Alexander Alekhin

Alexander Alexandrovitch Alekhin wrestled the crown from Capablanca with and never allowed him a rematch. He did play matches with Bogolyubow and even lost one to Euwe before getting back the worls title.

Alekhin's moves were always trying to get the most out of a position. It wasn't his style to look for 'natural' or 'elegant' moves -- he looked for ones that were forceful, accurate, dynamic -- the moves you had to play right now because you wouldn't get another chance.

"Against Alekhin, you never knew what to expect."
Sir George Thomas

Here's a simple example: I imagine 99 players out of 100 would recapture on move 19, but Alekhin jumps at the chance to invade down the c-file and tie Black up completely.

[Event "Karlsbad"]
[Site "Karlsbad"]
[Date "1923.05.04"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Alekhine, Alexander"]
[Black "Maroczy, Geza"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D55"]
[PlyCount "43"]
[EventDate "1923.04.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "17"]
[EventCountry "CSR"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 Ne4 7. Bxe7 Qxe7 8.
Qb3 Nxc3 9. Qxc3 c6 10. Bd3 Nd7 11. O-O f5 12. Rac1 g5 {Attacking without good reason} 13. Nd2 {White will blow up the centre} 13...Rf7 14. f3 e5
15. cxd5 cxd5 16. e4 fxe4 17. fxe4 Rxf1+ 18. Rxf1 exd4 19. Qc7 {Alekhin jumps at the chance to invade down the c-file and tie Black up completely.} 19...Kg7 20. Rf5 dxe4
21. Nxe4 Qb4 22. Rxg5+ 1-0


A more complicated example: it's hard to understand, but Black's 18th move is the best.

[Event "Semmering Panhans"]
[Site "Semmering"]
[Date "1926.03.17"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Rubinstein, Akiba"]
[Black "Alekhine, Alexander"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E16"]
[PlyCount "58"]
[EventDate "1926.03.07"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "17"]
[EventCountry "AUT"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Bb4+ 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. O-O d5 8. a3
Be7 9. b4 c5 10. bxc5 bxc5 11. dxc5 Bxc5 12. Bb2 Nbd7 13. Ne5 Nxe5 14. Bxe5 Ng4
15. Bc3 Rb8 16. Rb1 d4 17. Rxb7 Rxb7 18. Bxb7 Nxf2 19. Kxf2 dxc3+ 20. e3 cxd2
21. Ke2 Qb8 22. Bf3 Rd8 23. Qb1 Qd6 24. a4 f5 25. Rd1 Bb4 26. Qc2 Qc5 27. Kf2
a5 28. Be2 g5 29. Bd3 f4 0-1


We have seen Capablanca handling a pawn majority against Marshall. Here is the same theme, a pawn majority, which Alekhin handles very sharply.

[Event "style: Alekhin on the attack"]
[Site "style: Alekhin on the attack"]
[Date "1993.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alekhin, Alexander"]
[Black "Marshall, Frank"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D06"]
[PlyCount "59"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. e4 {?! ( hasty )} Nf6 5. Bd3 e5 {!} 6. dxe5
Ng4 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. Bg5 {!} Be7 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nc3 Ncxe5 11. Nxe5 Qxe5 {?} 12.
h3 Nf6 13. Qd2 {!} Bd7 14. Qe3 {[#]  ! ( stops 0-0-0, making Black castle
under the K-side majority which leads to a very sharp attack) } Bc6 15. O-O-O O-O 16.
f4 Qe6 17. e5 Rfe8 18. Rhe1 Rad8 {?! ( better ...Nd7 )} 19. f5 Qe7 20. Qg5 Nd5
21. f6 Qf8 22. Bc4 {[#]  !} Nxc3 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. fxg7 {!} Nxa2+ 25. Kb1 {!}
Qe8 26. e6 {!} Be4+ 27. Ka1 f5 28. e7+ Rd5 29. Qf6 Qf7 30. e8=Q+ 1-0


Alekhin analysed very thoroughly, often finding a scorpion's sting at the end of a tail of moves:

[Event "Simul"]
[Site "initiative"]
[Date "1936.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alekhin, Alexander"]
[Black "Poindle"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C67"]
[PlyCount "59"]

1. e4 {Regis,Dave} e5  6... Nxb5 7. a4 Nd6 8. exd6 Bxd6 {[#]} 9. Ng5 {
directly contradicts usual opening advice, but straightforward development
would have allowed Black time to get sorted out - this move denies Black that
time} Be7 10. Qh5 g6 (10... Bxg5 {Regis,Dave} 11. Bxg5 Ne7 12. Re1) 11. Qh6 Bf8
12. Re1+ Ne7 (12... Be7 13. Qg7 Rf8 14. Nxh7 d5 15. Nf6#) 13. Ne4 f5 (13...
Bxh6 14. Nf6+ Kf8 15. Bxh6#) 14. Nf6+ Kf7 15. Qh4 Bg7 16. Bg5 h6 17. Qc4+ Kf8 {
[#]  White has been trying, but has he got anywhere but in a mess?} 18. Rxe7 {
the characteristic Alekhine touch - the 'sting in the tail' just as you
thought he was pushing his luck too far} Qxe7 (18... Kxe7 19. Nd5+) 19. Nh7+
Rxh7 20. Bxe7+ Kxe7 21. Qxc7 Bxb2 22. Ra2 {[#]  White's material advantage is
not very big, but Alekhine keeps his opponent pestered with threats throughout}
Bf6 23. c4 Kf7 24. Re2 Rh8 25. Qd6 a5 26. Nc3 Ra6 (26... Bxc3 27. Re7+ Kf8 28.
Rxd7+ Kg8 29. Qd5+ Kf8 30. Qf7#) 27. Qd5+ Kg7 (27... Kf8 28. Qc5+ Kg7 29. Nd5
Re6 30. Rxe6 dxe6 31. Qc7+) 28. Nb5 Re6 29. Nd6 Rd8 (29... Rxe2 {Regis,Dave}
30. Qf7#) 30. Kf1 {threat Nxc8, Rxc8; Qxd7+} (30. Kf1 Kf8 (30... Rxe2 31. Qf7+
Kh8 32. Qxf6+) 31. Nxc8 Rxc8 (31... Rxe2 32. Qd6+ Be7 33. Nxe7 Re6 34. Nxg6+
Kg7 35. Qg3 Rxg6 36. Qe5+ Kg8 37. Qxa5 Re8 38. Qxf5 Rge6 39. Qd5 Kf8 40. g3 Rc6
41. Qxd7 Rxc4) 32. Qxd7 Rec6 33. Re6 Rxe6 34. Qxc8+ Re8 35. Qxb7) 1-0


