he would play Rubinstein.... The principal feature of the rules as proposed by Capablanca includes a defense of the championship title yearly if a properly accredited challenger is available and acceptable financial inducements for a match are offered....> It goes on to mention the six wins requirement etc., essentially the London Rules.

Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: From the July-August 1926 American Chess Bulletin (pg 90)

<During the afternoon of 9 July 1926 Capablanca was asked concerning the challenge for a match said to have been issued by A. Nimzowitsch of Denmark, but not received by him. he gave the following statement: The rules governing world championship matches were adopted by the great masters during the London Congress of 1922 and are well known by all of them. Among other conditions, they call for a minimum purse of $10,000. Of this the titleholder receives 20% as a fee, the balance to be divided in the proposition of 60% to the winner and 40% to the loser. In addition, the traveling and living expenses of both players must be provided for.Whenever Nimzowitsch or any other Master meets these conditions I shall be ready to defend my title within a year from the date of the receipt of the challenge, as required by the above mentioned world championship rules.>

Source: Capablanca: A Compendium of Games, Notes, Articles, Correspondence, Illustrations and Other Rare Archival Materials on the Cuban Chess Genius Jose Raul Capablanca, 1888-1942

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Given Nimzo's only major post-war event had been Gothenburg (1920), it's difficult to believe even Nimzo would've considered himself a serious challenger. That said, if there's any truth to it, maybe he though the Cubans would pay handsomely again to see him get beaten up.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <chancho>
The 1926 challenge by Nimzowitsch is well documented. An alleged 1921 challenge by him is not.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <The rules governing world championship matches were adopted by the great masters during the London Congress of 1922 and are well known by all of them.>

Well, this addresses my earlier point about whether Capa ever tried to get other masters to put their names to the London Rules. There was no need - they were bound, regardless.

Even though I'm generally sympathetic to Capa, and the way Alekhine mucked him about in the coming years, it's hard not to conclude that he was hoist with his own petard.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Another aspect worth considering is that although the Cuban economy was buoyant in 1920-21 on the back of higher sugar prices, the general global climate was troubled and continued to be so for, at least, a couple of years:

Germany was in an especially bad way:

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Source: Capablanca: A Compendium of Games, Notes, Articles, Correspondence, Illustrations and Other Rare Archival Materials on the Cuban Chess Genius Jose Raul Capablanca, 1888-1942>

Do you have the whole book in pdf/text form? If so, I might have some requests.

Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: No.

Just the book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <NY Times, Sept. 8, 1921: <CAPABLANCA AGREES TO PLAY RUBINSTEIN


The principal feature of the rules as proposed by Capablanca includes a defense of the championship title yearly if a properly accredited challenger is available and acceptable financial inducements for a match are offered....> It goes on to mention the six wins requirement etc., essentially the London Rules.>

Does it specify a mimimum of $10,000?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <MissScarlett> <Does it specify a minimum of $10,000?>

The NY Times article does not give any details about the <accceptable financial inducements>. Here's the full quote about his conditions from this article.

<The principal feature of the rules as proposed by Capablanca includes a defense of the championship title yearly if a properly accredited challenger is available and acceptable financial inducements for a match are offered. He would also include in the rules a provision that the title may be won or held only through securing six victories, that contenders be allowed a five-day recess in case of illness, that play be limited to five hours daily, six days a week, and that only one match a day be allowed.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Not <essentially the London Rules> then.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <MissScarlett> The conditions listed are consistent with the London Rules but less detailed, as one might expect in a non-chess newspaper.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: Here's a timeline on 1921 challenges in NY Times headlines. Dates are when published, usually a day after the story dateline.

Aug. 2, 1921: "SEEK RETURN CHESS MATCH. Berlin Fans Said to Be Raising Purse for Lasker-Capablanca Tilt." The article says the fans were aiming to raise 1,000,000 marks - about $6000 in 1921 money based on historical exchange rates, but Lasker is quoted saying he would not play and suggested Rubinstein should challenge instead.

