|Saturday, June 15, 2002||
THE opponent exposes his King to attack, but Alexander Alekhine does not go for the kill. He smells a trap, because this opponent does not make silly mistakes like this. His hands tremble and the trapped King of the opponent suddenly looks armed and threatening to him, which is strange because Alexander is the champion of the world, a title that he defended in 1929 and 1934 against Russian Bogolyubov; fear is alien to him. He is suddenly so scared… and drunk — alcohol has snatched his power to think.
This is 1935 and he is
taking on the challenger, Dutchman Max Euwe, for the world chess title.
Alexander has a liking for alcohol and has been frequently drunk during
his games with Euwe. In this crucial game, he loses not only the clear
advantage, but also the lead and the title.
Unlike Alekhine, Max is an amateur, for whom chess is second to his career as a mathematician (He single-handedly popularised chess in Holland, besides being a prolific writer on the game, the president of FIDE from 1970 to 1978 and associated with the development of chess-playing computers).
In 1938, a tournament sponsored by AVRO (Algemene Verenigde Radio Omroep), a wireless company, is held in the Netherlands to determine the next world champion challenger, where the eight strongest players in the world are invited to play. Favourite Alekhine has wasted all his practice time in devising ways to escape the white King’s trap, so, his performance suffers. Estonian Paul Keres and American Ruben Fine are the joint winners. Mikhail Botvinnik comes third. In fourth place are Alekhine and Euwe. Another great, Capablanca, stands seventh. Alekhine accepts Botvinnik’s challenge for the world championship, mainly out of his fear of Euwe’s trap.
After the tournament is over, Max approaches Alekhine and says: "Alex, you didn’t accept my challenge, though you could easily have escaped my trap which is like a mathematical problem — you have to enter the trap to break it from within, step by step."
"Show me the steps," says Alekhine. Max: "Only if you answer this. In this chess tournament, every participant played with each other exactly once, receiving 1 point for a win, ½ for a draw and 0 for a loss. Is it possible that for every particular player, the sum of points of the players who were beaten by him is greater than the sum of points of the players who beat him?" Alekhine starts seeing traps again and, they say, he was never the same player again. For the white King’s secret, answer Max’s question at The Tribune or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Aditya Rishi