Akiba Rubinstein, now Polish, was the first to challenge the new Champion. Capablanca accepted his challenge on September 7, 1921. Alexander Alekhine came also two months later with his personal challenge:
The Hague, 7 November 1921
Dear Mr. Capablanca, —The International Tournament in The Hague has just concluded in victory for me I managed to score 8 points out of 9, or about 89 percent, without losing a single game. Second was Dr. Tartakower with 7 points and third Rubinstein with 6½. Fourth and fifth were Kostic and Maroczy with 5½.
This success, following the ones at St. Petersburg, Mannheim and Budapest, seems to justify my desire for a serious meeting with the world champion. Consequently, I should be grateful if you would consider the present letter as an official challenge to a match for the World Chess Championship.
Nonetheless, since I have read that, on the basis of his pre—War successes (in 1912), the Polish master Rubinstein has already sent you a similar challenge and that you have accepted it, I should be quite ready, if that match has already been fixed for a more or less precise date, to await its conclusion to have the honor and pleasure of measuring myself against you. In any case, I should be most obliged if you would send mc your reply in principle on this matter, together with possible conditions under which, in your view, a match between the two of us could rake place.
Yours sincerely, Alexander Alekhine
According the ACB, Capablanca accepted Alekhine’s challenge in principle but will give the first option to Rubinstein excepted if Alekhine will beat him in a match to be organized in 1922.
Finally in summer 1922 it is reported that Capablanca and Rubinstein met in London and the Champion agreed to leave open the first challenge until end of 1923.
End of 1921, Capablanca wrote the rules and financial conditions for future World Championship Match. There were given to potential challenger during the London tournament of 1922 and also published in many chess magazines later. (see annex)
The top players, Rubinstein, Maroczy, Reti, Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Tartakower and Vidmar, present in London signed the document.
In 1923, the American champion Frank James Marshall (1877-1944) decided to challenge the World Champion.
Capablanca answered his challenge on December 11, 1923
Dear Mr. Marshall,
Your letter reached me on time but illness in my family and urgent occupations prevented me taking up the matter before. If you will take the trouble to read carefully the conditions for the World Championship you will find that all important points have been covered. It remains for you, in order to continue this pourparle to deposit your forfeit of $500.00 with the stake-holder. To that effect I suggest Mr. F. E. Kahn as stake-holder and Mr. Walter Penn Shipley as referee. The Championship conditions make it practically impossible for the match to be played in more than two cities.
You will also notice that in order for us to play under the above mentioned rules and
regulations you must agree, should you ever become the champion, to defend the title under exactly the same conditions. Please bear in mind that you must post your forfeit at once and that, in case you are unable to obtain the funds required, etc., the $500.000 will become my property
Let me know at your earliest convenience if you are ready to meet the requirements essential to carry on these negotiations.
(Signed) J. R. Capablanca
FIDE (Federation International des Echecs) was created in Paris on July, 20, 1924. The 14 member federations elected the Dutch lawyer A. Rueb as President. At his second Congress of 1925 in Zurich, FIDE issued its first statement concerning its position regarding the World Championship:
“The GA doesn’t want to discuss the title of the World Champion which for the moment belongs to J.R Capablanca. But wishes in the near future, to discuss the conditions of determining the title of the World Champion.”
Ten thousand of dollars to be rise was enormous at the time and none of those challenge materialized due to the impossibility to find the sponsoring and that included the one that Aaron Nimzowitch sent in 1926.
During its second Congress organized at Budapest in July 1926, FIDE had a long debate on the World Championship issue. After few hours of discussion the international organization issued the following statement:
“The GA confirmed its acceptance of the 1922 London Protocol concerning the organization of the World Championship final match but refused to participate financially in the prize fund. The GA invited World Champion J.R. Capablanca to review this financial point with other Grandmasters. The GA did not recognize the World Champion and decided to organize the first FIDE Championship with a prize fund of SFR 5,000.”
In the Belgian magazine l’ Echiquier of June 1926 , Pierre Vincent, General Secretary of the French Chess Federation and also the founder of FIDE, published an article with an unique proposal to govern the world championship:
“The next congress for the International chess federation will be held in Budapest next July. There, will be reunited the delegates from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Argentina, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Switzerland , Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Correspondence Chess League of America in the absence of a National Federation. Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany will join the International Federation when their affiliation will be voted at the beginning of the session. Therefore, there are sixteen National chess federations included in the International Federation.