Aug. 27, 1921: "Rubinstein, Polish Chess Star, Challenges Jose Capablanca"

Sept. 8, 1921: "CAPABLANCA AGREES TO PLAY RUBINSTEIN" As I quoted above - <acceptable financial inducements> not specified.

Sept. 29, 1921: "WANTS U.S.C.A. APPROVAL - Capablanca Seeks Recognition of Chess Match with Rubinstein" The article says Capablanca sent his match rules to the U.S. Chess Association, again details the six wins condition but does not mention the financial side.

Dec. 1, 1921: "Issues Challenge to Capablanca." Alekhine's challenge.

Dec. 3, 1921: "ALECHINE HAS TO WAIT. Rubinstein Has First Chance for Chess Match, Says Capablanca."

That's all I was able to find from the NY Times. There were no further stories about these challenges or about Capablanca's match conditions.

The London Rules were signed in Aug. 1922. To <MissScarlett>'s point, we can't just assume these were identical with the rules Capablanca was circulating in 1921. Alekhine's comment quoted above suggests the London Rules were the first place he learned of the $10,000 requirement.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Walter Penn Shipley was chess editor of the <Philadelphia Inquirer>.

Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25th 1921, Feature Sec. p.6:

<Jose R. Capablanca has accepted a challenge from Akiba Rubinstein, the Russian Polish master for a match for the world's championship. We trust the match may be definitely arranged and a purse subscribed. This purse should not in our judgment be less than $10,000.>

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 2nd 1921, Feature Sec. p.6:

<A tentative draft of the rules to govern the match was received by the editor of this column from Mr. Capablanca a short time ago, and we have returned the same to the world's champion with such suggestions as occurred to us. On the whole we considered the rules perfectly fair and just.>

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9th 1921, Feature Sec. p.6:

<We recently received a long letter from Jose R. Capablanca, the world's chess champion, written from Havana the latter part of last month. Mr. Capablanca states that he looks forward to visiting this country the latter part of October. He further adds that he has practically formulated his conditions for his match with Rubinstein and that it is possible that this match may be played the latter part of February or in March of next year. A tentative draft of the rules governing this match has been forwarded to the editor of this column, with a request for suggestions, as it is Capablanca's desire that these rules and regulations shall meet with the approval of the United States Chess Association.

We have gone over the regulations as received and believe they are eminently fair and just and feel but little doubt that Rubinstein will accept them.>

And then the trail seems to go cold as the prospect of a match with Rubinstein apparently petered out; had Capa demanded a minimum purse of $10,000? The next development was the news of a potential match between Alekhine and Rubinstein at the Hague in early 1922, a virtual candidates' playoff, but that also foundered. Fast forward to London 1922...

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: As to the valuation of a world championship match being $10,000 in the early 1920s, it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable if a shot at the American title was worth $2000:

Needless to say, this match also didn't take place.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: I could post some data comparing prices and wages in North America with Europe in the 1920's, but <Petrosianic> claimed it was irrelevant for some unexplained reason.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: Well, you don't know? It's all about making *clicks* in life; think harder!
Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: Capablanca letter responding to Rubinstein's challenge:

<Dear Sir, two days ago, I received your formal challenge to play a match for the world's championship. It will give me great pleasure to defend my title against you.

I will send you my conditions in a short time. <<<I drew them up>>> after my match with Dr. Lasker and I am now trying to have them accepted by the US Chess Association as the official rules to govern <<<all future championship matches.>>>

I consider the proposed rules very fair both to the masters and the chess public in general. I trust you will find them so.

Yours faithfully J.R. Capablanca, Havana, 7 September 1921.>

Source: Capablanca: A Compendium of Games, Notes, Articles, Correspondence, Illustrations and Other Rare Archival Materials on the Cuban Chess Genius Jose Raul Capablanca, 1888-1942 pg 186

It appears like what <Capa was drawing up> was the London rules <before> he presented them to the other masters during the London 1922 tournament.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: It's all nonsense.

- In 1914, the exchange rate of the German mark to the American dollar was about 4.2 to one. Nine years later, it was 4.2 trillion to one.

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