1st Chess Olympiad: London 1927

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Basic data

1st Tournament of Nations (Chess Olympiad)
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 18th - 30th July 1927
City: London, United Kingdom
Venue: Westminster Central Hall
Tournament Director: N/A
Chief Arbiter: Mr. Hardcastle (UK)
Teams participating: 16
Players participating: 70
Games played: 480
Competition format: Four board round robin.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points (perhaps)
There are some controversies over tied teams' placing. Most sources put Austria in front of Germany though obviously Germany's record is superior by virtue of match points (Finland vs Belgium is another example).
Time control: 30 moves in 90 minutes, then 30 minutes for each next 10 moves
Downloadable game file: 27olm.zip

Tournament review


Chess Olympiads for the Hamilton Russell Cup, held every other year, are among the most popular of chess events, and this is where it all began.

During its inaugural congress at Paris in 1924 the Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) ran a number of tournaments. Perhaps because all of this happened in the same city and at the same time as the Olympic Games, the results were also calculated by nationality to produce a kind of league table of the nations. It was meaningless as a competition. There were between one and four players from each country, and they could be pitted against their own nationals. In any case, most of them were there as negotiating delegates rather than players. Even so, there was a lively response. Some of the lower-placed nations stressed that their teams' were without any official status, other countries protested at being excluded. Germany and Austria were not invited, perhaps because it was too soon after the end of the First World War. The USSR was not there either, but two exiles played as Russians. FIDE was formally constituted at Zurich in 1925, and at its next congress, Budapest 1926, ran a team tournament, over four boards, between four countries. It was announced that the Hon. F.G. Hamilton Russell had donated a cup for the international team tournament to be held the following year in London.

Sixteen nations were represented at Central Hall, Westminster, for the first Olympiad (a name that became official only in 1952). The event attracted much interest throughout the world, although the games were often squeezed out of the chess press in order to give detailed coverage of the World Championship match between Capablanca and Alekhine (it was to be many years before FIDE took a hand in that supreme competition). Even so, there were moans from those who thought that the British Chess Federation should have spent its money on a 'proper' tournament like the grandmaster event held in London in 1922. Countries joined FIDE so that they could play in the Olympiads, and the erratic formation of a national body in the USA was jolted forward by its players' wish to take part. The affiliation of that country, and also those of Latvia, Poland, Portugal, and Uruguay were accepted here.

The status of the Olympiads became firmly established in the 1930s when the competition was dominated by the superb American team. Even Hitler's attempt to run a chess Olympics in Munich 1936 failed to shake FIDE's hold. The competition for the Hamilton Russell Cup is undoubtedly the most popular activity of those controlled by FIDE, especially among those countries where chess players have few other contacts with great players.

A number of features which are standard in Olympiads today were absent in the first event. Most teams had just four players. Those with a fifth varied in their policies. Some used the reserve only in emergency, while Austria used theirs as a full member, rotating their five players fairly evenly. Playing sessions began at 2.30, but 15 rounds had to be played in 11 days (there could be no question of playing on a Sunday), so on four days there was an extra round, played at 9.30 in the morning. Unfinished games were completed the following morning. A player with an adjourned game after the morning session would be greatly helped if his side had a reserve player who could step in for the afternoon match.

Teams did not have to play in order of strength. The records in this book are given in the team sequences most commonly found. Many teams played in a fixed order throughout. Some appear to have tried to rotate the side so that everyone had a go on first board. Some seem to have applied more cunning in an attempt to maximise the team's score. A weak player is sacrificed on the first board in order to give the other three players better chances. A reserve might be used as now, that is below the "regular" players, or used on the board of the player who was absent. That could be inevitable. For example, in the second round, a morning start, Yates failed to appear and so, with ten minutes to go, Spencer was thrown in as reserve. Unfortunately for him, he thought he had to play 20 moves in 10 minutes (actually 30 in 40 minutes) and blundered on his 19th move.

