People often ask me what my first chess books were, so here’s the answer. I started with Alekhine’s two books on his best games. I devoured both of these in a few months but was bummed out that he didn’t write a third (they are marvelous!). A short time later I was wandering around a local bookstore and happened upon its (very small) chess section. This shelf was mostly made up of books by Reinfeld and Chernev, though there was also a thick tome on the openings and a book titled New York 1924. This was hardly something that would excite a 13 year old, and I was about to leave when I saw Alekhine’s name on it! I owned it after a short detour to my piggy bank.
I spent the next three months playing over every game from this magnificent book. After all, Alekhine wrote all the notes and also wrote a section called, "The Significance of the New York Tournament in the Light of the Theory of the Openings.” For me, this was pure gold, but that wasn’t the only thing that made New York 1924 so special.
New York 1924 is considered to be one of the strongest tournaments of all time, and I viewed the whole event as something that was going on live before my very eyes. A group photo gave faces to all the legendary names. A crosstable allowed me to see how everyone did against everyone else (I only looked at the crosstable after reading the book since I wanted to innocently follow the results round by round). An introduction by Norbert Lederer and a Tournament Review gave insights into the creation of the event, the prizes, and various other interesting facts.
Other than the notes, my favorite thing in the book were the round by round summations (read after I played over all games for that round), which allowed me to get even more emotionally involved in the action.
This book was (and still is) a personal favorite. And how could it not be? You have the new, "unbeatable” World Champion Capablanca battling it out with old man (and ex champ) Lasker. Right behind them is a who’s who of legends: Alekhine (who took the World Championship from Capablanca three years later), Marshall, Reti (who beat Capablanca in one of their games – the World Champion’s first defeat in 8 years!), Maroczy, Bogoljubow, Tartakower, Yates, Edward Lasker, and Janowsky.
By the time the smoke had cleared, Lasker had topped second place Capablanca by a point and a half, and was no less than four points ahead of Alekhine (who took third). This remains the greatest tournament performance of any 55 year old in history.
New York 1924 is a true classic. If you don’t have it in your library, buy it!