4th Chess Olympiad: Prague 1931

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Basic data

4th Tournament of Nations (Chess Olympiad)
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 11th - 26th July 1931
City: Prague, Czechoslovakia
Venue: U Novaku café hall
Tournament Director: Dr. Vladimír Mrázik (CSR)
Technical Director: Mr. Josef Louma (CSR)
Chief Arbiter: N/A
Teams participating: 19
Players participating: 93
Games played: 684
Competition format: Four board round robin.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points
Time control: 40 moves in 120 minutes, then unknown
Downloadable game file: 31olm.zip
Special thanks to Zdeněk Závodný for preparing the game file.


Photos provided by Jan Kalendovský

Tournament review

The Czechoslovak Chess Federation took the organisation of the 1931 Olympiad. As much as 22 teams applied for entrance and 3 of them withdrew before the start. The players' list was impressive. Poland, the titleholders did not alter their squad. Alekhine was brought on French top board again. Grünfeld, Kashan, Marshall, Flohr, Vidmar, Bogoljubow, Ståhlberg were leading their teams, just to mention the best. Only Euwe, Capablanca and, traditionally, Nimzowitsch were missing for some reasons. Poland were certainly favourites although Rubinstein's mental illness progressed. Austria were their most appreciated contenders. Yugoslavia lead by Vidmar seemed strong too and the Americans with the mixture of veterans and the youngsters were as usual dangerous. Germany were other top side and the home team was taken seriously into consideration of course. It seemed it would be tough fight and indeed it was.

The time-table imposed big burden on the players, stamina and endurance mattered. It quickly became clear that many teams are of more or less equal strength. Surprisingly Hungarians were not one of them. Only Lajos Steiner played as he was expected to and the rest was very poor, Hungary were down in 10th place overall. Poland took early lead despite of their lost match against England. The home crowd were richly disappointed seeing their idols being knocked out by US team in the 4th round. Germany, who had a bye in the beginning of the event started well but having played one match less than the rest were in the middle of the table. The leading group were Poland, USA, England, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Latvia led by Petrovs and Apšenieks. Poland was given a bye in round 9 and Latvia took the unexpected lead thanks to 4-0 win over Spain. Yugoslavia and Austria were strutting from win to win but they tended to score a mere 2½, at most 3 points per match. Latvia ran over Poland in round 11th (Matisons beat Rubinstein) and strengthened their lead. The home nation finally enjoyed outburst of form and scored 7½/8 against Spain and Romania. Since Latvia sent Denmark home without any loss the Latvians were in clear lead with 33 points ahead of the home nation (30½) followed by Poland, USA and Austria. Although Latvian lead extended noticeably they and the runner-ups were yet to pause. The next round tightened the gap between the leading nations even more since Latvia was out of work and Poland edged out Czechoslovakia after they had defeated the host nation by 2½-1½. In round 14 Latvia lost surprisingly to gutted Hungarians who woke up for a moment. Another disaster befell the Latvians in round 15 when they lost to Czechoslovakia. The hosts finally found themselves in the lead but with one match less to play they did not seem favourites for a triumph. However their lead was extended after they had beaten Hundary convincingly. Austria recovered from halfway torpor and were second, a point behind the leaders but with an extra match to play. Poland, USA and Germany were very close to them though. Germany's hopes were trashed by merciless Britons who wiped them out by 3½-½, Poland drew with Yugoslavia. USA took over the lead. Since Austria lost to Hungary only Poland and USA left in the field. Czechoslovakia beat France but since Alekhine gave Flohr no chance they won by the narrowest margin possible and were full 2 points behind the leaders.

In the final round six top teams played with each other. Poland and USA competed for a Championship. Poland were 1 point behind but their tie-break record was superior so they needed just a small win to retain the title. Yugoslavia played Latvia to defend their bronze medal position. Czechoslovakia and Austria were both hoping for high win and possibly outrun the Yugoslav team. Poland were very close, but they failed to win a match. Rubinstein's win gave them all sort of chances but Przepiórka lost the pawn ending badly and it was over. USA won the Cup. Yugoslavia lost to Latvia and Czechoslovakia, supported by excited home crowd, beat Austria and won the medal they were so much longing for.

