Yates and Alekhine

November 17, 2016 Matthew Sadler No comments exist

F.D. Yates was a great admirer of Alekhine’s play as shown by his fulsome tribute in the Yorkshire Post of 29th November 1927 on the occasion of Alekhine’s victory over Capablanca:

“After many encounters with Alekhine personally, I can say he has the pure love of the beauty of the combinations of the game, evolved only through the clash of mind against mind… He is one of the big influences in moulding the style in which the game will be played for many years to come”

(see http://matthewsadler.me.uk/lessons-from-the-masters/world-championship-match-1929-games-9-25/ for the complete text)


It seems that they also got on well personally. The “Diary of a Yorkshireman” column in the Yorkshire Post of March 25th 1946, recounted Alekhine’s visits to Leeds in the following way:

“The first occasion was soon after the great international tournament at Carlsbad in the early 1920’s, in which the late F.D. Yates, the Yorkshireman who was British Champion for some years, gained perhaps his greatest distinction, a win against Alekhine.

A colleague who, in the company of Yates, interviewed Alekhine on his arrival in Leeds, describes how both masters went over that Carlsbad game with a pocket set while tea and toast went cold. Alekhine warmly complimented Yates on a development of his favourite Ruy Lopez opening [Presumably a different game: the game in Carlsbad was a King’s Indian – MS] and went into deep analysis and historical references which to the silent interviewer seemed to go back to Noah’s Ark”

When Yates was putting together his collection of Best Games (published posthumously after Yates’ untimely death in 1932) the idea was born

“to ask one of the most prominent foreign masters to write a short chapter explaining to the British public the position which Yates held amongst the World Masters of his time. Yates said that probably Dr. Alekhine would do this for him”

(WH Watts, Appreciation of F.D. Yates in “101 of My Best Games of Chess by F.D. Yates”).


Alekhine’s opinion of Yates is more difficult to judge. Alekhine is reputed to have called Yates’ (superb) win against Vidmar at San Remo 1930 “the best game played since WWI” although there is some doubt whether Alekhine really made that statement. In an article for the New York Times during the Carlsbad tournament of 1929 however, Alekhine gave a scathing appraisal of Yates’ play:

“Regarding their prize-winning chances in this tournament the “minors” can be divided into two groups; those who no longer are able to do much and those who have not yet advanced very far…the Englishmen, Sir George Thomas and F.D. Yates, certainly belong to the former group

Sir Thomas [sic] and Yates are typical representatives of the English school and style of chess, especially Yates. This school, founded by the great combination of players, Blackburne and Mason and the ingenious, although less profound, Bird, always lay greater stress on a thorough study of each tactical unit of a scheme than on judging the expediency of such a scheme.

That they had good results despite such a primitive conception of chess was due, especially by Blackburne, first to their extraordinary combinatorial talent and, second, to the fact that Steinitz’s epoch-making explanations of the principles of chess strategy were then only beginning to become popular.

This is quite different nowadays when every average champion is well equipped with strategical knowledge, especially those players who lay chief stress on the tactical moment in a match, and who must possess the most exact calculation and never-failing sharpness. For such types of players, the signs of the older class are simply pernicious. Therefore, it is not surprising that masters like Sir Thomas [sic] and Yates – who also in former times seldom detected the entire plan beyond a single move – are being driven to the background of the chess arena”

(cited from Edward Winter’s excellent Chess Notes website:  http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/carlsbad.html)


It’s Yates’ tragedy that his most-quoted game against Alekhine is an excruciating positional crush that supports Alekhine’s assertion:


Alekhine,Alexander – Yates,F.D.

London 1922


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 c6 8.Qc2 Re8 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.Ne4 f5 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Ned2 b5 14.Bxd5 cxd5 15.0–0 a5 16.Nb3 a4 17.Nc5 Nxc5 18.Qxc5 Qxc5 19.Rxc5 b4 20.Rfc1 Ba6 21.Ne5 Reb8 22.f3 b3 23.a3 h6 24.Kf2 Kh7 25.h4 Rf8 26.Kg3 Rfb8 27.Rc7



27…Bb5 28.R1c5 Ba6 29.R5c6 Re8 30.Kf4 Kg8 31.h5 Bf1 32.g3 Ba6 33.Rf7 Kh7 34.Rcc7 Rg8 35.Nd7 Kh8 36.Nf6 Rgf8 37.Rxg7 Rxf6 38.Ke5





However, as Yates also pointed out in his tribute to Alekhine,

“I have won brilliancy games against him, and he has won more against myself”

Yates’ lifetime score of +2, =3 –11 against Alekhine (with a number of very tough fights amongst the losses) was an honourable one. In this article I would like to let the spotlights shine on Yates by analysing episodes from his 2 wins against Alekhine.


