Alexey, Brother of Alekhine
by Tomasz Lissowski
| How does one find a new subject for historical
What causes one problem to seem more tempting than another? For
what often works is what I call red light. I read
or two sentences incompatible with my knowledge, or with my outlook on
life. It is then the red light goes on, and Im
tempted to look
more closely at the discrepancy. Its a convenient starting
for further studies and articles. Some months ago at the well
website, The Chess Cafe, one of my favorites, I found
from the serial Grandmasters I Have Known an interesting essay by
Hans Kmoch entitled Alexander Alekhine. There, deep
essay, I found the following passage:
| His [Alexanders -T.L.] brother, whom I met
during the 1925 tournament, was murdered shortly afterwards in
with a love affair, according to newspaper reports outside Russia.
There was a great deal of tragedy in his family.
| Red light! Kmoch was mistaken,
I said to
myself. Impossible! The true story had to be
And so began my search of a largely unknown brother. A review of
available Russian sources from the last hundred years revealed
Then I thought, But what are friends for?! I
Charushin from Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga, who has written a dozen
books, including some known to American readers, such as Chess Comet
Charousek and Mitrofanovs Deflection, asking him what
of Alexey, Alekhines brother. Soon I received a letter from
and am now able to share the results of this Russian historians
with additions of my own and others. In his letter Victor wrote
| Regarding Alexey Alekhine I would like to produce
for you a page from one of my booklets. I have several accounts of
him. I corresponded with the Kastorensky Regional Museum director,
as Alekhines family estate was located in this area. She
-T.L.] sent me a few records on Alexanders youth, but, as I and
[another Russian chess historian -T.L.] have deduced, in reality she had
in mind Alexey. By the way, Alexey studied at your University [in
Warsaw -T.L.] and there got married.
| A short explanation might be in order for those
less knowledgeable about the complications of European
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From 1795 until 1918
was forcibly divided between three powerful neighbors: Russia, Austria
and Prussia. Central Poland, without Silesia (on the South-West)
and Pomerania (on the North), belonged to the Russian Empire and was
under the name Kingdom of Poland. Warsaw was a
residence for hundreds
of Russian military officers, policemen, teachers, officials,
and even clergymen. Victor Charushin thinks Alexey Alekhine was,
in modern standards, the first and only coach of the future
Alexey was older by four years, but the brothers understood each other
very well and were practically inseparable. They were taught the
basic rules of chess by their mother, Anisya Ivanovna, and for a long
lively, almost endless, chess battles were fought in the family.
The world champion recalled later:
| I have played chess since I was seven, though I
was not more seriously attracted to the game until I was
Due to my young age I could not visit chess
and therefore more ardently I participated in correspondence
This is why I had to sacrifice a lot of time to chess analysis,
sometimes during my lessons in gymnasium. Naturally, I could not
use a chess board, so I used to draw certain chess positions on a piece
of paper and I continued analyzing in my mind. Soon I developed
talent of managing without a board.
| Charushin also wrote that:
| Since 1902 Alexey Alekhine took part in
tournaments run by the journal Shakhmatnoye
brothers passionately analyzed Alexeys games, and soon the younger
Alexander, entered a correspondence event.
Annotations by V. Charushin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3
||This variation, called neo-Archangelsk is
quite popular in top level tournaments: for example 7.a4 Rb8 8.c3 d6
Bb6 10.Na3 Bg4 11.axb5 axb5 12.Nxb5 0-0; Svidler-Shirov, Linares
||A modest continuation. In the game
Yugoslavia 1963, White after 7.c3 0-0 8.d4 Bb6 9.dxe5 Nxe4 10.Bd5 gained
an advantage. Therefore, Kazakh GM Tkatchev, one of the
backers, after 7.c3, plays 7...d6 8.d4 Bb6, as in his game with GM
8...h6 9.Bh4 g5!? 10.Bg3 Bg4 11.h3 Nh5?!
||Allowing a pawn attack on kingside.
12.Kh1!? Nxg3+ 13.fxg3 Bh5?
||Interesting piece sacrifice, which could, however, be
rejected by White. Much stronger was 11...Be6! followed with
13.Bh2 Nf4 and a clear advantage.
||Instead of retreating Black should continue his attack
according to the classic scheme: 13...h5! 14.hxg4 (perhaps 14.Nbd2
be checked) 14...hxg4+ 15.Nh2 Qd7 16.Rxf7 (after 16.Bxf7+ Ke7 follows
winning) 16...0-0-0! 17.Rxd7 Rxh2+ and mate is inevitable.
||Surprising and nice. The queen is taboo. If
A) 15...Ke7 16.Nxc6+ Kd7 17.Nxd8 Be2 (or 17...Bxc2 18.Ne6
18.Rf5 Raxd8 19.Nc3 and bishop is lost.
B) 15...Kf8 16.Bd5+ Kg7 (or 16...Ke8 17.Bxc6+ Ke7 18.Rf7+,
17.Rf7+ Kg8 18.Re7+ Kf8 19.Ng6#.
15...Rh7 16.c3 Bb6
17.d4 Nc4 18.Nd2 d5
19.Nxc4 dxc4 20.Bc2 Qe7 21.e5! Rh8 22.e6! 0-0-0 23.Rxf7
||The picture has rapidly changed. White has one
pawn more and a powerful attack.
24...c6 25.Bf5 Rhe8?
||Threatening mate at a8!
