Military Review

The mystery of the death of chess genius

The mystery of the death of chess geniusIn 1946, he, at that time an outcast in Portugal, was to meet in the match for the world chess crown with the USSR champion Mikhail Botvinnik. But the meeting, which the chess world was looking forward to, did not take place. Alexander Alekhin died suddenly. His death is still considered mysterious.

A chess genius was born in Moscow in 1892 year in a wealthy noble family. His father was the leader of the nobility of the Voronezh province, and his mother - the daughter of a textile manufacturer. In 1911, the family moved to St. Petersburg, where Alekhin graduated from the Imperial Institute of Law and was assigned to the Ministry of Justice. Alekhin learned to play chess in his childhood, and thanks to his phenomenal memory, he immediately achieved brilliant successes. Already in 13 years, he won the first prize in the tournament by correspondence.

In 1914, he ranked third in an international tournament in St. Petersburg, second only to the great Lasker and Capablanca. When World War I began, Alekhine was interned in Mannheim, Germany, where an international tournament was held. But he was soon released, and he managed to return to Russia.

Because of the heart disease, the chess player was not taken to the army, but Alekhin still went to the front as a volunteer, as an authorized Red Cross. For the rescue of the wounded on the battlefield, he was awarded two St. George medals. Was contused twice.

After the October Revolution, Alekhine lost all his property and ended up in Odessa, where he was arrested on charges of having links with the White Guards and sentenced to death. However, he was released as a famous chess player at the special request of the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of Ukraine Rakovsky, who turned out to be a big chess lover. For some time, Alekhin worked as an investigator in the Moscow wanted list, where he worked on finding foreigners who disappeared during the revolution and the Civil War, and worked in the Comintern office as a translator. In 1920, Alekhin won the All-Russian Chess Championship. Passed the tournament path without defeat: nine wins and six draws. This competition is considered to be the first official championship of the RSFSR, and the USSR Championship is counted from it.

Alekhine even became a candidate member of the party.

In May 1921, the chess player boarded a train to go on a trip abroad. Legally, with the permission of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, he left the USSR for Riga, and then for Berlin and Paris, still not knowing that he would never return back ...

Abroad, Alekhin travels the world, plays a lot. He becomes the unsurpassed master of simultaneous play on several boards, in New York sets a world record of the game blindly on 26 boards at once. According to the memoirs of contemporaries, Alekhine was a versatile, educated and charming conversationalist, he spoke six languages. Grandmaster Gregory Levenfish recalled: “Alekhin had a phenomenal chess memory ... He could completely restore the game played many years ago. But no less surprised by his absent-mindedness. Many times he left the club a valuable cigarette case with a clasp of large emerald. Two days later we came to the club, sat at the board. A waiter appeared and, as if nothing had happened, handed a cigarette case to Alekhin. Alekhine politely thanked. "

There were wizards and their quirks. Alekhine was a big cat lover. His Siamese cat Chess (translated from English means "Chess") was constantly present at the competitions as a talisman. During the first match with Euwe, Alekhine forced the cat to sniff the board before each game.

He was one of the few chess players for whom the game became a profession. It was Alekhina who was referring to Vladimir Nabokov, creating in his “chess” novel the image of a chess genius: “Last time he played a lot and randomly, and especially he was tired of playing blindly, rather expensively paid performance, which he willingly gave.

He found in this deep delight, it was not necessary to deal with visible, audible, tangible figures, which, with their intricate carving, their wooden materiality, always interfered with it, always seemed to him a rough, earthly shell of charming, invisible chess forces. Playing blindly, he felt these diverse forces in their original purity.
At that time, he did not see either the steep mane of the knight or the shiny heads of the pawns, but he clearly felt that one or another imaginary square was occupied with a certain concentrated force, so that the movement of the figure seemed to him like a discharge, like a blow, like a lightning, the field trembled from the tension, and he ruled over this tension, gathering there, freeing electric power there ... ”

The dream of a world chess crown becomes the goal of Alekhin’s life. In those years, the world champion was the legendary Jose Raul Capablanca. Candidate tournaments have not yet been held - the applicant himself had to send a personal challenge to the current champion, which stipulated the fee conditions. The conditions of the arrogant Capablanca turned out to be enslaving: the challenger was obliged to provide a prize fund of 10 000 dollars, of which 20% automatically transferred to the Cuban as the current champion; the remaining amount was divided between the winner and the loser in the ratio of 60 to 40. In addition, the Russian “had the honor” to pay for other expenses related to the match. Alekhin with great difficulty managed to collect the necessary money, and in 1927, the Argentine government found the duel of two geniuses prestigious and helped in organizing the confrontation.

