Fairhurst v Aitken 1937

This encounter, the first of two matches between these players, was arranged primarily as a practice match for Aitken, who had been selected to be on first board for Scotland at the upcoming Stockholm Olympiad in August.

Fairhurst was clearly the strongest player in Scotland, having won every competition he entered since his arrival from England in 1931. Aitken was recognised as the next strongest player in the country, and had already won the first of his ten Scottish championships in 1935 (in the absence of Fairhurst).

In some ways the match may have ended up as a practice match for Fairhurst also, as he would go on to win the British Championship at Blackpool in July.

From the Glasgow Herald chess column of Saturday March 27, 1937.

The conditions and preliminary arrangements have now been completed for the match between W.A. Fairhurst, Glasgow, and J.M. Aitken, Lochgelly, and are given below. This match should attract considerably local interest, as their scores against each other to date in serious play are two wins each and a draw. Aitken should benefit from the practice in view of his appearance for Scotland at Stockholm [Olympiad - AMcG] in August. Spectators are expected to subscribe with reasonable generosity to the fund to help defray the expenses of the seven players being sent to Stockholm by the Scottish Chess Association. The conditions of the Fairhurst-Aitken match are:-

a) The games to be played alternately in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The first game to be played in Glasgow on April 10, commencing at 2 p.m. The subsequent dates to be April 17, May 1, May 29, June 5, and June 19.

b) The time limit to be 45 moves in 2½ hours, and the sittings to be of 5 hours each. The choice of colour for the first game to be determined by lot immediately before the commencement of the game.

c) The games to be played in the Glasgow and Edinburgh Chess Club Rooms respectively, and visitors are to be admitted to watch the match after contributing a small donation to the Scottish Team Tournament Fund.

Glasgow Herald chess column of Saturday, April 10 1937.

In the Glasgow CC rooms to-day at 2 p.m. the first game will open in the match between W.A. Fairhurst, Glasgow, and J.M. Aitken, Lochgelly. According to the original conditions, the six games of the match were to be played alternately in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but that sequence will probably be altered to prevent the same player having the move in all three games in one venue.

Glasgow Herald chess column of Monday, April 12 1937, page 20.

Aitken had the move in the first game, and played a little-known variation of the Lopez that was revived with success last week at Margate by Keres against Alekhine. After five hours' play the game was adjourned and a draw agreed.

Aitken - Fairhurst [C71]
Match (1), 10.04.1937 Glasgow

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c4 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 Nf6 8.Nc3 Nd7 9.d3 Nc5 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.b4 Ne6 12.Be3 g6 13.0-0 Bg7 14.a4 0-0 15.b5 axb5 16.axb5 cxb5 17.Nxb5 Qb8 18.Ba7 Qb7 19.Rfb1 c6 20.Nxd6 Qc7 21.Nb7 Rfe8 22.Qe3 Bf8 23.Qb6 Qd7 24.c5 Nf4 25.Qb3 g5 26.Rd1 Ne2+ 27.Kf1 Nd4 28.Qb6 Nb5 29.Ra5 Nc3 30.Rda1 Qxd3+ 31.Kg1 Qxe4 32.Nd6 Bxd6 33.cxd6 Ne2+ 34.Kh1 Nf4 35.f3 Qc2 36.R5a2 Qc4 37.Qc5 Qe6 38.Qxc6 Red8 39.Rd2 Rac8 40.Qb7 Qd7 41.Qe4 Qe6 42.Rad1 Rc4 43.Qb7 Rd7 44.Qb8+ Kg7 45.Kh2 h6 ½-½

Glasgow Herald chess column of Monday, April 19 1937, page 18.

