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Col Polhill recalls the greatest player ever to grace a chessboard.

Say what you like about "Bobby" Fischer and "Garry" Kasparov, neither of those modern players can truly be held to compare with the greatest of them all.

A four-times married, cat-loving alcoholic, Alexander Alekhine was, to all who knew him, the perfect chess master. He won the world title in 1927, and held it until his death in 1946, apart from a brief period from 1935-37 during which he was as out of form as a newt.

His mixture of creativity and personal venom has never been matched. As the following game shows, he could even conjure violent attacks during simultaneous displays.

White: Alekhine

Black: Kussman

Played in Paris in 1924.

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 Be6 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.e4!

Not for Alekhine the ponderous positional play of ex-ploiting an isolated d-pawn. The master needs open lines!

8...dxe4 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Nxe4 Qb6 11.Bxd7+ Nxd7 12.0-0 cxd4 13.Nxd4 Rd8?

Black's correct move would have been 13...0-0-0 and perhaps that is indeed what he intended to play, but touched the rook first. It would have been typical of Alekhine's clear-headed approach to insist that he then move it.

14.Nf5! Ne5 15.Qe2 g6 (see diagram)

Without this move, Black cannot develop his K-side, yet with it he is promptly routed.


A beautiful retort! 16...Qxb5 is met by 17.Nf6 mate.

16...Nd7 17.Rfe1!!

Now 17...Qxb5 offers the choice of Nf6 or Ned6 mate.

17...Bb4 18.Nf6+ Kf8

White may now win a rook with 19.Nxd7+ Rxd7 20.Qxd7 or a queen with 19.Re8+ Rxe8 20.Nxd7+. Always a maximalist, Alekhine prefers to win the king.

19.Nxd7+ Rxd7 20.Qe5!

Threatening Qxh8 mate, or Qg7 mate, or Qe8 mate. However Black plays, he cannot stop all of them.

Black resigned.

Usually in such virtuoso displays, Alekhine liked to run between boards, forcing his bewildered opponents to rush and blunder. On this occasion, however, such tactics proved utterly unnecessary.