Alekhine (FRA) – M. Euwe (NED) 14½ – 15½
Amsterdam, 3rd October until 15 December 1935
The Dutch Chess Federation was endeavoring to promote the Championship match between the champion and Dr. Euwe. On June 15 when the outcome was clear but the match not yet finished, Dr. Euwe sent a challenge to Alekhine together with his congratulation!
BCM said in April 1935: “The enthusiasm in Holland over the prospect of a match for the national chess hero, Dr. Max Euwe, with Dr. Alekhine for the world championship, is obvious and there seems no doubt that the necessary money will be forthcoming.” In Moscow, the Moscow Daily News reported comments by Capablanca:”…Dr. Alekhine should, in the firs instance, play the promised return match with himself; after which one of the young aspirants should follow…”
In May 1935 the Dutch chess federation magazine announced the match between Alekhine and Euwe is definitively arranged and funding has been finalized. The winner of the match will be the first scorer of 15.5 points of which six must be won games. The match director will be Kmoch of Vienna. Landau will be the champion’s second and Maroczy of Budapest, the challengers.
Before his match Alekhine was interviewed in the Dutch Press:
“The challenge of Euwe made in November 1933 was quite unexpected to me because of two reasons. First of all, not long ago he announced with the help of the Dutch mass media that he had decided to stop playing for at least two years, and, secondly, I have had a contract for a match with Bogoljubov in 1934. It means that he could speak only about the conditional challenge in case if I prove my title after the match with Bogoljubow. I took this challenge, and all the technical details were set easily on the same conditions as with the match with Bogoljubow, i.e. a match for the majority of the 30 games, and the winner (the one who will win 15.5 points) must have at least 6 won games. The match will take place for autumn this year.
After my match with Bogoljubow had finished Euwe was acting very quickly with the changing success. He won 2-3 place in Zurich, 1-3rd place in Hastings and at the same time he failed during his visit in the USSR and lost to Spielmann. Besides, he is participating in different local and club tournaments, Kmoch, a famous chess theorist, will train him, in September he will work with Flor. He is doing everything to be in the best shape.
What are the perspectives of our match?
First, I am sure whether I will be on the highest level theoretically prepared as my opponent.
Secondly, the psychological side is also very interesting. Two factors are playing an important role: 1) the surrounding situation (attention of the public, the opinion of the local and international mass media, professionals) and 2) the influence of the opponent.
With the first factor Euwe has advantages: 1) any challenger who has more or less good chances has the sympathy of the public and press which always want something new, 2) Euwe is a hero of a small country, which never has any champions as far as I know. These two factors are enough for Euwe to be in the eyes of the press the Hero of our match and it does not matter if he wins or loses.
And a few words about the second factor – influence of the opponent. Here, I think I have an advantage. I do not believe in Euwe as a future World Champion. And I do not think that even if he incidentally wins the match with me, he would be admitted as the best chess player in the world.
If he wins, it will only prove that I was not at the top of my creativity. It will be only bad for Euwe and me will have to solve the same problem I had to solve after I won Capablanca – that at present he is really the best.
The 3rd October 1935, the struggle broke out. Alekhine and Euwe were to play three games each week, between five and ten in the evening. The first game was decided in less than three hours. Alekhine, playing with the White pieces, never gave Euwe any opportunity to develop his game and crushed his position in a very convincing way. There was no struggle. After the game, Euwe said: “I had no counter chances, my opponent simply executed me. How could that be possible after such a careful preparation on my part? It was not hard to explain. The opening was the true cause of the debacle. As in most of his San Remo games, Alekhine took the lead from the outset, and there was never any question of my recovering. After the 13th move of the first game, they had reached a position which in Euwe’s preparatory work he had considered as satisfactory for Black, but this turned out to be a superficial and false judgment. Alekhine did not refuse Euwe’s position by surprising countermoves, just by a series of quiet moves which showed that the position was not satisfactory. Euwe said his opening preparation had not been deep enough. The same thing happened in Euwe other Black games- 3, 5, 7, and 9, in which Alekhine played 1. e4. Between the games, Euwe diligently sought to repair the damage, but new week spots in his stem continually appeared, and of the first five games played with Black, he scored only half a point.