His first win was at the very strong Hastings Six Masters tournament of 1922. This was Yates’ only win of the event! It contributed to him winning his mini-match with Alekhine who otherwise dominated the rest of the event, winning half a point ahead of Rubinstein with 7,5/10! Yates ended last with 2,5/10. Thomas was the leading English player sharing 3rd with 4,5/10 mainly due to beating Yates 2-0 in their individual match! This game was played in the 4th round when Alekhine had started with 3/3 and Yates with 0,5/3.


Alekhine,Alexander – Yates,F.D.

Hastings Six Masters 1922


1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0–0 6.Nbd2



Winter’s comment: “A move introduced by Capablanca. Its merit is that it enables White to recapture with the Knight in case Black should capture the gambit pawn. Most masters today consider, however, that the Knight has more prospects at c3” Yates’ approach is correct: he delays …dxc4 until

  1. …c5xd4, exd4 has been played as the knight is less well-placed on d2 in an IQP position than on c3.
  2. the queen has moved from d1. White can no longer recapture on c4 with the knight as this would allow …Bxf3 crippling White’s kingside structure.

6…b6 7.Bd3 Bb7 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.0–0 c5 10.Rad1 h6 11.Bh4 cxd4 12.exd4 dxc4 13.Bxc4 Rc8 14.Qd3 Nd5 15.Bg3 N7f6 16.a3 Nh5 17.Qe4 Nxg3 18.hxg3 Rc7 19.Bd3 Nf6 20.Qe2 Qd5 21.Nc4 Qh5 22.Nce5 Rfc8 23.Rfe1 Bd6 24.Bb1



Yates has outplayed Alekhine. His next move is a touch hasty however and gives White some underserved tactical chances. First 24…Bd5 consolidating the e6 point keeps all Black’s prospects in the position.


24…Ng4 25.Nh4 Bxe5 26.dxe5 g5 27.f3


27.Nf3 Bxf3 28.Qxf3 Qh2+ 29.Kf1 Rc2 30.Bxc2 Rxc2 wins according to Winter.


27…gxh4 28.fxg4 Qg5 29.gxh4 Qxh4 30.Qd3 Qg5 31.Rf1



The key phase of the game has been reached. As so often, Alekhine has managed to turn an unpromising situation into total chaos. Yates’ 31…Bd5, although sensibly blocking the d-file and defending the e6 point which is weak in so many variations, should have lost by force. This is where Black needs to look for an improvement:


a) 31…Qxe5


was Winter’s recommendation


32.Qh7+ Kf8 33.Qxh6+



a1) 33…Qg7


was recommended by Winter “with the better game” but it fails to


34.Qxe6 Qxb2 35.Qh6+ Qg7 36.Qd6+ Kg8 37.Bf5 Rc6 38.Qe7 winning;


a2) 33…Ke7


is risky, but survives




34.Bg6 Bd5 35.Rxf7+ Kd6 is White’s best according to Stockfish, but only a slight edge.


34…Kxf7 35.Qh7+ Qg7 36.Bg6+



36.Rf1+ Ke8 37.Bg6+ Kd8




36…Kf8 37.Rf1+





a21) 37…Ke5 38.Qh2+ Kd5 (38…Kd4 39.Qd6+) 39.Rd1+ Kc6 40.Qd6+ Kb5 41.Qb4+ Ka6 42.Qa4#


a22) 37…Kg5 38.Qh5#;


So far, so winning I thought. But then Stockfish got involved!


a23) 37…Bf3



38.Rxf3+ Ke5 39.Qh5+


39.Qh2+ Kd5 40.Rd3+ Kc6 41.Qd6+ Kb7 42.Be4+ Kb8 …Bf3 freed a retreat path back to b8!


