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Alekhine, Alexander

Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) was the winner of the first Soviet Chess Championship (1920) and the only man to die while holding the world chess championship.  He learned chess from his older brother Alexei (1888-1939).  He studied law at the Sorbonne but failed to get his doctorate as he claimed.  He was sometimes called "Ale-and-Wine" because of his drinking habits.  He married four times to women 20 to 30 years older than he.  One of his wives was dubbed "Philidor's Widow."  He was a prisoner of war like all the other chess contestants at an international tournament in Mannheim in 1914.  In 1915 and 1916 he served in the Russian Red Cross.  In 1918 he was a criminal investigator in Moscow.  In 1919 he was imprisoned in the death cell at Odessa as a spy.  In 1920 he was back in Moscow intending to be a movie actor.  He also served as interpreter to the Communist party and was appointed secretary to the Education Department.  In 1921 he married a foreign Communist delegate and left Russia for good.  At the Sorbonne his thesis dealt with the Chinese prison system. In 1927 he managed to raise enough funds to challenge Capablanca for the World Champion title. Match began on september 16, 1927 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This long and persistent duel ended by Alekhine's victory 18,5 to 15,5 (6 victories, 3 loses and 25 draws) after 34 games. Russian maestro then defended his title against Bogoljubov in 1929 and 1934.  In 1930 he scored the first 100% score in the Chess Olympiad, winning 9 games on board 1 for France. During World War II, he became a Nazi collaborator and declared he was ready to sacrifice his life for a Nazi Russia.  He competed in seven tournaments in Germany during the war and wrote several pro-Nazi articles.  During that time, Soviet players changed the name of Alekhine’s Defense to the Moscow Defense.  He died in Portugal after choking on an unchewed piece of meat.  He was 53.  Alekhine was not buried for three weeks because no one would claim the body.  The Portuguese Chess Federation took charge of the funeral.  Only 10 people showed up for his funeral.  The funeral was delayed for five days until the Portuguese Chess Federation raised enough money to pay for his burial.  In 1956 his remains were transferred to a cemetery in Paris.  FIDE provided the tombstone in the shape of a chessboard.  His birth and death date on the tombstone is wrong.  The tombstone reads “ALEXANDER ALEKHINE 1ST NOVEMBER 1892 25TH MARCH, 1946 CHESS WORLD CHAMPION 1927-35-37 TO THE END”.  He was born on October 31, 1892 and died either on the evening of March 23rd or the morning of March 24th, 1946.  He was ranked #1 in the world from 1924 to 1946.

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