Euwe said: “As I satisfied as I was with my Black repertory, I was just as satisfied with my White one. The strange thing is that I had not taken particular pains with this repertory- I had only tried for solid positions with just a small chance of initiative for the white side. Little by little, it became clear to me that such positions were the very type that Alekhine did not like. He did not have the bulldog tenacity to fight and fight to limit a disadvantage to its minimum to reach a difficult draw in the end. If he saw some difficulties, Alekhine preferred to play for everything or nothing. Therefore, faced as he was with these solid positions in the seven games, he then started playing a very dangerous type of poker game with which he beat me in the fourth and almost in the sixth as well. My problem as the White player was clear. After having attained a small advantage, I had to be able to withstand tactical complications. This was not easy, of course, against a player of either, for one should not forget that these complications were created only in positions that were slightly in my favor. So it was as if I were playing with the wind in my favor. Now the situation was just the opposite of the one at San Remo and Bled- now it was Alekhine who had the handicap. I soon succeeded in mastering this type of technique, and in my first five games with White I scored 31/2 points.”
In the first ten games, White scored 8 points, and in the match as a whole out of 30 games, White won 13, lost 4, and also drew 13, which means 65 percent for White.
After ten games, the score was 6-4 in Alekhine’s favor. Euwe had outplayed Alekhine strategically, and in the majority of cases, he had been able to resist his sharp tactical counterblows. Euwe continued: “I revised my repertory to a considerable extent by eliminating the French Defense, which I had chosen for the simple reason that in that way I could restrict my Black preparatory program considerably. Only now I realized that before the match I had made a bad choice. Perhaps the French Defense was not as bad as our results seemed to indicate, but I had seldom played it, and it was not compatible with my temperament. I decided that I should answer one e2-e4 by 1…e7-e5, which I had normally done previous to this match. For instance, I knew the Tarrasch variation of the Ruy Lopez perfectly well, and from time to time I had obtained excellent results with it. Of course, the number of variations in my new repertory was very limited; it could not be compared with the work I had done in the year and a half preceding the match. I had more confidence in it, and after all, I had only to fight for a draw with the Black pieces. My new tactics were crowned with complete success in the next four games. I drew my two Black games, and I won my white ones. The score now stood 7-7. As a Black player, Alekhine had continued his same risky tactics and, I might say, he even exaggerated to some extent in the 12th and 14th games. In both, I had to make only two or three really good moves to win. Alekhine was feeling very uncertain at this stage of the contest. He had never counted on the possibility that he might lose this match, but the opening weapon had been taken completely out of his hands, and he was now very vulnerable. He, therefore, became nervous, and although he succeeded in piling up an advance of two points between the 15th and 20th games, he remained nervous”.
Confronted with the danger of losing his title, Alekhine lost his self-confidence, and in this psychological state, he got the feeling that he must do something to compensate. He didn’t seem to be able to do anything positive on the chessboard, so he took to drink. He had not drunk at the beginning of the match, but only at this critical stage and than in such a way that everyone noticed it.
All was not as it should be in Amsterdam. It was freely rumored that Dr. Alekhine turned up to the 21st game very late and under the influence of alcohol and that the match committee passed a virtual vote of censure on him. CHESS dated December 1935 publishing Dr. Alekhine’s very strong protest against these absurd charges.
“I have no doubt that the course of this match for the chess championship has astonished the whole of the chess world. There is a good reason for astonishment not only at the way I have lost games but at the way I have played in some of these lost games.
I think I can give two reasons for my comparative lack of success.
