1927 World Championship Match
1927 World Chess Championship
Alexander Alekhine (France) vs. Jose Capablanca (Cuba)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
September 16 - November 29, 1927
Conditions: First to Win 6 Games.
(It is believed by some that there was a tie clause, allowing the
champion to retain the title in the event of a 5-5 tie, but no
positive information is available)
||6 (w/25 draws)
||3 (w/25 draws)
Result: Alexander Alekhine becomes the 4th World Champion.
See the Games of the Match!
As with the 1910 Lasker-Schlecter
match, there is some doubt as to whether or not there was a tie clause for this match.
Bobby Fischer, in his 1974 letter to Larry Evans, claimed that this match would have
been abandoned as drawn had the score reached 5-5. I can find no data indicating that
this is the case. However, I have found the following quote from Alekhine, made just
before the match: "Yes it is difficult to picture Capablanca losing six games, but I
find it more difficult picturing Capablanca beating me six games." Had there been such
a tie clause, it would not have been necessary for Capablanca to win 6 games, only 5.
Capablanca's next title defense was 6 years in the making. During
these years Alekhine, Rubinstein, Nimzovich and Bogolubov were the
most credible challengers, but all had difficulty in getting sufficient
backing. The so-called London Rules, drawn up and signed by several
top parties during the London 1922 tournament, required potential
challengers to post $500 as a guarantee of good faith, and another
$500 three months before the match was to begin. Rubinstein and
Nimzovich both issued challenges to Capablanca, but were unable to
raise the necessary money. Not until 1927 did Alekhine secure a
challenge by depositing the necessary $1000 forfeit money.
The Argentine Chess Club of Bueonos Airies put up $10,000, for a
Capablanca-Alekhine match, of which $2000 was a fee
for the champion, $4800 was to go to the winner, and the remaining
$3200 to the loser (as per the London Rules). However, Capablanca
still considered that Nimzovich had a prior challenge, and gave him
until January 1, 1927 to deposit the required forfeit money, which
Nimzo failed to do.
As per the London Rules, in the event of illness preventing the
Champion from playing the match, the title was to pass on to the
Capablanca was, of course, a heavy favorite in this match. In
addition to Capablanca's own record, his heads-up record against
Alekhine was far superior. They had met in four previous tournaments,
and in each case Capablanca had placed higher. Their head-to-head
record was an exceptional +5-0=7 for Capablanca. Grandmaster
predictions were heavily in his favor. Rudolf Spielmann predicted
that Alekhine would not win a single game, while the optimistic
Bogolubov thought that he might perhaps win 2 games.
After this match, Alekhine spent years trying to avoid the required
return match, and in fact refused to play in any event that Capablanca
was in until 1936, after he had lost the title himself. He used his
position as World Champion to keep Capablanca out of the San Remo 1930 and
Bled 1931 tournaments, to avoid having to play him.
Capablanca tried long and hard to arrange the return match. In the
March 1954 issue of Chess Review, Hans Kmoch reported
the following conversation with Capablanca, during the Bad Kissingen
tournament of 1929:
In Kissingen, my contact with Capablanca became rather close. We had
long walks together, usually talking about the World Championship in
reference to which Capablanca always used the expression "my title",
making it seem that the title had only incidentally and temporarily
strayed to Alekhine. More than once he explained to me how I could make
a lot of money. Very simple: just organize the return match against
Alekhine and bet as much as possible on me; you will win, that much
is absolutely sure.
Apparently, Alekhine agreed, and made sure that he never did play
Capablanca again, even in tournament play, until after he [Alekhine]
had lost the title himself. Their next encounter was not until 9 years
later, at the Nottingham 1936 tournament, a game which Capablanca won.
At one point, Capablanca went so far as to claim the title back by
forfeit. This claim went nowhere, however the entire incident increased
the chess world's dissatisfaction (already fairly high, after the reign
of Lasker) with a system in which a champion could avoid his strongest
This was one of the fiercest battles in championship history, but
also a match that will make you wish the Orthodox Defence to the
Queen's Gambit Declined had never been invented, as it appears in
32 out of the 34 games. Alekhine adapted his naturally enterprising,
risk-taking style (which had failed miserably against Capablanca in
previous outings), and played the most conservative, positional chess
of his life in this match. (In effect, he won by out-Capablanca-ing
Capablanca). Still, there are some games that stand out
from the pack as being especially worth of examination:
Game 1: After
Capablanca plays too passively as White in an Exchange French, Alekhine
gets a blistering attack and shocks the experts by winning the very first
Capablanca sacrifices his Queenside pawns for a horrendous attack
against Black's Kingside, and brings home the point.
Another pawn sacrifice, another Kingside attack by Capablanca. His
fortress Rook on d4 is the highlight of the game.
A titanic but flawed struggle. Capablanca, forcing matters up to
Move 26 goes wrong and falls onto the defensive (Nc4, e5 and Nd6
would have left Black having to sacrifice the exchange for a Pawn,
and fight for the draw.). After a back and forth struggle, White
misses a chance to draw by 47. Rd7 instead of Qd7, and finally has to
resign in a position with 4 queens on the board.
Well, this one's more of a lowlight, actually. The only one of
his victories that Alekhine didn't think worthy of including in
"My Best Games of Chess" (actually, he didn't think Game 11 worthy
either, but included it anyway since it was so famous). In Game
12, Capa lets a Rook stray too far into enemy territory, with
33... Rc3? and 34... Qc7??, and walks into a monstrous pin. The
position after Black's 38th is so ugly, it shouldn't be shown to
small children. Not a very good game, but historically significant
as perhaps the only time in his career that Capablanca lost 2 games
in a row. [The only other possible incident that comes to mind is
his losses to Lasker and Tarrasch at St. Petersburg 1914, though I
don't know if those were back-to-back or not.]
Probably the best game of the match. Despite making no perceivable
error, Capablanca is simply blown off the board as White.
The match's defensive gem, and one of the great fighting games of
all time. Stuck in an ending with Rook and Knight vs. Rook and
four Pawns, Capablanca actually manages to hold, through doomsday
defense, and win all 4 Pawns, to keep the Draw.
A huge missed opportunity and possible turning point of the match.
Blowing Alekhine off the board as White, Capablanca walks into a
perpetual check on his final move. Simply 38. Ke2 instead of
38. Kf2 would have won easily.
Capablanca wins an outstanding Knight + 4 Pawns vs. Bishop + 3
Pawns ending, in textbook style.
Another missed opportunity for Capablanca. Winning a clear Pawn,
Capablanca is unable to bring home the point. 37. h4, fixing
Black's Kingside pawns, would have given him definite winning chances.
Alekhine's turn to produce an endgame masterpiece.
Another virtually textbook endgame in which Alekhine demonstrates
how to win a Rook ending with an outside passed pawn.