Openings for Tactical Players: Alekhine Defense

Openings for Tactical Players: Alekhine Defense

GM Gserper
Jan 17, 2010, 12:00 AM |
30 | Tactics

The Alekhine Defense has always been the opening that has puzzled me the most.  Since I was a child, I was taught that the goals of the opening were to occupy and control the center while bringing my pieces out as quickly as possible, and while facing the Alekhine Defense I could do all of these with the gain of time chasing my opponent's Knight all around the board! How can it be good for Black?  This proves to be an example of the complexity of chess, and just how hard it is to refute many seemingly dubious ideas in practice ("The Poisoned Pawn Variation" in the Najdorf Sicilian is another good example). However, let's try to accomplish this impossible mission and destroy the Alekhine! In order to do this we need to take maximum advantage of the above mentioned factors, namely:

1) We need to develop as many pieces as possible

2) We need to grab as much space with our pawns as possible

3) We need to use these advantages to launch an attack as quickly as possible, before Black has a chance to catch up in development.

4) We should be ready to sacrifice some material to maximize our advantage

Now let's see how we can implement these principles in practice.  The move sequence that meets all the above mentioned criteria is as follows:

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. c5 Nd5 5. Bc4 and after the natural move 5...e6, we play 6.Nc3! offering a pawn sacrifice. Black must be very careful in order not to lose right away as the following game demonstrates:

(Remember that you can always replay a game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list")


While 8...Bf8 was proven a mistake and 8...g6 creates weaknesses around the King (White can play 9. Bh6 and then h4-h5 in that instance), what happens on 8...Kf8 defending the g7 pawn and keeping the solid position?  Unfortunately for Black, White still keeps a very long lasting initiative thanks to the vulnerable Kf8.
Look what happened in the following game:
You can see that if Black accepts the sacrifice he faces a long and unpleasant defense. That's why in the next game a great expert of the Alekhine Defense, Soviet GM Vladas Mikenas, refused to accept the sacrifice. But he was playing one of the best tacticians of all time - IM Rashid Nezhmetdinov, so it was another catastrophe for Black:
Another great expert of the Alekhine Defense, GM Lev Alburt tried to improve Black's play by playing 5...c6 instead of 5...e6, but again it was a big upset for Black (notice the rating difference between the players!)
Even though I don't think it is possible to refute any regular opening (and the Alekhine Defense is clearly one of them even if it looks slightly suspicious), the variation that we just analysed poses immediate and very concrete problems for Black. As you could see, just one mistake can very frequently become a fatal one.
You can give this variation a try and even if your opponent doesn't step on one of the landmines we just discussed, I can guarantee you an interesting game and a lot of excitement.
Good luck!
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