Capablanca was at that time invincible. But Alekhin believed in himself.

Before the match, the Russian grandmaster said: “I don’t imagine how I can win six games against Capablanca, but even less I can imagine how Capablanca will be able to win six games with me!” Very few people believed in Alekhin's victory, but a sensation occurred: 6: 3 - this was the result of a grueling match.

Alekhin was proclaimed a chess genius who brought theoretical preparation for games to unprecedented heights, invented new openings and became famous for his attacking style of play.

Russian emigration exulted. Emigrant writer Boris Zaitsev enthusiastically wrote: “This gloomy morning has been painted for us by your victory. Hooray!

You are no longer the Russian Queen, but the Russian King. You can walk only one cage, but from now on your tread is “regal”. In your face Russia has won. Your example should be a refreshment, an encouragement to every Russian, no matter in which area he worked.

May God give you strength, health, prosperity to your art. ”

But the triumph turned into problems. Newspapers replicated words, as if spoken by Alekhin: "The myth of the invincibility of the Bolsheviks will be dispelled, as the myth of the invincibility of Capablanca has been dispelled." He always tried to refrain from political statements, and therefore, most likely, this fateful phrase was attributed to him. Nevertheless, the reaction in Moscow was angry. Chess Bulletin magazine published a crushing article by the head of the USSR Supreme Tribunal Nikolai Krylenko: “After Alekhin’s speech in the Russian Club with citizen Alekhin, everything is finished with us - he is our enemy, and only as an enemy we must now interpret him. The world champion could not return to his homeland.

But as the years went on, chess in the USSR became more and more popular, a real fever of chess broke out. Young masters were gaining strength, first of all - Mikhail Botvinnik. Alekhin rejoiced at the success of the Russian chess school and nevertheless hoped to return to Russia. In 1935, the world champion sent a letter to his homeland: “Not only as a long-term chess worker, but also as a person who understood the tremendous significance of what was achieved in the USSR in all areas of cultural life, I send sincere greetings to the USSR chess players on the occasion of 18 anniversary of the October Revolution. Alekhin.

They wanted to publish the message with a poisonous commentary, but by Stalin’s order they left only the Alekhinian text and published it in Izvestia. Opal seemed to end.

But soon the Second World War broke out. Alekhin was in Argentina, where the Chess Olympiad was taking place, and called for a boycott of the German team. As captain of the French team, he refused to play with the German national team, and the whole team followed suit. In 1940, Alekhine joined the French army as a volunteer and served as a translator, and after the end of hostilities against Germany he settled in the south of the German-occupied country.

In France, Alekhine was with his wife, an Jewish-American Jewish woman, Grace Vishard.

The grand master was hinted that if he did not perform, Grace would have problems. And what could it mean at the time, it was not difficult to guess. Alekhin had to speak at tournaments under the flag with a swastika, play with German officers, give chess lessons to the governor-general of Poland Hans Frank.

In the spring of 1941, an article entitled “Jewish and Aryan Chess” was published in the newspaper Pariser Zeitung. Alekhin was unlucky again. For the sake of the invaders, the editors distorted his words, turning the cautious chess player into a fanatical "Shah Fuhrer". As a result, after the collapse of the Third Reich, European chess players accused Alekhine of collaborationism and declared him a boycott.

“I played chess in Germany,” Alekhine later justified, “only because it was our only food and, moreover, the price I paid for my wife’s freedom ...”

