In 1932, Max Euwe and Salomon Flohr were among the best young players in the world; as such they had a credible prospect to become the next challenger to Alexander Alekhine for his title of World Champion. The match between them took place in two venues: Amsterdam, and the spa town and chess centre of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary), with a four month hiatus between the first eight games in Holland and the conclusion in Czechoslovakia.
The reason for this two-stage match is unclear. Perhaps it was the necessity to secure sufficient funds. Tidskrift för Schack speaks of a "return match in the summer", (1) but the New York Times report (from Amsterdam, datelined 7 April) stated: "EUWE, FLOHR IN CHESS TIE - Each Victor in Two Games During First Half of Match. Dr. Max Euwe of this city and Salo Flohr of Prague, Czechoslovakia, both winners of international tournaments held at Hastings, today completed the first half of a match of sixteen games to settle the question of supremacy between them. The score reads: Dr. Euwe, 2, Flohr, 2, draws, 4. The remaining eight games will be contested at Carlsbad during the Summer." (2) It seems that it was one match from Dr. Euwe's comments and contemporary press reports. The match was funded by the Dutch newspaper Het Volk which supported both its legs. (3)
Several strong players established themselves as world class in the early 1930's. With the two strongest players World Champion Alekhine (39 y.o.) and his predecessor Jose Raul Capablanca (43 y.o.) seemingly irreconcilable, the established challengers were Efim Bogoljubov (42 y.o.), Aron Nimzowitsch (45 y.o.), and the new pretenders to the throne. "United States. – Dr Alexander Alekhine, before leaving New York for Europe on 5th September, told an interviewer that he regarded as specially likely future opponents Isaac Kashdan, Reuben Fine and Flohr, with the first-named the most probable. "America’s chances of possessing the next champion", he said, "are excellent"." (4)
In January 1932, by age and world ranking, Chessmetrics (5) reveals four younger outstanding players: Kashdan (26 years old, #3 in the world rankings), Euwe (30, #6 in the world rankings, Flohr (23, #7 in the world rankings, Mir Sultan Khan (27, #10 in the world rankings). Euwe and to a lesser extent Flohr both enjoyed support from their home countries. The other two lacked this, and were seriously disadvantaged in the long term. Sultan Khan won the British Championship three times in four attempts (1929, 1932, 1933), but his career ended in 1933. He was a grandmaster, but this did not free him from being a bonded labourer, on the estate of Major General Sir Malik Mohammed Umar Hayat Khan (1875–1944). When the Major General returned to India, Sultan Khan was lost to the chess world. Kashdan's career was severely handicapped by the lack of financial backing in the USA other than invitations to play simultaneous displays. After attempting to be a chess professional travelling in Europe (1930-1931), he found that even success in European tournaments could not pay the bills. In a hard headed manner, he instead concentrated on a career as insurance agent for the sake of his family. His position in the world rankings fell away from 1935.
Run up to the match
Euwe and Flohr had met only once before, at Hastings (1931/32). Euwe had come close to defeat in a very sharp game, but Flohr let him off the hook and the game was drawn (Flohr vs Euwe, 1931). Euwe and Flohr had burnished their reputations by playing extremely strong opponents. Including their own match, these would be the most highly rated matches between 1930 and 1933: (6) Capablanca - Euwe (1931) (Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, Euwe lost by 4-6) and Flohr - Sultan Khan (1932) (London, Flohr won by 3½–2½). The latter match was between the two most likely challengers from the rising generation in terms of ability and the potential to raise the funds necessary to finance a match against Alekhine.
At 30, this was a pivotal moment for Euwe. He had to decide whether chess, mathematics or a business career would be his future. "By way of practice, Euwe plays a living-room match in Amsterdam against the peripatetic Spielmann, whom he defeats 3-1 (+2 -0 =2). This is followed by the showdown with Flohr: eight games in Amsterdam (+2 -2 =4), followed by a break of a few months and a second leg in Carlsbad in August. Although Euwe wins his tenth game in great style there (a real licking), the talented Czech again manages to draw level (+1 -1 =6)." (7)
Flohr is a grandmaster whose style and image changed greatly within the space of a few years. In the early 1930's his progress was meteoric. He was energetic and known for his computational ability. He attended Berlin (1928) as a reporter and won a large amount of money from the assembled grandmasters in blitz matches. At the end of the 1930's he became FIDE's chosen challenger for Alekhine.
