Happy Birthday Alekhine

Happy Birthday Alekhine

| 17 | Chess Players

Today (October 31) is Alexander Alekhine's birthday.  Here is some Alekhine trivia.

Alexander Alekhine was born on Halloween, October 31, 1892.  This would have been October 19 on the Old Style or Russian calendar, which was in affect until 1918.


Alekhine’s father once lost 15 million rubles gambling in Monte Carlo.


Alexander had an older brother, Alexei (1888-1939) and an older sister, Varvara (1889-1944).  Both played chess.  Both brothers had the same middle name, Alexandrovich.  Alexander Alekhine’s son, born in 1922, also had the same middle name.  (Russian middle names are derived from the father's name - thanks Jippo)


Alexei once drew a game with Harry Pillsbury during his visit to Moscow.


Alexander Alekhine’s nickname was Tisha.


Alexander learned chess at home at age 7.  He was not allowed to play chess outside of their home until age 14.  He could only play chess at home or correspondence chess.  At age 14, he was finally allowed to join the Moscow Chess Club.


At age 16, he won the All Russian Amateur Chess Championship and won a vase donated by the Czar of Russia.  He was the youngest player in the event.


Alekhine once played Karpov.  In 1909 Alekhine played in a tournament in Sevastopol and one of his opponents was named V. Karpov.


In 1912, Alekhine beat Vassily Smylov’s father in a tournament. 


Several times, Alekhine published and falsified game scores to show a more brilliant combination that did not occur in the actual game.


In 1913, Alekhine played Edward Lasker in a match and won 1,000 francs.  Alekhine was then robbed of his money.  He had to borrow money from Lasker to return home.


In 1913, Alekhine, at the age of 21, fathered an illegitimate daughter with a Russian baroness.


Alekhine graduated from law school but never practiced.


Alekhine composed only one chess problem in his life, a mate in three.


During World War I, Alekhine was arrested by the Germans because he had a photograph of himself wearing the uniform of the law school he attended.  The Germans thought he was a Russian officer in the military.


During World War I, Alekhine’s father spent more than a year in a German prison.


During World War I, Alekhine worked for the Red Cross on the Austrian front as head of the mobile dressing station.  He twice suffered from shell shock, decorated four times, then hospitalized for several months due to his wounds.


After World War I, Alekhine worked at the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department as an examining magistrate.  He helped people who lost one another during WWI.


Alekhine was a member of the Communist Party (secretary of the Communist Education Department) and worked for the Intelligence Corps of the White Russian Army.  In Odessa, he was arrested as a spy and was sentenced to death by firing squad.  Some sources sat that Leon Trotsky spared his life.  Other sources say he escaped.


In 1919, Alekhine returned to Moscow and worked in a film studio, studying to be an actor.  He later worked in a military sanitarium, caught typhus there, and almost died.


Alekhine once was part of a forced labor brigade working on the Trans-Siberian railway.


In 1920, Alekhine won the Moscow City Championship, but he was not a resident of Moscow at the time, so he did not get the title.


In early 1920, Alekhine married for the first time.  His wife, a baroness and widow of a Russian landowner, was several years older than he.  He married another lady a year later (a Swiss woman journalist who was 13 years older than Alekhine).  There is no record of a divorce with his first wife.


In 1920, articles appeared that Alekhine had been killed by the Bolsheviks and that he had been executed in Odessa.  It wasn’t until February, 1921, that articles reported that Alekhine was alive and doing well.


Alekhine worked for the Comintern as an interpreter since he was fluent in French, German, Russian, and English.


In October, 1920, Alekhine won the first Soviet chess championship.  This was Alekhine’s last chess tournament in Russia.  Shortly after, he left Russia for good.


When Alekhine left Russia, he was not allowed to enter France unless he promised not to undertake any communist propaganda.


Alekhine wrote no book in Russian.


Alekhine once resigned a game by taking his king and throwing it across the room.  It was once reported that Alekhine would go back to a hotel room and smash the furniture when he lost.


Alekhine divorced his second wife because she would not accompany him to chess tournaments.


Alekhine’s third wife was eight years older than he.  She was a widow of a Russian general.


Alekhine called himself a doctor (PhD), but there is no evidence that he received his doctorate degree.  He entered the Sorbonne Law School and wrote his thesis on the Chinese prison system.


Alekhine became a French citizen three days before he won the world championship against Capablanca in 1927.


During the world chess championship in 1927, Alekhine had to have six teen extracted.  He was in pain during some of the games of the match.


Alekhine was the 4th official world champion of chess after Steinitz, Lasker, and Capablanca.


During the world chess championship in Buenos Aires in 1927, there were no spectators or photographs.  All the games were played behind closed doors.