He tried to return to world chess orbit, but all attempts were harshly suppressed by his colleagues. The great chess player had to settle in Portugal, in quiet Estoril.

He missed his homeland more acutely than before, but the way to the Soviet Union was closed. However, in February, 1946 in the English embassy was unexpectedly handed to him by a letter from the USSR from Mikhail Botvinnik: “I regret that the war prevented our match in the 1939 year. I call you again for the match for the world championship. If you agree, I am waiting for your answer, in which I ask you to indicate your opinion on the time and place of the match. ”

It is clear that at that time Botvinnik himself could not write such a letter to an emigrant abroad - this was a special decision of the Soviet authorities. 23 March FIDE agreed to a sensational match, but the very next day it became known that Alekhine died unexpectedly. His ashes were later transported to Paris, where they buried in a Russian cemetery with an inscription on the grave: "Alexander Alekhin is a chess genius of Russia and France." He became the only world champion who died undefeated.

In the emigre circles were convinced that the world champion was the victim of agents of the NKVD. It is curious that in those years the colonel of the NKVD Boris Weinstein, who fiercely hated the “White Guard” Alekhin, was the chairman of the All-Union chess section.

However, why was the NKVD to arrange a massacre of a world champion, if the USSR itself decided to initiate his match with Botvinnik?

Alekhine was found dead in the Park Hotel Hotel in Estoril town near Lisbon. In his room remained on the table dishes, testifying that he had dinner with someone. A posthumous snapshot of the great chess player appeared in the newspapers. He is sitting dead in an armchair, for some reason in a coat, and next to it is a chessboard with spread figures - until the last minute the master thought about his favorite game ...

According to the official version, the world champion choked, allegedly choking on a piece of meat while eating. However, other versions of death immediately appeared. Why did he have dinner without removing his coat? If he ate, then why are the plates empty? Is it not a staged photo at all? The son of Alekhine from his first wife was inclined to the version of the murder of his father. The doctors who performed the autopsy later admitted that they had written what they were dictated to, and in fact Alekhine was killed on the eve of the day when his body was discovered. True, one of the doctors spoke about a gunshot wound, and the other about poisoning. It is also known that the Portuguese Catholic priest refused to participate in the burial of Alekhine, since there were clearly signs of violent death on the face of the deceased.

Mikhail Botvinnik did not believe in the official version either. In an article devoted to Alekhin’s centenary, “The Genius Remains a Man,” published in the journal 64 - Chess Review, Botvinnik wrote: “There was a rumor that he died on the street. Years ago, 15 B. Podtserob sent me an article from a German magazine - it was reported that the Portuguese police assumed that the champion was poisoned. But if so, why did he have to have supper or walk after he took poison? ”

In 2009, a sensational article by a certain Boris Smolensky was published in one of the Russian-language newspapers in Chicago.

He said that an employee of a restaurant in Estoril, where Alekhin dined, allegedly confessed to his relatives before his death that in March 1946 he received from two people who spoke with a strong foreign accent, a large amount of money for pouring into a chess player’s food then powder.

What really happened in faraway Portugal? Alas, the mystery of the death of a great chess player will probably never be revealed. The version of the involvement in it of the "insidious NKVD", as we have already written, does not hold water.