During the congress, the order of the day will be chapter 7, the world championships. It is indispensable that the assembly approach this subject with authority and courage.
The rules of the world championship belongs to FIDE. The chess world holds FIDE responsible for the running of the World championship as well as the prize money which is inferior to the $10,000 previously offered to satisfy the demands of the eventual participants.
Only FIDE can decide on the conditions of the championship…
In chess like in arts and sciences, professionals must only think of taking out the material profit of their productions that their talent will bring them. Any other conception is speculative and is aimed at rich amateurs who have a passion for the game and who are ready to pay a big sum to organize a big game…FIDE must not encourage this…FIDE must envision the World championship in a more objective manner. If the rules and regulations and the prize offered don’t satisfy the big players, then matches with second rate players will be held. But the champion will be the CHAMPION for all the different national chess federations.
The winner will have to be universally acclaimed and recognized as the best player in the world to the detriment of those who didn’t participate in this championship.
1. The world chess championship will be held every four years, in the town designated by FIDE. There will be one match with fifteen games between the champion and a designated adversary.
- The year before, a tournament will be held between four players designated by FIDE based on the their performances from the previous four years. This tournament will be held in the country where the congress of that year will be held. There will be four rounds.
- Every federation affiliated to FIDE will provide the necessary finances compatible with their own financial situations in order to organize the tournament for the four players as well as the match for the world chess championship.
- In principle, the funds collected will be sufficient. They represent the maximum financial effort each federation could make in order for the world chess championship to happen.
- In case of a participants refusing to play in the first round, FIDE will designate a sufficient number of other players who’ll be invited to play.
The results obtained in the previous four years will have to be held in account because of this choice.
- In case the world champion declines the invitation to play in the match he will lose his title and the match will be between the winners of the previous tournament, by invitation and in the order given by this tournament.”
However following a request from Capablanca to FIDE, the FIDE General Assembly of 1926 decided to not interfere with the London Rules of 1922.
In the summer 1927 Capablanca said to the press that he thought the best match was between himself and the French player as he was the best equipped of all the masters for the forthcoming ordeal.
Capablanca (CUB) – Alekhine (FRA) 15½-18½
Buenos Aires, 16 September till 29 November 1927
With the London Protocol signed by all the top players in 1922, the new champion, Capablanca made the efforts of his possible challenger more difficult. The prize fund itself had to be guaranteed at US$10,000. Like with Lasker, talent was not enough to play the Champion.
Partly prepared by the sensational news that had been coming out of Buenos Aires from time to time, the chess playing world was not altogether taken by surprise when, Tuesday, November 30, the match between Jose R. Capablanca of Havana and Dr. Alexander Alekhine of Paris came to an official end and the title of world champion at chess passed from the former to the latter. After a stretch of seventy-four days, the match, which began September 16, ended in favor of Dr. Alekhine by a score of 6 to 3, with 25 drawn.
A good deal of misinformation concerning the match was circulated off and on through the medium of the press, and among the misstatements that which caused the most confusion was one to the effect that the games were limited to twenty. It is possible that such a change may be considered in arranging future matches; if not the text, possibly the following. Under the conditions governing the match just ended, the one first winning six games, draws not counting, was declared the winner.
Capablanca, in accordance with his usual custom, made no preparation for the match. He relied on his innate ability, knowledge and experience to see him through. Moreover, hadn’t he beaten Alekhine recently in the big New York tournament, and come out 2½ points ahead of him in the final standings?
Alekhine, on the other hand, did everything possible to increase his chances of dethroning the Champion. He subjected Capablanca’ s games to fierce, relentless analysis in the search for the secret of Capablanca’s strength, and to discover, if possible. any weaknesses that he could exploit.
Alekhine did not underrate Capablanca, but he had confidence in his own powers. Shortly before the match, he made this comment, which attests to his attitude: ‘Yes it is difficult to picture Capablanca losing six games, hut I find it more difficult picturing Capablanca beating me six games.”
The great match began at Buenos Aires on September 16, 1927.
Capablanca opened with 1.e4, and Alekhine replied with 1. …e6, the French Defence. At his 17th turn, Alekhine captured a Knight with his Queen, the superiority of this to 17…BxN being possibly overlooked by Capablanca, and won a Pawn thereby. Theoretically he had a won game— and Alekhine did win it in 43 moves by careful, exact play.
The result of the first game was a shock! No one expected Capablanca to lose the first game not even the most avid Alekhine supporters.
