Capablanca-Euwe 1931 candidates’ match, Game 1

      My theory of the 1927 Capablanca-Alekhine world championship chess match was that Capablanca was too absorbed in baseball and its World Series to care. Capablanca was more interested in baseball than chess. Chess came too easily to him, but those with the rarest ability to hit a curveball — they he admired!

      The 1927 New York Yankees were maybe the best baseball team ever assembled. When the Yankees played Game 1 of the 1927 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Oct. 5, Capablanca was leading the chess match 4.5-3.5, probably still underestimating Alekhine, who’d never beaten him until Game 1.

      Alekhine tied the match by winning Game 11 and pulled ahead with Game 12. That might’ve served as Capablanca’s wakeup call (the unparalleled chess editor Cecil Purdy said Game 11 was the best game ever played), but Alekhine had gained confidence, and won 6-3 with 25 draws.

      After that, Alekhine took on a very low profile. He played only exhibition games for two years, and declined to play in any tournaments that included Capablanca.

      Capablanca, meanwhile, was more active in tournament play than ever before, trying to encourage financial backing for a rematch. He finished first or second at Budapest, Berlin, Bad Kissingen in 1928; and Ramsgame, Budapest, Barcelona. Carlsbad, Hastings in 1929. Alekhine, however, would only accept match challenges in 1929 and 1930 from his friend Bogoljubov, who was one of the best players of the day, but not a serious threat.

      As Capablanca raced around the world in his campaign, the Dutch grandmaster Max Euwe — eight years younger than Alekhine, 12 years younger than Capablanca — rose in rank until he, too, sought a championship match against Alekhine.

      Euwe won the Hastings tournament at the turn of 1931, one-half point of Capablanca. They were of like mind that a match against each other would show worthiness of a first match or a rematch with Alekhine (these days we’d call it a final candidates’ match).

      Over the last two weeks of July 1931 in Euwe’s home city Amsterdam, the third and fifth chess champions of the world conducted a 10-game match.