Mastery: Tactics

Combinations of Alexander Alekhine

Combinations of Alexander Alekhine

Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine became the fourth World Chess Champion by defeating Jose Capablanca in 1927. He is remembered for his fierce and imaginative attacking style. The great English master C. H. O'D. Alexander wrote "In playing through an Alekhine game one suddenly meets a move which simply takes one's breath away."

  • Alekhine-Munoz, Sabadell 1945

    Alekhine was one of the greatest attacking players, and he also had the ability to see the potential for an attack where others saw nothing. Max Euwe said, "Alekhine is a poet who creates a work of art out of something that would hardly inspire another man to send home a picture post-card." Bobby Fischer, in a 1964 article, ranked Alekhine as one of the ten greatest chessplayers in history and wrote of Alekhine, "He had great imagination; he could see more deeply into a situation than any other player in chess history. ... It was in the most complicated positions that Alekhine found his grandest concepts."

    • 1 challenge
  • Alekhine-Lasker, Zurich 1934

    In August 1914, Alekhine was leading an international tournament in Mannheim, Germany when World War I broke out. The Russian players in that tournament were interned in Rastatt, Germany. "Life in prison was rather monotonous," Alekhine later recalled. "There were no books, no newspapers and, of course, no chessboard. Bogoljubow and I played blindfold chess for hours. Our battles were interrupted when for four days I was placed in solitary confinement, for the reason that during a communal walk (in the obligatory goose-step) I once ventured to smile..." In September some of them, including Alekhine, were freed and allowed to return home. Alekhine returned to Russia (via Switzerland, Italy, London, Stockholm, and Finland) in October 1914. There he gave charitable simultaneous exhibitions, including some to raise money to aid the Russian chess players who remained interned in Germany.

    • 3 challenges
  • Bogoljubow-Alekhine, Germany/Holland 1929

    This is a game from the World Championship match between Alekhine and Bogoljubow. "Bogoljubow is aggressive and enterprising," wrote Alekhine before the match. "In our understanding of the essence of chess we have a certain similarity, but we have very different views both on life, and on the principles of the struggle. He regards his opponent as an excellent experimental field for applying his skill and never tries to study his opponent. He often hopes for a miracle, where what is needed is knowledge...He considers the main aim of the struggle to be his personal satisfaction. But my understanding of the struggle has always been the opposite. For success I consider that three factors are necessary: firstly, an awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses; secondly, an accurate understanding of my opponent's strengths and weaknesses; thirdly, a higher aim than momentary satisfaction. I see this aim as being scientific and artistic achievements, which place the game of chess on a par with other arts."

    • 4 challenges
  • Alekhine-Petrov, Warsaw Olympiad 1935

    In June of 1919 during the Russian civil war, Alekhine was arrested by police -apparently due to someone informing on him of being a spy - and was sentenced to death. He was charged with links with White counter-intelligence, after the Russians liberated the Ukraine from German occupation during World War 1. Literally a couple of hours before he was to be shot, an order was given to free him.

    • 2 challenges
  • Alekhine-Reshevsky, Kemeri 1937

    Alekhine was married 4 times in his life, each time to older women. In early 1920, he married the Russian baroness Anna von Sergewin, who was several years older. For a short time in 1920-1921, he worked as an interpreter for the Communist International and was secretary in the Education Department. There he met Swiss journalist and Comintern delegate Annalisa Ruegg, who was thirteen years older than he, and they married on March 15, 1921. Alekhine was given permission to leave Russia to visit the West with his new wife. Alekhine abandoned his second wife in Paris in June 1921 and went to Berlin. In 1927, he married his third wife, Nadiezda Vasiliev, another older woman and the widow of a Russian general. Alekhine married the American artist, Grace Wishard, as his fourth wife. She was 16 years older than him and wealthy. She played Alekhine in a simultaneous exhibition in Tokyo 1933. Her prize was one of Alekhine's books. She asked him to sign the book and they developed a relationship. They were married in March 1934 near Nice, France. Mrs. Grace Alekhine was the women's champion of Paris in 1944. She is buried next to her husband in Paris.