Fairhurst - Aitken [D55]
Match (2), 17.04.1937 Edinburgh

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nc3 0-0 6.e3 Ne4 Lasker's defence, which frees Black's position at the expense of a slight weakness on the Queen's side. 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.cxd5 Nxc3 9.bxc3 exd5 10.Qb3 Rd8 11.c4 Nc6 12.cxd5 Qb4+ 13.Qxb4 Nxb4 14.Rc1 White's plan is to control the Queen's Knight's and Bishop's files with the Rooks, and by preventing Black from making the freeing advance of ...c5, to gradually force weaknesses. 14...Nxd5 15.Bc4 c6 16.0-0 Bf5 17.Bb3 Kf8 18.Rc5 Rd6 19.Rfc1 Rad8 20.Nd2 Bd3 21.Nc4 Bxc4 22.R5xc4 g6 23.Ra4 a6 The first part of White's plan is accomplished, and Black's Queen's side pawns are immobilised. The second step will be to gradually prepare for the advance of the King's side pawns. 24.Bd1 R8d7 25.Bf3 f5 26.g3 Kg7 27.Ra3 Re7 28.Rb3 Rdd7 29.Rcb1 Nf6 30.Kf1 Ne4 31.Ke2 g5 32.g4 This move further strengthens White's position in the centre. 32...Nd6 33.gxf5 Nxf5 34.Kf1 Kg6 35.Rc1 Nd6 36.Bg4 Rd8 37.Rc5 Far better would have been 37. Be2 followed by Bd3. 37...Rf8 38.Be2 A serious mistake which loses all White's advantage, and compels him to fight hard for a draw. 38...Ne4 39.Bd3 Rxf2+ 40.Kg1 Rxa2 41.Bxe4+ Rxe4 42.Rxb7 Rxe3 43.Rxc6+ Kf5 44.Rf7+ Kg4 45.Rf2 Ra1+ 46.Kg2 h5 47.d5 h4 48.Rd2 Raa3 49.d6 Rad3 Draw agreed. After 50.Rxd3 Rxd3 51.Rxa6 h3+ 52.Kf2 Rd2+ 53.Kg1 Kf3 54.Ra3+ the draw is forced. ½-½

Glasgow Herald chess column of Monday, May 3 1937, page 4.

Aitken did not show to the same advantage as in the previous games, as right from the beginning he got into difficulties which quickly became intolerable.

Aitken - Fairhurst [C74]
Match (3), 01.05.1937 Edinburgh

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.d3 Nf6 7.Bb3 Na5 8.Ng5 Probably premature, as White's development does not seem to warrant an assault even against Black's exposed KIng. 8...Nxb3 9.Qxb3 d5 10.exf5 Bxf5 11.Qxb7 This capture is a confession that the opening has gone wrong, and that desperate measures are his only hope. Fairhurst, however, demonstrates that the old adage still holds, and one should take much thought rather than a distant pawn with the Queen. 11...Bd6 12.0-0 0-0 13.d4 e4 14.f3 e3 There is no satisfactory reply to this pretty stroke, which definitely gives White a lost game. 15.Bxe3 Qe7 16.Ne4 A piece had to go, for if the Bishop moved the Queen was lost by ..Rfb8 followed by ...Bd7. 16...dxe4 17.Bg5 Rab8 18.Bxf6 Qxf6 19.Qd5+ Kh8 20.fxe4 Qh4 21.e5 Be4 22.Qc4 Rxb2 23.Nd2 Rxd2 24.Rxf8+ Bxf8 25.Qf1 Rxg2+ White resigned.

Glasgow Herald chess column of Monday, May 31 1937, page 17.

Aitken survived the initial difficulties of the opening without having any weakness in his position to tempt Fairhurst into any serious attempt at attack. The result was a quiet game, with little incident. After 30 moves, with only Knights and pawns left, a draw was agreed.

Fairhurst - Aitken [D30]
Match (4), 29.05.1937 Glasgow

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.Bd3 b6 8.0-0 Bb7 9.Qe2 0-0 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.Ba6 Bxa6 13.Qxa6 c5 14.a3 Rfc8 15.Rac1 Rc7 16.e4 N5f6 17.Rc2 Rac8 18.Rfc1 Nb8 Necessary, so that White's hold on the file may be dislodged. By now facing up to White's Queen so that it must exchange or be forced out of play, Black removes all danger, and the draw is inevitable. 19.Qc4 Ne8 20.Qa4 Qd7 21.Qxd7 Nxd7 22.Kf1 cxd4 23.Rxc7 Rxc7 24.Rxc7 Nxc7 25.Nxd4 Kf8 26.Ke2 Ke8 27.Nc4 a6 28.b4 b5 29.Nd2 Ke7 ½-½

Glasgow Herald chess column of Monday, June 14 1937, page 6.

Aitken followed games one and three by playing the Lopez attack, but against the same Steinitz Defence Deferred he again changed, adopting this time the 'Exchange' variation. Fairhurst on move 14 had so far secured a good development and was able to begin a long combination which won a pawn at very little cost in position.
Immediately the combination was concluded, however (on move 23), Fairhurst made an oversight which cost a piece for a secodn pawn, and with no positional compensation. Aitken took prompt advantage of this to force matters, and on move 46 had the game well won.

