The Genius of the Combination

  • GM Julio_Becerra
  • | Jul 20, 2011

A Star Emerges

Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine was born on October 31, 1892 in Moscow, Russia, the third son in a family where children and adults played chess. He learned at the age of seven, and from twelve Alekhine played seriously, especially by correspondence, and so he began to developing his analytical skills. His idols were Morphy, Anderssen, La Bourdonnais... and of course, Chigorin.


In February of 1909, at sixteen, he won the Russian Amateur Tournament in Saint Petersburg with 13 of 16, in Stockholm in 1912 he won the championship of the Nordic countries with 8.5 of 10, and in 1913 he won a match against Lewitzky in St. Petersburg 7 to 3. The same year he won first place in the Scheveningen tournament, with 11.5 of 13, half a point ahead of Janowski.  A new star had emerged; Alekhine gradually began to conquer the world with his magical combinations that have delighted many generations.


A Russian Master in Germany

In January 1914, Alekhine tied for first place with Aaron Nimzowitsch in the All-Russian Masters Tournament at St. Petersburg, and both participated in the Tournament of Champions in St. Petersburg 1914, in which Alekhine finished third behind Lasker and Capablanca.

In July-August 1914, Alekhine won the international tournament in Mannheim, 19th Congress of the DSB (German Chess Federation Congress) in Germany, with 9.5 of 11, at which World War I broke out. After the declaration of war against Russia, the players (Alekhine, Bogoljubov, Bogatyrchuk, Flamberg, Koppelman, Maliutin, Rabinovich, Romanovsky, Saburov, Selezniev, Weinstein) were interned in Rastatt, Germany. Four of them (Alekhine, Bogatyrchuk, Saburov and Koppelman) were freed and allowed to return home in late October 1914. A fifth player, Peter Romanovsky, was released in 1915, and a sixth, Flamberg, was allowed to return to Warsaw in 1916. Alekhine made his way back to Russia via Switzerland, Italy, London, Stockholm, and Finland. When Alekhine returned to Russia, he helped raise money for Russian chess players who remained hospitalized in Germany, giving simultaneous exhibitions. In Moscow, 1918 he won a match against Rabinovich 3.5 to 0.5, and another 6 to 0 against Verlinsky in Odessa, the same year.

Alexander_Alekhine Simul.jpg

A Tale of Two Wives

In March 1920, Alekhine married Alexandra Batayeva. They divorced the next year. For a short time in 1920–1921; he worked as an interpreter for the Communist International and was appointed secretary to the Education Department. In this capacity, he met a Swiss journalist and commenter delegate, Anneliese Rüegg, who was thirteen years older than he was, and they married on March 15, 1921 and had a son. Shortly after, Alekhine was given permission to leave Russia for a visit to the West with his wife, from which he never returned. In June 1921, Alekhine abandoned his second wife in Paris and went to Berlin.

The Path to the World Championship

In 1921 he won several tournaments, in Budapest with 8.5 of 11, The Hague, with 8 of 9, and Triberg with 7 of 8;  in 1922 he won at Hastings with 7.5 of 10,  and in Carlsbad 1923, with 11.5 of 17. He took  third place in New York, 1924 with 12 of 20 behind Laker and Capablanca,  first place in Paris, 1925 with 6.5 of 8,  first place in Baden-Baden, 1925 with 16 of 20, first place in Hasting 1925 with 8.5 of 9.  In 1925, Alekhine broke his own world record of blindfold play, and played 28 games blindfolded in Paris (+22-3=3).



In 1926 Alekhine beat Max Euwe in a match 5.5 to 4.5 and challenged Capablanca for the world championship.  Alekhine married for the third time, this time to Nadezda Vasiliev.  In New York 1927, Alekhine took second place behind Capablanca, with 11.5 of 20.

In 1927, Alekhine's challenge to Capablanca was backed by a group of Argentinian businessmen and the president of Argentina, who guaranteed the funds. Organized by the Club Argentino de Ajedrez (Argentine Chess Club) in Buenos Aires, the match was played from September to November 1927; all the games took place behind closed doors. There were no spectators or photographs. Alekhine won the title, scoring +6 -3 =25.  Alekhine's victory surprised almost the entire chess world, since he had never previously wrested a single game from Capablanca. Alekhine became the 4th official world champion of Chess after Steinitz, Dr. Lasker, and Capablanca.