    • 3 challenges
  • Capablanca-Alekhine, Buenos Aires 1927

    This game is from the World Championship match in Buenos Aires in 1927. Alekhine won the title, scoring 6 wins, 3 losses, and 25 draws. This was the longest World Championship match until the contest in 1984 between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. Alekhine's victory surprised almost the entire chess world, since he had never previously won a single game from Capablanca. After Capablanca's death Alekhine expressed surprise at his own victory, since in 1927 he did not think he was superior to Capablanca, and he suggested that Capablanca had been over-confident. According to Kasparov, Alekhine's research uncovered many small inaccuracies, which occurred because Capablanca did not concentrate intensely.

    • 3 challenges
  • Alekhine-Colle, Paris 1925

    "When I first met him, at Pasadena in 1932, I began to understand the secret of his genius. He was showing a game with Euwe played at Bern a few months earlier, and his eyes and bearing had a strange intensity which I had never seen before. The man loved chess, it was the breath of life to him." -Reuben Fine

    • 4 challenges
  • Alekhine-Freeman, USA (Blindfold Simul) 1924

    Alekhine writes this about one of his early weaknesses, "My first tournament victory endowed me with a curious psychological weakness which I had to work long and hard to eradicate - if indeed I have ever eradicated it! - the impression that I could always, or nearly always, when in a bad position, conjure up some unexpected combination to extricate me from my difficulties. A dangerous delusion."

    • 4 challenges
  • Alexandrov-Alekhine, Correspondence 1909-10

    Alekhine once told a border policeman: I am Alexander Alekhine, Chess Champion of the World! I have a cat named Chess. Papers? I don't need any papers.

    • 2 challenges
  • Alekhine-Hofmeister, Petrograd 1917

    Alekhine was never a good loser. This story is from the Summer 2000 Blitz Chess magazine in a tribute to Grandmaster Arthur Dake. Despite having just completed a successful simultaneous tour, Arthur could hardly afford to lose money. In the next two games he concentrated and defeated both Jackson and Alekhine. With the money in his pocket, Dake continued and defeated them both for a second time in a row. Nobody could believe it as Arthur won his fourth round of pots and forced Alekhine to surrender his chair again. Once Dake got on a roll at rapid transit chess he could not be stopped and Alekhine was feeling the full strength of Arthur's particular genius. After Dake pocketed the 6th pot the World Champion became furious and laid down a challenge. "We must play a speed match", Alekhine announced angrily, shaking his fist. "No pot, no money, just to show these people who is the best." Arthur felt that he was trapped and turned to the audience that had gathered and announced in an apologetic manner, "Certainly Alekhine is the better player. The World Champion is simply off form this evening." In response to those words. Alekhine could not help but explode, "You know that, I know that, but these silly people, they don't know that."

    • 2 challenges
  • Alekhine-Euwe, The  Hague 1921

    This is a game with Euwe long before their World Championship matches. In 1933, Alekhine challenged Max Euwe to a championship match. On October 3, 1935 the world championship began in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. Although Alekhine took an early lead, he faltered badly beginning with game 13 and the challenger became the new champion on December 15, 1935 in a very close match. Euwe's win was a major upset and is sometimes attributed to Alekhine's alcoholism, but overconfidence may have been a bigger cause. Alekhine had previously said he would easily win. Euwe was quick to arrange a return match with Alekhine, something Capablanca never obtained after Alekhine won the world title in 1927. Alekhine regained the title from Euwe in December 1937 by a large margin. Alekhine would play no more title matches, and thus held the title until his death in 1946.

    • 3 challenges
  • Alekhine-Mindeno, Holland (Simul) 1933

    Alekhine was clearly ahead of his time in his approach to chess. According to my theory, the game of chess consists of three components: material, time, and quality of position. ... Alekhine was the first who began intuitively to combine all three factors in his play, linking them together. He demonstrated clearly that material is only one of the forms of advantage. In creating a certain type of position, he would sacrifice a pawn or two, or even a piece! Sometimes he would overstep the mark, but on the whole he proceeded on the basis that chess is highly diverse and that the sacrifice of material, which was strictly regulated by the Steinitz School, can in fact provide other advantages. And frequently Alekhine set his opponents problems with which they could not cope: they were unable to compete on such a level of complexity of play. - Kasparov

    • 4 challenges
  • Alekhine-Feldt,Tarnopol (Blindfold Simul) 1916

    The years during World War 1 must have been very difficult for Alekhine. His parents both died prematurely during this time (after his father spent more than a year in a German Prison). Alekhine worked at the front for the Red Cross, rescuing the wounded under artillery fire. He suffered a serious concussion and was sent to a military hospital in Tarnopol. Alekhine writes "For a whole month I lay immobile, bedridden. For me at that time playing blindfold was a real godsend. At my request I was often visited by local players, and I would give small simultaneous displays without looking at the board. It was in one such display that my best known blindfold game was played - against Feldt."

