Alexander Alekhine

Alexander Alekhine

| 1 | Chess Players

Alexander Alehine (1892-1946) was the 4th official world chess champion, after William Steinitz, Emamuel Lasker,  and Jose Capablanca.

Some sources say he was born on November 1, while other sources give October 31, 1892 (Halloween) as the date of birth.  This would have been October 19, 1892 on the Russian calendar.  His father was a large landowner and a member of the Duma.

From 1892 to 1914, he spelled his last name Aljechin and his nickname was Tisha.

He learned chess from his older brother, Alexei, in 1898 at the age of 6.

His first known chess game was from a correspondence ches tournament in Russia in 1902.

In 1906, he won the 16th Correspondence Gambit Tournament sponsored by a Russian chess magazine.

His first over-the-board chess tournament was in June, 1907, when he played in the Moscow Chess Club Spring Tournament.  He was 14 years old.  He took last place.  A year later  he took first place in the same event, the 1908 Moscow Chess Club Spring Tournament.

In August, 1908, he played in hist first foreign chess tournament, the 16th Congress of the German Chess Federation.  He took 4th place.

In February, 1909, at the age of 16, he played in the All Russian Amateur Championship in  St. Petersburg and won the event and the title of Russian National Master.  First place was a cut glass vase, donated by the Czar of Russia.

In August, 1909, he won a tournament in Sevastopol.  One of his opponents was named Karpov.

In 1912, he moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg to study law and play chess. 

In February, 1912, he won the St. Petersburg Chess Club Winter tournament.  He only lost one game, to V.O. Smyslov, father of the future World Champion, Vasily Smyslov.

In 1913, at the age of 21, he father an illegitimate daughter.

In January, 1914, he won his first major tournament when he tied for 1st place with Aron Nimzovich in the All Russian Masters Tournament, held in St. Petersburg.

In May, 1914, he took 3rd place in a major tournament held in St. Petersburg, behind Lasker and  Capablanca.  Czar Nicholas II conferred the title "Grandmaster of Chess" to Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall.

In August, 1914, Alekhine was leading an international tournament in Mannheim Germany when World War I broke out on August 1, 1914.  The next day, he and all the other Russian players were taken as prisoners of war.  Alekhine feigned madness and the Germans released him on  September 14, 1914.  Alekhine escaped to Switzerland, then to Italy, then to England, then to Norway, then to Finland, and finally, back to Russia.

In 1915, he helped raise money for Russian prisoners of war by giving simultaneous exhibitions.

In May, 1916, he served in the Red Cross on the Austrian front as head of the mobile dressing station.

In September, 1916, he suffered from shell shock while on the front line as was later confined to a hospital in Tarnopol.

In 1917, he finished his legal training and worked at the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department as a magistrate.

In 1919, he was imprisoned in Odessa, suspected of being a spy.  He was later released, but rumors appeared in the West that he had been killed by the Boleshviks.

In 1920, he married a Russian baroness named Sewerin, several years older than he.  He also started working in a film studio, intending to be an actor.  He was studying acting at the State Studio for Cinematographic Art.  He also joined the Communist Party as was secretary of the Communist Education Department.

In late 1920,  he worked as an interpreter for the Communist International (Comintern).  He met a Swiss woman journalist, Annelise Ruegg (1879-1934) and married here on March 15, 1921.  She was 13 years older that Alekhine.  He was given permission to leave Russia , which he did, and never returned.

In June, 1921, he abandoned his wif in Paris and moved to Berlin to become a professional chess player.

On April 27, 1924, he broke the world record for blindfold play when he played 26 players in New York.  He won 16, lost 5, and drew 5 in 12 hours of play.  On February 1, 1925, he played 28 games blindfolded in Paris.  He won 22, drew 3, and lost 3.

In 1925, he became a naturalized French citizen and entered the Sorbonne Law School.  He wrote his thesis on the Chinese prison system, but failed to get his PhD or law degree.  Nevertheless, he claimed he was "Doctor Alekhine."

In 1927, he married for the 3rd time, to Nadezda Vasiliev.  She was a widow of a high ranking Russian officer and several years older than he.

On September 16, 1927 he began his play against Capablanca for the World Chess Championship, held in Buenos Aires.  By November 29, 1927, he beat Capablanca with 6 wins, 25 draws, and 3 losses.

During the match, Alekhine had 6 teeth extracted and had to call a time out.

In 1928, an offical memorndum was published in the USSR that Alekhine was the enemy of the Soviets and should be treated as an enemy of the State.  All contact between Russia and Alekhine was broken.

In 1929, he defeated Efim Bogoljubow for the official "Champion of FIDE" world championship match.

In July, 1933, he played 32 people blindfolded simultaneously in Chicago, winning 19, drawing 9, and losing 4 games.  This was a new world record.

In 1933, he was made an honorary Colonel in the Mexican army and appointed as chess instructor for the Mexican army.

In 1934, he married for the 4th time to a lady 16 years older than he.  Her name was Grace Wishart and she was a widow of an Englishman.  He had met her in a chess tournament in Tokyo.  She won a minor tournament for ladies and the prize was one of Alekhine's books.  She asked him to sign the book, and that's when they first met.

In 1934, he again defeated Bogoljubow in a world championship match.

In 1935, he lost his world championship title to Max Euwe.  Euwe won with 9 wins, 13 draws, and 8  losses.  This was the first world championship to officially have seconds.  The loss was attributed to Alekhine's heavy drinking during that time.

In 1937, Alekhine won back the title, defeating Euwe with 10 wins, 11 draws, and 4 losses.

In 1939, Alekhine represented France on Board 1 at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires when World War II broke out.  As team captain of the French team, he refused to allow his team to play Germany.

In 1940, he enlisted in the French army as an interpreter (he could speak 10 languages).  When France was over-run he cooperated with the Nazis.  He wrote articles critical of Jewish chess players and participated in Nazi chess tournaments.

After World War II, he was not invited to any major chess tournament because of his Nazi affiliation.

On March 23 or early March 24, 1946 he died in his hotel room in Estoril, Potugal.  Some say he died of a heart attack at the age of 53.  Others say he choked on an unchewed piece of meat.  Other sources say he was murdered. 

The body was not buried for 3 weeks as no one, including his wife, claimed the body.

The Portugese Chess Federation took charge of his funeral.  Only 10 people showed up for his funeral.

More from billwall
Bill Addison (1933-2008)

Bill Addison (1933-2008)

The Cognitive Psychology of Chess

The Cognitive Psychology of Chess