Alekhine’s themes – From the vertical to the diagonal

December 8, 2016 Matthew Sadler 2 comments

When you’re near there’s such an air of Spring about it
I can hear a lark somewhere begin to sing about it
There’s no love song finer but how strange
The change from major to minor
Every time we say goodbye

Cole Porter, “Ev’ry time we say goodbye”


Well that’s what I thought of when I read Alekhine’s comment pointing out this theme in 2 of his games! Let’s take a look at them!



Margate 1937


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Qe2 0–0 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bd7 9.d5 Nb8 10.Bc2 Ne8 11.c4 f5 12.exf5 Bxf5 13.Bxf5 Rxf5 14.Nc3 Nd7 15.Ne4 Nf8 16.Be3 Ng6 17.g3 h6 18.Nfd2 Kh7 19.Qd3 Qd7 20.f4 Kh8 21.Nf3 exf4 22.Nd4 Rf7 23.Bxf4 Nxf4 24.gxf4 Qg4+ 25.Kh1 Nf6 26.Nf2 Qh5 27.Rg1 Nd7 28.Ne6 Nc5 29.Qe3 Nxe6 30.dxe6 Rf6 31.Rae1 Raf8 32.Qg3 g5 33.Nh3 Rf5 34.Qg2 c6 35.Re3 Kg7 36.Rg3 d5


Position after Black's 36th move in Alekhine-Tylor Margate 1937
Position after Black’s 36th move in Alekhine-Tylor Margate 1937


White has piled up against g5, but he isn’t breaking through yet. 37.fxg5 hxg5 38.Nxg5 Rxg5 39.Rxg5+ Bxg5 40.Qxg5+ Qxg5 41.Rxg5+ Kf6 leads nowhere.





This switch – “from the vertical to the diagonal” as Alekhine calls it – introduces new danger. The rook on g1 suddenly comes into the equation! Tylor gets trampled underfoot!


37…Bd6 38.Nxg5 Bxf4 39.Qc3+ R8f6 40.Ne4+ Bxg3 41.Rxg3+ Kh8 42.Qxf6+ Rxf6 43.Rg8+ Kxg8 44.Nxf6+




And now the most famous example! 


(28) Alekhine,Alexander – Fine,Reuben [C90]

Hastings 3637 Hastings (8), 1936


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 Qc7 11.Nbd2 0–0 12.Nf1 Bg4 13.Ne3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 cxd4 15.Nf5 dxc3 16.Qxc3 Rfc8 17.Qg3 Bf8 18.Bd3 Nc6 19.Bg5 Ne8 20.Rac1 Qb7 21.a3 g6 22.Nh6+ Bxh6 23.Bxh6 Nd4 24.Rcd1 b4 25.f4 exf4 26.Qxf4 bxa3 27.bxa3 Rc3 28.Qf2 Ne6 29.a4 Rac8 30.Rf1 R3c7 31.Rb1 Qc6 32.a5 Nc5 33.Bc4 Qd7



If you’ve seen the previous example, I’m sure you can guess what’s coming!





Of course, we aren’t going to claim that Alekhine foresaw this when he played 21.a3, but the aim of that move was to make room to bring the light-squared bishop to the a2–g8 diagonal via b1 and a2. This is just a little step up from that idea – f7 has gone!


34…Nxe4 35.Rxf7 Qxf7 36.Bxf7+ Rxf7 37.Qe6




So good, it’s worth singing about!

2 Comments on “Alekhine’s themes – From the vertical to the diagonal

  1. Great! I have never heard about the vertical-diagonal theme but it reminds me of Bent Larsen who said that Alekhine always put his queen on the color of the opposite king. Once when he estimated himself as 1700 he did first not understand an Alekhine comment. Alekhine vs Opocensky, Paris (1925) 22. Qd1-e2 Alekhine just commented: On the road to f7. Larsen realised that white had white-color dominance. He told that he learned 200 rating points from thinking about the comment. Due to the e-file maybe it is a vertical/diagonal theme as well. The computers prefer Qe2 as well.

    1. Hi Carsten, thanks for that! I like that idea of putting the queen on the colour of the opposing king! Definitely going to make use of that! Best Wishes, Matthew

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