CHESS

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Fifty years ago today, Alexander Alekhine was found in the armchair of his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal, undefeated as world champion but checkmated by his maker. Others have gone into paroxysms of joy at Alekhine's flashy victories against Bogolyubov at Hastings 1922, or Reti at Baden- Baden 1925, but my own favourite has always been this unsung masterpiece, a game of pure power.

White: Paul Johner

Black: Alexander Alekhine

Pistyan 1922

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 c5 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5

A move criticised by Alekhine on the grounds that it lets White simplify to a draw if he so wishes. Yet what young master of today would not give his eye teeth for a draw with the black pieces?

6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Ndb5 Bd7 8.e4 Nxc3 9.bxc3 Qa5 10.Rb1

Alekhine himself adorned White's 7th, 9th and 10th moves with exclamation marks, correctly realising that one's own play looks better if one praises the opponent's moves.

10...a6 11.Nd6+ Bxd6 12.Qxd6 Qxc3+ 13.Bd2 Qc6 14.Qf4

White should have been content to regain his pawn with 14.Qb4 a5! 15.Qxb7.

14...0-0 15.Bd3 e5!

Returning the pawn to seize a powerful initiative.

16.Qxe5 Re8 17.Qd4 Qg6! 18.f3 Qxg2!

Well calculated, sir! White's "attack" is exposed as pure illusion.

19.Rg1 Nc6! 20.Qe3 Qxh2 21.Bc3 g6 22.Rxb7 Rad8 23.Bf6 (see diagram)

Perhaps still entertaining hopes of sneaking a mate on g7, but he is quickly disabused.

23...Ne5! 24.Be2 Bb5!

Now 25.Bxd8 loses to 25...Bxe2 when 26.Bc7 Qxg1+! leads to a won endgame for Black.

25.Bxe5 Rxe5 26.Bxb5 Rxb5 27.Rxb5 axb5 White resigns

28.a3 Qc2, or even 28...Rd2! is an easy win for Black.

Comments