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ALEXANDER ALEXANDROWITSCH ALEKHINE

World chess champion 1927-1935,1937-(The End, 1946)

Born 31.10.1892 Moscow, USSR

Died 24.3.1946 Estoril, Portugal

Alexander Alexanderovich Alekhine was born on October 31, 1892 (Halloween) in Moscow. His father was a wealthy landowner, a Marshall of the Nobility and the member of the Duma. His mother was an heiress of an industrial fortune. His older brother, Alexei, played chess and was able to draw Pillsbury when Pillsbury gave a simultaneous blindfold display in Moscow on 22 boards. Until World War I, he spelled his last name Aljechin.

Alexander learned chess from his brother and mother around 1903. By 1904 he was playing correspondence chess. At age 16 he entered the Imperial High School for Law in Moscow and was exposed to more chess.

In 1908 he played a match with Benjamin Blumenfeld, a Russian master, and won with 7 wins and 3 losses.

In February, 1909 Alekhine traveled to Saint Petersburg and won a tournament that gained him the Russian master title.

In July, 1910 Alekhine participated in the 17th German Congress in Hamburg and ended up in 7th place (Carl Schlecter took 1st place).

In 1911 Alekhine defeated Stepan Levitzky, a Russian master, in a match, scoring 7 wins and 3 losses. In August he played in Carlsbad 1911 and ended up in 8th place (won by Richard Teichman).

In July, 1912 he won a minor tournament in Stockholm.

In 1914, at the age of 22, he won his first major tournament when he tied for first place with Aron Nimzovich in St. Petersburg. A few months later another major tournament was held in St. Petersburg in which he took third place behind Emanuel Lasker and Jose Capablanca. Czar Nicholas II conferred the title "Grandmaster of Chess" to Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall after they took the top five places at St. Petersburg.

In July-August of 1914 Alekhine was leading an international chess tournament, the 19th German Chess Federation Congress in Mannheim, Germany with 9 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss when World War I broke out. He was taken to Rastatt, Germany as a prisoner of war. He feigned madness and the Germans released him as unfit for military service in September, 1914.

Alekhine made his way back to Russia where he served in the Red Cross on the Austrian front.

In 1915 he was wounded and captured by the Austrians. He had suffered a contusion of the spine and was hospitalized at Tarnapol where he developed his blindfold chess skills. After the war the Russians decorated him for bravery. At the end of the war he finished his legal training and worked at the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department as a magistrate.

In 1919 he traveled to Odessa and was briefly imprisoned in their death cell suspected of being a spy.

In 1920 Alekhine returned to Moscow and married a Russian baroness several years older than he. He had already fathered an illegitimate daughter in 1913.

Alekhine started working in a film studio intending to be an actor. In October, 1920 Alekhine won the first USSR chess championship in Moscow.

In 1921 he drew a match against Richard Teichmann with two wins, two draws, and two losses. He then took first place at Triberg, Budapest, and The Hague.

In 1921 Alekhine joined the Communist Party and became a translator for the Communist International and the secretary of the Communist Education Department. He then left his wife and the Soviet Union and settled in Paris where he married a Swiss Comintern delegate, Anneliese Ruegg. A few months later he abandoned his older second wife and went to Berlin. He won three straight tournaments in Triberg, Budapest, and The Hague. In Budapest he popularized what is now called the Alekhine's defense.

In 1922 he took second in London, behind 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 an naturalized French citizen, entered the Sorbonne Law School, and wrote his thesis on the Chinese prison system. He did not get his PhD or law degree, though, only completing two of the four stages required for the degree.

In February 1925 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 Alekhine beat Max Euwe in a match and challenged Capablanca for the world championship. Alekhine had just married for the third time to another person much older than him, 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 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 Alekhine beat Capablanca with 6 wins, 25 draws, and 3 losses. The only time-out was when Alekhine had 6 teeth extracted during the match. Alekhine became the 4th official world champion of chess after Steinitz, 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 took on Bogoljubov at Weisbaden in September, 1929. Alekhine won with 11 wins, 9 draws, and 5 losses. He avoided Capablanca by insisting that the winner get $10,000 in gold, just as he got on Buenos Aires. But after the stock market crash, there were no backers.

At the 1930 Chess Olympiad he scored his first 100% score when he won all 9 games as board one for France. From 1929 to 1932 Alekhine took first place at San Remo (performace rating of 2812), Bled, London, and Pasadena. Alekhine was also giving large simultaneous exhibitions. In 1932 he was playing 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. He traveled the world giving simultaneous exhibitions, including Shanghai. He was made an honorary Colonel in the Mexican army and appointed as chess instructor for the Mexican army.

In 1934 Alekhine married for the 4th time to a lady 16 years older than he, Grace Wishart. She was the widow of an Englishman and retained her British nationality. He had met her at a minor chess tournament which she had won. Her prize was one of Alekhine's books. She asked him to sign the book and their relationship developed from that moment.

In 1934 Alekhine defeated 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 Max Euwe. On October 3, 1935 the world championship match between Alekhine and Euwe began in Zandvort for $10,000 to the winner. On December 15, 1935 Euwe had won with 9 wins, 13 draws, and 8 losses. This was the first world championship match to officially have seconds.

In 1936 Alekhine played in Nottingham which was won by Capablanca and Botvinnik. Alekhine ended up in 6th 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 where Alekhine defeated 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. Capablanca, for the first time in his life, scored below 50%. Flohr, the official challenger to Alekhine in the next world championship match (called off because of World War II) came in last place without a single win in 14 rounds.

Alekhine was representing France on board 1 at the chess olympiad in Buenos Aires when World War II broke out. As team captain of the French team, he refused to allow his team to play Germany. 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 travelling 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 Nazi chess tournament is Munich, Salzburg, Warsaw, and Prague.

By 1943 Alekhine was spending all his time in Spain and Portugal as the German representative to chess events. After World War II 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 an unchewed piece of meat. The body was not buried for three weeks as no one claimed the body. Finally, the Portugese Chess Federation took charge of the funeral. Less than a dozen folks showed up for his burial.

In 1947 the FIDE Congress voted for Euwe to be the world champion since Alekhine died. However, the Soviet delegation was late for this vote. The next day, after protest from the Soviet delegation, the title was rescinded in favor of a match-tournament which Botvinnik won.

In 1956 the USSR and French Chess Federation agreed to transfer his remains to the cemetary in Montparnasse, Paris. FIDE provided the tombsone. It is in the shape of a chess board made out of red granite and there is a bust of him made out of marble. The birth and death date on Alekhine's tombstone is wrong.

 

The tombstone reads:

ALEXANDER ALEKHINE

1ST NOVEMBER, 1892

25TH MARCH, 1946

CHESS WORLD CHAMPION

1927-35-37 TO THE END.

In world championship play, Alekhine won 43 games, drew 73 games, and lost 24 games for a total of 140 games, with a 56.8% win ratio. He was world champion for 17 years, playing in 5 world championship matches. Alekhine played over 1000 tournament games, scoring 73 percent in his games. His historical ELO rating has been calculated to be 2690.

 

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