Endgame Riddle: Alekhine vs Capablanca

by Karsten Müller
10/17/2022 – The 1927 World Championship match in Buenos Aires between challenger Alexander Alekhine and World Champion José Raúl Capablanca ended with a surprise: Capablanca had gone into the match as the clear favourite, but after 34 games he had lost 3-6 (draws did not count). The decisive and interesting 34th game featured a theoretically and practically important endgame. Karsten Müller took a closer look at the game and the endgame and invites readers to analyze both. | Photo: Capablanca (right) and Alekhine at the World Championship 1927, the man in the middle is the arbiter Carlos Augusto Querencio | Source: Wikipedia

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The 1927 World Championship match between Alekhine and Capablanca took place in Buenos Aires from 16.9.1927 to 29.11.1927. The first player to win six games was declared the winner of the match, draws did not count.

According to the Mega Database, Alekhine and Capablanca had played each other twelve times before the match and with +5, =7, -0 the score was overwhelmingly in favour of Capablanca.

In view of this record and the fact that Capablanca very rarely lost at all, the Cuban was considered the clear favourite before the match. Chess fans of the time simply could not imagine that Alekhine could win six games against Capablanca. Nor, perhaps, could Capablanca.

But Alekhine won the first game of the match. However, with wins in games 3 and 7 Capablanca countered to take the lead in the match. But with two wins in a row in games 11 and 12 Alekhine returned the compliment to take a 3-2 lead. A long series of draws followed until Alekhine won the 21st game and extended his lead to 4-2. Game 29 went to Capablanca again, but after a win in game 32, Alekhine was only one win away from the title at 5-3. By winning game 34 he then won the match and the title.

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A curiosity of the match is the opening choice of both sides: With the exception of the 1st game, in which Capablanca resorted to 1.e4, which Alekhine answered with 1...e6, and the 3rd game, in which Capablanca won with White in a Queen's Indian without c4, the two opponents stubbornly discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the Queen's Gambit Declined in all of the remaining 32 games of the match. The 34th game was also a Queen's Gambit Declined.


A highly interesting game and with the help of a series of questions Karsten Müller invites readers to take a closer look at it.

Black lost the game. But what was his first serious mistake?

How would you evaluate the position after White's 23. move?


On move 30 Alekhine played 30.Nxe5. What do you think about this move?


On move 38 Alekhine played 38.Qc7. What do you think about this move?


After 41 moves the game was adjourned. Alekhine sealed 41.Rd7, which Capablanca answered with 41...Qb1+ after the resumption of the game resumed. What do you think about this move?


After 50 moves a rook ending appeared on the board, in which White was a pawn up. White won the game but is this endgame really won or did Capablanca miss chances to save the game?


Have fun analysing the game! Share your ideas, observations, variations, ideas and thoughts in the comments!


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.


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