Alexander Alekhine

Alexandre Alekhine

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Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine, PhD (Russian: October 31 1892 – March 24, 1946) was the fourth World Chess Champion. He is often considered one of the Greatest Chess Players ever.

By the age of 22, he was already among the strongest chess players in the world. During the 1920s, he won most of the tournaments in which he played. In 1927, he became the fourth World Chess Champion by defeating José Raúl Capablanca, who was widely considered invincible.

In the early 1930s, Alekhine dominated tournament play and won two top-class tournaments by large margins. He also played first board for France in five Chess Olympiads, winning individual prizes in each (four medals and a brilliancy prize). Alekhine offered Capablanca a rematch on the same demanding terms that Capablanca had set for him, and negotiations dragged on for years without making much progress. Meanwhile, Alekhine defended his title with ease against Bogoljubov in 1929 and 1934. He was defeated by Euwe in 1935, but regained his crown in the 1937 rematch. His tournament record, however, remained uneven, and rising young stars like  Keres, Fine, and Botvinnik threatened his title. Negotiations for a title match with Keres or Botvinnik were halted by the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939. Negotiations with Botvinnik for a world title match were proceeding in 1946 when Alekhine died in Portugal, in unclear circumstances.

Alekhine is known for his fierce and imaginative Attacking style, combined with great positional and endgame skill. Alekhine is highly regarded as a chess writer and theoretician, producing innovations in a wide range of chess openings, and giving his name to Alekhine’s Defence and several other Opening Variations. He also composed some endgame studies.


Playing strength and style

Alekhine was one of the greatest Attacking players and could apparently produce combinations at will. What set him apart from most other Attacking players was his ability to see the potential for an Attack and prepare for it in positions where others saw nothing. Rudolf Spielmann, a master tactician who produced many brilliancies, said, “I can see the combinations as well as Alekhine, but I cannot get to the same positions.” Dr. 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.” An explanation offered by Réti was, “he beats his opponents by analysing simple and apparently harmless sequences of moves in order to see whether at some time or another at the end of it an original possibility, and therefore one difficult to see, might be hidden.” John Nunn commented that “Alekhine had a special ability to provoke complications without taking excessive risks”, and Edward Winter called him “the supreme genius of the complicated position.” Some of Alekhine’s combinations are so complex that even modern champions and contenders disagree in their analyses of them.

Alekhine’s style had a profound influence on Kasparov, who said: “Alexander Alekhine is the first luminary among the others who are still having the greatest influence on me. I like his universality, his approach to the game, his chess ideas. I am sure that the future belongs to Alekhine chess.”In 2012, Levon Aronian said that he considers Alekhine the greatest chess player of all time.


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