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Friday, September 2, 2016

Alekhine's Greatest Game?!

     For a number of years following the First World War Germany had seen no great international tournaments. Mannheim (1914) was the last great tournament which was not finished due to the outbreak of the war. And so Tarrasch approached the authorities of the famous spa town of Baden Baden, which had hosted a tournament in 1870. The result was another tournament in Baden-Baden with Tarrasch as the organizer. Most of the invitees accepted but both Lasker and Capablanca insisted on large appearance fees which were unable to be met. Vidmar and Maroczy were unable to attend because of work commitments. The final result was a great win for Alekhine, foreshadowing his later triumphs at San Remo (1930) and Bled (1931). 
     All Alekhine fans know that the great master wasn't above altering moves, faking games and writing notes that indicated he had seen everything. Of course, very few annotators dared challenge him. One of Alekhine's favorite games was his win against Reti in this tournament. According to C.J.S. Purdy at one point Alekhine mistakenly claimed a draw by repetition and after the TD determined that their was no repetition the game continued and not long after Alekhine played his famous combination. Apparently when he published the game, Alekhine left out some moves. See Edward Winter's discussion HERE
     After his famous move, 26...Re3, his notes were not entirely accurate. Many subsequent annotators simply copied his notes, but I believe that Purdy was the first to question Alekhine's conclusions. Later, in The World's Greatest Chess Games, John Nunn re-examined the game and with the help of Fritz came to the same conclusion as Purdy.
     Nevertheless, the game and the notes by Alekhine, Pudry and Nunn are all instructive and the game itself, even if moves were slightly altered, is still a fascinating one. 
     In his notes after 26.axb5 Alekhine suggests that white's game is preferable on positional grounds and speaking of Reti's attack, he found it incredible that black would have a move that overthrew the general order of things.  It's true that white had a slight advantage, but but his winning chances were very slim. 
     Alekhine's 26...Re3 called into question Lasker's statement, based on Steinitz' tenets, that no combination is possible without a considerable (positional) advantage. True enough, Reti did have a very slight advantage, but not enough to win even if he had played correctly. Had Alekhine failed to play 26...Re3, a move which today's engines spot immediately, only then would Reti's advantage have been sufficient to offer winning chances
     This was one of Alekhine's favorite games and rightfully so. Starting at move 26 all the way to the end all of Alekhine's moves were semi-forcing, forcing or downright violent! 

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