Those who resent the use of the word "British" in British Chess Federation may dislike the fact that I have used 'Britain' as the name of the home team in this book. It is a compromise. The team was billed at the time as "British Empire" although all of the members were English.

/By Ken Whyld, "The First Chess Olympiad London 1927", pp. 3-4/


In 1927, along with 3rd FIDE congress representatives from 16 countries assembled in London to take part in the first of the series of international team competitions which have become known as The World Chess Olympiads. The event brought much attraction from the chess world however its importance was diminished by the battle for the World Individual Championship and memorable Alekhine's victory over Capablanca. The rules of the Olympiad were quite close to the modern standards however no fixed board order was required. The round schedule was fairly tough and much overloaded comparing it with what we meet these years. There was no question on playing on Sunday (of course NOT!) and 3 games were to be played in 2 days, including morning adjournments. Of the major teams only US and Poland were absent due to overstepping the deadline. The Polish chess authorities were suspected to have done it on purpose since they didn't feel like paying all the costs of participation. The professionals were allowed to take part which let such players as Tarrasch, Mieses, Maróczy, Réti and Grünfeld to participate. Only 6 teams placed a reserve in their squad. There was no real favourite but the young Hungarian team lead by charismatic grandmaster Maróczy were most commonly put as a top odd. Other teams mentioned as favourites were UK, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany. No one would give a single penny for the Danes who appeared without a reserve and with unknown players in their squad.

Tournament in progressThe games started on July 18th, 2 p. m. Hungary produced sunning feat at the very beginning as they ran over Yugoslavia at no loss. This lent them wings and series of convincing victories let them draw away from the rest. The chasing group consisted of a few Central European teams and most unexpectedly Argentina and Denmark. Hungary led at the halfway stage by a margin of full 3 points. Denmark and UK were the top chasers all along with Germany, Austria and Argentina being yet some way behind them. In the later rounds the teams from distant countries, like Argentina, slowed down the pace and the Hungarians suffered hard days as well. Denmark made up lost ground at a great pace. Yet 3 rounds before the end Hungary were 2½ points ahead of Denmark and were to play poor Finnish team. They have been expected to finally run away and earn decisive advantage over the Danes who were expected to struggle vs. strong Czechoslovak team. Amazingly team Denmark overcame themselves crushing Czechoslovakia by 3½-½ while Hungary banged their heads against a Finnish wall having won a single game and having drawn the rest. The penultimate round brought even more fascinating results. Team Holland, who were desperately struggling for bronze medals defeated the Hungarians who played too risky and lost both games played with White pieces. Denmark firmly defeated faltering Argentinians and finally managed to level their score with the leaders. Hungary and Denmark were in joint lead then with 36½ game points and they were to face teams of equal strength, Spain and Belgium respectively. Denmark record was however superior at the moment thanks to bigger number of match points. UK were in bronze medal area with a narrow lead over Holland, Austria and Germany. The latter had to beat the host team by no less than 3-1 in order to lengthen their medal dreams. Thanks to Frederick Yates who beat old stager Mieses and contributed greatly to England's victory over the Germans the host team secured themselves the bronze medals. The Hungarians took advantage of all their chances and beat Spain (only Steiner failed to win and drew with Marin y Llovet). The Danish lost their coolness and both Krause on top and Ruben on bottom board lost. The Gold went to the Hungary, the Silver was won by team Denmark and The British grabbed the Bronze.

Hungary, the winners, were lead to the victory by GM Maróczy who scored 75% at the top board and was true leader for the youngsters. The brave Danes were the dark horse of the event and their winning record (30) was superior to anyone else including the winners. Norman-Hansen tied for best individual score of the tournament. England won excellent 3rd place thanks to courtesy of Sir George Thomas who was so nice to have won 12 points out of 15 games. The rest of the team gave mediocre performance but it proved enough. Holland lead by future World Champion dr Max Euwe came 4th and Czechoslovakia found themselves in a little disappointing 5th place despite of their stunning final spurt (a perfect 8/8 score in two last rounds). Germany's top board Tarrasch was already much after his peak and did not show anything more than a solid routine. Yugoslavia were certainly expected to have done much better and Argentina's finish was pathetic. Team Spain came last. Quick glance at their games lets us easily understand why. Golmayo was their only decent player.

