They say that the games reflect the personality of a professional chess player. This is certainly the case of Alexander Alekhine, a World Champion with an aggressive, complex, risky, optimistic style, all good adjectives for the mysterious player who died under misterious circunstances on the morning of 1946.
Avid drinker, for whom beer, brandy, wine or vodka went down with equal ease and from breakfast onwards, even playing the World Championship games in a state of intoxication. Superstitious and cat-loving. Anti-Semitic. Chess fanatic, the game that saved his life after the Russian Revolution. A death sentence was issued against Alekhine, who was of noble origin. The sentence required the signature of five judges, but one of them decided to argue in consideration of Alekhine’s achievements in the chess board. That’s what the legend says, at least. GM Jan Timman describes this story in his wonderful book “Timman’s Titans”.
To this day, he is the protagonist of the biggest upset in World Chess Championships, which may be surprising to our eyes today, but in 1927 no one believed that he could beat Capablanca. To this day, the only World Champion to die with the crown, although he wouldn’t last long on the chess throne.
The majority wanted to end Alekhine’s reign by force, due to his sympathy for the Nazis. The Soviets requested a match against Botvinnik and had already started negotiations. Meanwhile he led a poor and lonely life in Portugal, with failing health and, at most, 2 years to live. That if he stopped drinking.
On the fateful morning of March 24, 1946, Alekhine was found dead at the Park Hotel, in Estoril. This hotel was separated by two wings, one controlled by the Western alliance, the other by the Soviets. A place full of spies. Near his body, a cat and a chessboard, two of his passions.
Annihilated by alcohol, by spies or both, but immortalized by chess. Generations of chess players have studied and will continue to study the turbulent games of a genius who had a life surrounded by mysteries.
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