Alekhine Defence - Complete Solution to 1.e4
Preview by GM Mihail Marin
The Alekhine Defence is one of those opening having an appropriate name. True, the first recorded game with this opening was played in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, against his favourite opponent, Madame de Remoussat, a countess. Probably a cavalry lover, Napoleon always started his games by moving both knights, regardless of colour.
There were occasional games featuring the Alekhine Defence between 1880 and 1920, but the opening game into the limelight only during the Budapest 1921 tournament, where Alekhine used it twice. It is the kind of provocative opening that tends to pass through years or full decades of crisis.
As a child, I remember reading that grandmaster Lev Alburt, a Soviet player at that time, complained that his main openings with Black, the Volga (Benko) gambit and the Alekhine Defence are passing through a strong crisis, causing him to have worse results than usual. On the other hand, if we compare it with the Sicilian Dragon (or the Volga/Benko gambit), belonging to the same category, this is a bit surprising. The Alekhine Defence is by far more flexible, allowing Black to choose more than one setup in all the critical systems.
This latter aspect made me adopt a different approach than in all my previous courses published by Modern Chess. Usually, I examine one line against all the opponent's systems. This time, I have analyzed two or more alternatives for Black, whenever the case was given (not in the minor lines, though). I had two main reasons for that. First of all, the way I built this database can offer a reliable repertoire for a long time.
By alternating the lines, we can make the opponent's preparation harder. If one of them passes through a crisis, there always is a reserve.
At the same time, I wanted to use the rich content of this opening to create some sort of multi-sided course on strategy, in tight connection with dynamics and tactics.
The Alekhine Defence is mainly about structures, but the player with less space should always be aware of the dynamic elements, allowing him to disrupt the enemy (sometimes over extended) centre. Black's flexibility is obvious if we think that he can choose between playing on dark or light squares. A mixture of these is also possible.
Before he started his fulminant ascension toward the chess throne, Bobby Fischer was famous for his narrow repertoire. In the years preceding the historic 1972 match, something had changed, though. He started to occasionally open the game with 1.b3, while with Black he adopted the Alekhine Defence as an alternative to his beloved Sicilian Najdorf. In his attempt to sidestep Spassky's preparation, he also played it twice in Reykjavik, winning one and drawing the other. Moreover, he did not choose the same system in the games. In the 13th game he answered 4.Nf3 with 4...g6, as he had always done before, while in the 19th he switched to the more static 4...Bg4, for the first time in his life.I have inserted Fischer's 6 games played in 1970 and 1972, leaving out that one played in 1965, which is less sound.
Few words about how I have come to the idea of writing this database. One evening dring our team championship, my colleague GM Lucian Miron complained to me that earlier that day, he could not get anything against an older player who had played 1...Nf6 against him. I opened my portable chess set and invited him to analyze a bit this opening, far from engines and books. I was pleasantly surprised that I could remember most of the critical ideas and move orders, even though I had played the Alekhine Defence only a few times two decades ago. Even though he started with the firm belief that engines are smashing Black's opening, Lucian gradually became interested in this opening, since he did not see obvious ways of refuting it.
When I arrived in my room, I checked a few points of our joint analysis and discovered that engines had grown enough to understand that this was a sound opening. Twenty years ago, I had only used it as an experiment because engines were so skeptical about it. When choosing an opening against 1.e4, I am frequently concerned about having a weapon against 1.d4 leading to positions at least vaguely similar. I recommend the Gruenfeld as a good complement to the Alekhine Defence. In both openings, Black invites his opponent to build up a massive centre to start attacking it in the early middlegame.
The database consists of 65 theoretical chapters, 30 interactive test positions, a Memory Booster, and a Video Version (6h and 30min Running Time)