Aitken - Fairhurst [C73]
Match (5), 12.06.1937 Edinburgh

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.Bxc6+ bxc6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.0-0 Be7 9.c4 Bf6 10.Nc3 Ne7 11.Qd3 0-0 12.f4 Ng6 13.Be3 Re8 14.Rad1 c5 The beginning of a deep scheme to win a pawn, at the cost of giving two Bishops for two Knights. Apparently White has not available a counter advance, but must submit to the scheme. White's last move should have been Re1. 15.Nde2 Bg4 16.Rd2 Bxe2 17.Nxe2 Qe7 18.Ng3 Bh4 19.e5 Bxg3 20.hxg3 f6 Part of the plan. It would be but a poor bargain to have an extra pawn isolated and doubled on the QB file. 21.Re2 fxe5 22.Qd5+ Kh8 23.Bf2 Rf8 A distressing anti-climax. The combination has been successfully carried out, and the gain could have been consolidated in due course by 23...Qd8 etc. A reactionary relaxation, no doubt, causes Black to overlook that the move now made leaves no retreat for his Knight. 24.f5 Qf6 25.fxg6 Qxg6 26.Re3 Rab8 27.Rf3 Rxf3 28.Qxf3 h6 29.Qe2 Rf8 30.Be1 Rxf1+ 31.Kxf1 Qb1 32.a3 Kg8 33.b4 cxb4 34.axb4 Kf7 35.Qf3+ Ke6 36.Qd5+ Kf6 37.Ke2 g5 38.g4 Ke7 39.Bd2 Kd7 40.Qd3 Qg1 41.Qh7+ Kc8 42.Qg8+ Kd7 43.Qf7+ Kd8 44.Qd5 Qb1 45.c5 Black here lost on the time-limit, but his game is lost in any case. 1-0

The Scotsman, Monday, June 28 1937.

The sixth and final game in the match between W.A. Fairhurst, the Scottish Chess Champion, and J.M. Aitken, Lochgelly, was won by Fairhurst at Glasgow Athenaeum on Saturday.
Starting equal in points with one win each and three draws, Fairhurst, with the move, played a Ruy Lopez instead of his usual queen's gambit, and kep his opponent on the defensive throughout the game.
A miscalculation on his 24th move cost the loss of a pawn, and he decided to sacrifice the exchange as well, relying on the helpless position of the black rooks obstructed by the pawn position. Aitken had to defend a strong king side attack in which Fairhurst sacrificed his remaining rook for bishop, and was left with queen and two bishops against queen and two rooks. Both players queened a pawn and had two queens each on the board in the end game, but the exposed position of the black king enabled Fairhurst to force exchanges which left him with queen against rook when Aitken resigned after 61 moves and six and a quarter hours play.
Fairhurst won the match, his score being 2 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws.

Fairhurst - Aitken [C79]
Match (6), 25.06.1937 Glasgow

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 d6 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 Bg4 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 Qc7 11.d5 Be7 12.Nbd2 0-0 13.h3 Bh5 14.Nf1 Qd7 15.Ne3 Bg6 16.Nf5 Bxf5 17.exf5 Qb7 18.Nh2 Rac8 19.Ng4 Nc4 20.Nxf6+ Bxf6 21.g4 h6 22.Be4 Qe7 23.a4 Ra8 24.a5 Qd8 25.Qf3 Nxa5 26.Rxa5 Qxa5 27.g5 hxg5 28.Qh5 Rfe8 29.Kh1 Qd8 30.Rg1 Kf8 31.Rxg5 Bxg5 DM MacIsaac, in the Glasgow Herald of 28 June 1937, p 3, states: 'Correct was ...Ke7, which would have given Black a good game , perhaps the better game....' 32.Qh8+ Ke7 33.Bxg5+ Kd7 34.Qxg7 Re7 35.f6 Re8 36.Qxf7+ Kc8 37.Bg6 Rf8 38.Qe7 Kb8 39.Bh6 Rh8 40.Bg7 Ra7 41.Qe6 Rc7 42.Bxh8 Qxh8 43.f7 Qf8 44.h4 Rc8 45.h5 Kc7 46.Bf5 Rd8 47.h6 a5 48.Bh7 a4 49.Bg8 b4 50.cxb4 cxb4 51.h7 a3 52.bxa3 bxa3 53.h8Q a2 54.Qh4 a1Q+ 55.Kh2 Qd4 56.Qee7+ Rd7 57.Qxd4 Qxe7 58.Qa7+ Kc8 59.f8Q+ Qxf8 60.Qa8+ Kc7 61.Qxf8 1-0

Final score: Fairhurst 3½ - Aitken 2½

The second match of eight games began in December 1937, and continued into 1938.

Compiled by
Alan McGowan