Alexander was a chess player who became a world chess champion. He was well known and famous for his aggressive and combinative moves, thanks to this he stood out among the classical players. For many, this character needs no introduction, and it is here when we show you everything about his life and achievements in the world of chess. Someone who, despite all the inconveniences he faced, never gave up and thus became one of the best-known chess masters who contributed a lot to modern chess as we know it today.
Birth and Youth
Alekhine was born in Moscow (Russian Empire), on October 31, 1892, under a wealthy family, (something that caused him certain inconveniences throughout his life). His father was a landowner of the Russian Imperial Duma while his mother, named Agnes Prokhorova, was the daughter of a businessman. He had three siblings: Aleksei, Varvara and Aleksandr.
Their father as well as her mother, due to work reasons, spent most of their time in social gatherings, were devoted to charitable works, and neglected their children, leaving them alone most of the time, and both father and mother fell into alcoholism. Thanks to this neglect, it was the maternal grandmother who took care of Alexander and his brothers, and it was there when he started to play chess, being the boys the ones who developed excellent qualities and a good understanding of the game.
Alekhine’s parents did not allow him to play chess and even less to attend tournaments, so, as a child, he never developed a great interest in the game, he only attended chess clubs secretly from his parents. With time he developed his talent playing with his older brother Alekséi. Their games could last until late at night.
Alekhine’s interest in chess began at the age of 13 when he witnessed a game of the American chess player Harry Nelson Pillsbury in Moscow. At that time he had to sneak into the game because they did not admit minors, so there is no record in the history of Alekhine being present.
Personal and Chess Formation
In his years of education, he was a quite applied and very formal young man. He studied law at Moscow University and graduated with honors in 1914. From that time on, many people close to him stated that he had a rather serious character and was always a person focused on his goals.
After finishing his studies, he decided to get closer to chess, he participated in different tournaments until he triumphed in the amateur tournament of Saint Petersburg, winning twelve games in a row. After that, in 1925 he managed to obtain first place in the Bade-Baden tournament, and then a year later he managed to defeat Max Euwe, and, finally in 1927 he obtained second place in the New York tournament.
The moment Alekhine had his first success in chess at the age of 17, he was much more motivated to continue with his hobby, achieving excellent results in the following championships and tournaments already mentioned. It could be considered that thanks to that stroke of luck, he decided to push himself much more in that world that led him to total success.
First World War
For Alekhine, the First World War took him by surprise during the tournament that was being held in Mannheim, Germany. He and many other participants were arrested by the police, who classified them as “hostile foreigners” and then transferred them to Russia, where they were exchanged for arrested civilian Germans. It should be noted that in that tournament, Alekhine was ahead of quite strong players such as Vidmar, Marshall, and Bogoljubow.
He spent a long time in prison, where it is said that the famous Leon Trotski wanted to visit him and challenge him to a game of chess in the same cell. Alekhine defeated the man beautifully, something that probably took away his chance to be released because Leon Trotski was a communist man.
War After War
After World War I, Alekhine’s path crossed at least three more wars. Being in Argentina after a tournament of the Chess Olympiad 1939, he decided to return to Europe, knowing that the Second World War was now breaking out. Alekhine had decided to join the French army as a health officer but, when the Battle of France broke out, he preferred to flee to Marseilles and from there jump to the United States with his wife, where they would be safe during all that time.
At the end of the war, he returned to the chess world, by that time the Chess Federation of Great Britain took the responsibility of holding again a championship to obtain the world title of the best chess player of all times, something that would take place in 1946.
Among other relevant data that we can mention about Alexander Alekhine, was that, during his life, both the biographer who devoted himself to publish everything that was his career as a chess player and the people close to him, could allege that he was always an egocentric man, with a bad temper and really unbearable. He was always seen as an egomaniac, capricious, arrogant and also an alcoholic, something that in his university years had never been seen.
His love affairs were numerous, he got married four times, noting that he was always attracted to women much older than him. His first marriage was to a Russian woman Sergewin in 1920. A marriage that was not really credited according to his brother Aleksandr, but they did have a daughter. After a few years, they separated.
In his time in Moscow while working for the Comintern he married again a Swiss journalist, Annaliese Ruegg, a woman who was also older than him by 13 years. He also had a son with her.
After his time married to the Swiss woman, differences and conflicts arose again between them, so he also separated and, years later he met another woman named Nadezhda Fabritsky, an older woman, widow of a very important Russian general at that time. They married in France. On the other hand, other biographers of Alekhine affirm that he never formally married Nadezhda, they only lived together for a while.
Finally his last marriage after multiple problems with his wife, he decided to marry another widow, an American woman, Grace N. Wishaar, who finally became the woman of his life. She was a woman with Jewish-British origins, who was also fond of chess and had a great fortune. She was older than Alekhine by 16 years.
Contribution to Chess
At the beginning of the 20th century, Alexander Alekhine was part of the chess generation. He came to renew the conceptual principles of chess, contributed new strategic ideas that are still valid today.
He also played games with other well-known players of the time, among them Max Euwe, Wilhelm Steinitz, Akiba Rubinstein, among others. His own style was characterized by having a powerful combination and tactical ability, as well as being aggressive when moving the pieces, as this way he showed a certain imposition to his opponents. He was considered by many as the most dangerous attacker of all times, also due to his unbearable way of being.
Alekhine died in 1946 on March 24 in the city of Estoril, Portugal. Within all his history we must mention the love he felt for Russia, and on different occasions, he showed the desire he had to return to such lands, something he never achieved.
The cause of his death to this day could be considered a mystery, as it is said that he died from choking while eating a piece of meat. Other sources assure that it was a heart attack. And, on the other hand, it is said that he was murdered in a suspicious way because he had many rivals.
He was buried in Lisbon, a month after his death because nobody claimed his body.
Besides chess, Alekhine had another passion in his life, cats. It was known that he even had a Siamese cat which he called Chess, he always took it to his games, among which the games he had with Euwer, especially in these ones, since it was known that he was allergic to animals.
Again we mention his way of being so unpleasant for many, rude and a little childish because Alekhine let his cat jump on the table and prowl among the pieces. In the tomb of Alexander Alekhine, at his feet also rests the sculpture of a cat.
You might also be interested in other great players, The Kings of Chess.