In 1927, after the world championship, Alekhine was declared an "enemy of the Soviet Union" after Alekhine made some anti-Boleshevik statements.  His name and record was purged from the Soviet Union until the 1950s, when he was then acclaimed as one of the founders of the Soviet School of Chess.


From 1927 to 1936, Alekhine refused to play in any chess tournament that Capablanca was invited.  When they finally played in Nottingham in 1936, Capablanca beat Alekhine.  Capablanca won the event and Alekhine took 6th place.


In 1929, Alekhine was a correspondent for the New York Times.


Alekhine lost all his savings and wealth after the stock market crash in October, 1929.


Alekhine scored his first 100% score when he won all 9 games as board one at the 3rd Chess Olympiad in Hamburg in 1930.  It was also the first 100% score in an Olympiad.


After the world championship in 1927, Alekhine did not lose a single game in a chess tournament until July, 1931, when he lost a game at the 4th Chess Olympiad in Prague.


In 1933, Alekhine set a new world record when he played 32 people blindfold simultaneously at the Chicago World’s Fair.  He won 19, drew 9, and lost 4 after 14 hours of play.


Alekhine met his fourth wife, Grace Wishart, at a chess tournament in Tokyo.  She won a minor chess tournament and the prize was an autographed book by Alekhine.  She was a Jewish widow 16 years older than Alekhine.  Alekhine divorced his 3rd wife in March, 1934 and married his 4th wife a few days later in the French Riviera.


Alekhine was once made an honorary Colonel in the Mexican army and was appointed as chess instructor for the Mexican army.


Alekhine’s 4th wife played in the French Women’s Championship and played at Hastings, taking 3rd place in one of the Class tournaments.  She played in several tournaments with Alekhine, but in different sections.  She once won the women’s championship in Paris.


Alekhine owned at least six cats.  His favorite was a Persian cat named “Chess.”


Alekhine’s second at the 1935 world championship with Euwe was a Dutch Jew named Salo Landau.  Alekhine may have lost due to too much drinking.  Training for a rematch, he completely abandoned alcohol, coffee, and smoking.  All he had to drink was milk.  He won the title back in 1937.


On the last day of the match between himself and Euwe in 1935, he showed up wearing a tuxedo.  When he lst the match to Ewue, Alekhine said, "Hurrah to the new World Champion."


Alekhine was the first world chess champion to lose the title, then regain it in a return match.


At the 1938 AVRO tournament in the Netherlands, Alekhine, for the first time in his life, came ahead of Capablanca in a tournament.


In 1939, Alekhine was the team captain of the French team in the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires.  When World War II broke out, Alekhine refused to allow his team to play Germany.


During World War II, Alekhine returned to France to join the French army.  He could have gone to the USA with his American-born wife, but refused.  He returned to France in February, 1940 and enlisted in the army as a non-commissioned officer.  He was transferred to intelligence work and became a translator.


Alekhine estimated that he played over 50,000 chess games in his life.


Alekhine’s wife sold their chateau in France to the American embassy during World War II.


During World War II, Alekhine wrote six anti-Semitic articles that were published in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.  He applied for an American visa, but was refused because of his anti-Semitic articles.


In 1942, Alekhine won a tournament in Prague that was sponsored by the German Nazi Youth Association.


In December, 1942, Alekhine caught scarlet fever in Prague and nearly died.  He was treated at the same hospital that Richard Reti died in 1929 from scarlet fever.


During World War II, Alekhine said he played chess to occupy his mind and kept him from brooding and remembering.  He was suffering from depression and may have attempted suicide once.  In August, 1945, his wife wrote to him saying she no longer wanted anything to do with him.


Alekhine played table tennis to help relax.


After World War II, Alekhine was invited to a tournament in London, but the invitation was protested by Americans Reuben Fine and Arnold Denker.  The US Chess Federation refused to take part in any tournaments involving Alekhine.  The London tournament was won by American player Herman Steiner, who would not have played if Alekhine was there.


Before Alekhine died, he was working in a collection of Capablanca’s games.


When Alekhine died, he was reading an anti-Nazi novel called Chosen Races by Margaret Sothern.


Alekhine’s body was kept in a morgue in Lisbon for three weeks as no one claimed the body.  The Portuguese Chess Federation finally gave him a funeral.  Less than a dozen people showed up.


The June 1946 issue of CHESS claimed that Alekhine used to drink three and a half pints of brandy a day. 


Alekhine's body was tansferred from Estoril, Portugal to Paris, France in 1956.  His birth date and death date on the tombstone is wrong. 


Alekhine was world champion for 17 years and played in 5 world championship matches.


More from billwall
Bill Addison (1933-2008)

Bill Addison (1933-2008)

The Cognitive Psychology of Chess

The Cognitive Psychology of Chess