- During one period, from the 10th to the 14th games, I was falsely persuaded into a belief that the match was virtually over. In consequence, I treated the openings of these games with a carelessness unpardonable and committed errors which to anybody with a knowledge of my powers seemed incomprehensible.
- From about this period, I have been the butt of a campaign of calumniation and misrepresentation organized by a part of the Dutch press and several members of the soi-disant ‘Euwe Alekhine’ committee.
This campaign reached its climax with the 21st game.
This game was played absolutely without any unpleasant incident contrary to press reports. This is officially confirmed by my adversary, Euwe; the director of the match, Kmoch and both our seconds, Maroczy and Landau.
Such a campaign can hardly fail to have an unfortunate effect on a player engaged in a strenuous match, in which his title Is at stake. In comparison with the atmosphere of this match, the one at Buenos Aires in which I gained my title, and those against Bogoljubow in which I succeeded in retaining it, were ideal.”
(Signed) A. ALEKHINE.
”After twenty-four games, the score was 12-12. Alekhine could have won the Pawn ending of the 24th game in a relatively simple way. If he had done so, things probably would have taken quite a different course, for his disappointment over the result of the 24th game perhaps made him lose the 25th game, in which he again took too many risks. He undertook an incorrect combination, which was refused by a counter-sacrifice. Euwe won easily, and this probably determined the result of the match. In the 26th game, he again managed to win in a fierce struggle. After the 26th game, the score was 14-12 in Euwe’s favor. Even so, the remainder of the match was still fraught with danger for me. Alekhine won the 27th game, but I managed to draw the last three games, some of them by a very narrow margin.”
Thus, at the 30th game, Euwe reached 15 1/2 points to Alekhine’ s 14 1/2 points. The Dutch Master became World Champion.
Euwe’s biography quotes the Dutch agency ANP for the last picture of the match:” It was a deeply moving moment when they were standing like that, hands clasped, Alekhine in an elegant tail coat the other in a simple gray jacket. There was a thunderous eruption of applause and cheers. The spectators broke through the ropes that ringed the stage and stormed to the high paling around the stage behind which the two champions were standing. Soon the police joined to make a new barrier. The audience clapped and cheered, it was an ovation. Alekhine tears in his eyes bent over the paling and waved. His hand sought the back of his chair, which offered him support at that moment, which must surely have been one of the most tragic of his life. The joy and elevation of all those who witnessed this moment were then blended with a feeling of pity for this man who was now forced to hand the highest honor that he knew in his life, to his opponent. (…) ‘Es lebe Schachweltmeister Euwe, es lebe schachliebend Holland.’ These words, spoken softly but clearly, roused such a feeling of pathos in the audience that they were undoubtedly good for a new dose of popularity for Alekhine. Besides, the fact that Alekhine did not want continue the game, that he proposed a draw and in doing so relinquished his world title in front of a crowded auditorium instead of with a simple telephone call the next day made a deep impression and probably went a long way towards making amends for incidents he may have caused earlier.”
Euwe was giving the floor and said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am really surprised by this quick end, which myself certainly had not expected. I was fully convinced that the game would be adjourned and that we would have continued Monday night. The position was still quite complicated, and the final liquidation would certainly have taken another two or three hours. So I appreciate it very much that Dr. Alekhine offered a draw, but what I appreciate even more is that I will now, after these three months, get some rest. I have been m moved by all your interest, and I give you my heartfelt thanks for it. One of the most important things, I believe, is that the game of chess has gained supporters. And I can also tell you, incidentally, that l am very happy to be the new World Champion.”
Condensation of an article by Dr. Euwe, appearing in the Dutch paper “Het Volk” immediately after his victory over Dr. Alekhine.
The labor of preparation was, in many ways, even more arduous than the match itself and it was a great relief when the contest actually began. Even in the final few weeks, when all negotiations had been carried through to a successful conclusion and nothing remained but to await the opening day, there was the job of “training” for the encounter, a process which I can only compare to a light against an imaginary-enemy. Advice poured in on me from all sides. Some said: “Theoretical knowledge is of relatively small importance in comparison with preservation of morale and lighting spirit.” Others argued on practically opposite lines. Strangely enough, the outcome of the match proved, if anything, that both lines of argument were equally correct.
