AVRO, Round 6: The World Champions lose

by Johannes Fischer
6/8/2020 – Three World Champions are competing in the 1938 AVRO tournament: José Raúl Capablanca, Max Euwe and Alexander Alekhine, the reigning World Champion. But in round 6 all three lost. Capablanca was outplayed by Paul Keres (pictured), Alekhine found no remedy against Reuben Fine's stubborn defense and lost in the endgame while Euwe was too optimistic against Samuel Reshevsky. Salo Flohr and Mikhail Botvinnik drew. With 5,5 out of 6, Fine is still the sole leader. | Photo: Paul Keres | Photo: Valter Heuer (Archive)

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Young against Old

Round six of the AVRO Tournament was played in Haarlem, a city that is not far from Amsterdam. For the chess fans in Holland it may be an experience to see the best players in the world live, but for the players the constant travelling is exhausting. And the young players obviously cope better with this strain.

Gerrit Adriaenszoon Berckheyde (1638-1698): De Grote Markt in Haarlem with the St. Bavo church

As chance would have it, in round 6 the four oldest participants in the field — Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe and Flohr — met the four youngest participants in the AVRO tournament: Keres, Fine, Reshevsky and Botvinnik.

This unofficial match ended with 3½-½ for the younger players: only Flohr, the youngest of the older participants, got a draw against Botvinnik, but the three World Champions in team "Old" all lost.

Capablanca, World champion from 1921 to 1927 and at 50 years of age the oldest player in the field, played with Black against the 22-year-old Paul Keres and fell victim to a vigorous attack.


Alekhine, World Champion from 1927 to 1935 and again from 1937, was determined to win with White against Reuben Fine and tried a pawn sacrifice in the Open Spanish to put his opponent under pressure. But Fine defended carefully and finally reached an equal ending that he played much better than the World Champion which gave him his fifth win in the tournament.


With this win Fine defended his lead and now has 5½ points from first six games – an impressive performance, especially if you keep in mind that the field of the AVRO Tournament consists of the world's eight best players.

Reuben Fine

The game between Max Euwe, World Champion from 1935 to 1937, and Samuel Reshevsky was similar to the game between Alekhine and Fine. Euwe sacrificed in the opening, but Reshevsky defended precisely and finally managed to win in the endgame.


Salo Flohr and Mikhail Botvinnik played the only draw of the round. However, Flohr missed  a couple of good chances to get his first victory in the tournament.


Results of round 6

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

Standings after round 6





Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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