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Fifty years ago this week, on 24 March 1946, Alexander Alekhine died, the only world champion to pass away while still holding the title. His participation in a string of Nazi-organised tournaments, and his authorship of an article on "Jewish and Aryan Chess" led to his being ostracised after the war, but plans had almost been finalised for a world title challenge from Botvinnik when Alekhine was found dead, in an armchair, in a hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. According to one version, he had choked on a piece of meat; another diagnosed a cerebral haemorrhage brought on by alcohol abuse.

Alekhine had won the world title from Capablanca in 1927, lost it, in an alcoholic haze, to Euwe in 1935, and regained it after two teetotal years. Apart from the lapse in the first match against Euwe (when the Dutch hosts adopted the shrewd ploy of telling Alekhine that his bar bill would be fully covered) he dominated the chess world throughout the 1930s. Alekhine's greatest achievement, however, was his dismantling of the myth of Capablanca's invincibility.

His technique to exploit Capablanca's predilection for simple positions is seen in their 21st game. With every exchange, White's position gets worse.


1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Nbd7 5 e3 Be7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Rc1 a6 8 a3 h6 9 Bh4 dxc4 10 Bxc4 b5 11 Be2 Bb7 12 0-0 c5 13 dxc5 Nxc5 14 Nd4 Rc8 15 b4 Ncd7 16 Bg3 Nb6 17 Qb3 Nfd5 18 Bf3 Rc4 19 Ne4 Qc8 20 Rxc4 Nxc4 21 Rc1 Qa8 22 Nc3 Rc8 23 Nxd5 Bxd5 24 Bxd5 Qxd5 25 a4 Bf6 26 Nf3 Bb2 27 Re1 Rd8 28 axb5 axb5 29 h3 e5 30 Rb1 e4 31 Nd4 Bxd4 32 Rd1 Nxe3! 0-1