    • 4 challenges
  • Alekhine-Supico, Lisbon Blindfold exhibition 1941

    At the end of the 1930's,there were negotiations with Alekhine to play world championship matches with both Botvinnik and Keres and Capablanca However, they were disrupted by World War II. He was representing France at first board in the 8th Chess Olympiad at Buenos Aires 1939 when, to the horror of Alekhine and all the participants at the tournament, war broke out in Europe. Alekhine and others called for a boycott of the German team to protest the attack of Nazi Germany on Poland. Unlike many participants in the 1939 Chess Olympiad, Alekhine returned to Europe and later joined the French army as a military interpreter.

    • 3 challenges
  • Alekhine-Levenfish, St Petersburg 1912

    After the fall of France in June 1940, Alekhine and his wife found themselves in German occupied territory. He tried to go to America by traveling to Portugal and applying for an American visa. He also sought permission to enter Cuba and play a match with Capablanca. Little did he know that Capablanca himself had only 18 months to live. Both requests were denied. To protect his wife, Grace Alekhine, who was an American Jew, he agreed to cooperate with the Nazis. Alekhine took part in chess tournaments throughout Germany and German-occupied territories.

    • 5 challenges
  • Alekhine-Fletcher, London (Simul) 1922

    In March 1941 during the German occupation of France, anti-Semitic articles appeared under Alekhine's name in the Pariser Zeitung. These articles said that Jews had a great talent for exploiting chess but showed no signs of chess artistry. He described his 1937 match with Euwe as "a triumph against the Jewish conspiracy". Later that year he was reported to make further anti-Semitic statements in interviews for two Spanish newspapers, in which he stated "Aryan chess was aggressive chess ... on the other hand, the Semitic concept admitted the idea of pure defense." Almost immediately after the liberation of Paris, Alekhine publicly stated that he had to write these articles before the Germans would grant him his exit visa and that they were rewritten by the Germans.

    • 7 challenges
  • Gruenfeld-Alekhine, Carlsbad 1923

    After World War II, Alekhine could not play in any chess tournaments outside of Portugal and Spain because of his alleged Nazi affiliation. In the Autumn of 1945 he moved to the small Portugese town of Estoril. The pianist Dmitry Paperno writes of Alekhine in his memoirs: Suffering from loneliness and illness, the world champion was hoping to wait until the end of that dangerous time, when all over Europe they were seeking, and judging war criminals and collaborators. You can imagine those months in the life of the great player: autumn and winter in foreign and provincial Estoril, the boom of the ocean, the half-empty hotel, where he was kept virtually on charity, no contact with his wife, despairing letters to former friends, in which he tried to justify himself.

    • 5 challenges
  • Opocensky-Alekhine, Paris 1925

    Alekhine was playing in a tournament in Mannheim, Germany when the First World War broke out. He was interned as a citizen of hostile powers. Rumor has it that he escaped from the Germans and made his way back to Russia. He joined the Russian army, was twice wounded and twice decorated.

    • 3 challenges
  • Alekhine-Junge, Crakow 1942

    In March 1946 Alekhine received an official challenge from Botvinnik. It was agreed that the match would take place in London, but on March 24 the chess world was stunned to learn the champion died in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. The 53 year old Alekhine was found in his room sitting immobile in front of a chessboard. The circumstances of his death are still a matter of debate. It is usually attributed to a heart attack, but a witness to the autopsy stated that choking on meat was the actual cause of death. This does not seem possible due to the calm expression on the deceased's face, but instead this may have coincided with the heart attack. A few years later, Alekhine's son, Alexander Alekhine Junior, said that "the hand of Moscow reached his father" implying that he was murdered by the Soviet secret police. He was originally buried in Estoril, but through the efforts of his wife Grace, his remains were moved to Paris. In an interview in 1923, Alekhine stated: I do not play chess - I fight at chess. Therefore I willingly combine the tactical with the strategic, the fantastic with the scientific, the combinative with the positional, and I aim to respond to the demands of each given position...

    • 4 challenges
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