Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine (sometimes spelled "Aljechin") (October 31 or November 1, 1892 - March 24, 1946) was a chess master, one of the great world chess champions. He was known for his fierce attacking style.
Alekhine was born into a wealthy family in Moscow, Russia: his father was a landowner and a member of the Duma, his mother, who along with his brother taught him chess in 1903, was the daughter of a rich industrialist.
Alekhine's first chess accomplishment was when, in 1909, at the age of seventeen, he won the All-Russian Amateur Tournament in St. Petersburg with a score of twelve wins, two losses and two draws. He was awarded a national master title for this performance. The tournament was held concurrently with the more famous professional international event won by Emanuel Lasker and Akiba Rubinstein. Meanwhile, in the United States, later that year a twenty-three-year-old Cuban by the name of José Raúl Capablanca shocked American chess players by thrashing Frank Marshall in a match. The lives of Alekhine and Capablanca would soon intertwine.
In 1914, after playing a tournament in Saint Petersburg, Alekhine and Capablanca were among the first chess players to gain the title of grandmaster.
Alekhine became cosmopolitan in his life, living in many countries, and speaking Russian, French, German, and English.
Following the Russian Revolution, in 1919 he was suspected of espionage and imprisoned in Odessa. He was eventually freed and moved to France in 1921, where four years later he became a French citizen and entered the Sorbonne Faculty of law. Although his thesis on the Chinese prison system went uncompleted, he was known as Dr Alekhine for the rest of his life.
In 1927 he won the title of World chess champion from Capablanca; subsequently, he refused to grant Capablanca a rematch. In 1935 he lost the title to Max Euwe, a loss that is often attributed to Alekhine's alcohol abuse. He gave up alcohol and regained the title from Euwe in 1937. He held the title until his death.
During World War II, Alekhine played in several tournaments held in Germany or German-occupied territory. In 1941 anti-semitic articles, entitled Aryan and Jewish Chess, appeared under his name in the Pariser Zeitung. Extensive investigations (see Whyld) have not yielded conclusive evidence of the authenticity of the articles. After the war he found that he was persona non grata to tournament organisers.
While planning for a World championship match against Botvinnik, he died in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. His death, the circumstances of which are still a matter of debate, is thought to have been caused either by his choking on a piece of meat or by a heart attack. His burial was sponsored by FIDE, and the remains were transferred to the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France in 1956.
Alekhine was an avid student of the game. Several openings and opening variations are named after him. The Alekhine Defence (1. e4 Nf6 in algebraic notation) is the most important. There is also the Alekhine-Chatard attack (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. h4), a pawn sacrifice in the French Defence.