A letter to Alekhine | ChessBase

An eventful life

Alexander Alekhine, born October 19, 1892 in Moscow, died March 24, 1946 in Estoril, is the fourth world chess champion in history after Steinitz, Lasker and Capablanca.

Alexander Alekhine was the son of noble parents. Her father was a deputy in the Duma, her mother the daughter of an industrialist. After the revolution, Alekhine managed to leave the Soviet Union by marrying Anneliese Rüegg, a Swiss, in 1922. The couple had a son and lived in Berlin for a time. Alekhine moved to France in 1927, while his wife returned to Switzerland with their child.

In the 1927 World Championship match in Buenos Aires against Capablanca, Alekhine was a heavy underdog, but he won what was until then the longest World Chess Championship match in history. He defended the title twice against Bogoljubow, lost it to Euwe and won it back in a rematch. After that he held the title until his death in 1946, partly because the war no longer allowed World Championship matches.

Alekhine met Grace Wishaar in a simultaneous match in Japan and married her in 1934. She was 16 years older than him. She had inherited a lot of money from her late husband and bought a castle in northern France, where the Alekhine couple lived until the Nazi occupation of France.

At the start of the Second World War, Alekhine, with his good language skills, had served in the intelligence service of the French army. After the surrender, however, he allowed himself to be appropriated by the Nazis, had close contact with Nazi bigwig Hans Frank, who was a chess enthusiast, and participated in tournaments in occupied Poland and Czechoslovakia, among others. Additionally, Alekhine has published articles on “Jewish and Aryan chess”. Alekhine would have liked to emigrate to America, which prompted him to settle in Portugal at the end of the war, perhaps to find an opportunity to cross there.

Even before the war, Mikhail Botvinnik had negotiations with Alekhine about defending his title and continued contact after the end of the war. Alekhine wanted to play the match against Botvinnik. England were ready to host the match.

But then Alekhine was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Estoril on March 24, 1946. There are some inconsistencies in the accounts of his death, which have fueled many conspiracy theories. Had Mossad or French Resistance agents killed Alekhine? Or maybe Botvinnik’s haters from the Russian secret service who wanted to prevent a match between Botvinnik and Alekhine? Or had Alekhine committed suicide?

Alekhine’s body was transferred from Estoril to Paris in 1956, where it was finally buried on Montparnasse Cemetery. FIDE erected an honorary tombstone for him.

Alekhine’s life was overshadowed by political events in Europe. The Russian Revolution, World War I and World War II had an immense impact on his life.

No matter how one may judge his personality, he was one of the best chess players in history. Moreover, his achievements at the chessboard emanate to this day.

Chess enthusiast Ludger Bröring (SF Lohne) was in Paris with his family in August and visited Alekhine’s grave. There he found a young fan’s letter left at the grave site – a heart-warming letter.

The letter reads as follows:

For the greatest chess player of all time. From your most fervent admirer who would like to follow in your footsteps.

Aurelien 11 years old


In English:

For the greatest chess player of all time. From your most fervent admirer who would like to follow in your footsteps.

Aurelien, 11 years old


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Master Class Vol.3: Alexander Alekhine

On this DVD, GMs Rogozenco, Marin, Müller and IM Reeh present exceptional parts, breathtaking combinations and exemplary finales of Alekhine. And they invite you to improve your knowledge with the help of video lectures, annotated games and interactive tests


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