Flohr had emerged from a newspaper office in Prague to very rapidly become a leading master. His first international tournament had been only three years before this match, at Rogaška Slatina (1929), where he finished second to Akiba Rubinstein. He had been admitted due to the representation of Nimzowitsch. (8) "The sensation of the tournament is the great result of the 20-year-old S. Flohr (Prague), who was accepted into the tournament only on the intercession of Nimzowitsch." (9) Flohr had taken on masters in Berlin (1928) and beaten them at blitz for money. His ascent to grandmaster status had no setbacks as he established himself in the ranks of the European masters. He represented Czechoslovakia at the Hamburg Oympiad (1930) on board 1, scoring 14½/17, and then again at the Prague Olympiad (1931), scoring 11/18. He then had a continuous roll of good results against significant opponents:
Hastings Premier Reserves (1930/31) – clear 1st ahead of Ludwig Rellstab, Georges Koltanowski, Daniel Noteboom and Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander.
Bled (1931) – tied for 4th behind Alekhine, Bogoljubow and Nimzowitsch.
Hastings (1931/32) – 1st ahead of Euwe.
Bad Sliac (1932) – tied for 1st with Milan Vidmar.
Berne (1932) – tied for 2nd with Euwe.
London (1932) – 2nd behind Alekhine.
Flohr’s peak period was to be the second half of the 1930's, (10) when he was 2nd to 5th rated in the world. "Among the few chess chess masters constantly active despite the economic crisis is above all the young Prague Grandmaster Salo Flohr. Not only does he participate in every major championship tournament ... but meanwhile, he undertakes tours with a comprehensive programme of simultaneous demonstrations, serious games and other chess productions. The reason for this is that his popularity lies in his immense skill ... but equally in his winning personality ... As a simultaneous player, Flohr stands at a height that only few have reached. He has this year after the Hastings tournament played a total of 322 simultaneous games in England and Holland, winning 290, drawn 30, and lost 2, literally two." (11)
In 1932, Flohr was regarded as being a very sharp and tactical player. Yet, in only a few years, Flohr became a predominantly positional player and a technical perfectionist. Indeed, his style was attacked in 1937 by the magazine Chess in the USSR: "Soviet chessmen can fight and create completely freely. A Damocles' sword of material reasons and considerations is not hanging over them, a pressure which is so well known to the bourgeois professional. Stereotypical play, routine and mere technique, all that Romanovski justifiably classes as the "neo-Fine-Flohr style", is essentially alien to the creative impulse of Soviet masters." According to Reuben Fine: "In the years from 1929 to 1933, when Alekhine was at his peak Flohr was universally recognised as his most serious challenger. Although he did poorly in individual games with Alekhine, his results were outstanding against the others .. In 1929, when he was only 20, he won second prize behind Rubinstein at Rogaška Slatina. Then he began a long string of tournament successes which placed him second only to Alekhine. This period lasted until about 1935, when his style underwent a considerable change and his play fell off somewhat. He became increasingly cautious, avoiding complications and steering for the endgame as soon as possible .. he became more and more a drawing master .. the roots of his frantic emphasis on "safety first" are not hard to discover. In 1936, Czechoslovakia, his second homeland, was faced with a growing threat from Nazi Germany ... (and) with his support endangered, Flohr found it impossible to concentrate on his own growth as a chess master". (12)
Flohr warmed up for the match by defeating the Dutch master Johannes Hendrik Otto van den Bosch (+4 -0 =4), (13) and Salo Landau (+1 –0 =3). (14) He also covered some of his expenses with simultaneous exhibitions in Rotterdam and Breda.