Another example of Alekhin wanting the most out of a position:

[Event "initiative"]
[Site "initiative"]
[Date "1922.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alekhin, Alexander"]
[Black "Wolf, H."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D06"]
[PlyCount "79"]

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. cxd5 Nf6 5. Nxd4 a6 {[#]  A famous (and much
discussed) demonstration of the initiative.} 6. e4 {to keep the d5 pawn} Nxe4
7. Qa4+ {now any interposition on d7 stops the attack on d5} Bd7 (7... Qd7 8.
Bb5) 8. Qb3 {hitting the b7 pawn} Nc5 9. Qe3 {preventing ...e5} g6 10. Nf3 Qc7
11. Qc3 {[#]  preventing ...Bg7. All these queen moves are apparently against
theory ("don't waste time with too many Queen moves") but they are all to get
Black tied down before completing his own development.} Rg8 12. Be3 b6 13. Nbd2
Bg7 14. Bd4 {exchanging off Black's best piece} Bxd4 15. Qxd4 Bb5 16. Bxb5+
axb5 17. O-O Ra4 18. b4 Qd8 19. a3 {[#]  no rush: Black is in no position to
retaliate. White's vigorous play has kept Black short of the two or three
moves need to untangle the position, and White is now clearly winning with
centralised pieces and better development(!)} Nbd7 20. Rfe1 Kf8 21. d6 Ne6 22.
Rxe6 fxe6 23. Ng5 Qb8 24. Nxe6+ Kf7 25. Ng5+ Kf8 26. Qd5 Rg7 27. Ne6+ Kg8 28.
Nxg7+ Kxg7 29. dxe7 Nf6 30. Qxb5 Ra7 31. Re1 Qd6 32. e8=N+ Nxe8 33. Qxe8 Qxd2
34. Qe5+ Kf7 35. h4 Rxa3 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Re7+ Kh6 38. Qf8+ Kh5 39. Re5+ Kg4
40. Rg5+ {1-0} (40. f3+ Kg3 41. Rg5+ Qxg5) 1-0


And Alekhin's most famous game, a triumph not just of calculation but of sheer energy and will to win. Masters and computers since have picked holes in it, but it's still amazing to play through:

[Event "Top 10 games:"]
[Site "Baden Baden"]
[Date "1925.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Reti, Richard"]
[Black "Alekhin, Alexander"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "80"]

1. g3 e5 2. Nf3 e4 3. Nd4 d5 4. d3 exd3 5. Qxd3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.
Nxd2 O-O 9. c4 Na6 10. cxd5 Nb4 11. Qc4 Nbxd5 12. N2b3 c6 13. O-O Re8 14. Rfd1
Bg4 15. Rd2 Qc8 16. Nc5 Bh3 17. Bf3 Bg4 18. Bg2 Bh3 19. Bf3 Bg4 20. Bh1 h5 21.
b4 a6 22. Rc1 h4 23. a4 hxg3 24. hxg3 Qc7 25. b5 axb5 26. axb5 {Black now
begin s a long combinational run, keeping the initiative to the end. Since the
game was played, defences for White have been found, but over the board, Reti
could not keep his balance.} Re3 $3 27. Nf3 (27. fxe3 Qxg3+) 27... cxb5 28.
Qxb5 Nc3 29. Qxb7 Qxb7 30. Nxb7 Nxe2+ 31. Kh2 Ne4 32. Rc4 Nxf2 33. Bg2 Be6 34.
Rcc2 Ng4+ 35. Kh3 Ne5+ 36. Kh2 Rxf3 37. Rxe2 Ng4+ 38. Kh3 Ne3+ 39. Kh2 Nxc2 40.
Bxf3 Nd4 (40... Nd4 41. Rf2 Nxf3+ 42. Rxf3 Bd5) 0-1


Lessons from Alekhin:

  • Look twice -- there might be something hidden
  • Look now -- you might not get another chance
  • Don't settle for an OK move -- find an accurate one, and don't let your opponent get sorted out!

P.S. Alekhin (Але́хин) used to spell his name in the Roman alphabet without a final E before he moved to France (where he used Alekhine). I usually leave off the E because in England I keep hearing Alekh-YNE (rhymes with wine) not Alekh-EEN (rhymes with machine).

The rhythm is more like a-CHECKin' or a-LEAKin' than mar-gar-INE.

You will hear the same name pronounced al-YOKH-in around Russia, but he liked al-YEKH-in, I suspect because he thought it sounded posher. Alexander Hyacinth Bucket.

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