Tim's Tournament Book Blog X: Baden Baden 1925
Baden Baden 1925 International Chess Tournament
Translated and Edited by Jimmy Adams
Caissa Editions, 1991
Baden Baden 1925 was the seminal tournament that convinced most of the chess world that the winner, Alexander Alekhine, would some day become world champion. Almost all the contemporary accounts laud Alekhine’s ability and his victory by 1.5 point over the likes of Rubinstein, Bogolyubov, Samisch, and Tartakover cemented in many minds the greatness of Alekhine.
The tournament was curious in that neither Lasker or Capablanca played (the main reason appears to be money but Tartakover’s discussion of this topic in his article is illuminating) but most of the other big names of the day attended. And even more curiouser is the lack of respect for this tournament. In the Oxford Companion to Chess the article on tournaments lists four “great” tournaments between the wars (New York 1924 and 1927, Nottingham 1936, and AVRO 1938). After playing over the games of this tournament, I am left to wonder a bit given the high quality and combative chess (only 28% of the games were drawn) that occurred. Still, one could make the argument that Alekhine did not win any of those tournaments in which either Lasker or Capablanca or both players participated but then one could argue that Alekhine defeated the Cuban in their title match but he did have a lifetime score against Lasker of +1-3=4. I am not trying to turn this into a debate on the greatness of Alekhine, but I find it interesting that most of the contemporary commentators lauded Alekhine while criticizing the absence of Lasker and Capablanca.
The above discussion notwithstanding, the tournament produced rich chess and did indeed display the tremendous skill of Alekhine.
The amount of interesting games at Baden Baden was remarkable. Even though I mostly followed the games of Alekhine, Bogolyubov, and Marshall (with some glances at Rubinstein’s games) I still found myself skimming over every game to see what interesting clashes I might find. In doing so, I have compiled my longest list yet of games of note and, for the first time, I am highlighting three games!! As always in those three games all notes are my own.
Games of Note
Alekhine-Colle Round 2: This is a good example of how to methodically execute your advantage and win the “won game”. Alekhine is downright brutal and watching him push Colle around reminds one of someone pulling the wings off a fly.
Spielmann-Rubinstein Round 4: This game shows tactics leading to a positional gain. One of the most instructive aspects of this game is how Rubinstein defends his king especially the weak c pawn. It’s a good lesson to remind players to resist the urge to push a threatened pawn and instead be creative in defense without allowing a weakness in your camp.
Bogolyubov-Rosselli Round 7: An instructive miniature that shows one must be on guard at all times even in “boring” openings like the Queen’s Gambit Declined.
Tartakover-Mieses Round 7: Another miniature that will make Dutch Defense players cringe but again highly instructive.
Nimzovich-Reti Round 7: This game is both interesting and amusing in that both players provide annotations but Reti seems to have an ax to grind in that he wishes to prove Nimzovich’s boast about being a great positional player is just plain wrong!! Nimzovich, on the other hand, just analyzes the game which he won.
Treybal-Bogolyubov Round 21: A wild Sicilian where white had to give up his queen to stay in the game and then black turns around and gives up his queen to seal the win. Instructional in that, often times, we as tournament players, when we win material, often have trouble giving it back to seal a win.
The first game I am highlighting comes from Round 3. It is another example of the powerful attacking ability of Frank Marshall.
Next is a Round 4 clash between Reti and Colle. This game features a good clash between positional/material play on the one hand and active/tactical on the other.
Finally we have a clash between Alekhine and Treybal from Round 9. The game shows off Alekhine's remarkable technique showing the student a clear, conscise endgame plan.
Story of the Tournament
This section is really covered in a series of articles from around the world that were written right around the time the tournament finished. The articles give a terrific overview of the tournament and there are many interesting tidbits about the players to be found. The narrative approach also captures the flavor of the tournament although much of the discussion regarding the other players focuses on their future or past results depending on whether the author viewed the players as ascending or descending. Since Alekhine had take a dominating position in the tournament by round 12 this is understandable.