The venue in Amsterdam was the Odd Fellow Huis, (15)
and in Karlsbad, the Střelnice Hotel. (16)
http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/vi... ("The two knights study the pieces")
http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/vi... (the players are watched by Rudolf Spielmann to the immediate right of Flohr)
http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/vi... (in De Sumatra Post)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Euwe 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 8
Flohr 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 8
Flohr had white in the odd-numbered games.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Euwe 0 1 1½ 2 2½ 2½ 3 4 4½ 5 5½ 6 6½ 7 7½ 8
Flohr 1 1 1½ 2 2½ 3½ 4 4 4½ 4½ 5½ 6 6½ 7 7½ 8
Euwe's views on the match
In the following newspaper report (translated from Dutch), Euwe talks about the Flohr of the early 1930's. It is notable that Euwe concentrates on Flohr's tactical ability and vision.
"Dr. Euwe speaks about his opponent. Flohr plays combinations beautifully
Everyone knows that the first half of the two-part match, consisting of 8 games, ended in a 4-4 tie. We wrote previously that Dr. Euwe in the 7th and 8th games had to pull out all the stops as he did not want to lose the Dutch section of the match. In the 7th game, the Dutch chess matador failed to get more than a draw, which meant that he had go for a win in the 8th game. It is interesting to review what Dr. Euwe wrote about his adversary in Het Volk, for whom Dr. Euwe is the chess editor.
Flohr is is stronger, but ...
The first half of the match with Flohr is over, so I can start with a clean score in August, said Dr. Euwe. Indeed, I am totally satisfied with the course of the match. A 4-4 position is more than I could expect and I do not give up, even though I felt that Flohr had the advantage at several different points in my match. What factors are basic to Flohr's strength and how it is possible, despite this, for me to hope for a victory, I can explain with a popular example. If we have three beans, we immediately know how many there are without counting. If we take ten beans, counting is generally necessary, but once we have done that, we are also certain of the number. It becomes a completely different situation, if we have more beans, say one hundred. We can count and recount, but we will never get absolute certainty if we can not touch the beans and they are not in any kind of order. We are now looking at some complicated chess position: we analyse and create different variations by thinking long and carefully weighing the outcomes. But we still cannot be sure that we have not overlooked a certain finesse.
Not so Flohr, he calculates much faster than I and has learnt to discern the truth with decisive certainty. Whilst I am assessing the possibilities of a number of variations with equivalent complexity to counting one hundred beans, for Flohr it is as if there are only ten beans! For some variations, which are advantageous to him, a single glance is sufficient; just as if there were only three beans! It is clear that this ability has a double advantage: Flohr has need of less time in complicated positions, which is to his benefit later. Secondly, Flohr knows when to finish his calculations, whilst I either proceed more deeply into lines or quit the investigation. This can result in either a waste of time and energy through over-thinking or a potentially unpleasant surprises if one does not think long enough. A typical example of this occurred in the sixth game: position after Blacks' 18...Bxb2
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I looked at 19.Bxb4, and came to the conclusion that 19...Ba3 20.Bd3 Bxb4+ 2l.Ke2 put me in a position which I may be able to draw, but in which loss is still far from being out of the question. Now if 19.Rxb4 axb4 20.Qxb2 Rxa4, I have two Bishops against a Rook and two Pawns, which is generally not unfavourably balance of material, but the White King is not yet safe and it is very questionable if I will manage to castle short in good time. If I could castle, I would be better off, especially since the Black King on e8 is not very favourably situated, partly in connection with a possible Qh8+. So I had to calculate many lines. Soon I was dizzy as I already fought for three hours in this game - and after I had seen the variation 21.Bc4 b3 22. Bxb3 Rb8 23.Qh8+ Kd7 24.Qxb8 Qxb8 25.Bxa4 Qb1+ 26.Bd1, with a few more variants checked, I think that's enough and decided upon 19.Rxb4. A couple of moves later, I noticed that I overlooked 24...Ra1+!
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25.Ke2 Qxb8 26.Rxa1 Qxb3 ... Flohr is therefore the better combinational player. If I want to succeed, I will have to avoid so many combination-rich positions in the first place. Secondly, I will be sure to be cautious if these positions arise.