USA won the title for the first time and it was fully deserved. They lost 3 matches in the early stage but they were simply the strongest as a team. All of them scored better than 60%. Poland did very well, all four but Rubinstein bettered their scores. Unfortunately great Akiba was down in the dumps those days. Czechoslovakia might have done even better, but Gilg was lacking form awfully and also Flohr did not show his best. Young Pirc representing Yugoslavia was a true star of his team and gave the Balkan nation much hope for future. Germany lead by Bogoljubow, who won 2nd prize on the 1st board, were very firm (only 8 games lost!) but they were definitely too often in a peaceful mood. Same might be told about powerful Austrian team. Three losses in last three rounds brought them down to disappointing 8th place. Both Spielmann and Kmoch drew as much as 10 games each. Latvia was in sensational form until the rest day but they apparently lost the pace after that one. Matisons scored only 50% and won just 3 games but he defeated Rubinstein, Alekhine and Vidmar, capturing the latter's Queen on a full board to add to the excitement of the last round. Sweden played well and they had no reserve player in their squad! Stoltz scored most noteworthy result. England's top Sultan Khan once again proved strong enough for 1st board but Yates was not doing very well and in fact there were just four players in the team. Netherlands (who started with a humiliating 0-4 vs Switzerland) and especially Hungary were huge disappointments. Former title contenders Denmark were the tail-enders this time. In general the standard of the games and the exhibition itself was very high, yet higher than ever.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Alekhine, Alexander FRA 13½ 18 75.0
2. Bogoljubow, Efim GER 12½ 17 73.5
3. Kashdan, Isaac USA 12 17 70.6

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Stoltz, Gösta SWE 13½ 18 75.0
1. Tartakower, Ksawery POL 13½ 18 75.0
3. Steiner, Lajos HUN 12 17 70.6

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Petrovs, Vladimirs LAT 11½ 16 71.9
2. Thomas, George Alan ENG 12½ 18 69.4
3. Rejfíř, Josef CSR 11 16 68.8

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Becker, Albert AUT 10½ 14 75.0
2. Pirc, Vasja YUG 12½ 17 73.5
3. Richter, Kurt GER 10½ 15 70.0

Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Skalička, Karel CSR 10½ 14 75.0
2. Steiner, Herman USA 12 70.8
3. Hasenfuss, Volfgangs LAT 11 68.2

Interesting games

Alekhine's sensational loss
Matisons, Hermanis (LAT) - Alekhine, Alexander (FRA) 1 - 0

Another great win by Matisons.
Matisons, Hermanis (LAT) - Rubinstein, Akiba (POL) 1 - 0

Had Erdélyi found easy and strong 30. ... Rxf5
Alekhine would have suffered sensational defeat.
Alekhine, Alexander (FRA) - Erdélyi, Ştefan (ROM) 1 - 0

Last Rubinstein's win gave Poland pretty chances for a title.
Kashdan, Isaac (USA) - Rubinstein, Akiba (POL) 0 - 1

Both players missed well-know manoeuvre winning for White.
Mikėnas, Vladas (LTU) - Kashdan, Isaac (USA) ½ - ½

Sophisticated and subtle strategy by Rubinstein.
Rubinstein, Akiba (POL) - Bogoljubow, Efim (GER) 1 - 0

Irresistble mating attack carried by self-taught Pakistani.
Sultan Khan, Mir (ENG) - Matisons, Hermanis (LAT) 1 - 0

True classics of chess strategy.
Sultan Khan, Mir (ENG) - Flohr, Salomon (CSR) 1 - 0

Nice tactics-based attack.
Rejfíř, Josef (CSR) - Noteboom, Daniël (NED) 1 - 0

Surprising sacrifice.
Richter, Kurt (GER) - Vajda, Árpád (HUN) 1 - 0

Too slow development was quickly punished.
Becker, Albert (AUT) - Hovind, C. O. (NOR) 1 - 0

Trivial threat... But it worked!
Horowitz, Israel Albert (USA) - Gudju, Ion (ROM) 1 - 0

To upset the pawn base means to break the position.
Skalička, Karel (CSR) - Michel, Walter (SUI) 1 - 0


No player avoided a loss. This is the only such case in the history of the Olympiads.


No one managed to win more than 10 games. This is a bit surprising since one might play as much as 18 games.


Six players shared unofficial best percentage performance prize scoring 75%. This is the lowest best percentage performance in the history.