The second game was a short draw. In the third game, Capablanca dazzled the spectators by uncorking a brilliancy, he gave up his Queenside Pawns to unleash a Kingside attack which was irresistible. The next three games were drawn, with Capablanca having the initiative in the first two games, while Alekhine enjoyed that pleasure in the third.
In the seventh game Capablanca again sacrificed a Pawn to initiate a brilliant Kingside attack which brought him victory after 36 moves. At this point the critics were agreed that Capablanca had found his stride, and that Alekhine would be forced to pay the consequences of his presumption in winning the first game.
Three more drawn games followed, and the eleventh game found Capablanca forcing matters until his 26th move, when he missed the strongest continuation, one which would have compelled Alekhine to sacrifice the exchange and fight for a draw. Alekhine got the upper hand shortly there after, and Capablanca found himself fighting hard for a draw. He missed his chance on his 47th move, as Alekhine later pointed out, when the risky looking 47 Rd7 instead of 47. Qd7 would have done the trick. He fought on bravely in a most difficult position, and finally resigned when there were extra Queens on the board! It was a long, hard game, and in spite of some errors both sides, a genuine masterpiece of fighting chess.
In the 12th game, Capablanca made a rare miscalculation when he let a Rook stray too far into enemy territory. Alekhine of course pounced on the error, and forced resignation shortly afterwards.
A series of drawn games followed, of which the 17th and 20th were the most interesting, and the 21st found Alekhine in an inspired mood. Alekhine simply outplayed Capablanca, who apparently committed tangible error.
The next game was a draw, but not a routine draw! It was as great a fighting game as any one has ever seen on a chessboard. It was featured by what one critic called, “Capablanca’s superhuman patience and defensive genius.” The ending found Capablanca’ s Knight beating off a swarm of Pawns successfully.
After two more drawn games, Capablanca missed maybe a win at his 38th move when he moved his King to f2 instead of e2. Alekhine himself said that Capablanca should have brought off a well-merited victory.
Following another draw, Capablanca put on the pressure right from the start in the 29th game. Alekhine was left with alone, isolated Pawn on the Queen side, and this Pawn fell on the 28th move. After a great deal of complex manoeuvring a position was reached wherein Alekhine had Bishop and three Pawns against Capablanca’ s Knight and four Pawns. Capablanca was in his element, and handled the ending in his customary elegant style.
His Knight danced about, preparing the way for his passed Pawn to advance, and Alekhine’s King was forced further and further back, until it could retreat no more. Capablanca won the ending as neatly and efficiently as though he were demonstrating an endgame study.
The 30th game was a model draw. The 31st game offered Capablanca a golden opportunity—which he missed! At his 37th turn he moved 37 a5, overlooking the strength of 37. h4, which would have fixed Alekhine’ s Kingside Pawns. This would have given him definite winning chances, as he was a Pawn ahead at the time.
The next game found Alekhine in superb form, and his conduct of the game was irresistible. His endplay sparkled, and once again he bequeathed a masterpiece of play to the world.
A short draw followed, and then came the 34th, and what turned out to be the final game of the match. This was a long, hard game of 82 moves, and it bristled with fascinating combinations and subtle positional manoeuvres. The game is a masterpiece in every respect, and undoubtedly Alekhine’ s best game in the match. Capablanca fought hard, as befitted a Champion defending himself, but eventually had to resign the game, and with it his title.
On November, 29,1927 Capablanca had written the following letter to Alekhine:” Dear Mr. Alekhine, I resign the game you are therefore the world champion and I congratulate you on your success. My regards to Mrs. Alekhine.”
Not the least of the benefits which accrued to chess from the playing of this match was the extensive publicity these two masters gained for the game in all countries. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. Perhaps one of the greatest journalistic achievement in connection with the finish was that of the “New York Times”, which, on the morning of December 1, devoted four full columns to an exhaustive report, including a special article by Capablanca, for which he had contracted when last in New York.
In it he made some puzzling statements. He called attention to his age (he has just turned 39), asserted that he no longer had the same power of resistance he formerly had (as late as the spring of 1927), that he regarded playing the match in the light of a “sacrifice” and, finally, that chess had about run its race! All of which may be attributable to disappointment in no longer being champion or to some other cause not made known.
During the latter part of the match the New York Sun saw fit to print a letter written by Capablanca to Julius Finn of New York in which the then champion suggested the arrangement of a return match in New York during 1929. When it was written Capablanca was only one game behind the score. That the Cuban was not himself seemed to be indicated. The cabling lack of editorial comment upon this situation did not tend to increase tranquillity in South America.
