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Friday, November 3, 2017

Euwe vs. Reti Match of 1920

   A reader has asked if I would do a post on the 1920 Euwe-Reti match and asked if it was an informal series of games. Finding information on this match turned out not to be so simple! One source I saw claimed that it was an 8-game match with the result of 5-3 with four draws in Reti's favor, but all other sources favor four games. In any case, it seems the match didn't attract much attention outside The Netherlands because neither the 1920 issues of the American Chess Bulletin nor The British Chess Magazine make mention of it. If it was for eight games, most of them seem not to have survived!
    Euwe first came to attention because of matches he lost. These matches included the 1920 loss to Reti, losses to Alekhine in 1926, to Bogoljubow (twice) in 1928 and to Capablanca in 1931. In each case, he was credited with performing surprising well against a better known opponent. In fact, he missed two wins in his 4-6 loss to Capa. It was these matches, not his tournament results, that raised him to the top of the list of world championship challengers.
     It seems 1920 was a very busy year for the 19-year old Euwe. In 1920 he participated in his second tournament outside The Netherlands when he played in Bromley, England. There he was eliminated from the finals, but finished first in the “B” Group. Shortly after returning home three European masters were invited to compete against four Dutch players in an international tournament organized in Amsterdam. The participants were Maroczy, Reti, Tartakower, Euwe, Marchand, Weenink and Schelfhout. Euwe lost to Reti (1st place) and Maroczy (=2nd), drew with Tartakower (=2nd) and defeated all the Dutch players to finish fourth. In this tournament Euwe's play was marked by youthful optimism that was seen in his game against Maroczy when he obtained a strategically won game only to throw away the win because of an unsound all-or-nothing attack.
     He also played a series of matches that year against the leading Dutch players. He defeated Oskam 5-1, Weirsma 4-1, tied Marchand 5-5 and defeated Weenink 4-1.
     It was shortly after the Amsterdam tournament that Reti and Euwe played their match. In 1920 Reti would have been rated well over 2650 according to Chessmetrics while Euwe's rating was calculated to be around 2500, give or take 50 points. Writing in the Washington Post in 2001, Lubomir Kavalek wrote that the match was an analytical match to test certain openings and Reti won the match with a score 3-1, setting a record of sacrificing four rooks in two consecutive games. The first game challenged the theory in the Two Knights Defense. Euwe's biography by Munninhoff states that it was a 4-game match and adds the one game won by Euwe (as white) proved that he had learned a lesson from Reti when the game opened 1.e4 c6 2.b3 followed by the fianchetto of the K-side B then concluded with a beautiful mating attack on move 31.
     In the first game of the match Euwe, playing white, got mated in 21 moves in a Two Knights Defense thanks to his premature attack. In the second game, with black, Euwe succumbed, getting mated in 19 moves aginst Reti's Staunton Gambit. In the third game Euwe fianchettoed both his Bs against the Caro-Kann and mated Reti on move 31. I could only find three games, so where's the fourth? I don't know. Also, because these three games all ended in mate, one wonders just how serious this “match” was and what was the time limit?
     Here's Euwe's win as commented on by Kingscrusher. The volume isn't very loud, so turn it up!

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