Here are three more samples of the young Alekhine's play; we shall continue with him next week!



  • 20 months ago


    He was just great.The interesting point in his carrer is that he hold the world champion title untill his death and in 52,just lost it once because of using too alcohol before games

  • 20 months ago


    Alekhine game him the chance, but put up some conditions just like Capa put up some conditions against Alekhine when Capa was a world champion. Capablanca just refused that offer.

  • 3 years ago


    After the defeat if Capa,Alekhine never ever gave him a chance  for rematch,instead he had chosen weaker opponents in place of Capa such as bogoljubow,euwe.And still he did not manage to tie him!!!!

    he always had the fear of defeat in the hands of Capa,as the later lost for his overconfidence and lack of preparation.Upon Capa's death,Alekhine wrote in his diary that,the natural talented player like Capa would not be seen on earth again'

    Upon Botvinnik's analysis of Alekhin's game,he fund that the latter receive dmuch positional understanding from Capa.

  • 3 years ago


    Alekhine is one my favorite and great article from Gm. Becerra.

  • 5 years ago


    In my opinion,beating Capa, makes Alekhin best player of all time....

    Yes title must go to him..

  • 5 years ago


    Keep it up! Godbless.


    -regards nyLsel-

  • 5 years ago


    nice.. i got headache with puzzles ahaa

  • 5 years ago


    Nice article!

  • 5 years ago


    amazing style and brilliant cmbination... as always i enjoyed the reading

  • 5 years ago


    He was the greatest master of combinations chess has ever seen. He defeated probably the most gifted World Champion in history (Capablanca). Only someone with such vision could have defeated Capa. I still believe he feared a rematch with J.R. Capablanca and rightly so. If he had played him again, shortly after he won the title, I think he knew he would have lossed. Who knows? Unfortunately, a rematch never took place, and I feel this caused Capablanca to die prematurely. Alekhine was not near as good of human being as Capablanca, in all accounts I have read. Alekhine had to deal with poverty, the Russian Revolution, threats from the Nazi's, who I feel he was forced to support in order to survive. I do not feel that he was an anti-semitic person. Many of his peers and contemporaries were Jewish. I think he was forced into allegiance with the Nazi's or lose his life, which was Chess.

  • 5 years ago


    master piece

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for the great article and examples. He's hard to beat for "style" especially his use of the Knights, but more importantly his ability to manipulate the opposing King. I was first introduced to him in a Fred Reinfeld book. In a 1936 Vienna game, Alekhine mates the opponent, with all of his pieces on the back row and the opponent's king in front of a few pawns. Just amazing. I look forward to your next installment!

  • 5 years ago


    one of my favorites players. sus combinaciones eran hermosas, imaginativas y completamente agresivas en sus intenciones, fue una desgracia su muerte, me hubiera encantado ver su defensa del título  contra Botvinnik, pero así son las cosas, mientras, guardamos en los archivos de ajedrez y en las memorias de un gran ajedrecista como lo fué Alexander alekhine. 

  • 5 years ago


    This is an amazing article because you picked one of the all time great and prolific combinationalists. I will play through the combinations over and over and maybe something will happen to improve my game. Thanks for the article.

  • 5 years ago


    I love alekhine I got the 1st puzzle in 10 secs on my 1st try, and on the 2nd one itried qd3 which makes the same threat. His story is as sad as Fischer's.

  • 5 years ago


    One of the greatest or maybe the best chess player of all times. Always mysterios, weird and sofisticated, but anyway his legacy made a main contribution to chess history and evolution. Thanx for sharing, one of my favorite...

  • 5 years ago


    Does the checkmate in the last example have a special name? (Nf2+ Kg1 Nh3#)

  • 5 years ago


    In Alekhine's Biography there were also dark pages.

  • 5 years ago


    Tal is still my favorite but then again, he did come afer and probably learn from the lessons of his predecessors. I am not sure if I would like him as a person in real life or not, but then I could say the same about Fischer so I believe in separating his ability and character. A nice article, gave me a mental workout. For me the corresponding Capablanca puzzles were far harder for some reason, but don't know if it means anything, could be just lack of due attention.

  • 5 years ago


    lesson in removing the defender

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