Like many chess magazine, the ACB of December 1927 published an interesting analyze of the match: “Capablanca, for some year considered invincible (he did not lost a match or tournament game for ten years), held the title for a comparatively short time. Winning it from Lasker in 1921, he has lost it on his first attempt to defend it.
It cannot be disputed that he played below his best form and even made downright errors.
The French master rose to the occasion and played greater chess than he had ever previously shown.
Briefly summarizing the match, we find it worth while to point out the following most important points:
- Alekhine won three games with the white pieces and three with the black.
- All of Capablanca’ s three victories were scored with white.
- Three was a consecutive string of twenty-one games without a Capablanca victory.
- The longest string without an Alekhine victory was nine games.
- At one period of the match eight consecutive games were drawn.
- Of the thirty-four games, one was a French defense, one an irregularly defended Queen’s Pawn and thirty-two were Queen’s Gambits declined!
Regarding this latter opening, the match taught us very little. Of the thirty-two games White won five and Black two, but one of those won by White (the twelfth) should have been won by Black, which would have given a result of White 4, Black 3, and 25 drawn.”
In a newspaper article Capablanca states that, with Black, he drew every game in which he adopted his system of defense to the Queen’s Gambit. Obviously, anything we write regarding the Queen’s Gambit may be attacked as prejudiced, for it is well know that we regard 1 d2-d4 as inferior to 1 e2-e4. However, we would not be content with a system of defence which did not produce a single win in some fourteen or fifteen games, for we did not believe that chess has reached such point of exactness that Black must be content with all drawn games against any opening.
With the match a great deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed. The specific objections have been (1) too many drawn games (2) that the players were not showing good sport.
In regard to the first objection, if the routine draws (those in which neither player made any special effort to win – about seven or eight) were eliminated we would have say nine wins out of twenty-seven games.
In the Lasker – Schlechter title match there were only two wins in ten games. In the 1927 New York tournament thirty-six out of sixty games were drawn. As chess is now played we do not find the percentage of draws higher than might have been expected, for the routine draws must be eliminated, as they were caused by the conditions of the match which put too hard a strain on the players.
The second objection will carry little weight with chess players who know what the mental and physical strain of five hours of hard chess, repeated night after night, amount to. There is no other game and very few, if any, other forms of mental effort that require the concentration of attention called for by a chess game. Let the critics try to keep their attention closely riveted on a series of ordinary mathematical problems for five hours; imagine the effort multiplied some five times and they will have the faint idea of the strain Alekhine and Capablanca went through.
In one newspaper we read that Alekhine had lost his fear of Capablanca. This seems to us unfair to both masters. It implies that at least part of Capablanca’s success has been due to his over-awing his opponents (in Europe they used to call it “Capablanca fright”). There is no reason to believe that Alekhine was ever afraid of Capablanca. He and many other masters had a very wholesome respect for the Cuban’s ability and found that he took advantage of very slight errors. Possibly some of them were over-cautious when they met him.
His games in Buenos Aires show distinct signs to effort, and it is certain that he found himself more liable to err than formerly. This sort of thing works in circle. You lose confidence in your accuracy and you make increased effort to avoid errors. The extra effort tires you and the tiring causes you to make errors. Alekhine’ s victory has already been acclaimed as a triumph for hyper-modern chess. It is not, for, while he is a modern, he is not a hyper-modern. His victory is a triumph for Alekhine – a great player unfettered by any special theories…”
El Mundo of Havana devoted an entire page to the subject. In an article from Buenos Aires, contributed to that page, the writer says in effect that Dr. Alekhine won by virtue of his greater love for chess and that Capablanca does not have the same feeling for the game which made him famous.
In ‘ Mundo” Dr. Alekhine is quoted as saying that he did not expect to win when he went into the match, but could not clearly see bow Capablanca could defeat him in six games. He is also quoted as saying that, after the eleventh and twelfth games, he expected to win, and deemed it best not to change his strategy. It did not interest him, he said, to demonstrate to Capablanca that the King’s Pawn opening is as effective as the Queen’s Pawn because, after making use of it (e4), Capablanca perhaps might have decided to “imitate” him,, wherefore it was simpler for him to continue along a line of strategy favorable to him, even though but slightly, in the majority of the games. To have played e4 would have been to open a new sphere of preoccupation which the state of the score did not warrant.
