1937 Euwe - Alekhine


After winning the title Euwe proposed that if he wins the rematch, FIDE should manage the nominations for future World championship matches. The 1935 FIDE congress passed the following resolution:
    "Each year the Committee shall draw up a list of masters who have the right to challenge the world champion. Those who in the past six years have three times won or divided the first prize in international tournaments with a minimum of 14 competitors, of which at least 70% are international masters, shall automatically be included on this list."
In Lucerne 1936 the General Assembly adopted the principle that the world championship must be decided by a match and not a tournament.

While FIDE favoured that a committee should decide the challenger, the players favoured the proposal from Dutch Chess federation that in 1938 there should be a double-round candidates tournament with Botvinnik, Capablanca, Fine, Flohr, Keres, Reshevsky, loser of the Euwe-Alekhine match and possibly one other master (to make an even number). In August 1937 FIDE's General Assembly turned down the Dutch proposal by 8 votes to 4. Before voting for a new challenger the committee recommended Capablanca as their candidate. However after inconclusive 1st round of voting (Flohr 6, Capablanca 4, Fine 1, Botvinnik 1, Keres 1) it was Flohr who got nominated after 2nd round of voting (Flohr 8, Capablanca 5).

Imediately after, Euwe declared that (in case he wins the rematch with Alekhine) he is prepared to play with Flohr in 1940, but he reserves a right to arrange a private match in 1938 or 1939 with Capablanca, who has older rights. In case he loses that match, it will be Capablanca who will have to play Flohr in 1940.

FIDE's decision to turn down the Dutch 'Candidates tournament' proposal and instead bureaucratically chose the challenger, sparked severe criticism in the chess world. FIDE was accused to being incompetent, politicised and bureaucratic, the FIDE president was called a great dictator - and that they should all be sacked and replaced.

Just some out-takes:
    "The FIDE has shown itself, at Stockholm, supremely unfitted for the task. It has shown already more bias, stupidity and incompetence than any world champion ever did."

    "The reasons for this crassly stupid decision are hard to find. You can send ten very wise men into a committee room and they may make a very stupid committee. Invoke the curse of Babel and the confusion is intensified."

    "It is almost superfluous to add that the FIDE, still floundering like an inebriated elephant, managed to reject Capablanca's claims as official challenger in favour of Flohr's."

    "Get better men! Mr Rueb and his delegates are not gods. If a labourer makes a mess of his job, he is sacked. If an engineer makes a bad blunder, he loses his job. The present FIDE is obviously incompetent. We should sack the lot!"

    "Mr Rueb is attempting to set himself up as an autocratic dictator in the chess world. Politics instead of a good hard fight have determined the next candidate for the world's championship. Reason and common sense have been cast aside; personal prejudices rule the day. The interests of living chess have been defeated; and the FIDE with Mr Rueb as president is responsible."
While Euwe was willing to go through with FIDE's decision, Alekhine wasn't:
    Everything about this decision is incomprehensible and astonishing, particularly the haste displayed. They might have awaited the result of my match against Euwe, on which so much depends! The haste was all the more superfluous as the Flohr match is fixed for 1940. Are no changes going to take place for the next three years? Furthermore, if the whole thing is a question of adding up the successes of individual candidates, why was it necessary for the FIDE to set up a special commission to make out a list of candidates in order of precedence? I was a member of that commission which made out a list of candidates – mainly on the basis of the last known results – and in it Capablanca came first, Botvinnik second ...

    In my opinion, the FIDE has done positive harm to Flohr by its decision, which has only succeeded in provoking a storm in the chess world and, worse still, even in creating enmity towards Flohr on the part of his colleagues and rivals. All this notwithstanding, Flohr is perfectly entitled to such a match and providing he can muster the necessary resources for it, every champion of the world would be delighted to play with him ...

    I shall not hold myself bound by the decisions of the FIDE and I am under no obligations towards it. I shall act, should I beat Euwe, according to my own judgment, reckoning with the FIDE as a moral factor only insofar as I find their decisions correct and of benefit to chess at large.

    I am having a visit from Mr Piazzini, the captain of the Argentine team, to discuss the question of a possible future world championship match. Argentina and Uruguay jointly wish to organize a mach for the championship of the world in 1939. It is quite understandable that they should wish Capablanca to play in it, but that is by no means decided yet. In any event, I am prepared to play that match with him or with anybody else in the event of my regaining the title."
Alekhine considering Capablanca as the most deserving challenger and prepared to play a match with him?

Never before have there been so many projected matches and things only got more complicated after Euwe lost the title, and the World champion (Alekhine) and his two future "challengers" finished on last three places in 1938 AVRO super tournament.
The situation was very similar to the situation surrounding the 2002 Prague agreement unification plan. Like more than 60 years later, the projected matches never happened.

In all this mess, Euwe and Alekhine played their rematch.


Machgielis Euwe the reigning champion. Although he was never dominant as his predecessors were, his result in 1936 Nottingham and 1938 AVRO tournament make him a credible champion. Keep in mind that Euwe was an amateur and only played chess in his spare time, which makes his results even more remarkable.

Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine the challenger. During the 1935-1937 period Alekhine played in 10 tournaments with uneven results - from brilliant wins to bellow standard performances. For the 1937 match Alekhine completely gave up alcohol, but started drinking again later.

Match conditions:
  • match was played between October 5th and December 4th, 1937
  • match was played in 7 different cities across The Netherlands (The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Groningen, Delft)
  • Euwe's second was Reuben Fine, Alekhine's second was Erich Eliskases
  • Best of 30 games AND 6 wins
  • In event of 15-15 tie, Euwe keeps the title
The Match

Download games

This time Alekhine took the match much more seriously and came much better prepared.
During the match Fine became ill and had to have an appendix operation, so Euwe lost his second. Flohr volunteered to offer his services to Euwe for free. It didn't help much and Euwe lost 15.5-9.5

Interestingly, Euwe later asserted that in their 1935 match he felt Alekhine was a better player than him, while in 1937 he felt he was better than Alekhine.

Impact on the future

Even before the match Alekhine expressed his disatisfaction with FIDE's decision and indicated that he won't follow it. As a result all those projected matches never materialised.

As it later turned out, this was Alekhine's last World championship match.