39…Kd6 40.Rd3+ Ke7 41.Qh4+ Qf6 42.Qh7+ Kf8 43.Qh6+ Ke7 44.Qh7+


is Stockfish’s main line draw;


a3) 33…Ke8 My main line, and the best move




34.Rf6 Rc1 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Rxf7+ Kxf7 37.Qxe5 Rxd1+ 38.Kh2 Rxb1 39.Qh5+ Kg7 40.Qg5+ Kf7 41.Qh5+ I couldn’t make this work any better and nor can Stockfish. White has no way to latch onto the rook on b1


34.Rfe1 Qc5+ 35.Kh1 Qf2 I didn’t like 34.Rfe1 too much. Stockfish only sees a draw 36.Rxe6+ fxe6 37.Bg6+ Rf7 38.Bxf7+ Qxf7 39.Qh8+ Ke7 40.Qh4+ Ke8 41.Qh8+


34…Bd5 35.Rfe1



35.Bh5 Rc2 I was very nervous about this for White…and Stockfish confirms 36.Bxf7+ Ke7




35…Qf6 36.Rxd5 Qxg6 37.Qxg6 fxg6 38.Rxe6+

35…Qxb2 36.Rxd5


a31) 36.Rxd5 Qxe1+;


a32) 36.Bxf7+ Kxf7 (36…Rxf7 37.Rxe6+) 37.Rf1+ Ke7 wins;


a33) 36.Be4



was best play for White I thought




36…Bxe4 37.Rxe4


I thought this would be more pleasant for White. Stockfish is very optimistic: +1.01




The refutation I thought. Stockfish goes a little further


37…Qxe3+ 38.Qxe3 Bxd1 39.g5 Bc2


Black should hold I guess, but it’s not comfortable. However, Black has a much stronger continuation:


b) 31…Kf8 anticipating Qh7 is simple and strong as 32.Qh7 is met by 32…Qg7 Meanwhile Black threatens both …Qxe5 and …Qxg4. Black has a slight advantage.


Back to the game now, where things have swung Alekhine’s way!



31…Bd5 32.Qh7+ Kf8 33.Rxd5


Alekhine probably thought that this move – destroying Black counterplay along the a8–h1 diagonal against his king – was even simpler than 33.Bg6. 33.Bg6 was the better move however as Winter demonstrates:


33.Bg6 Qe3+


33…Ke8 34.Rxf7 Winter

33…f5 34.Qh8+ Ke7 35.Qg7+ Kd8 36.Qf8+ Kd7 37.Qd6# Winter





34.Kh2 Qxe5+ 35.Kh1 Qg7

34.Kh1 Qh3+ Winter


a) 34…Rd7 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Qxc8;


b) 34…Rd8 35.Qh8+ (35.Bxf7 Qxf2+ 36.Kxf2 Rxf7+) 35…Ke7 36.Qf6+ Kd7 37.Bxf7 wins easily;


c) 34...Re8 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Qf6+ Kd7 (36…Kf8 37.Bxf7) 37.Rxd5+ exd5 38.Bf5+;


d) 34…Ke8 35.Bxf7+ Kd8 36.Qh8+ Kd7 37.Bxe6+ Kxe6 38.Qf6+ Winter


33…exd5 34.Bg6 Ke8



A clever last-ditch defence




Alekhine cracks in time-trouble!


35.Bxf7+ Kd8 36.Qh8+ Ke7 (36…Kd7 37.Be6+ Kxe6 38.Rf6+ Kd7 (38…Kxe5 39.Rf5+) 39.Qh7+ Ke8 40.Qh8+ Ke7 is a draw according to Stockfish) 37.Qh7 is no more than a draw


My move 35.Qg8+ still wins for White however



35…Kd7 (35…Ke7 36.Qxf7+ Kd8 37.Qe8#) 36.Qxf7+ Kc6 (36…Qe7 37.Qxd5+) 37.Qe6+ (37.Rf6+ Kb7 38.Qxd5+ Kb8 is fine for Black as White’s back rank is weak with the rook on f6)


a) 37…Kc5 38.Qd6+ Kb5 (38…Kc4 39.Qb4#; 38…Kd4 39.Rd1+ Ke3 40.Qxd5) 39.Bd3+;


b) 37…Kb5 38.Qxd5+ Ka4 39.b3+ Kxa3 40.Ra1+ Kb2 (40…Kb4 41.Ra4+ Kc3 42.Qd4+ Kxb3 43.Qb4#) 41.Qd4+ Rc3 42.Rb1+ Ka3 43.Qa4#;


c) 37…Kb7 38.Qxd5+ Kb8 39.Be4 Rc6 40.b4 is just winning for White: Black has no checks and b4-b5 is coming


After Alekhine’s mistake, Yates is winning!


