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Friday, April 18, 2014

Nottingham 1936

     My favorite chess books are game collections and tournament books and Nottingham 1936 by Alekhine is one of my favorites.
     Nottingham, a 15-player tournament held August 10–28 at the University of Nottingham, was one of the strongest tournaments of all time. W. H. Watts in the introduction to the tournament book called Nottingham 1936 "the most important chess event the world has so far seen”. That’s because it included five past, present, or future world champions (Lasker, José Raúl Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe and Botvinnik).  A number of other prominent players, such as Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky and Salo Flohr, were in the tournament, too. The event is also notable for being Lasker's last major event, and for Botvinnik achieving the first Soviet success outside the Soviet Union.

1-2 Botvinnik and Capablanca (10.0)
3-5 Euwe, Fine and Reshevsky (9.5)
6 Alekhine (9.0)
7-8 Flohr and Lasker (8.5)
9 Vidmar (6)
10-11 Bogoljubow and Tartakower (5.5)
12 Tylor (4.5)
13 Alexander (3.5) 1
4 Thomas (3.0)
15 Winter (2.5)

     As for the book itself, it was a historic tournament and no serious player should be without it because Alekhine’s annotations, while not as meticulous or impressive as those in New York 1924, are still very good. The latest translation is figurine algebraic and Russell Enterprises has produced a quality book. GM Andy Soltis does the introduction.
     Now, why would anybody be interested in this old tournament? It was Lasker’s last tournament, the last major victory for Capablanca, Botvinnik’s second trip outside the Soviet Union and his first tournament victory with the subsequent emergence of the “Soviet School of Chess.” It was Alekhine’s poorest performance of the 1930’s and it confirmed the world class strength of Euwe, Fine and Reshevsky.
     Some of the games are lacking high quality, but that’s OK. In magazines and “best games” books you usually see only the best and not the way most games are really played; that's one reason why I like tournament books; you get to see the warts and all.
     Of Alekhine’s annotations Soltis wrote , “This was the last of Alekhine’s splendid tournament books, and it helped make Nottingham a legend. It falls thematically between New York 1924, with its remarkably intense analysis of moves, and New York 1927, with its emphasis on sporting qualities and psychological factors. This is a book that devotes attention to 'playing the board' as well as to 'playing the man…It was written by a more mature, self-confident Alekhine. Earlier in his career he embellished if not outright lied about some of the moves he played and how much he had calculated.” Also, the round by round commentary helps create a sense of being there. 
     Besides all that, it’s enjoyable just to watch them play! Take the following game; it’s not perfect and would probably never make it into a best games collection, but it’s a good example of the ups and downs of typical tournament games.

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