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Alexander Alekhine vs Clarence Seaman Howell
Casual game (1923), Madrid ESP, Jan-01
Semi-Slav Defense: Chigorin Defense (D46)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-10-05  sneaky pete: From the British Chess Magazine, 1930:

Some remarks in the <American Chess Bulletin> by our friend Clarence S. Howell, concerning the World Chess Champion, appear to us worthy of reproduction.

For several years (writes Mr. Howell) we have felt that there was something unconvincing about the play of Alekhine. There have been four acknowledged world's champions - Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. Before them, Morphy had a clear right to such a title had it existed. Morphy's play, judged by modern standards, was very unsatisfactory, but his success showed superiority in his time. Steinitz had eccentricities, but a power that was dominant and convincing. Lasker was the great contestant. Capablanca was the great invulnerable. Alekhine was and is different. Brilliant and great player that he is, his play does not convince. Judging by his games as a whole, one feels that Morphy and any of the three previous champions at their best would have defeated him in a match. Judging by his games only, this annotator would also believe that Pillsbury and Marshall and possibly Schlechter at their best might have defeated him.

And yet we have doubts on two slightly vague notions: (1) we doubt whether Alekhine has often shown all of himself in a game; (2) we are certain that Alekhine has not yet decided for himself just how chess should be played. There was something of the "lone wolf" about Lasker. Reti indicated that he established no school. Lasker, however, was a superb contestant, and has no doubt about himself or how he should play. A certain deep student of chess has lately given us a possible "key" regarding Alekhine. He writes that the present world's champion is always experimenting, and we believe that his games show it. He is not yet convinced. Modern in style, he is not hyper-modern nor ultra-modern in conviction. He probably believes that to play strictly "not to lose" will stunt a player's imagination, but he also almost certainly knows that to play "always to win" is risky. Hence his play is a mixture, and we frankly believe that at times he changes his position as to how he should play in the middle of a game. If he had a mediocre mind, his hesitation would spell complete failure. Actually his mind is brilliant, and he succeeds. We suspect that it is often the case that his struggle within himself is greater than his struggle against his opponent.

Jul-11-05
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: Interesting! Thanks for typing all that in.

S&V report that Howell was a player of master strength. He was a former Brooklyn Chess Club and New York State champion. He was on business in Madrid when this game was played, 1 Jan 1923.

Dec-20-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: An off-hand game played in Madrid, Spain on January 1, 1923.
Jul-06-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I read Howell's piece many years ago and have been looking out for it ever since. Serendipity.
Jul-06-16  zanzibar: Serendipty... here's a video I just watched:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2v...

Contrast the opinions offered by the various personalities in the video, vs. the opinion offered in Howell's piece.

Perhaps this is due to a post-1930 change in Alekhine's playing?

Nah, probably not.

Jul-06-16  AlicesKnight: Perhaps Howell could have looked more at the nature of this game.

Hugh Alexander (editing the final volume of Alekhine's games) says "... imagination is the key word; ... to conjure up diabolical complications in the most harmless looking position..." Now this game is by no means "harmless" by move 20, but Black, having played 15...c5 to try to blunt the steamroller, plays ...g5 presumably looking for the win of a piece. Instead Rxb7 blows the Q-side and in 4 more moves the game is over. Gelfand (in <zanzibar>'s video) comments in similar vein to Alexander.

"...his play does not convince..."-???

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