Tim's Tournament Book Blog XVI: Nottingham 1936

Sep 1, 2016, 11:50 AM |

Nottingham 1936

By Alexander Alekhine

Foreword by Andy Soltis

Russell Enterprises, 2009

195 pages

Nottingham 1936 was an amazing collection of chess players.  It had four world champions (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, and Euwe) rising stars in Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Flohr, and Fine, and the old lions Vidmar, Tartakower, and Bogoljubow making one last victory lap running with the “big dogs”  The play was very interesting and very combative with only 40% of the games being drawn.  To top it all off, unlike a lot of big tournaments, this one literally went down to the wire with the top places not being decided until the very last round.  In the end, Capablanca and Botvinnik continued the fine form they displayed in Moscow earlier in the year by tying for first with Fine, Reshevsky, and Euwe nipping at their heels a mere half point behind.

For this tournament I basically went round by round looking over all the games and playing over most of the decisive ones.  For the drawn games, I mainly examined them if they had an opening of interest or the clash was between two players whose chess I enjoy. 

Games of Note
The strange thing about Nottingham 1936 is there were not a lot of games that really struck me as memorable.  Instead, most of the games were very interesting clashes of style between the various players and that is part of the reason I spent so much time reviewing this book.  However, there are a few games that did stand out from the excellent crowd.

Capablanca-Tylor Round 5: This was an interesting game where the former world champion eschewed winning the exchange and instead focused on winning a pawn and creating a winning position on the queenside.  A good lesson for all us improving players that winning material is not the end all and be all of chess!

Botvinnik-Thomas Round 11: The most interesting part of this game in the ending that starts at move 47.  Alekhine’s terrific notes outlining each stage of Botvinnik’s winning method are instructive. 

For my two highlighted games I chose two very different lessons administered by Alexander Alekhine. As always, the notes are my own.

First, from round Alekhine maneuvers skillfully to pile on an enemy weakness before crushing him.

Later, in round 14, one slip by his opponent allows Alekhine to unleash a massive attack!

Story of the Tournament
The forward by Andy Soltis gives a nice overview of the ebb and flow of the competition but the round by round notes by Alekhine are detailed, recreating the atmosphere (and the drama) of the tournament.  The Russian’s notes also give the reader an excellent glance into how the players felt about the conditions and organization of that time. 

Alekhine’s annotations are good but they are not on a par with his two books on the New York tournaments of 1924 and 1927.  However, the analysis is still sharp (along with Alekhine’s tongue) and instructive.  The games of round eight are particularly instructive.
I was a little disappointed in some of Alekhine’s opening analysis.  In the book, there were many times where the world  champion made comments like “The move does not meet the demands of the position” or “This move is not in harmony with the position” or “More interesting is…”  Now granted there are a lot of tournament books with this problem but in his earlier works Alekhine included a detailed opening analysis section sometimes nearly 50 pages long where he would explain such comments.  The absence in this book is regrettable but perhaps Alekhine did not wish to go into such details since he knew he was going to battle Euwe for the world title again in the near future.

Biographical Information
Very little here just some tidbits from the forward and Alekhine’s notes.  There is a group picture towards the front of the book.

Coverage of Games
All 105 games are included and all received detailed analysis from the author even the grandmaster draws.

Production Value
This is another excellent quality paperback from Russell Enterprises.  The book opens easily and lays relatively flat without damage to the spine.  The print is crisp, clean and large with good diagrams.  There is a nice crosstable at the start of the book and a player and opening index at the end but the opening index does not contain ECO codes.  However, the ECO is given for each game at the start.

Final Evaluation:

I highly recommend this book.

First, the games themselves are a lot of fun.  As I said before there are not many that really stand out but almost all of them are interesting battles containing many lessons. 

Second, the tension of the tournament is almost palpable.  Alekhine’s round notes and annotations build the tension beautifully and you really feel like a spectator of this famous tournament.

Finally, the games are also interesting because of the variety of playing styles among the competitors.  You have heavy initiative and tacticians like Alekhine and Fine, the positional skill of Capablanca, the almost surgeon like technique of Euwe, and the strategic play of Botvinnik all clashing over fifteen round of great chess.

Bottom Line: Nottingham 1936 is a rewarding book on many levels.  There are chess lessons galore and the history cannot be beat.