Was Capablanca a better player than Alekhine


Capablanca and Alekhine used to be friends, today they are bitter enemies. At the tournament in St. Petersburg in 1914 they often analyzed together, at the AVRO tournament in 1938 they no longer talk to each other.

One reason for this hostility is the world championship match between Alekhine ind Capablanca, which took place in Buenos Aires in 1927. Capablanca was the clear favorite, but Alekhine surprisingly won the six-game contest with 18½-15½. Alekhine won six games, Capablanca three, 25 games ended in a draw and Alekhine was the new world champion.

Since then, Capablanca has been hoping for a fight for revenge, but Alekhine never wanted to grant him that. Alekhine Capablanca avoided the way in tournament chess as well. It wasn't until nine years after the World Cup fight in 1927 that the two met again at the tournament in Nottingham in 1936 and Capablanca was able to win this game. In fact, Alekhine has not won a single tournament game against Capablanca in his career.

The game between Capablanca and Alekhine in the second round of the AVRO tournament ended in a draw, but in the second half of the season Alekhine managed a convincing victory against his old rival. In order to keep contact with Capablanca to a minimum, Alekhine had waited in front of the tournament hall until the round had started and only then sat down at the board.

The game itself was surprisingly one-sided. Capablanca was already at a disadvantage in a French player in the opening and was constricted more and more in the further course of the game. His attempt to break free eventually cost him material. But in a lost position, Capablanca did not want to give up, but preferred to let his clock run down and lose it after time.

If Alekhine and Capablanca continue to avoid each other in tournaments, it might be the last game they played against each other. The overall balance of their encounters is 9-7 with 33 draws in favor of Capablanca, but of course that is little consolation for the Cuban in view of the lost World Cup fight in 1927.

With 5½ out of 6, Reuben Fine got off to a fantastic start in the AVRO tournament, but then he lost to Keres in the seventh round and he still doesn't seem to have recovered from this defeat.

Reuben Fine: 24 years old, married twice, author, psychologist and one of the best chess players in the world

From 1935 to 1937 Fine played numerous tournaments in Europe and in 1937 he was a second in Euwe's fight for revenge for the world championship against Alekhine. But then he returned to the USA with his Dutch wife to work as a psychologist. No wonder he likes to resort to psychology to find reasons for good or bad play. He also explained his winning streak at the beginning of the AVRO tournament like this:

"In the first half of the AVRO tournament I played like a madman. Subjectively, there were two reasons for this. One was that I was working on the manuscript of Modern Chess Openings had completed and was very well prepared in terms of opening theory. The other reason was that I had decided to retire from professional chess and finish my studies. Ironically, I even asked the organizers to break my contractual commitment to play at the AVRO tournament, but they refused. That allowed me to shed some of the excessive caution that had occasionally prevented me before. "

But in his game against Reshevsky, Fine left the opening theoretical preparation in the lurch. Fine had white and played 1.e4, although he had mainly played 1.d4 in the course of his career so far. Fine had prepared 1.e4 for the AVRO tournament and was very successful with it. Obviously, Fine did not know the intricacies of the Spaniard who came on the board against Reshevsky, and he quickly got on the defensive and lost a pawn.

After that Fine defended stubbornly and Reshevsky did not play energetically enough, but when the draw was close enough to touch, the game came to an irrational end: Fine exceeded the time.

Fine also had a psychological explanation for the course of this game and the special nature of his games with Reshevsky:

"Reshevsky and I have met in numerous tournaments, both in Europe and in America. But although we played at eye level with the best in the world, our games were characterized by an incredible series of gross mistakes. Either he saved himself Losing position or I was able to escape from losing position. But these were not hidden mistakes; many of them were so obvious that even a simple amateur could have seen them. Psychologists can point out many other situations in life in which one has a similar view. and-Ab can be observed. This can be explained by the eternal human problem of ambivalence. Each wanted to beat the other, but unconsciously both reluctantly tried to do it.

However: this defeat cost Fine the lead in the standings and five rounds to go he is now with 6 out of 9 together with Keres at the top of the tournament.

Keres played a strategically interesting game with Black against Botvinnik, but it ended in a hard-fought draw.

Savielly Tartakower, who is a journalist at the AVRO tournament, interviews Paul Keres.

An unspectacular and peaceful draw, however, came on the board in the game between Flohr and Euwe.

Results of the 9th round

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

Table after the 9th round


Tournament site