Further, Dr. Alekhine said that he was at his worst in four games of which he lost three. The fourth was the twenty-seventh. The twentieth and twenty-second games he thought he should have won. There were drawn. He had superior positions he believed, in the sixth, eighth and twenty-fifth games, which were also drawn. Finally, Dr. Alekhine is quoted as saying that he still considers Capablanca as his most dangerous opponent.
Dr. Lasker, of course, likewise entered into his calculations, but he does not believe that the German master can beat him in a match. Nevertheless he looks upon the ex-champion as a dangerous adversary, inasmuch as he knows how to complicate games and has the soul of a fighter, being superior in this, respect to Capablanca.
An interview with Capablanca is much the same as the artic in the New York Times referred to, but it has an additional remark of real interest. The Cuban says “A curious phenomenon happens when I play Lasker. The German master, because of h virtues as a fighter, by playing constantly to win even in positions which strategically do not permit one to expect more than a draw, irritates me chessically and this is translated into a greater efficiency in my labor over the board. There is awakened in me under these conditions the spirit of the fighter and, as in some aspects of the game I am superior to he German master, I manage to defeat him at his own game.’’
The American Master Fred Reinfeld was very critical:“The Alekhine—Capablanca Championship Match in 1927 undoubtedly did chess a lot of harm. For this Alekhine was really not to blame, as he had come to the conclusion (based on previous unfortunate experiences) that Capablanca could only be beaten by his own style. The result was a deadening succession of Orthodox Queen’s Gambits, sometimes identical up to the 20th move, sometimes given up as a draw after the 20th move, without a single thought having been expended on a game. Many of the “contests” were shams, were simply intermezzi between something really important. Thrills were noticeable by their absence, and the unfortunate impression arose that this was the essence of modern chess.”
On February 8th reaching New York and interviewed by few journalists, Capablanca gave full credit to Alekhine for his victory over him, but intimated that he was not his real self during the course of that historical encounter. He expressed confidence in his ability to recover his lost laurels. If the return match is planned for 1929 takes place.
Leonard P. Rees Vice President of FIDE wrote a letter on December 13, 1927 which was sent to all FIDE members.
’ Dr. Rueb the President of FIDE, desired me, as Vice President, to express my personal support of the important letter he has circulated to you in connection with the recent match for the Championship of the World. I’m in complete accord with the sentiments and remarks contained in that letter. The match in Buenos Aires was the first one played under the conditions formulated by some of the Masters present in London in 1922, and it is now clearly apparent tint those conditions need very considerable modifications for the benefit of Chess generally. The FIDE of 23 National Units represents nearly all the Chess organizations of the World. In the interest of the Chess pubic and of the Champion— and possible challengers— the Federation as the supreme authority in Chess matters, should deal with this question at once and decide on such modifications as would lessen the physical strain imposed of the combatants and so give a true reflex of their chess strength, modify financial basis and so ensure more frequent matches.’’
If, therefore, each Unit would consider the matter and furnish me on behalf of the FIDE, with their views, I would collate the details and lay them be lore my colleagues of the Central Committee, Dr. A. Rueb and Professor Nicolet, so that a definite proposal can be prepared for the Annual Council Meeting in July next at The Hague’’.
The ACB published in January 1928 an interesting article under the name : FIDE and the World Championship. It showed clearly the wishes of FIDE to be involved in further world championship matches and if possible those ones to be organized under its auspices.
That matches for the world’s chess championship be hereafter controlled by the International Chess Federation, instead of being left to the management of the principals or their representatives, is the desire of Dr. A Rueb of The Hague, president of that organization, who has addressed an appeal for support to the twenty-three units of the Federation. He has also invited an expression of views by Dr. Alexander Alekhine, the new champion and Jose R. Capablanca and Dr. Emanuel Lasker, ex-champions, in order that the subject may be discussed with full understanding at the next meeting of the International to be-held at The Hague in July.
Lasker stated in the ACM of March 1928 that he should play a match for the World Championship if he had reason to believe that the chess world want it. Chess world and not FIDE as the two terms are distinct.« The first designates a living being that has existed a thousand years, the other one organization which has yet to prove its vitality and can look back on a caree of a few years only ».
The ACM published in February 1928 an article which said that the Champion is considering a return match with Capablanca. In the same time in New York Capablanca gave full credit to Alekhine for his victory and express is confidence to recover his lost laurels if a return match planned for 1929 takes place.