In the opening stages, theory was at a discount and fighting spirit at a premium. Towards the end, on the contrary, my theoretical knowledge became inestimably valuable to me. It was well-known at the beginning that Alekhine was my superior in tactics, even if the story of the match seems to show that he is my inferior in strategy, and nobody was surprised in the least when he set about creating wild positions in which tactical possibilities were at a maximum. Many were surprised, however, at his choosing quieter lines so often in the second half of the match, and the result has led to many conjectures as to the cause of this change of policy. A thoughtful comparison of games 11 to 15 with the ten that preceded them solves the riddle.
Earnest study of Alekhine’s games had taught me that many of his most beautiful conceptions are based on his opponents’ exhibiting traces of nervousness at the critical moment. So I knew already, before the match started, that only by fearlessness could I succeed.
However, in one quality I believe I was deficient, the ability to distinguish with certainty that infinitesimal dividing line between the inspired and the unsound, between the daringly complicated and the merely risky. My discrimination failed me once or twice in the first few games and it was only in the eighth and tenth games that I was able to hit off the right balance between the sharp and the safe. Alekhine — ever a perfect judge — showed that he realised this by remarking to Flohr, just before the eleventh game, that he intended to play quieter chess from thenceforth. It was the right moment for such a decision and he was in the happy position of being able to start “sitting tight” with a lead of two clear points. …
So the eleventh game was a particularly calm one. Had Alekhine adhered to his decision, the result might have been very different; but habit (and inclination?) reasserted itself, and he committed the fatal mistake of reverting, in the next three games to the recipe of the first ten, thus giving me an excellent chance to show how well I had learnt my lesson. Now quite another situation arose. Where my opponent’s change of plan had been free and unhindered before, it was now forced on him. I must confess I was slow to perceive the situation. In the games that followed, I made the mistake more than once of embarking on complications in positions where quiet strategic moves would have been much more to the point. Masterly as was the way in which Alekhine took advantage of these mistakes, he should never have had the chance to regain, as he did, a lead of two points. Not until the twentieth game did I succeed in adapting my style of play with suitable flexibility to the varied types of position that were arising.
The quiet games 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, and 29, I played purely positional. In the somewhat fiercer encounters 24, 25, 26, 28 and 30, I usually managed to reply to complication with counter-complication. Obviously it is of paramount importance to be fighting with the right weapons. But this alone cannot assure victory; for that, you require inaccuracies on the part of your opponent and it is essential in dangerous positions to make it easy for your opponent to make mistakes, an aim which, in its turn, can be achieved only if one knows one’s opponent through and through and can base your plan of operations on this knowledge of him.
The psychological element has been to the forefront in this match; I make no secret of it. It is impossible to judge any one game by itself, any more than you can judge a single sentence of a poem by itself.
Dr. Euwe made some pointed remarks in the January 1936 Schach- Echo : “ Before tackling Alekhine I had to forget the contrast between our general records or I should have been frightened. His record is indisputably better than mine, there is no sense in denying it… but when I thought of the result of my match against him eight years ago, 5½-4½ in his favor) my courage returned. Too many people seem to have forgotten all about that other match. Just as in the world-championship encounter, Alekhine never led by more than two points… and the result was in doubt up to the very last game. Alekhine stated before this match that he didn’t look upon me as his most dangerous challenger: mentioned Flohr, whom, in a match, he beat by 5-2, without a loss!
I had not the time for training I should have liked, owing to the demands of my work. I had to await the end of the academic year, which left me only two and a half months. Can only study newest developments in opening theory through actual contact with other leading masters . . . , so the Match Committee invited several international masters to Amsterdam. Even then I was worried about my lack of match-training: only in the rough and tumble of match chess itself can you pick up the quick perception of tactical possibilities you need. I soon “caught up” when the match actually began, however, and forgot all my nervousness on that account.
