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Thursday, March 8, 2012

AVRO 1938

      The AVRO tournament was held in the Netherlands in 1938 and sponsored by the Dutch broadcasting company AVRO. The event was a double round-robin with the eight players generally regarded as the strongest in the world.  They were: Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Botvinnik, Keres, Fine, Reshevsky and Flohr.
      Keres and Fine tied for first place with Keres winning on tiebreak by virtue of his 1.5-0.5 score against Fine in their individual games. Capablanca, who had only lost 26 tournament games over a span of 29 years, lost four games in this event. He had suffered a mild stroke during this tournament and his ill health was largely responsible for this poor performance.
       The tournament was organized in the hope that it would provide a challenger to Alekhine, but it was not an official Candidates Tournament, and World War II dashed any hopes of a championship match for years to come. However, when FIDE organized its 1948 match tournament for the world title after Alekhine's death in 1946 it invited the AVRO participants (Capablanca had died) with the exception of Flohr who was replaced by Smyslov. Fine refused to participate claiming professional duties, but later revealed he had no desire to watch the Russians throw games to each other in an attempt to keep outsiders out of the running.
        The tournament was played in ten Dutch cities.  Each round the players had to make the trip to the next city and most rounds were played in the evening. On those days, the players did not get a hot meal! Adjourned games were resumed in Amsterdam’s Krasnapolsky Hotel. Obviously these conditions favored the young players and fatigue probably had an impact on the play of the two oldest players (Capablanca at 50 and Alekhine at 46) as evidenced by the fact that the youngest, Keres at 22 and second youngest, Fine at 24 tied for first.
        When Keres won, church bells were ringing and schoolchildren got a day off in Estonia. World champion Alekhine didn’t show much enthusiasm because he really did not want to play anuone but Botvinnik.
        In a speech at the opening ceremonies, Alekhine stated that there were rumors circulating that the winner of this event would have preference in a title match.  In his contract with the organizers it was written that he agreed to play the winner under conditions to be stipulated later.
        However, Alekhine pointed out that he retained the right to first play others and the contract had not created new rights or preferences.  So he placed himself on record that a strong tournament was not the deciding factor in selecting a challenger.  At the time, political conditions in Czechoslovakia made a match with Flohr impossible and Alekhine stated he felt free to accept a challenge from any recognized master.  He further stated that if, after the tournament, its winner should challenge him and the organizers of such a challenge would base it on the conditions of previous matches, he would accept the challenge.  He went on to reiterate that the winner should not think he had any preference and he also stated he had the right to refuse to play in any country where public opinion was against him.  He added that he did not have any particular country in mind.

1 Keres ** 1½ ½½ ½½ 1½ ½½ 1½ ½½ 8½
2 Fine 0½ ** 1½ 10 10 11 ½½ 1½ 8
3 Botvinnik ½½ 0½ ** ½0 1½ 1½ ½1 ½½ 7½
4 Euwe ½½ 01 ½1 ** 0½ 0½ 01 1½ 7
5 Reshevsky 0½ 01 0½ 1½ ** ½½ ½½ 1½ 7
6 Alekhine ½½ 00 0½ 1½ ½½ ** ½1 ½1 7
7 Capablanca 0½ ½½ ½0 10 ½½ ½0 ** ½1 6
8 Flohr ½½ 0½ ½½ 0½ 0½ ½0 ½0 ** 4½


  1. Amazing site and amazing post! Thanks!

    However, I'm unable to download the PDF file. Could you kindly refresh the link?

    Thank you very much!

  2. Unfortunately the link is dead. At one time I had a book on the tournament that was published (I think) by Chess Review, but it is long out of print. There is a book available (apparently in limited quantities) on Amazon, but I don't know how good it is. The only other source I am aware of is at chessgames.com, but, of course, it's not the same as a book and the games don't have any serious notes.