On February 10 1928, Capablanca wrote a long letter to Dr. Rueb President of FIDE. (EB/ACB 1928)
Dear Dr. Rueb, —On my arrival in New York Dr. Lederer showed me some of the correspondence he had with you, and asked me to write you a letter giving you my views on the question of the championship, and with modifications in the rules in the light of the experience of the last championship in Buenos Aires.
In regards to the championship match I wish first of all to call your attention to the fact that before I won the championship there were unfixed rules for it, nor were there any specific obligations on the part of the champion to play a match unless he felt like it.
As soon as I won the title, although there was not at the time any international body which could make or enforce any rules, I myself took upon me the responsibility of drawing up a set of rules which would put the champion under obligation to defend his title under certain conditions. Evidently that move on my part was not of any personal advantage to me, but rather to the contrary. In drawing up these rules I looked upon the matter from a purely objective point of view. I must state here that I submitted these rules to Mr. Walter Penn Shipley of Philadelphia for his personal approval and that his answer was that in the light of previous experience he had no objection to the making of these rules except one which he modified slightly in the champion’s favor. He furthermore added that he thought, for the time being, that no better rules could be made. This is evidence in itself of the spirit that I put into the making of those rules.
In the light of the last experience at Buenos Aires I can only think of two modifications that should be made. These modifications are as follows:
A limit must be put to the number of games to be played in a match, and in my opinion the limit should be sixteen games. Thus the rule modified would read: The match should he of six games up but if after sixteen games no player has won six games, the player having won the greatest number of points shall win the match and the championship. Of course, in case of an even number of points the match is to be declared a draw and the champion retains his title.
The second modification is with regard to the time limit, which I think should be changed to 30 moves in two hours with two 4-hour sessions a day, with an intervening lapse for food and rest of about 1 1/2 or 2 hours, with the provision that no analysis of the games be made during the lapse under penalty of forfeiting the game.
The reasons for these modifications are that without a limit to the number of games it is quire possible that the match may never be finished, or that it may last so long as to make the result merely dependent on the physical and mental endurance of the players. In other wnrds it would depend on who would be exhausted first, and not on who was the better player. This does not take into consideration the cost of the march, which evidently is greater the longer it lasts.
The time limit should be changed because the technical knowledge of the openings and the general knowledge of the game is so far advanced that with playing time of only five hours practically every game comes to an adjournment or can be made to come to an adjournment. and as a consequence the practical result will often depend, not on the actual ability of the player to win the games over the board, bur more so on his ability to analyze for hours a given position (in which analysis he may easily obtain help from other players or from books) combined with his capacity to stand work for an unlimited number of hours without impairing his capacity for work the following day.
No other condition, to my mind, should be modified; nor would it be practical to play a championship match more than once a year. Even under these modifications, giving a definite limit of sixteen games, a championship match is an affair of about 2 1/2 or 3 months, according to the distance to be traveled by the players. Certainly a preparation of four weeks before a championship match should not be too much for the majority of players. The sixteen games will take one month to play, making thus already two months. Furthermore, the players, or one of them at least, will need eight or ten days to get accustomed to the climate and food of the country where the match is going to take place. If you add to all this the time employed in travel, which may vary from twenty-four hours to twenty-five or thirty days, you will see that a championship match would be, as I stated, an affair lasting from 2½ to 3 months.
In this account no consideration is taken of the fact that after a hard march the players may be so exhausted as to require a certain amount of time in which to rest up, thus making their usefulness void as far as earning powers are concerned.
I am making all these considerations on account of the matter of the purse, which, to my mind, not only is nor excessive for a championship match, but rather to the contrary. Of course, I realize that in Europe at the present moment (largely because of after-war conditions) it would be difficult to raise a purse of that size, but you must consider that such a thing is only temporary, and that when a man gets to the top of his profession throughout the world a fee of some seven thousand dollars, which is all that a champion can win in a match, cannot by any manner or means he considered excessive for some three months of his time, the more so as he is not able to win that much but once a year, and that even only in theory, as in actual practice he does not earn it but once every two or three years at best. You must consider, furthermore, that the standard of living in some countries on this side of the ocean is so much higher than in Europe that the sum means practically nothing.
