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Bogoljubov - Nimzowitsch
Compiled by Chessical


This was a short four game match between two emerging masters Efim Bogoljubov (aged 31) and Aron Nimzowitsch (aged 33) whose progress had been held back for half a decade by the disaster of the First World War but who would both achieve great tournament successes in the 1920s.

They had only played once before Bogoljubov vs Nimzowitsch, 1914 with Nimzowitsch winning with Black.

This match was played in played between 1st and the 7th September 1920 (1) in the rooms of the Stockholm Schacksallskap, The Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. The hotel situated on the waterfront near to the Royal Palace; was and continues to be a premium luxury hotel.

Sweden offered a rare opportunity for grandmaster chess. Neutral in the First World War, the demand for Swedish exports in a seller's market allowed the Swedes to pay their high national debt off and lower their interest rates. The newly wealthy country could afford the luxury of hosting chess tournaments when other economies were struggling to recover.(2)


Bogoljubov had barely broken into the master ranks before the First World War. His best results were first at Łódź 1913 ahead of Salwe and second to Karel Hromadka in the All Russian Amateur Tournament (Liepāja) 1913. In January 1914, at the All Russian Master's Tournament he came 8th (9½ points) behind the winners Alexander Alekhine and Nimzowitsch (13½ points)

Although arrested and held in Germany during the First World War, Bogoljubov had the opportunity to play strong masters as the interned Russian masters organised their own tournaments.

Bogoljubov had been in Sweden for over a year along with Rudolf Spielmann, Richard Reti and slighlty later Akiba Rubinstein. Efim Bogoljubov played in "J.G.Schultz Memorial" (Stockholm) in November 1919, The Four Master's Tournament (Stockholm) in December 1919, played a match of 12 games against Rubinstein (January 1920) losing 5½ to 6½ and a match against the Swedish player Arthur Hakansson, (Kristianstad) (3)


Nimzowitsch's security and opportunity to build his career rapidly were all destroyed due to the First World War. His homeland, Latvia had been invaded by the German and then by Red Army when it struggled to become an independent country. There would not be peace until the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty was signed on 11th August 1920.

The early 1920s were consequently a precarious time for Nimzowitsch. He needed to restore his status as a master urgently. In 1920, he was 33 years old and with little money left he had to secure a living in a foreign country. He had been grinding out an existence by giving simultaneous displays and lectures in Latvia (4). It would not be until 1923 with Copenhagen (1923) and Karlsbad (1923) that he began to play and in and win major tournaments which took him to third place in the rankings by the end of the decade.

Nimzowitsch's first grandmaster tournament after the war was in Game Collection: Gothenburg 1920 (August 2nd - 20th, 1920). Nimzowitsch had not played tournament chess since St. Petersburg (1914) six years before. He was visibily nervous and played poorly, losing his last three games and finishing twelfth.

Twelve days later, he would open this match against Bogoljubov, who had come third at Gothenberg behind Richard Reti and Akiba Rubinstein. This was to be a hard fought match revealing that Nimzowitsch's play was not yet in a good or stable form. This would take another two years during which his "hypermodern style" was honed. Nimzowitsch's first game victory was to be his only one in the match. In the next three games his play became less exact as he progressed into the later middlegame.

The progress of the match

1 2 3 4 Bogoljubov 0 1 1 1 3 Nimzowitsch 1 0 0 0 1

Progressive score:

1 2 3 4 Bogoljubov 0 1 2 3 Nimzowitsch 1 1 1 1

Nimzowitsch was White in the odd numbered games.

The games

Game 1 In the first game, Bogoljubow had Black and played aggressively. He then overstepped the mark, blundered and Nimzowitsch was able to finish him off with a coup de grâce.

click for larger view



Game 2 The second game was a long grind. Bogoljubov accrued little advantage out of the opening. Bogoljubov had a Rook and two pawns for two Bishops. The two prelates were not particularly beneficial until Nimzowitsch began to play inexactly in the late middle game as he suffered in the toils of time trouble. Eventually, Nimzowitsch had two pawns for a Bishop but could not hold a difficult but not definitely lost ending.


Game 3 Nimzowitsch played his favourite Advanced French against Bogoljubov's second deployment of the French Defence. Nimzowitsch was unable to secure an advantage with the White pieces as Bogoljubov dominated the centre.

Bogoljubov secured the game with a dramatic 28th move:

click for larger view


Nimzowitsch now to had win his next game with Black.


Game 4 Nimzowitsch, with the Black pieces, used an old favourite the Philidor Defence. He equalised without any real difficulty. As in Game 2, his play deteriorated in the late middle game and Bogoljubov was able to avenge his humiliation in the first game with his own spectacular Rook sacrifice:

click for larger view




(1). The start and end dates are given on p.193 of the November-December edition of "Tidskrift För Schack", Nr.11-12, vol 26. Nimzowitsch annotated the first game and Bogoljubov the third and fourth games of the match in this edition.


(3). "Aron Nimzowitsch: On the Road to Chess Mastery, 1886-1924", Per Skjoldager, Jørn Erik Nielsen, p.277

(4). "Aron Nimzowitsch: On the Road to Chess Mastery, 1886-1924", Per Skjoldager, Jørn Erik Nielsen, p. 274-5)

Original collection and text by User: Chessical.

Game 4 found and submitted to database.

Thanks to: User: MissScarlett ; User: Tabanus and User: zanzibar for reading over the text and suggesting improvements and additional material.

Game 1
Nimzowitsch vs Bogoljubov, 1920 
(C02) French, Advance, 22 moves, 1-0

Game 2
Bogoljubov vs Nimzowitsch, 1920  
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 63 moves, 1-0

Game 3
Nimzowitsch vs Bogoljubov, 1920 
(C02) French, Advance, 28 moves, 0-1

Game 4 (final game).
Bogoljubov vs Nimzowitsch, 1920
(C41) Philidor Defense, 45 moves, 1-0

4 games

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