Saturday, September 5, 2015

Euwe vs Alekhine, World Championship 1937

So it seems Lim Peh has decided to move aside your big tournaments for his beloved GE 2015. In that case, sit back, have some teh tarik, and enjoy this game from the World Chess Championship 1937.

Our heroes of the day are Max Euwe and Alexander Alekhine. Euwe had previously won the Championship title from Alekhine in 1935, and faced him again in a rematch 2 years later. The following game is one of Euwe's victories during the match; take note of the way he capitalizes on Alekhine's weaknesses to invade the Queenside and win the resulting endgame.

Alekhine (left) vs Euwe in 1937

1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. Nc3 dxc4
5. a4 Bf5
6. Ne5!?

A peculiar way to recapture the pawn. In my opinion, it was better to recapture and develop at the same time with 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O O-O 9. Ne5 as in Capablanca - Euwe, Nottingham 1936, which was incidentally the previous game we looked at!

6... Nbd7
7. Nxc4 Qc7
8. g3 e5
9. dxe5 Nxe5
10. Bf4! Nfd7
11. Bg2 (D)

Position after 11. Bg2

11... f6?!

Protects e5 but weakens the e6 square. 11... O-O-O Bringing the rook into the action (with the possibility of ... Re8 defending the knight) is another possibility, but White will have to spend some tempi bringing his king
to safety.

12. O-O Rd8
13. Qc1 Be6
14. Ne4 Bb4

Euwe: "Black must castle as soon as possible, otherwise the weakness on the square, d6, would become dangerous."

15. a5

Euwe decides that a queenside breakthrough is his best course of action. An alternate plan is 15. Rd1 (eyeing the d6 square) O-O 16. Ncd6 Nb6! (16... Bxd6? 17. Nxd6 and White stands better.) 17. a5 Bxd6 18. axb6 axb6 with an unclear position; White is a pawn down but gets compensation with the open a-file, and Black's damaged pawn structure.

15... O-O

Hoping to win a pawn with 15... Bxc4? 16. Qxc4 Bxa5 doesn't work because of 17. Qe6+ Kf8 18. Nxf6! Nxf6 (18... gxf6 19. Bh6#) 19. Bxe5 Qb6 20. Bd6+ . Always watch out for tactics in games!

16. a6 (D)

Position after 16. a6

16... bxa6?

Euwe: "A move which, as a matter of fact, should not even be taken into consideration, as it seriously weakens the pawn position without compensation. Correct was 16... b6 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Bxe5 (18. Qe3 was better.) 18... Qxe5! after which White could not play 19. Qxc6 because of Rc8 20. Qa4 Rc4!)

17. Nxe5 Nxe5
18. Nc5

Forcing an exchange that brings White's queen into the attack.

18... Bxc5
19. Qxc5 g5
20. Be3 Bd5

Alekhine seeks out exchanges to weaken Euwe's advance. However, the breakthrough is inevitable.

21. Rxa6 Bxg2
22. Kxg2

Euwe: "Avoiding the pitfall 22. Rxa7 Bxf1 23. Rxc7 Rd1 after which White would get into trouble."

22... Rf7 (D)

Position after 22... Rf7

23. Rfa1

Euwe: "And not 23. Rxa7 Qxa7 24. Qxa7 Rxa7 25. Bxa7 allowing Black to equalize by Rd2 "

23... Qd6
24. Qxd6 Rxd6
25. Rxa7 Rxa7
26. Rxa7

Now White is a pawn up. However, careful play is still needed to convert his advantage in the endgame.

26... Nc4
27. Bc5 Re6
28. Bd4 Rxe2
29. Bxf6 g4
30. Kf1 Rc2

Black still wins the pawn after 30... Re4 31. Rg7+ Kf8 (31... Kh8?? 32. Rxg4#) 32. Rxh7

31. Rg7+ Kf8
32. Rxg4 Nxb2
33. Bxb2 Rxb2 (D)

Simplifying into a rook endgame. Had Black's c6 pawn been on g6 instead, it would have been a 3 vs 2 draw. However, White can now convert his kingside pawn majority and go for a win.

34. Rc4 Rb6
35. Ke2 Kf7
36. Rh4 Kg6
37. Rf4!

Cutting off Black's king.

37... Rb3
38. Rc4 Rb6

Notice how Black's outside passed pawn, instead of being an advantage, becomes a weakness in this position. Black would like to centralize his king and keep his rook active, but the rook is tied down to defending the pawn instead.

39. Ke3 Kf5
40. g4+ Ke6
41. f4 (D)

Position after 41. f4

White begins to convert his majority.

41... Kd5
42. Rd4+ Ke6
43. f5+ Ke7
44. Re4+ Kf7
45. h4 Rb1
46. Kf4 Rc1

46... Rf1+ 47. Kg5 is still winning for White.

47. Ra4 h6
48. Ra7+ Kg8
49. g5 Rc4+
50. Ke5 (D)

Position after 50. Ke5

50... Rxh4 51. g6 wins the game.

Fantastic play from Dr Euwe! Unfortunately for him, Alekhine eventually won the match and regained control of the world crown.

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