Felt Alekhine’s great tactical skill was only a real menace in the openings. Time proved me right. Six of my eight losses, the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 19th, and 27th games, were practically sustained in the opening. Alekhine’s unsettling opening tactics in other games told me he realized himself that he had to lay his foundations from the very first few moves in order to be able to exploit his tactical skill.
I made a great mistake in playing the French defense four times in the early stages. It showed that all study is useless unless it goes hand in hand with practical experience. I might easily have test in any case was not properly played in. But it all had one good result, it made Alekhine fatally over confident.
Alekhine became more and more rattled and nervous as things began to turn out differently from what he had expected…”
The Belgian chess master Georges Koltanowsky wrote in his column in Chess (1936):
The World Championship match bewildered most of us. The names themselves…
“I have lost all interest in the affair,” wrote one correspondent to us, “the championship is being simply chucked away!” The rumors, and worse, the printed reports! The 21st game was to be played at Ermelo, a place within easy train or coaching distance of Amsterdam. The car which was to carry Alekhine from his hotel in Amsterdam to Ermelo arrived half-an-hour or more late;
Alekhine expressed extreme annoyance and would only start the game under protest. According to reports published in some Dutch papers the next day, he was obviously under the effect of drink. Perhaps Alekhine was unusually discourteous; perhaps Dutch Puritanism went a little too far. Anyway, the inevitable result was that the match concluded in an extremely strained atmosphere which could hardly have helped the contestants to give of their best.
“In chess circles,” states the “Deutsche Schachzeitung,” “it is known that Alekhine is partial to drink …. and that before one at least of his games against Bogoljubow (a game which, as it happened, he won in sparkling style) he had imbibed comparatively freely.”
Kmoch talks of the new “fatalism” with which Alekhine seems to have been accepting his defeats, so contrasted with his former fighting spirit. Will this tremendous upheaval restore to him some of his old fieriness, or will he, like Capablanca, succumb to the temptation of taking life more easily in future? We hope, and believe, the former. He stated after the match that he had not sufficient funds for a return encounter. The Dutch committee, which has certainly modified its attitude from something perilously near hostility previous to the “incident,” to magnanimity since, has offered to bear the cost of ten of the games, should such a match be arranged. This is a magnificent gesture. But a match for the World’s championship is an expensive undertaking; Alekhine has no friends among the officialdom of modern Russia, and France, the land of his adoption, is comparatively apathetic to chess. We can only hope the funds will be found somehow. For Euwe’s sake, as much as for Alekhine’s, a return match must be arranged.
Of Euwe, the new world champion, let it be admitted at once that relatively few people, even now, are convinced that he is as good a player as Alekhine. But let it also be emphasized that no truer gentleman has ever held the championship. This unassuming professor can be relied upon to uphold the prestige of his new position to the full. He has already stated his willingness to submit to the jurisdiction of the F.I.D.E., in questions concerning the championship, a decision which, if carried out, would put an end to an era of chaos and uncertainty and, in many cases, downright injustice. Moreover, it is very problematical whether Flohr or Capablanca, or any other player, wearing Euwe’s clothes and sitting in Euwe’s seat, would have defeated Alekhine as Euwe did. Alekhine adopted tactics calculated to upset Euwe, and failed.
The New York Times of January 11, 1936 published the views of Capablanca on the match: ‘Without detracting anything from Dr. Euwe or Dr. Alekhine, championship match such as they played cannot possibly bring out what it should the very finest in chess. Title matches are such as this are more a struggle of endurance. I think this is reflected on the play. Some of the games were very fine, other below standard.”
Capablanca also said he doesn’t see any opening for him as a challenger till 1938. He said also that he is against any challenger tournament: “I fell my rank and standing are sufficient to entitle me to an immediate chance for a championship without any further proof.”