CALIFORNIA CHESS JOURNAL (Vol. 1 No. 15) December 1987


By Guthrie McClain
(Editor, The California Chess Reporter, 1951 - 1976)

The Night I met Alekhine (see also October issue)

   Alexander Alekhine, chess champion of the world, gave a simultaneous exhibition on Saturday night, May 11, 1929. Alekhine is considered one of the very best - perhaps THE BEST - chessplayers of all time, and in 1929 he was at the peak of his career. But that night at the Chess Room of the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco he took a thumping at the hands of the cream of the crop of S.F. Bay Area Chess.
   The champion began the 43 boards at 8:00 P.M. and by the time he finished the last grueling game it was 2:30 the next morning. He lost 8 games and drew 8, and he pulled out many a lost game in order to do that well. At one time I counted Alekhine's "lost" games: There were no less than twenty games where he had a poor position or was behind in material.


Dmitri Vedensky (Berkeley)
A.J. Fink (State Champion)
E.W. Gruer (Oakland ex-champ)
Charles Bagby
Arthur B. Stamer
Sed Silvius
L. Goldstone
Dr. A. Epsteen


Dr. W.R. Lovegrove
Prof. G.E.K. Branch (Berkeley)
Henry Gross
Joseph Drouillard (Oakland)
Leo Christianson (16)
Fred Byron
Paul Traum
Lawrence Rosenblatt

   Charles Bagby had the distinction of playing the best game against the champion, according to Alekhine. The shortest game and the first to be finished was that against young Arthur Dake of Portland (Dake, who is now the West Coast's senior Grandmaster, rashly played move-on-move with Alekhine)- the last was Dr. Henry Abelson's game.
   According to E.J. Clarke's column in the Sunday Chronicle on May 19, 1929, the S.F. Bay area did much better than other areas in the Champion's 1929 tour.
   Some time after this exhibition, Dr. Alekhine was asked what city in the United States gave him the stiffest opposition. He is reported to have answered "San Francisco, at a place called the Mechanics' Institute."

Alexander Alekhine's 1929 Tour

City Played Won Lost Drawn
Brooklyn Institute 52 42 4 6
St. Louis 38 35 1 2
Milwaukee 40 36 3 1
Chicago (2 exhibitions) 46 42 2 2
Cincinnati 47 37 5 5
Denver 40 40 0 0
Los Angeles 50 39 5 5
San Francisco 43 27 8 8

   According to Clarke, Alekhine had visited Mechanics' Institute before, playing thirty-two boards in 1924. The May 19, 1929 column does not give results.
   On the day the before the May 11, 1929 exhibition, Alekhine played three games simultaneously at the rate of sixty moves an hour, while his opponents were allowed twenty. On Board One, Alekhine defeated the team of D. Vedensky, W.H. Smith and W. Van Antwerp; on Board Two, he defeated A.J. Fink and Dr. G.E.K. Branch; and Board Three, he drew with Henry Gross, Charles Bagby and E.J. Clarke.

A game from the simul:

White: A. Alekhine
Black: D. Vedensky

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 e6
3. c4 b6
4. Bg5 Bb7
5. Nbd2 Be7
6. Qc2 d6
7. e3 Nbd7
8. Bd3 0-0
9. h4 c5
10. Rd1 d4
11. Ne5 h6
12. f4 Nxe5
13. fe Ng4
14. Bxe7 Qxe7
15. Nf1 f5
16. Be2 dc
17. Bxc4 cd
18. ed Rc8
19. Qb3 Rxc4
20. Qxc4 Bxg2
21. Rg1 Qxh4+
22. Kd2 Qf2+
23. Kc1 Bd5
24. Resigns

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