In fact, under actual circumstances, and this you know as well as anybody else, no chess master has been able through chess to obtain sufficient money so as to make his standard of living of any consequence. The very few who are able to live on a more or
less higher standing do so through sources of money made totally outside of chess, if you will take the trouble to consider the mode of living of the large majority of so-called grand-masters of chess you must come to the conclusion that there is no other enterprise in life in which men who excel to such an extent in their profession must live and do live under such standards. It is the obligation of the men governing the affairs of chess to put forward their best efforts to raise the standard of living of the few men able to excel so much in that profession, and nor, as is intended, to reduce their earning capacity, thus lowering this standard instead of raising it.
You must not lose track of the fact that it is only through the ability of these very few men that chess has reached the high standard of the present day, and that should conditions become such that only men engaged in other walks of life can occasionally devote their attention to chess, chess would cease to advance and would finally deteriorate.
Do not overlook that the great masterpieces of chess have been produced only by the very best players of their time, never by dilettantes, and that it is to those master pieces that the chess lovers at large look forward.
I am forwarding a copy of this letter to Dr. Alekhine, Mr. Kuhns and Dr. Lederer.
With kindest regards, I am
Very sincerely yours,
- Capablanca. Havana, 10 February 1928
Alekhine’s reply came two weeks later (EB/ACB 1928)
Paris, 29 February 1928
Dear Mr. Capablanca, I am in receipt of the copy of your letter to Mr. Rueb dated 10 February, which you thought necessary to send me, and I feel induced to make to you and especially to the Chess World the following statement:
Having lost your title you address yourself to the FIDE with the suggestion to modify hose same roles which you had made on becoming Champion of the World, and which you imposed on your possible rivals in London in 1922. You do this although you know that, on principle, I should never agree to these modifications inasmuch as they are adapted to a possible return match between ourselves. This I made quite clear to you during our only interview after the match on 12 December 1927.
Although you assured me during that interview that you agreed with my views (that a return match between ourselves could not take place on other terms than those of the first one) and that you would make it known to the organizations concerned; although, notwithstanding that FIDE exists since 1924, I myself did not consider it fit to address myself to it with analogous suggestions, for I would have considered such an appeal equal to the disowning of my signature of the London Rules in 1922. Not withstanding all this I should not have decided to give a public answer to your letter to Mr. Rueb had it not referred to the “experience” of the Buenos Aires match. On account of this assertion and the deductions which might wrongly be drawn from it, I am obliged to state the following:
- —Basing yourself on our common “experience” you suggest limiting the number of games in the match to sixteen. You will understand that were I taking into consideration only the example of Buenos Aires, and were I only thinking of my advantages, the “experience” would make me gladly we your proposal, for already from the twelfth game I took the lead and maintained it to the end. Consequently, after the 16th, after the 20th, and after the 24th game (the limit established its your match with Dr. Lasker), I should have been the winner. (This also shows that your argument as to the possibility of losing a match out of sheer fatigue ran in no way be drawn from our Buenos Aires ‘experience”), But I most confess that such a victory would nor have satisfied me— nor would I or anyone in the Chess World he convinced by a correspond ing defeat.
The fact is (and this you know as well as I do) that in the present phase of the evolution of the act of chess, the science of the openings has exceedingly advanced, and makes playing for a draw each year easier for the leading masters. The only logical deduction that might and must he drawn is that in a match (especially for the world’s championship), only decided games can be taken into consideration. This practically excludes all limitation of the number of games in a match, for it is obvious that in the latter case the draws would, directly or indirectly, influence the final issue.
In fact, what would a match come to, reduced as you suggest to sixteen games? The first opponent who perhaps owing to chance (for one game does nut prove anything) succeeds in winning a game can play all the others for a draw, thereby forcing his opponent to give him the draw in advance.
Submitting to the rules you imposed, I won six games from you. Can you possibly imagine that I shall agree to play a return match with you or to defend my title against anybody else on conditions that render chess a game like baccarat?
- As to yout proposal to change the control and order of the play. I consider it still mote unfounded. The control of time after five hours’ play was proposed by you, and introduced on your own initiative at the New York Tournament of 1927, where it received full recognition. As you argued at that time such control has advantages for the public (allowing the public to attend the main pan of the game. forty moves., at one sitting), as well as for the players themselves (five hours’ uninterrupted play are less tiring than six to eight hours in two sittings). The arguments to the contrary which you now advance based on the Buenos Aires experience,” seem tome quite unfounded.
(a) Namely, our 34 games of which 25 (5 of them decided, 3 in my favor and 2 in yours) were either practically ended towards the 40th move or even earlier, show that neither ‘the technical knowledge of the openings” nor the general knowledge of the game,” prevent it being ended before five hours.
