Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (51)

11/22/2010 – The Editor of Chess Notes points out that writers of opening monographs often simply ignore the detailed work of theoreticians from bygone years. Taking Alekhine’s Defence as an example, he gives many references to forgotten articles published in magazines up to the middle of the twentieth century, including analysis by such luminaries as Réti and Grünfeld. A salutary lesson.

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Chess Explorations (51)

By Edward Winter

An author preparing a book on a specific chess opening will often ‘borrow’ extensively from readily available monographs on that opening, supplementing his work with games lifted from databases. That latter part of the operation may allow plenty of old games to be quoted, although, databases being what they are, this is not without risk in terms of accuracy. (There is no substitute for primary sources.) And, of course, even a comprehensive database will not reflect the full history of an opening, since account should also be taken of old monographs and magazine articles. Tracking down such dusty material may entail hard work, and all too many writers succumb to the temptation of believing, or at least pretending to believe, that anything relatively difficult to find does not need to be found. In short, they plough ahead as if such material by our forefathers had never existed. The reviewers, after all, are unlikely to notice the omissions.

We take Alekhine’s Defence as an example. The moves 1 e4 Nf6 were occasionally seen in the nineteenth century, but the first time Alekhine himself is known to have played the defence was in a consultation game in Zurich on 27 August 1921 against A. Donegan, E. Müller and O. Zimmermann. The moves were published on pages 165-167 of the November 1921 Schweizerische Schachzeitung. The first monograph on the opening appeared about nine months after the game: Die Aljechin-Verteidigung by Hans Fahrni (Berne, 1922).

Nowadays there are innumerable books on Alekhine’s Defence, but how many of them make even a passing reference to the consultation game or to Fahrni’s book?

A second rhetorical question concerns how many Alekhine’s Defence theoreticians have bothered to research old magazine articles. How many have evinced any urge to do justice to the old-timers? To give an idea of the quantity of material waiting to go under a modern microscope, we have compiled a list, by no means exhaustive, of pre-1950 articles on 1 e4 Nf6:

  • Tijdschrift van den Nederlandschen Schaakbond, February 1923, pages 50-54: ‘Aljechin’s Opening’ by R. Réti;
  • Kagans Neueste Schachnachrichten, April 1923, page 144. Brief analytical note by A. Rubinstein arising from Fahrni’s monograph;
  • Kagans Neueste Schachnachrichten, April 1923, pages 144-148: ‘Alechins Eröffnung’ by J. Krejcik;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, November 1923, pages 247-248: ‘Theoretisches zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by H. Thanhofer;
  • La Stratégie, June 1925, page 133: ‘Sur la Défense Alekhine’ by E. Ruette;
  • Wiener Schachzeitung, May 1924, page 157: ‘Theoretisches zur Aljechin-Eröffnung’ by H. Fahrni;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, April 1925, pages 107-111: ‘Zu Aljechins Verteidigung’;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, June 1925, pages 170-171: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by H. Krause;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, July 1925, pages 201-202: ‘Zu Aljechins Verteidigung’ by A. Becker;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, August 1925, page 235: ‘Zu Aljechins Verteidigung’ ;
  • Wiener Schachzeitung, January 1927, pages 17-18: ‘Zählt Aljechins Verteidigung noch zu den korrekten Spielweisen?’ by E. Grünfeld;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, June 1927, pages 174-175: ‘Theoretische Streifzüge’ by E. Grünfeld;
  • British Chess Magazine, February 1937, page 87: ‘Alekhine’s Defence’;
  • Tijdschrift van den Koninklijken Nederlandschen Schaakbond, July 1937, pages 206-209: ‘Een en ander over de Aljechin-Verdediging’ by E. Grünfeld;
  • Tijdschrift van den Koninklijken Nederlandschen Schaakbond, November 1937, pages 341-342: ‘Een en ander over de Aljechin-Verdediging’ by E. Grünfeld;
  • Tijdschrift van den Koninklijken Nederlandschen Schaakbond, January 1938, pages 12-14: ‘Een en ander over de Aljechin-Verdediging’ by E. Grünfeld;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, September 1938, pages 268-269: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by M. Blümich;
  • British Chess Magazine, September 1938, pages 389-391: ‘Alekhine’s Defence’ by R. Fine;
  • Deutsche Schachblätter, 1 August 1940, page 117: ‘Neues aus der Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by L. Rellstab;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, December 1940, pages 189-190: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by W. Biedermann;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, July 1941, pages 104-105: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by W. Biedermann;
  • Deutsche Schachzeitung, November 1941, pages 167-168: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by W. Biedermann;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, August 1941, pages 117-121: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung e2-e4 Sg8-f6’ by W. Henneberger;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, September 1941, pages 133-136: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung e2-e4 Sg8-f6’ by W. Henneberger;
  • El Ajedrez Americano, February 1943, pages 52-53: ‘Una idea interesante en la defensa Alekhine’;
  • Enroque!!, 22 November 1943, page 86: ‘Sobre la defensa Alekhine’ by E.J. Marchisotti;
  • British Chess Magazine, January 1944, pages 1-3: ‘Alekhine Defence’ by A.W. Busby;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, February 1946, pages 28-29: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung e4 Sf6’ by R. Hedinger;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, April 1947, pages 59-60: ‘Au sujet de la Défense Alekhine’ by E.J. Marchisotti;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, November 1947, pages 185-189: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by W. Henneberger;
  • Schweizerische Schachzeitung, December 1947, pages 204-206: ‘Zur Aljechin-Verteidigung’ by W. Henneberger.

To make the point that some of the above items are highly detailed, below are a couple of pages from one of the Deutsche Schachzeitung articles:


Click to enlarge

In conclusion, here is a game given in C.N. 696 (see page 93 of Chess Explorations) and taken from pages 215-216 of the July 1925 Wiener Schachzeitung, where it appeared under the title ‘A New Gambit’ (‘Ein neuartiges Gambit’):

Josef Emil Krejcik – Dr. Fr. Schmuttermaier
Reinberg-Dobersberg, 9 August 1924
Alekhine’s Defence

1 e4 Nf6 2 f3 e5 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 Ne2 Nc6

5 b4 Bb6 6 a4 Nxb4 7 a5 Bc5 8 c3 Nc6 9 a6 bxa6 10 d4 exd4 11 cxd4 Bb4+ 12 Bd2 Bxd2+ 13 Qxd2 d5 14 exd5 Nxd5 15 Nbc3 Nxc3 16 Qxc3 Qd6 17 Bxa6 Bxa6 18 Rxa6 Kd7 19 O-O Rhe8 20 Rc1 Re6

21 d5 Qxd5 22 Nf4 Qd4+ 23 Qxd4+ Nxd4 24 Nxe6 Ne2+ 25 Kf2 Nxc1 26 Nc5+ Ke7

27 Ra1 Resigns. Domination.

Further information on the origins of 1 e4 Nf6 is provided in our feature article Alekhine’s Defence.


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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter


Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over 6,840 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989).

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.


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