For the student of chess history, it is interesting to compare and contrast the articles from the various countries to see what each author highlighted or left out vis a vis his peers.
The one thing that does stand out clearly that almost every author thought highly of Alekhine.
The games section does not contain any round by round overview but it does have the scores both for the round and progressive for the tournament.
There is also a cross table and an index of games table.
The game are heavily annotated in both words and variations.
And there is only one way to describe the annotations for the games: simply amazing.
Not only does this book contain the notes from the original Russian edition but it also draws from 26 other works to weave a tapestry showing the depth, skill, and beauty of each game. The translator did an excellent job of showing in each game where the comments came from and his inclusion of a page listing all the sources and the games they are involved in is a handy and educational resource.
This plethora of sources creates situations where both players comment on the same game giving terrific insight into that individual struggle. The depth of notes also impacts the opening discussions and creates conditions where very few of the games have little or brief notes.
One word of note: you need to check the end of each game to find out whose analysis is used so if you are looking for a particular analyst (just want to know who is saying what) you need to start there first.
Not surprisingly given the variety of analysts, the commentary ranges from the straight forward to the absolutely biting as found in game 134 between Bogolyubov and Colle when annotator Rabinovich quips after move 10 “Colle blindly copies Chigorin, but he is a long way from possessing his skill of manoeuvering with two knights against two bishops.” Ouch!
Coverage of Games
All 210 games are included and each has the opening identified by name (no ECO).
There are a number of short gams that are very educational for opening lessons in general.
A really nice feature is the opening index at the end of the book. It gives the openings by name then breaks them down by variations listing the game it was played in by player names and game number as well as giving the result. Now granted, opening theory has advanced quite a bit but the serious tournament player looking to spring an old idea on an unsuspecting opponent will find this index to be a great resource. And for those hard core opening buffs there is a 50 (!) page analysis on the openings by Alekhine.
While there is no organized section about the players there is plenty to learn from the articles covering the tournament. However, like the explorers of old, you must roll up your sleeves and go looking for it.
There is a good group picture at the start of the book as well as an individual picture of the winner, Alexander Alekhine.
This is another high quality hardback red book from Caissa editions. High quality paper, nice print and excellent diagrams. The addition of the other sources for annotations and the page outlining their origin and use adds to the excellent Russian edition.
I debated between essential and recommended for a long time before landing on the side of essential for three big reasons.
First, the high quality of the games. There are few grandmaster draws and all the games I went over (about half which is why it took me so long to post again =) ) had something to offer in terms of expanding my understanding of chess. It was interesting to see Alekhine play both brutal attacking games as well as positional battles. And there are numerous endgame lessons to be found thanks to the deep annotations. And I must admit it was refreshing to see a number of games where some players overlooked a tactic and lost a piece or the game in short order which reminds us that everyone must bring their best game to every round no matter what the level of competition.
Second, the opening index section can be mined for some interesting ideas. It is also helpful in that let’s say you want to look over some positions in the Scotch Game you flip right to the index and find the games and specific lines played.
Third, and most importantly, is the depth and breadth of analysis. Not only do you get to see the thinking of players like Alekhine, Rubinstein, and Nimzovich but you also, in the same game, get to see how two different masters approach the same position. While there are many tournament books out there with deep annotations (New York 1924 and Zurich 1953 spring to mind) there are few that give multiple perspectives on the same game (The only one that really springs to mind is the Second Piatgorsky Cup and I have read that book, and will again for this blog series, but I can tell you now that those annotations pale in comparison to that found in Baden Baden 1925). And those multiple perspectives range from analyiss from both players involved to one of the players combined with a removed third party perspective.
Bottom Line: This book is essential reading. The game themselves are remarkable and the addition of the deep annotations launches this book into the knowledge stratosphere. And if you are a serious student of chess, that is where you want to be. So do yourself a favor and pick up Baden Baden 1925 to punch your ticket on the rocket leading to chess mastery.