Alexander Alekhine title
“Even Grandmasters were surprised of his tactical vision”

Alexander Alexanderovich Alekhine was born on October 31, 1892 in Moscow. His father was a wealthy landowner, a Marshall of the Nobility and a member of the Duma. His mother was an heiress of an industrial fortune. He learned Chess from his mother and brother around 1903 when he was eleven. He studied Law at the Imperial High School in Moscow and won the rank of Chess Master at the age of sixteen and the rank of Grand Master at 21. Alexander AlekhineHe played a match with Benjamin Blumenfeld in 1908 and won with 7 wins out of 10 games. In early 1909, Alekhine won the Russian Master title in St. Petersburg. In the summer of 1910, Alekhine played in the 17th German Congress in Hamburg and ended up in 7th place. In 1911 and 1912, Alekhine did not have good results, for lack of play, and he won a minor tournament in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912. He didn’t win a major Chess tournament until 1914 in St. Petersburg, Russia, when he tied for first place with Aron Nimzowitch. This was his “coup de grace”, a term he used so often in his Chess writings. A few months later, after tying with Nimzo, he played in the famous 1914 St. Petersburg Tournament of the same year (1914) where the five finalists would be bestowed the title of “Grandmaster of Chess” by Czar Nicholas II of Russia. These would be the very first Grandmasters of Chess. Alexander Alekhine came in third place, behind Dr. Emanuel Lasker and Jose Capablanca, but ahead of Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch and Frank Marshall. This was a great accomplishment, since the field contained many stellar Chess players, including Akiba Rubinstein.

When WWI broke out, he was made prisoner of war like all the other Chess contestants at an international tournament in Mannheim in 1914. He was released a month later and served at the Russian Red Cross in Austria until 1916. In 1918 he was a criminal investigator in Moscow. In 1919 he was imprisoned in the death cell at Odessa, suspected of being 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.  In 1922 he was second in London, behind Jose Capablanca, and first at Hastings. In 1923 he tied for first at Carlsbad with Bogoljubov and Maroczy. In 1924 he took 3rd place in New York, behind Lasker and Capablanca. In 1925 Alekhine won a tournament in Baden-Baden. This was the first international tournament in Germany since World War I.  In 1925 Alekhine became a naturalized French citizen, entered the Sorbonne Law School, and wrote a thesis on the Chinese prison system, becoming Dr. Alexander Alekhine.

In February 1925, Dr. Alekhine broke the world blindfold record by playing 28 games blindfold simultaneously, winning 22, drawing 3 and losing 3. He then took first place at Baden - Baden with 12 wins and 8 draws. In 1926 Dr. Alekhine beat Dr. Max Euwe in a match and challenged Jose Capablanca for the world championship. Alekhine married for the third time to Nadezda Vasiliev. She was the widow of a high-ranking Russian officer. In March 1927, Alekhine took second place, behind Capablanca, in New York, with 5 wins, 13 draws, and 2 losses. In July he won at Kecskemet 1927. 

He was now ready to meet Jose Capablanca for the world championship after putting up $10,000 in gold. Jose Capablanca accepted the challenge and began their world championship match in Buenos Aires on September 16, 1927. By November 29, 1927 Dr. Alekhine beat Capablanca with 6 wins, 25 draws, and 3 losses. Alekhine became the 4th official world champion of Chess after Steinitz, Dr. Lasker, and Capablanca. All the games in Buenos Aires took place behind closed doors. There were no spectators or photographs.

Alekhine avoided Capablanca’s challenge of a re-match and played on Bogoljubov at Weisbaden in September 1929. Alekhine won with 11 wins, 9 draws, and 5 losses. From 1929 to 1932, Alekhine took first place at San Remo (performance rating of 2812), Bled, London, and Pasadena. Alekhine was also giving large simultaneous exhibitions. In 1932 he played up to 300 opponents simultaneously from New York to Paris. In 1933 he played 32 people blindfold simultaneously in Chicago, winning 19, drawing 9, and losing 4 games.

In 1934, Alekhine defeated Eufim Bogoljubov for the world championship in Baden-Baden with the score of 8 wins, 15 draws and 3 losses. He then accepted a challenge from Dr. Max Euwe. On October 3, 1935 the world championship match between Alekhine and Dr. Euwe began in Zandvoort for $10,000 to the winner. On December 15, 1935 Dr. Euwe had won with 9 wins, 13 draws, and 8 losses. In 1936, Alekhine played in Nottingham, England. The tournament was won by Capablanca and Botvinnik. Alekhine ended up in sixth place.

His game with Capablanca was the first time they had met since the world championship match in 1927. Alekhine asked for a rematch and got it in 1937. He defeated Dr. Euwe in Holland with 10 wins, 11 draws and 4 losses. At the 1938 AVRO tournament in Holland, the top eight players in the world participated. This was the strongest tournament ever held. First place was $550. Alekhine, for the first time in his life, came ahead of Capablanca. Alexander Alekhine was representing France on board 1 at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires when World War II broke out.

He returned to France to enlist in the army and became an interpreter.   When France was over-run he tried to go to America by traveling to Lisbon and applying for an American visa. To protect his wife and their French assets, he agreed to cooperate with the Nazis. He wrote six articles critical of Jewish Chess players and participated in a Nazi Chess tournaments in Munich, Salzburg, Warsaw, and Prague. When asked about the German siege on his apartment, he said, “The Germans have scientifically ransacked my apartment.”

By 1943, Alekhine was spending all his time in Spain and Portugal as the German representative to Chess events. After WWII he was not invited to Chess tournaments because of his Nazi affiliation.  In 1946 he was about to accept a match title with Botvinnik. On the evening of March 23 or early March 24, 1946, Alekhine died in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. Some say he died of a heart attack, others say he choked on a piece of meat.

The body was not buried for three weeks as no one claimed the body. Finally, the Portuguese Chess Federation took charge of the funeral. Less than a dozen folks showed up for his burial. Alexander Alekhine was world champion for seventeen years, playing in five World Championship matches. He played over 1000 tournament games, scoring 73% in his games. His ELO rating has been calculated at 2690.   --by Terry Crandall.

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