AVRO, Round 8: The second half of the tournament starts

by André Schulz
6/10/2020 – José Raúl Capablanca was the only winner of the 8th round of the AVRO Tournament, which was played in Utrecht. World Champion Alexander Alekhine had a lost endgame against Samuel Reshevsky, but escaped into a draw. Paul Keres and Max Euwe also drew, just as Mikhail Botvinnik and Reuben Fine. After eight rounds Fine leads with 6.0/8, followed by Keres with 5½/8 and Botvinnik and Capablanca with 4½/8 each.

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Alekhine with skill and luck

The first half of the AVRO Tournament is over, seven of 14 rounds are played. On to the second half! Reuben Fine had the best start and leads the field. The American has won five of his seven games, drawn once and lost once. There is no doubt that the 24-year-old has what it takes to become World Champion. But the 22-year-old Paul Keres could also become World Champion one day. Just as Salo Flohr, who is not in good shape at the AVRO Tournament, or Mikhail Botvinnik.

However, in the chess world there is some dissatisfaction that the reigning World Champion can choose his challenger himself. This has been the practice for 60 years, but it is not really satisfactory. Too much arbitrariness is involved. There should be a formally established and transparent mode by which a challenger can qualify. In fact, the players are talking about this and they are trying to agree on a procedure. We will see what the future brings.

The eighth round was played in Utrecht. This meant a short journey for the players, as Utrecht by train is only half an hour away from Amsterdam.

Botvinnik apparently remembered his defeat against Fine in the first round of the tournament and did not seek a real fight though he had White. Surprisingly, the young Soviet master opened with 1.e4 and then opted for the Four Knights Game. After only 19 moves the game ended in a draw.

Paul Keres and Max Euwe discussed a Réti opening. After his win against Fine in round 7 Keres is only half a point behinde the leader and with a win against Euwe Keres could have caught up with Fine. But the Estonian could not get more than half a point. In a blocked position Keres finally offered a draw.

 

The final position

Alexander Alekhine played with Black against Samuel Reshevsky and tried the Nimzo-Indian. He got a good position out of the opening but then lost the thread and got into trouble. It seems that Blockade á la Nimzowitsch is not the right recipe for Alekhine, who loves dynamic play.

 

17... Na5 Worth considering was 17...e5 18.Nd5 exd4 19.Nc7 Qxe4. 18.Qd3 Nh5 Allowing White to open the position. 18...Rc8!? 19.Nxh5 Qxh5 20.e5 dxe5 21.dxc5 Rfd8 22.Qe4 Qg6 23.Qe2 e4 24.Rf4 bxc5 25.Bxc5 Nc6 26.Rxe4 Rd2 27.Qxd2 Qxe4 28.Re1 Qxc4 29.Qd6 Rc8 30.Qxe6+ Qxe6 31.Rxe6

 

Now Black is a pawn down and has to fight for the draw. 31...Kf7 32.Rd6 a5 33.Kf2 Ne7 34.Bd4 Nf5 35.Rd7+ Ke6 36.Ra7 Nxd4 37.cxd4 Rc2+ 38.Kf3 Rxa2 39.Rxg7 Ra3+ 40.Ke4 h5 41.Rg6+ Kf7 42.Rh6 Ra2 43.Kf3 Ra3+

 

44.Kf2 The rook endgame is won for White. 44...Rd3 45.Rxh5 a4 46.d5 46.h4 Rxd4 47.Ke3 Rb4 48.g3 a3 49.Ra5 Rb3+ 50.Kf4 might have been simpler. 46...a3 47.Rh7+ Kf6 48.Ra7 Ke5 49.Ra5 Rd2+ 50.Kf3 Rd3+ 51.Ke2 Rb3 

 

52.Kf2?! The natural winning move was 52.h4. 52...Rb2+ 53.Kg3 Rb3+ 54.Kh4 Rb2 55.Kh3? 55.Kg3 a2 56.h4 still wins. 55...a2 56.d6+ Now White can no longer make progress: 56.g4 Kf4 57.d6 Rd2 58.d7 Rxd7 59.Rxa2 Rh7+ 60.Kg2 Kxg4. 56...Kxd6 57.g4 Kc6 58.Kg3 Kb6 59.Ra8 Kb5 60.h3 Kb4 61.Kf4 Rc2 62.Rb8+ Kc3 63.Ra8 Kb4 ½–½

Samuel Reshevsky

José Raúl Capablanca played against the unfortunate Salo Flohr, who has just lost his home for the second time in his young life. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Germany he will probably stay in the Netherlands for the time being.

Salo Flohr with his wife and four big "cats"

Flohr defended à la Grünfeld and had good play after the opening but then failed to find the right follow-up in the middlegame.

 

18... bxa6 18...Rc1+!? 19.Kd2 Rxh1 20.Bxb7 Rf8 and for a pawn Black is an exchange up. 19.Ke2 Rc5 20.Rhb1 h6 Not 20...Rxd5 21.Rb8+ Rxb8 22.Rxb8+ Bf8 23.Bh6. 21.e4 Rac8 22.Be3 

 

22... Ra5? Too enterprising. 22... R5c7 was better. 23.Rb7 Rxa2+ 24.Kf3 Ba4 25.Rxe7 Ra3 26.Nc6 Bxc6 27.dxc6 By now White is boss.

 

27...Rc3 28.Rbb7 R8xc6 29.Rxf7 Rf6+ 30.Rxf6 Bxf6 31.Rxa7 Ra3 32.Ke2 Bg7 33.f4 h5 34.e5 Bf8 35.Ra8 Ra2+ 36.Kf3 Kg7 37.Bd4 1–0

Results of round 8

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

Standings after round 8

 

Games

 

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