AVRO 1938, Round 2: Reuben Fine starts with 2.0/2

by André Schulz
6/4/2020 – Reuben Fine started well into the AVRO tournament. After his win against Mikhail Botvinnik in round 1 Fine also defeated his old rival Samuel Reshevsky in round 2. Max Euwe outplayed Salo Flohr and scored the second win of the round. José Raúl Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine drew as did Paul Keres and Botvinnik. With 2.0/2 Fine is now sole leader. | Photo: Tartakower, Keres, Fine and Euwe analyse at the beach with a pocket chess set.

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AVRO 1938, Round 2: Two wins, two draws

The first round of the AVRO tournament was played in the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam but for round two the players had to travel – to the Den Haagse Dierentuin, the zoo of The Hague, on Benoordenhoutseweg.

The zoo, seen from above

In the middle of the zoo stands Moors Paleis, a theatre building with a large hall and a huge stage on which the world's best chess players made their moves.

The Moors Paleis

The playing venue

Travelling from Amsterdam to The Hague by train took more than hour – a strain for the players.

Two pairings in round two were particularly intriguing. The first was the all-American encounter between Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky.

Reuben Fine

Fine, the younger of the two, had never before won against Reshevsky, though they had played a number of games in US events.

The second pairing that was particularly charged was the encounter between Alexander Alekhine and José Raúl Capablanca. It is hard to believe, but this was the first game Alekhine played as World Champion against Capablanca. Alekhine became World Champion in 1927 after beating Capablanca in their World Championship match in Buenos Aires, but since then the two have played only one game against each other: in Nottingham 1936. However, at that time Alekhine was not World Champion as he had lost his title to Max Euwe in 1935. In Nottingham Capablanca won against Alekhine who so far has not won a single tournament game against his predecessor.

It is an open secret that Alekhine has always avoided Capablanca after winning the title and has avoided to play in tournaments in Capablanca started. When they were young Capablanca and Alekhine were friends but now they are bitter enemies.

Capablanca had White and the game took the expected course. Capablanca played his quiet positional game while Alekhine tried to complicate in a Queen's Indian, though without much success.


Black has a passed which, however, has hardly any hope to queen.

36... a5 37.Nc5 Ra1+ 38.Kg2 a4 39.Ra7 a3 40.Nxe6 Bb2 41.Nf4 Bd4 42.Ra4 Bb2 43.e4 g5 44.Ra7+ Kg8 45.Nd5 Bd4 46.Ra8+ Kf7 47.Nb4 Rb1 48.Nc2 Bxf2!

This move apparently was a surprise for Capablanca. The German journalist Emil Josef Diemer followed the game live and later revealed how the game ended:

After this move Alekhine rose and left the board; Capablanca looked at the "nice surprise" for a short moment and then asked the tournament director – typical for the 11 years long 'state of war' between these two – to send a draw offer to Alekhine, which Alekhine of course accepted gladly and with a joyful heart. As Alekhine immediately explained after the game, he would have continued fighting for hours in the same situation; the position was probably always a draw, but an extra pawn is and remains an extra pawn!

Keres and Botvinnik are both outstanding talents and have good chances to fight for the World Championship but before the AVRO tournament they have never before played against each other.

Keres was playing with White and in Queen's Indian he opted for a rather unusual line (7.Re1) which game him some space advantage. But after queens were exchanged the game quickly ended in a draw after a repetition of moves.


The game between Max Euwe and Salo Flohr also started with 1.d4 which led to a Bogo-Indian. After the opening Euwe had more space and the initiative and decided to grab the bull by the horns.


24.c5! Black's position now quickly collapses. 24...dxc5 24...Ne8 25.c6 25.Nc4 Qd8 25...cxb4 26.Nb6 26.Nxe5 Nxb4 27.d6 Rxa1 28.Qxf7+ Kh7? This gives White an important tempo. After 28...Kh8 29.Rxa1 Qxd6 30.Ng6+ Kh7 Black can still fight. 29.Rxa1 Qxd6 30.Be4+ Kh8 31.Ng6+ Kh7 32.Ne7+ 1–0

And what happened in the game between Reshevsky and Fine? This game also began with 1.d4 and developed into a Catalan.


The position is still equal but in the further course of the game Black gradually gets the upper hand. 22.Ng5 Bxg5 23.Bxg5 Qb7 23...Nxe5?! 24.Qd6 h6 25.Be3 Qb7 26.Bxc6 Nxc6 27.Bxc5 gives White a comfortable position. 24.f3 h6 25.Be7 The bishop loses its way. 25...c4 Black now simply pushes his pawns ahead. 25...Nxe5 26.Qd8+ leads to nothing for Black. 26.Qc3 Reshevsky once again was in severe time-trouble. After 26.Qd1 Qb6+ 27.Kh1 b4 28.Bd6 c3 Black is winning. 26...Nxe5 27.Bc5 Nd7 28.Bd4


28... e5 29.Bxe5 b4 30.Qd4 Nxe5 31.Qxe5 c3 32.b3 Qb6+ 33.Kf1 c2 34.Qb2 Qc5 35.Qc1 Bd5 36.f4 Bxg2+ 37.Kxg2 Qd5+ 0–1

With this game Fine finally won against Reshevsky. With 2.0/2 he now is sole leader, half a point ahead of Max Euwe.

Results of round 2

J.R. Capablanca ½-½ A. Alekhine
P. Keres ½-½ M. Botvinnik
S. Reshevsky 0-1 R. Fine
M. Euwe 1-0 S. Flohr

Standings after round 2

Rg. Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts.
1 Reuben Fine           1 1   2.0 / 2
2 Max Euwe     ½         1 1.5 / 2
3 Paul Keres   ½         ½   1.0 / 2
4 Jose Raul Capablanca         ½     ½ 1.0 / 2
5 Alexander Alekhine       ½   ½     1.0 / 2
6 Samuel Herman Reshevsky 0       ½       0.5 / 2
7 Mikhail Botvinnik 0   ½           0.5 / 2
8 Salo Flohr   0   ½         0.5 / 2




Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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