Tim's Tournament Book Blog IX: New York 1924
New York 1924
By Alexander Alekhine
Foreword by Andy Soltis
Russell Enterprises Inc, 2008
New York 1924 was a true super grandmaster tournament. Among the eleven competitors were three world champions (former champion Lasker, current champion Capablanca, and future champion Alekhine) along with two men who played matches for the world title (Marshall and Janowski) and Bogoljubow who would battle with Alekhine twice for the title. This double round robin tournament was also unique in that players did not know until game day who they would play or what color they would have! Imagine the reaction of some of the top players today to such a proposal!
In the end this fighting tournament (only 35% of the games ended in draws) saw the ageless Lasker secure first place by 1.5 points. The 55 year old was combative as ever winning 13 games, drawing 6 while suffering a lone loss to Capablanca. And while I am sure Capa enjoyed that win, finishing second to the man he had dethroned only three years earlier must have been tough.
For this tournament I started by looking at the brilliancy prizes but I didn’t like jumping from player to player so I decided that I am going to flip this method of looking at a tournament and start next time by following the top finishers and then look at the brilliancy games at the end to see what other interesting games I may have missed.
I mainly focused on Lasker, Alekhine, and Reti but also gave Capablanca’s games some looks as well.
Games of Note
I am only listing the games that really grabbed my attention this time. This tournament has so many good games that it would require a lot of space to note all the games that I found interesting so I limited myself to four.
Maroczy-Lasker Round 7: This game is an excellent example of how bad it is to open a game up when you are behind in development. Lasker executes his first plan perfectly and then rapidly shifts his forces to meet the new realities of the position to finish up. Alekhine’s comment after move 20 it very amusing.
Reti-Alekhine Round 13: A good example of obtaining an advantage but then pressing too hard only to find the position boomerang back. Alekhine annotations include an excellent lesson on exploiting an undefended square in the enemy camp.
Once again I have chosen two games to highlight. And, as always, the notes are my own.
The first game I chose to highlight was a round 6 clash between the always entertaining Janowksi and future champion Alekhine.
The Second game comes from round 19 and features beautiful piece play by Capablanca.
Story of the Tournament
This section is meticulous and rich in detail. The book opens with an excellent (and at times somewhat dry and technical) account of the organizing and execution of the tournament. Contained in this section is cataloging of all the brilliancy winners including a brilliancy prize for best defended game.
There are two cross tables included one for the final standings the other a round by round progression.
Alekhine’s introduction to each round breaks down the flow of each game so that one can search for games based on style of play as well as other factors such as openings. In addition to these great round notes, Alekhine wrote a 25 page treatise entitled The Theory of the Openings. While some of the material is dated, there are some insights as well for the modern player and this section adds to the chronicle of this event.
Alekhine’s annotations are detailed and deep. Delving into copious notes is not for the faint of heart but it is very rewarding. The analysis provided is both variations as well as words with the emphasis being on words which is something that you do not see in many tournament books. The openings are given special treatment with the Russian grandmaster explaining why some moves are good or bad and how they influence the game (development, cramped position, key squares etc..)
The style of Alekhine is both entertaining and instructive. His comments range from biting (after white makes his 12th move in the game Reti-Alekhine he notes”…black really has no further difficulties and finally loses the game only on account of overestimating his own position, which misled him into ill-considered violence.” to deeply insightful to the technical. And, as can be seen from the quote, he was tough on himself too!
Excepting the short draws, most games in the book are given roughly three to four pages of analysis so no matter what game you play over you will learn something.
There is no doubt that Alekhine’s annotations are some of the best I have ever seen even topping Tarrasch’s notes from St. Petersburg 1914. Yes, I have read Bronstein’s Zurich 1953 but as I have not yet come to that work in this blog series, I am, for the time being, handing the best annotations crown to Alekhine.
There is no organized section about the players but there are pieces of information scattered throughout the book as well as pictures of each player. The book also has a group photo in the beginning.
Normally I would say that the lack of biographical information is unfortunate but one gets the feeling that in reading this book, Alekhine accepts that the reader will be interested in chess and already know the players who are competing. That I would say is mostly true although as I knew basic information about all the players involved with the exception of Yates which, I admit, I know almost nothing.
Coverage of Games
All 110 games are included and heavily (one could even say beautifully) annotated. The publishers have also included the ECO code for ever opening.
This is another high quality, flexible paperback from Russell Publishing. The book has an index of players and openings (by name only). The print is sharp and clear with excellent diagrams. I applaud the publishers for keeping Alekhine’s opening theory section in the book.
This is another volume you simply must have on your shelf. Alekhine’s thorough annotations coupled with his biting and sometimes hilarious comments alone makes this book a must have. Add to that the caliber of players involved and the fighting spirit of the players and you have a book that is a rich treasure trove of chess.
Bottom Line: If you only own five tournament books in your entire collection, New York 1924 simply must be one of them. No other book surpasses its quality and only very few can match it.