Understanding before Moving 144: Chess history in a nutshell (26)

by ChessBase
9/24/2023 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 144th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and takes a look at the ideas and games of Alexander Alekhine. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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Alexander Alekhine (1)

Alexander Alekhine was introduced to the game at the age of 7 and it became clear early on that chess was a vocation for him. Born in Russia, he left his homeland in 1921 to settle in Paris, where he studied law.

His first major success came in 1912 when he won first prize in a highly competitive tournament in Stockholm. But the outbreak of World War I in 1914 interrupted Alekhine's dream of becoming world champion.

After the war, he continuously got better, and in 1925 in Baden-Baden, Germany, he proved himself a serious contender for the title when he won the tournament with 12 wins and eight draws. However, at that time, world champion Capablanca was considered to be virtually invincible, and it was not until 1927 that Alekhine got the chance to challenge the Cuban for the title.

A close study of his opponent's game made Alekhine realise that Capablanca was indeed beatable. In Buenos Aires Alekhine won 6 games, lost 3 and drew 25. After two and a half months of hard fighting, his dream came true and Alekhine continued to prove himself a worthy champion in the years that followed. He convincingly fought off most challenges to his title and won almost all the major tournaments, in which he took part, with overwhelming superiority.

Alekhine is known as an attacking artist who is adept at the art of combination. One of the most beautiful and deepest combinations can be seen in the following extract from a game against Richard Reti. The game saw many fantastic moves but on first sight the diagram position seems to be a draw. How did Alekhine keep the attack alive?

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