35…Rc1+ 36.Kf2 Qh4+ 37.Ke3 Qe1+ 38.Kf3 R8c3+



Black’s counterplay is unstoppable


39.bxc3 Rxc3+ 40.Bd3 Qf1+ 41.Ke3 Rxd3+ 42.Qxd3 Qxd3+ 43.Kxd3 Kxf7 44.Kc3 Ke6 45.Kd4 a6 46.a4 b5 47.a5 b4 48.g3 b3 49.Kc3 Kxe5 50.Kxb3 Kd4 51.Kc2 Ke3 52.Kd1 Kd3




That first win was rather fortunate, but the next was anything but. Alekhine was wiped off the board!


Alekhine,Alexander – Yates,F.D.

Karlsbad 1923


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.Nc3 d6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.d5 Nb8 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.e4 a5 10.Be3 Ng4 11.Bd4 Nge5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.c5 dxc5 14.Bxc5 b6 15.Bd4 Ba6 16.Re1 Qd6



17.Bf1 Bxf1 18.Rxf1 c5 19.Bxe5 Qxe5 20.Qb3 Rab8



Yates’ patented …Nc6 system in the King’s Indian has worked very well. Alekhine dithers in the next few moves and is completely outplayed.




Presumably White wanted to stop Black from playing …b6–b5 but 21.a4 is a much more natural way to do so. The text gives Black an opportunity to activate himself considerably.


21…f5 22.Rae1


22.exf5 is recommended by Winter though he prefers Black after 22…Qxf5 followed by …Bd4


22…f4 23.Qd7 Rbd8 24.gxf4 Qxf4 25.Qe6+ Kh8 26.f3 Qg5+ 27.Kh1 Rd6 28.Qh3 Be5 29.Re2 Rdf6 30.Nd1 Rf4 31.Ne3 Rh4



Black has activated his pieces wonderfully well. The position is a forced win, though still complicated:






This felt like a better defensive attempt to me as White’s queen is better-placed on d7 to deliver perpetuals. However, compared to 32.Qe6, the Black bishop on e5 is not under attack and this gives Black some additional attacking options.



32…Qh5 33.Ng4 Rxg4 34.fxg4 Rxf1+ 35.Kg2 Qxh2+ 36.Kxf1 Qh1+ 37.Kf2 Bd4+ 38.Kg3 Qg1+ 39.Kh3


39.Rg2 Qe3+


Mate in #14 apparently!


40.Kh2 (40.Kh4 g5+ 41.Kh5 Qh3+ 42.Kxg5 Be3+ 43.Kf5 Qf3+ 44.Ke5 Qf6# My line!) 40…Be5+ 41.Kh1 Qh3+ 42.Kg1 Bd4+ 43.Kf1 Qh1+


39…Qf1+ 40.Rg2 Qf3+ 41.Kh2 Be5+ 42.Kg1 Qd1+ 43.Kf2 Qd2+




My idea: I just want to grab White’s queenside pawns with check before continuing with the game!




44.Kf3 Qd3+ 45.Kf2 Bd4+ 46.Ke1 Qb1+ once again picking up the queenside pawns with check


44…Qc1+ 45.Kf2 Qxb2+ 46.Kf1 Qb1+ 47.Kf2 Qxa2+ 48.Kf1 Qb1+ 49.Kf2 Qb2+ 50.Kf1 Qc1+ 51.Kf2 Qf4+ wins


32…Qh5 33.Ng4 Rxg4 34.fxg4 Rxf1+ 35.Kg2 Qxh2+ 36.Kxf1 Qh1+ 37.Kf2 Bd4+ 38.Kg3 Qg1+ 39.Kh3 Qf1+ 40.Rg2





40…Qf3+ 41.Kh2 Qf4+ 42.Kh3 (42.Kh1 Qh6+ 43.Rh2 Qc1+ 44.Kg2 Qd2+ 45.Kg3 Qe3+ 46.Kg2 Qf2+ 47.Kh3 Qf3+ 48.Kh4 Bf6+ 49.g5 Qf4+ 50.Kh3 Be5 wins again) 42…Be5 wins quicker according to Stockfish, but the text is also good enough.


41.Kg3 Qe1+ 42.Kh3 g5



43.Rc2 Qf1+ 44.Kh2 Qg1+ 45.Kh3 Qh1+ 46.Kg3 Qd1



A wonderful move. White’s queen on e6 is in no position to deliver perpetual check which means that Black has time to harry the White rook away from the White king.


47.Rc3 Qg1+ 48.Kh3 Qf1+ 49.Kg3 Bf2+ 50.Kf3 Bg1+





I’d be so proud of a game like that against such an opponent! A wonderful achievement!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.