Alekhine’s terrible confession - Mate in Nineteen

Have you ever heard the story of Alexander Alekhine’s terrible confession? Near the end of his life, Alekhine, lonely and sick but still world champion, told a friend of the amazing happenings at the great St Petersburg tournament of 1914. This is his story.

One night, in mid-tournament, there is a knock on Alekhine’s hotel room door. A ragged old Russian peasant demands entrance, saying he haa found a chess secret of great importance.

Impatiently, Alekhine lets him enter. “I have found a way for white to checkmate in nineteen from the starting position,” claims the old man. Alekhine starts to throw him out, but the peasant is insistent.

To end matters, Alekhine sets up the boad. Nineteen moves later, the world champion, white-faced, turns his king over. “Do that again,” he says. The old man does. And again, the champion loses. Aghast, Alekhine hustles him along the hotel corridor to the room of his great colleague, Capablanca. The same sequence of events happens. Capablanca thinks first it’s a bad joke; but he ends up beaten again and again in nineteen no matter what defence he uses.

As Alekhine concludes his sensational account, the friend leans forward eagerly and asks the question you readers are now asking yourselves. “Then what did you do?” The champion’s devastating reply: “We killed him, of course.”

Before you tear up this copy of Arena in angry disbelief, we had better come clean. The above story, very roughly, is the plot of a short story written by Vincent Fotre entitled, “Mate in Nineteen.” In this case, truth could not be stranger than fiction.

Article by Carl Jacobs
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