Master Class Vol. 3: Alexander Alekhine

by Diana Mihajlova
12/21/2014 – Alexander Alekhine, World Champion from 1927 to 1935 and from 1937 to his death in 1946, is widely admired for his attacking games. Garry Kasparov, for instance, often said how much he gained from studying Alekhine's games and writings. The Master Class Series now offers a chance to take a new or first look at one of the classics of the game. Inspiring.

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Versatile and dangerous: Alexander Alekhine

The ChessBase Fritztrainer compilers have regaled us with training DVDs based on the games of three chess giants: Alekhine, Tal and Fischer. I would consider this ‘trilogy’ an obligatory item in the chess library of any player at any stage of their development. Four important aspects in the play of each of the three greats – the opening, strategy, tactics and the endgame – are analyzed to detail, in three separate videos of about 5 hours running time each.

Four well known chess writers and trainers joined forces to present this indispensable learning material, each contributing in their own field of expertise: GM Dorian Rogozenco covers the openings, GM Mihail Marin, the strategy, IM Oliver Reeh, tactics and GM Karsten Müller, the endgames.

The bonus material in each DVD consists of a short biography of the player studied, a database of all his games (yes, ALL!), White games as a tree, Black games as a tree, and more than 100 games with training questions. One only needs to reserve conscientiously time, to sit down and concentrate on studying some serious chess. All experts agree that studying the classics is the best way of strengthening one’s understanding of chess. And here we have the choice of the undisputed best classics of all: Alekhine, Tal and Fischer.

The authors in the ChessBase recording studios (clockwise from top right): Marin, Müller, Reeh and Rogozenco

Alexander Alekhine

The fourth World Champion (1892, Moscow – Estoril, Portugal, 1946) was considered an attacking genius but he handled technical positions excellently as well. Such playing style brought him the title of World Champion in 1927, in the match against Capablanca, another giant who was considered virtually unbeatable. Alekhine unexpectedly lost the title to Max Euwe in 1935. The loss was blamed on his excessive drinking. It is said that, shocked by losing the chess crown, he got determined to curb his drinking, went into intensive training memorising every important game Euwe had ever played. He won the rematch in 1937 with an impressive result of 10:4.

He was the first player to regain the World Champion title, which he then held until his death.

Alexander Alekhine

Alekhine was immodestly sure in the superiority of his play. He described it concisely in his own words: ‘To win against me, you must beat me three times: in the opening, the middlegame and the endgame’. It seems that the authors of this video had exactly this in mind when they compiled the material on the games of one of the greatest chess artists of all time.

Rogozenco, Marin, Reeh and Müller give us very instructive insights into Alekhine’s opening play, strategy, tactics and endgame. Dorian Rogozenco shows some of Alekhine’s favourite openings in a one hour of video presentation.

There are over two thousand recorded games by Alekhine. He was very versatile and played almost all openings, however his favourites were 1.e4 and 1.d4. He gave Alekhine's Defence (1.e4 Nf6) its name but that is not the only opening line carrying his name. In fact, there are Alekhine Variations in various openings (e.g. the Slav, Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Dutch, etc.). Rogozenco particularly concentrates on the great master’s discoveries and original ideas in the opening phase. We learn that with white Alekhine’s favourite opening was the Ruy Lopez, with an early development of his Queen on e2. In the French Defence 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 he favoured 3. Nc3 and after 3…Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 he came up with 6.h4 - another line that bears his name and is known as Alekhine's Attack. White sacrifices a pawn for a quick development of pieces.

Alekhine’s Attack

Mihail Marin elaborates on the strategy in Alekhine’s play. In spite of the general belief that Alekhine is primarily an attacking player, Marin aims to show us why he considers Alekhine to be a great positional player. His premise is that a great player needs to create the sort of positions that will make brilliant combinations possible. In order to demonstrate this, Marin selected four full games in which Alekhine’s opponents are Bogoljubow, Gruenfeld, Capablanca and Keres, as well as several other excerpts from various games.

In the clip about the game Alekhine v Capablanca Marin reveals an interesting story: at the time when Lasker was still World Champion Alekhine harboured a great admiration for Capablanca’s play, predicted that Capablanca would soon be World Champion and started to study Capablanca’s games and his positional style.

Years later, in his own encounter against Capablanca for the World Title he managed to win a crucial game by emulating his opponent’s trademark style: simple positional play.

 

ChessBase tactics expert Oliver Reeh selected 24 Alekhine games with amazing tactical combinations. They are presented in interactive format. In one game you are given the opportunity to look for the best move on several instances. An incredible tactics exercise which would, at the same time, exude marvel at the chess artist’s geniality and inspire your own inventiveness.

Karsten Müller, in the section on Alekhine’s endgames, shows that Alekhine’s attacking style is visible even in his endgames. Not in all, but in some of the 10 selected endgames, Müller pauses to give you time to guess the best continuation. One example:

Alekhine vs. Bogoljubow, 1929, Black to move

The only move is 7…Ke4, which would lead to a draw, but Bogoljubow played 7… Kg4, which cost him the game. Müller is very emphatic in his explanations, here, as well as in all of his other examples: ‘This is a very important theme you should know!’

In addition to all this wonderfully instructive material, there is a database with 102 games containing training questions.

Here is one more game to saviour Alekhine’s genius. The game, taken from the database of all his games, is from the Championship Match against Max Euwe in 1935. The comments are by Kasparov.

 

 

Sample video

 

Master Class Vol.3: Alexander Alekhine

• Video running time: 5 hours (English)
• Interactive tactics test with video feedback
• Collection of all known games Alekhine played, tournament tables, short biography
• Alekhine powerbook: the repertoire of the World Champion as opening tree
• Tactic training: 102 Alekhine games with training questions.

 

€29.90
€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$31.06 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet.

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A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.
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