However, there is another version of his death. As if the American special services were involved in Alekhine’s death. In the US, they were afraid that Botvinnik would win, and the world chess crown would sail away to the USSR, with which the Cold War was already raging.
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  1. Olgovich
    Olgovich 5 November 2017 07: 09 New
    The great Russian genius who supported the glory of Russia forever
    The hardest fate, but withstood everything with honor.
    Good girl!
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 5 November 2017 07: 43 New
    A good film, White Snow of Russia, shot in 1980, in the role of Alekhine, Alexander Mikhailov
  3. Mikhail3
    Mikhail3 5 November 2017 11: 24 New
    As a rule, geniuses of one line, so to speak, not generalists, behave surprisingly stupidly in everyday life. Apparently, they simply do not notice this very ordinary life, until it cracks them on the back of the head. Alekhine had money. Not big, but enough for a ticket to any country ... did not have time to get out of France. This is just stupidity common to a great mind and nothing more.
    His further actions and actions are purely situational. The Nazis used it, but there was practically nothing to oppose them to the pressure of the champion. Unless he could die somewhere in the Gestapo’s cell ... he couldn’t. We had mass heroism, but in general all heroes cannot be.
    But the version of the involvement of the NKVD ... As far as one can judge by the results, the NKVD in those years was the best special service on the planet. What gave the USSR the death of Alekhine in the circumstances? Absolutely nothing but the emergence of this very version, about involvement. Like the ghouls of the NKVD killed the champion nepoymi for what, out of sheer bloodthirstiness. No guys. Strange creatures, ready to authorize such a plague operation, were simply not found in the NKVD at that time. Any action by Stalin and the special services has a clear, readable, well-grounded goal.
    And this is just nonsense. Another thing is attempts to smear the USSR at least in some way! Though somehow! In addition, the champion was completely defenseless ... well, what Anglo-Saxon, say, is able to resist the temptation to kill the defenseless? Oh ...
    1. verner1967
      verner1967 6 November 2017 15: 05 New
      Quote: Mikhail3
      Not big, but enough for a ticket to any country ... did not have time to get out of France. This is just stupidity common to a great mind and nothing more.

      it is easy to judge a person with a hind mind.
  4. Curious
    Curious 5 November 2017 12: 51 New
    As an addition to the article -
  5. Vitas
    Vitas 5 November 2017 12: 56 New
    Thank you for the article. But, the photographs would not hurt either, since there are enough of them, I will add them from myself.
    Alekhine at the game

    Talisman Alekhine, cat Chess

  6. Vitas
    Vitas 5 November 2017 13: 03 New
    Cat Chess

    Meeting with Capablanca

    Alekhine with his wife

    Posthumous photo and grave of the Master

  7. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 5 November 2017 15: 24 New
    “However, there is another version of his death. As if American intelligence agencies were involved in Alekhine’s death” ///

    A tribute to time ... If American intelligence services are not added to ANY article, then
    an article is not an article. request
    1. Luga
      Luga 5 November 2017 17: 12 New
      Quote: voyaka uh
      A tribute to time ... If American intelligence services are not added to ANY article, then
      an article is not an article.

      Come on. Normal articles are also obtained if you stick to them the Israeli secret services. laughing
      So do not be famously, otherwise the options may be different. How do you like this, for example?
      Alekhine’s wife, an agent of the South-Saxon special services assigned to him, found out that Bovinik was supposed to give Alekhine a Soviet passport during the match and help him return to the USSR, therefore he was eliminated.
      Refute. laughing
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 5 November 2017 18: 46 New
        You have in vain dragged your wife. He still saved her from deportation
        to Auschwitz, ruining his reputation. The man was good.
        And the chess player is outstanding.
        1. Luga
          Luga 5 November 2017 21: 29 New
          Quote: voyaka uh
          You have in vain dragged your wife.

          Well in vain so in vain. I won’t do it again. smile
          By the way, besides the American and Israeli special services, there is also the NKVD-KGB-FSB - you can also insert them everywhere, but this is for the Western consumer. And there are also "Russian hackers", it’s a pity they weren’t in 1946 yet. I can put forward a version about MI-6 or Defensiva, though they are not in trend, and also as an exotic version with the involvement of Yakuza or Cosa Nostra.
          In general, you, in my opinion, in vain pay attention to such approaches, all the more so selectively. There are notes and comments on this site that are much more worthy of your biliary shedding.
          1. voyaka uh
            voyaka uh 6 November 2017 11: 07 New
            "you, in my opinion, in vain pay attention to such visits" ///

            Yes, I treat this with humor as a kind of series "James Bond" in the Internet.
            Compare with the Brezhnev time.
        2. Mikhail3
          Mikhail3 8 November 2017 07: 19 New
          He saved her, and she betrayed him. Of course, this never happens in life! Absolutely! The Russians have saved millions of Jews of both sexes from the death camps. But the Jews ... No! Can not be! Is it true?