Supreme Chess

Alexander Alekhine

Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine was born on October 31, or November 1, in 1892 to a wealthy family in Moscow, Russia. His father was a member of the Duma and also a landowner. His mother was the daughter of a rich industrialist. His mother and brother taught him how to play chess in 1903. In 1909 at the age of 17, Alekhine won the All-Russian Amateur Tournament in St. Petersburg with a score of 12 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws. This was his first chess accomplishment, and he was awarded a national master title for the performance.

In 1914, Alekhine played in a tournament in Saint Petersburg. He finished 3rd behind Lasker and Capablanca, and Tsar Nicholas II named him as one of the 5 original grandmasters. Alekhine also served in World War 1 and was wounded. After this, he began living in many different countries, and speaking Russian, French, German, and English. In 1919 following the Russian Revolution, he was suspected or espionage and imprisoned in Odessa. He was eventually freed.

In 1920, Alekhine won the 1st USSR Championship. The following year, he left Soviet Russia and never returned. He moved to France and became a French citizen 4 years later. He entered the Sorbonne Faculty of Law, and although he never completed his thesis on the Chinese prison system, he claimed the title of "Dr. Alekhine". Between 1921 and 1927, he won or tied for 1st in 12 out of 20 tournaments in which he played.

In 1927, Alekhine played Capablanca for the title of World chess champion. His victory was a suprise to almost of the chess world. After this, he would insist on greater money if Capablanca were invited to tournaments. If not, he would refuse to play. Despite the fact that Capablanca was clearly the leading challenger, Alekhine carefully avoided granting a rematch, even thought a right to a rematch was part of the agreement. Instead, in 1929 and 1934, he played matches against Efim Bogoljubow. Bogoljubow was not considered a serious threat, although he was a top player. Alekhine won convincingly both times. After winning the title from Capablanca, he dominated chess for a long time, losing out 7 of 238 games in tournament play from 1927 to 1935.

In 1935, Max Euwe took his title. It is widely belived that this loss was because of Alekhine's alcoholism, which was also corroborated by various players. Since he was no longer world champion, he couldn't keep Capablanca from playing in the tournament in Nottingham of 1936. Capablanca beat him in their individual game and went on to tie for 1st place in the tournament with Mikhail Botvinnik. In 1937, Alekhine gave up drinking and regained the title from Euwe.

When World War 2 broke out, Alekhine was representing France in Buenos Aires at the Chess Olympiad. As team captain, he refused to allow his team to play Germany. Also in 1939, he won a tournament at Montevideo in September. After this win, he returned to France to enlist in the army as an interpreter. After France was over-run, he tried to go to America by travelling to Lisbon and applying for an American visa. Alekhine agreed to cooperate with the Nazis in order to protect his wife and their French assets. He signed 6 articles critical of Jewish chess players, arguing that there was a Jewish way of playing chess (cowardly), and an Aryan way of playing chess (aggressive and brave). Although he participated in Nazi chess tournaments in Munich, Salzburg, Warsaw, and Prague, they looted his French chateau anyway.

In September of 1941, Stoltz won a tournament at Munich. Alekhine tied for 2nd-3rd with Lundin. In October this same year, he tied for 1st at Cracow/Warsaw with Paul Schmidt. He won at Madrid in December. He won at Salzburg in June of 1942. In September 1942, he won at Munich. In October 1942, he won at Warsaw/Lublin/Cracow. In December 1942, he tied for 1st with Junge at Prague. In March 1943, he drew mini-match with Bogoljubow at Warsaw. In April 1943, he won at Prague. In June 1943, he tied for 1st with Keres at Salzburg. By 1943 Alekhine was spending all his time in Spain and Portugal as the German representative to chess events. In July 1944, he won at Gijon. In March 1945, he won at Madrid. In July 1945, he tied for 2nd-3rd with Medina at Gijon. The event was won by A. Rico. In August 1945, he won at Sabadell. Alekhine's last chess match was with Francisco Lupi at Estoril, Portugal in January of 1946. Alekhine won 2, lost 1, drew 1.

Alekhine was not invited to chess tournaments after World War 2 because of his Nazi affiliation. On March 24, 1946, he died in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal while planning for a World Championship match against Botvinnik. The circumstances of his death are still a matter of debate. Some thought he choked on a piece of meat. Others thought he had a heart attack, and some even talked about a murder. FIDE sponsored his buria. In 1956, the remains were transferred to the Cimetire du Montparnasse, Paris, France.

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