Best board results

no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Thomas, George Alan ENG 12 15 80.0
1. Norman-Hansen, Holger DEN 12 15 80.0
3. Réti, Richard CSR 11½ 15 76.7
4. Maróczy, Géza HUN 9 12 75.0
5. Grünfeld, Ernst AUT 13 73.1
6. Euwe, Machgielis NED 10½ 15 70.0

There was no fixed board order and top 6 individual results overall were awarded with a prize.

Best game prizes

Best game prize shared winners:
Yates, Frederick (ENG) - Asztalos, Lajos (YUG) 1 - 0
Grünfeld, Ernst (AUT) - Euwe, Machgielis (NED) 1 - 0


Special beauty prize awarded by Uruguayan chess periodical "Mundial":
Palau, Luis Argentino (ARG) - te Kolsté, Jan Willem (NED) 1 - 0

Interesting games

Historical, first win ever achieved at the Olympiads.
Yates, Frederick (ENG) - Naegeli, Oskar (SUI) 1 - 0

Maróczy on the winning track.
Maróczy, Géza (HUN) - Réti, Richard (CSR) 1 - 0

Tarrasch's tasteful strategy.
Tarrasch, Siegbert (GER) - Rosselli del Turco, Stefano (ITA) 1 - 0

There isn't much stuff like that within chess databases. Ne2 mate!
Weenink, Henri (NED) - Kmoch, Hans (AUT) 1 - 0

One of most famous Olympic oddities. Black king in unwanted voyage.
Palau, Luis Argentino (ARG) - Kalabar, Sadi (YUG) 1 - 0

Beautiful sacrifices and tactical plots but enough only for perpetual check.
Monticelli, Mario (ITA) - Marin y Llovet, Valentín (ESP) ½ - ½

Nice tactics on both sides.
Kmoch, Hans (AUT) - Nilsson, Allan (SWE) 1 - 0

The Spaniard was very close to sensational win but missed easy mate.
Vilardebo Picurena, José (ESP) - Réti, Richard (CSR) 0 - 1

Koltanowski sweeping away Danish hopes...
Koltanowski, George (BEL) - Ruben, Karl (DEN) 1 - 0


70 is the least number of players participating in the history of the Olympiads. 1924 unofficial event hosted just 19 players.


The main Olympic trophy, the golden cup founded by lord Hamilton-Russell, well known British attorney and chess sponsor for the first time in the history came into GM Maróczy's hands. In 1930 it left Hungary and came back in 1978.


Kornél Havasi, Hungarian team member failed to play a single game out of his 8 with Black pieces. Thanks to unusual tactics of Hungarian coaches who not only at the London Olympiad favoured Havasi setting up their team's squad to let Havasi play most games with White pieces he earned well-deserved and well-known nickname of The White Horse.


Since there was no rule for fixed board orders the teams were free to choose their policies. Only Germany never altered their squad's line up. Much of the reserve players were kept for emergency while some teams, like Austria, used to perform everyday rotation of their squad. Holland used sort of sophisticated tactics having put their squad in a way that Weenink took White pieces most of times in favour of Kroone who had to make up for it taking the Black. Some teams altered their top board from time to time. Others sacrificed their minor player on the top board in order to give better chances to the rest. The team rosters here are given in the most common sequences.


The winners of the bronze medal are labelled as Great Britain although all of their players were English. No team England existed until 1937 even though Scotland took their debut yet in 1935 having played, among others, UK. In London they were officially called the "British Empire".