13 August 2007

The Botvinnik - Keres Rivalry

In My Great Predecessors II, Kasparov discussed the 1938 AVRO tournament (p.130) and wrote, '"[After AVRO, Paul Keres'] right to play a match with World Champion Alekhine became obvious" [Botvinnik] admitted nearly 40 years later.' (p.134)

This reminded me of a passage in Keres' Complete Games where Keres wrote, 'I had received an invitation to the World Championship Candidates Tournament, due to take place in autumn [1937] at Semmering, and naturally for this important event it was essential for me to elevate my form to the highest possible extent. In this tournament I was destined to meet such chess titans as Capablanca, Fine, Reshevsky, Flohr, and others, against whom I had so far played only a few isolated games.'

The events surrounding the Botvinnik - Keres rivalry for the right to challenge Alekhine have never been clear to me, so I constructed a timeline.

  • 1935-08 • FIDE Congress, Warsaw; 'rules on the selection of the challenger' [Winter]
  • 1935-10 • Alekhine - Euwe match
  • 1936-06 • Alekhine and Euwe confirm the return match [Winter]
  • 1936-07 • FIDE General Assembly, Lucerne; 'for the chess federations comprising the Assembly to take impartial decisions regarding the world championship' [Winter]
  • 1936-08 • Nottingham tournament; Botvinnik/Capablanca 1st-2nd, Keres did not play
  • 1937-06 • 'Dutch Chess Federation [...] in 1938 there should be a double-round candidates’ tournament bringing together the loser of the return match between Euwe and Alekhine, plus Botvinnik, Capablanca, Fine, Flohr, Keres, Reshevsky and possibly one other master.' [Winter]
  • 1937-08 • FIDE General Assembly, Stockholm; 'Dutch proposal for a tournament was turned down [...] Flohr was nominated [...] Flohr designated as the official challenger' [Winter]
  • 1937-09 • Semmering-Baden tournament; Keres 1st
  • 1937-10 • Alekhine - Euwe return match
  • 1938-11 • AVRO tournament (Netherlands); 'without the status of a candidates’ event' [Winter]; Keres/Fine 1st-2nd, Botvinnik 3rd
  • 1939-09 • Germany invades Poland
  • 1940-06 • USSR invades Estonia and Latvia
  • 1940-09 • 12th USSR Championship, Moscow; Keres plays for first time; Keres 4th, Botvinnik 5th-6th
  • 1941-04 • Match tournament for the title of Absolute USSR Champion, Leningrad/Moscow; Botvinnik 1st, Keres 2nd
  • 1941-06 • Germany invades the USSR


'World Championship Disorder' by Edward Winter

Semmering/Baden 1937 Crosstable [follow 'Tables 19xx' links for other events]

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