Flohr's large-scale plans
Salo Flohr has great plans for the future. He wants his countryman Bata, a renowned millionaire shoe manufacturer, to underwrite the biggest and most important International Schedule Tour of all time. Of course Alekhine, Capablanca and ... Dr. Lasker must not be missing. Such a tournament will certainly not be cheap, but Bata can overlook a few hundred thousand crowns, if he gets good publicity to promote his shoe factory city." (13)
Highlights of the match
Game 1. Flohr outplayed Euwe in a Queen's Gambit Exchange variation. Euwe lost a pawn defending against a Queen-side minority attack after his efforts to attack on the K-side had been neutralised.
Game 2. Euwe immediately equalised the match. In a passive position, Flohr sacrificed a pawn for a K-side attack, but Euwe held his nerve better and played accurately. After
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42.Qf6! he won the game quickly.
Game 3 was another hard fought game. Euwe held the ending whilst being the exchange down for a pawn.
Game 5. Flohr played an unchallenging opening and agreed to a draw with White in only 15 moves. It seems that day he very much wanted a rest, and was prepared to surrender the opening advantage. For in the next game, with Black, he played extremely dynamically.
Game 6. After two successive draws, Flohr introduced a new defence into the match - the Grünfeld. As described by Euwe (see above), he outplayed the Dutch champion in the tactical complications.
Game 8. In the last game of the Dutch section of the match, Euwe managed to draw level (4-4). Flohr lost valuable time winning a pawn. Euwe's consequent rapid offensive smashed through his opponent's defences.
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25.Nxh7 Rfd8 (25...Kxh7 26.Bxg6+) 26.h4 Rd7 27.h5 Qd8 (27...gxh5 28.Qg5+ 28.h6 1-0 (if 28...Qxf6 then 29.Nxf6+ Kf8 30.Nxd7+ Ke7 31.Nb6)
Game 9. For the first Karlsbad game, Euwe chose to play a King's Indian, showing he was confident to play cutting edge theory. The game was drawn.
Game 10. This was probably Euwe's best game of the match. He once again unleashed a strong K-side attack when Flohr mistakenly left his King on that weakened wing.
Game 11. Euwe layed the Tarrasch Defence for the second time in the match. In sight of equality, Euwe miscalculated and lost a pawn in the middle game. He was then ground down and resigned two pawns adrift.
Game 14. Flohr again played the French Defence despite his violent loss with the same variation in Game 10. This time, he played more precisely and secured a draw without running any great risk.
The last two games were careful and short draws leaving the match tied.
After the match
The match result being inconclusive, there was no immediate momentum to support a challenge to Alekhine. The Soviets chose Flohr to play their champion and best hope in Botvinnik - Flohr (1933) (November-December). Flohr was elected by the FIDE General Assembly in August 1937 as their official challenger for the world championship. Alekhine, however, controlled the title and did not offer Flohr any match.
Alekhine, having exhausted the credibility of Bogoljubov as a world championship challenger (Alekhine - Bogoljubov World Championship Match (1929) and Alekhine - Bogoljubov World Championship Rematch (1934)), cast around for another challenger who was credible but not Capablanca. He chose Euwe, in the certainty that Euwe could raise the funds and that he also would defeat him (Alekhine - Euwe World Championship Match (1935)).
(1) Tidskrift för Schack, April 1932, p. 72.
(2) The New York Times, 8th April 1932, p. 29.
(3) Het Volk, 22nd August 1932, p. 3.
(4) British Chess Magazine, November 1933, p. 477.
(7) Alexander Munninghoff, Max Euwe: The Biography, in New in Chess.
(9) Czechoslovak Republic, 13th October 1929.
(10) http://www.chessmetrics.com/cm/CM2/... when he was between second to fifth rated in the world.
(11) Wiener Schach-Zeitung, No. 7., April 1933, p. 103.
(12) Reuben Fine, The World’s Greatest Chess Games, pp. 166-167.
(13) De Sumatra Post, 9th May 1932 (http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/vi...).
(14) Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad, 4th May 1932, p. 4.
(15) Utrechts Nieuwsblad, 26th March 1932, p. 6.
Original collection and text by User: Chessical. Game dates are from Dutch newspapers at http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/.