Advent calendar: December 22

by Michael Dombrowsky
12/22/2016 – From December 1 to December 24 we invite our readers every day to open a door in our advent calendar. Click and enjoy a little chess treat. Behind door 22 you can find out more about a match between two World Champions that began 90 years ago. Advent calendar, door 22.

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Max Euwe – Alexander Alekhine, Amsterdam 1926

1926 was a good year for Max Euwe. A happy and successful year! It had started with his PhD. The University of Amsterdam had given him a doctor's degree for his research on differential equations. In Spring he had married Carolina Bergmann. After a long break caused by his studies he finally also had success in chess again. A tournament win in Weston super mare, a spa near Bristol, and winning the Championship of the Netherlands meant new motivation.

When his chess club, the Vereinigd Amsterdamsch Schaakgenootschap offered to organize a match with a world class player he was enthusiastic. The club president Theodoor van Hoorn was a good chessplayer and an even better organizer. He thought that the 25-year old master deserved such a chance. The Amsterdamsch Schaakgenootschap was not only the oldest club (founded in 1822) in the Netherlands but also the club with the most members and thanks to his prominent and wealthy members if was also well off financially.

However, searching a prominent master for the match at the end of the year turned out to be more difficult than expected. Dr. Emanuel Lasker was asked first but the former World Champion declined because he had no time. Then one tried to invite Efim Bogoljubow. But the convincing winner of Moscow 1925 (he won 1.5 points ahead of Lasker, Capablanca, Marshall, Tartakower, Torre and Reti) and Breslau 1925 (two points ahead of Nimzowitsch and Rubinstein) demanded an extraordinary fee. It exceeded the budget even though the Amsterdamsch Schaakgenootschap was financially well-off. In a third attempt one asked Alexander Alekhine and he agreed.

One agreed a 10-game match that would start before Christmas and end in the new year. The first game was scheduled on December 22, the second for December 24. And so on, one game every two days. The days between the games were scheduled to finish adjourned games. Alekhine wanted to use this match as training and preparation for his World Championship match against José Capablanca. Therefore he asked that the time-limit was the same Capablanca had stipulated for a World Championship match.

Machgielis Euwe, who everyone called Max, accepted this request. This match offered him the chance to rise to the top. However, he lessened the expectations of his fans. In the tournaments in which Alekhine and Euwe had both played before their match Euwe had always fared much worse. For example 1921 in Budapest and den Haag. Alekhine had won both tournaments, Euwe had finished sixth (Budapest) and ninth (Haag). At the tournament 1922 in Bad Piestany Euwe finished ninth behind the prize-winners Bogoljubow, Alekhine, Spielmann, Grünfeld and Reti, and in London he finished eleventh, far behind the top group with Capablanca, Alekhine, Vidmar, Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, Reti, Tartakower and Maroczy. Therefore Euwe made a gloomy prediction for the match: he expected a 2.5-7.5 defeat.

The first game of the match ended in a draw and on December 24 Euwe was in a good mood when he walked to the Concertgebouw to play the second game. The match was played in a small room in the concert hall, near the Rijksmuzeum. Euwe had White in the second game and of course he was optimistic. But things turned out quite differently:


When Euwe also lost the third game one feared the worst for him. But the Dutch master recovered. After three draws he won games seven and eight to equalize the match. A draw in the ninth game meant that the last game of the match would decide. Alekhine won the game and won the match 5.5-4.5. A result which strenghtened Max Euwe's self-confidence.

Alekhine also gained an important insight for the World Championship match 1927 in Buenos Aires: he had not at all been able to cope with the time-limit which then was still unusual. In every game he had to survive horrible time trouble.

No one of the two masters could imagine that about ten years later they would play 55 games in two World Championship matches in the Netherlands against each other.

Michael had been working for almost 40 years as editor and journalist for various newspapers and magazines before he started to write chessbooks. His first chess book was "Berliner Schachlegenden", in which he tells about the lives of a number of famous chess players in Berlin which gives insights into the history of Berlin and a chess culture of the past.


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