(b) Your dislike of analysis will probably cause the greatest astonishment in Buenos Aires itself, where all through the match the local press drew special attention to your chess work outside of the play.
Here are a few examples.
- After the adjournment of the eleventh game you stayed behind in the club and asking to be left alone in a separate room, analyzed for two hours the adjourned position. (Critica, of 9 October 1927)
- Coming to the club in order to continue the adjourned twenty-second game, you retired to a room next to the one in which the match was being played, and while your clock was going, with the authorization of the judge of the match, Dr. Querencio, (your friend, in whose house you stayed during the match) you analyzed the adjourned position for about an hour. (Critica, of 1st November 1927)
I might add that this procedure, although perhaps admitted from a formal point of view, but, anyhow quite unusual, evoked a series of comments in the Buenos Aires Chess Club, and certainly (of course, without any purpose on your side) had an influence on my further play in that game.
Although other examples could be added, these two suffice to show those who might take your assertion as an “argomenrum ad hominem,” that it was certainly not the analyzing that decided the face of the championship.
What shall I say about your statement that after an adjournment of the fortieth move the players might find aid in… books.
Coming from a player of your experience and science, this assertion can only be considered as a joke, and the president of the FIDE, Mr. Rueb, who is a strong amateur of the first class, will hardly take it seriously.
As to the question of possible help in analyzing from other players, the Chess World will probably heat with interest about your Buenos Aires “experience” which showed you that such help ‘is always easy to obtain ’’ As to myself, my experience in that respect is null, a sufficient reason being the atmosphere of racial sympathy towards you really quite comprehensible, which reigned all over Argentine.
Summing up all I have said:
Alter the match was over I made it clear to you that I was willing to play with you again only on strictly the same conditions as the first time. You told me that you quite agreed with this. Now you have evidently changed your mind, and are endeavoring to obtain on your own, modification of the rules of the Championship Matches.
You do not seem to know me very well if you can imagine that anything could induce me to give up what I consider fair and sportsmanlike.
If you wish to play a return match with me, you will have to submit to the rules that you fixed yourself, and according to which the first match was played.
I won six games from you in fair play and I shall only recognize the superiority of one (be it you or another) who will also win six games from me. –
I am convinced that someone who during his Championship makes rules (not easy ones for his Challenger) and who immediately after losing the title ventures to change these for others which bring to the struggle facilities for the Challenger, and elements of chance, will not meet with sympathy in the Sporting World.
The ACM published in April 1928 a proposal which was given by The FIDE President Dr. Rueb to the World Champion and J.R. Capablanca.
- FIDE to classify annually the best four player of the year, the first of these to be the official candidate for the year.
- A purse of 10,000 Swiss francs
- A match every three years
- Four win to decide
- A maximum of 25 games
As an alternative Dr. Rueb suggested that a shorter match for a smaller purse might be held every other year.
In May 1928 the ACB wrote about the matter:
Asked concerning his return match with Dr. Alekhine, Capablanca said that he could not understand the new champion’s act in publishing the letter which the Cuban had written to Dr. A. Rueb of The Hague, president of the International Chess Federation, and of which Capablanca, as a matter of courtesy, had sent Dr. Alekhine a copy. Capablanca had written that letter, he said, not for the purpose of suggesting any new conditions for the return march, as to which he and his rival had had a thorough understanding before parting in Buenos Aires, but in order to outline his general ideas on the subject for the guidance of Dr. Koch and his associates during the discussion of the world championship at the annual business meeting of the International Federation at The Hague later this month. Capablanca added that he hoped to arrange the match with Dr. Alekhine under precisely the same conditions as those which obtained at Buenos Aires. The encounter will most likely take place in the United States. As to Dr. Alekhine’s insistence that he would play under no other conditions, Capablanca said:
This is entirely superfluous so far as I am concerned because I never made any attempt to have the conditions changed for a return match here. My suggestion to President Rueb, intending to modify the rules, was with reference to other future match and not to mine because, as a matter of personal satisfaction, if I am to regain my title, I would like to do it under exactly the same conditions under which I lost it. My contention, however, is for other future matches. Since conditions have changed, rules should he modified to meet these new conditions in the same way that I modified them five years before when I thought that the modifications were necessary to meet the new conditions existing then. Common sense will tell that championship rules, either in chess or anything else, cannot be maintained the same throughout an unlimited number of years, but that it is self-evident that, as conditions surrounding championship matches change, the rules should be altered along with them in order to properly meet the changed conditions.’’