26.Rd7 Qb8 27.Qxc6+ Bc7 28.e7 1-0.
||By 25...Kb8 Black could sustain resistance, for
26.Rd7 Rxd7 27.exd7 Bc7 28.Re1 Rd8 29.Re8 Kb7 30.Re6! Qxd7 (useless is
30...Qxg3 31.Qxc6+ Kb8 32.Kg1 Qh2+ 33.Kf1 Qh1+ 34.Ke2 Rd7 35.Be4 [+-])
31.Rxc6 Qxc6 (what else?) 32.Be4 Rd6 33.Bxc6 Rxc6 with some hope.
Gamescore supplied by V.
| Alexeys best result in correspondence chess
his victory in the
Schweizerische Schachzeitung tournament, scoring
+16-0=8. One of his wins follows:
1.d4 d5 2.e3 e6 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.Nd2 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.f4 cxd4
7.exd4 Bd6 8.Nh3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Qe2 a6 11.Nf3 b5 12.Ne5 g6 13.Ng5 Qe7
14.Rf3 Be8 15.Rh3 Kg7 16.Bd2 Nd8 17.Rf1 Rh8 18.f5 exf5 19.Bxf5 gxf5
Kf8 21.Rxf5 h6 22.Qe3 Qc7 23.Rxf6 Ke7 24.Rf5 f6 25.Ng4+ 1-0.
Queen's Pawn: Stonewall (Gunsberg)
Gamescore supplied by V.
| Charushin continues:
| Alexey, an active member of the Moscow chess
had some fine efforts and was rewarded with advancement to the
a rare event in those days. Alexander, following in his
footsteps, became a member of the Moscow circle in 1907. Alexey
the chess journal Shakhmatny Vyestnik from 1913 until 1916;
at the time a renowned master, was a frequent contributor. Their
last performance together was in the All-Russian Chess Olympiad in
1920, which in fact was the first Soviet Chess Championship.
easily won the master group while Alexey was third in the tournament for
| Only a few games from both tournaments have been
preserved. Later, the brothers paths split. Alexander
lucky to meet Swiss born Annelise Rüegg, who then was visiting in
Russia. His connection with this significantly older woman, an
in the workers movement, despite its accidental and unendurable
offered Alexander a possibility to leave Russia. His doing so was
in fact necessary for his chess career to flourish. Alexey,
to Mr. Shaburovs research, did not reach a high enough level as a
to be a participant of the very rare international chess events in the
Soviet Union or even in the countrys qualifying tournaments.
in Kharkov in the Ukraine, however, he often participated in local chess
events, and was a champion of Kharkov. He was also a notable
He served as an Executive Board member of the Soviet Chess Federation
the USSR Chess Section) and was Secretary of the Ukrainian
He gave numerous simultaneous displays and lessons in chess
He was also an editor of the first Soviet chess annual, Shakhmaty:
partye y kombinatsye za 1926 god and of the book Match na
mira Alekhine-Capablanca, both published in Kharkov in the years
| Alexanders links with his homeland were
broken shortly after Capablanca was defeated. Taking into
Alekhines social prominence and views, we may guess he was not a
enthusiast of the Moscow regime. With his permanent address in
wandering from one tournament to another, he plunged into chess and had
no care for politics, at least to the extent politics did not interfere
in chess world matters. For several years after he left Russia,
maintained neutral relations with the Moscow authorities, and thus the
leadership of Soviet Sports had no reason (concocted or true) to
him among the white Russians, otherwise known as the
of the Revolution. Matters changed, however, after Alekhine
from Buenos Aires, as A. Kotovs book Alexander Alekhine,
1973, at page 140 makes clear. The new world champion was a
guest at a meeting held by the emigrant Russian Club in Paris.
in his speech, according to the Russian emigrant press, he expressed his
| Let the myth of invincible Bolshevism be blown
just as has been the myth of an invincible Capablanca.
| Moscows reaction was immediate.
the high level Party leader and the president of the Soviet Chess
published an official memorandum, in which he stated that:
| After his speech in the Russian Club we have
with citizen Alekhine. He is our enemy and henceforth we shall
him solely as an enemy.
| The Soviet chess press broke all contacts with
grandmaster. Newspapers in the USSR published a letter signed by
Alexey Alekhine with the following key paragraph:
| I reject every anti-Soviet pronouncement,
from whom it originates, even if, as in this case, the speaker is my
let alone anyone else. I am finished with Alexander Alekhine
| Cruel, destructive words, coming from one brother
to another. But then, the times were more than cruel. Only
a person totally unaware of the realities of Soviet life would
consider the last public utterance of Alexey Alekhine as a sign of a
character. Not long ago I read a very unfair opinion of Alexey:
lent his name to Communist Party denunciations of his
of Alexey Alekhine ought to remember his fate was joined with a state
the so-called rule of law was frequently, and repeatedly, enforced late
at night by the rule of gun and knife. For those who doubt this,
I can only recommend a reading of Solzhenitsyns Gulag
In the Soviet Union of the twenties or thirties, simply having a family
member in the West could be (and often was) a reason to be condemned as
a spy. Equally damning was a foreign sounding name or even the
of a single letter from abroad.
| This is why renouncing of a
was for Alexey the one and only chance to avoid brutal and baseless
aimed against him, his family, and his friends, both close and
I do not know of Alexey Alekhines subsequent life until his
death in 1939 (not shortly after 1925 in connection with a love affair,
as suggested by Kmoch), but I suspect many of his nights were sleepless
and anxious, while a phantom of a younger brother - the merciless
of Soviet power - haunted him until the last minute of his life.
© Tomasz Lissowski 1999
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