Alekhines Defence
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Alekhines Defence

Alekhines Defence is one of the most radical openings in the game of chess. It was introduced by the fourth World Champion of the game, Alexander Alekhine. This is another opening to counter the famous e4 from white. Right off the back we see black developing its knight and attacking the white pawn. This further tempts white to open up the game through its pawns. Some of the famous practitioners of this opening include Alexander Alekhine and Lev Alburt. The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) classifies this opening from B02 to B05.

Alekhine's Defence Statistics

The main idea behind this opening is that white is going to advance its pawns to attack the black knight. In doing so, white would make irreversible moves and weaken its defence in the pursuit of a knight. Black on the other hand can craftily avoid this by moving around the center of the board.

Pros and Cons of Alekhines Defence

Some of the advantages of this opening are:

  • It is an opening that features natural and original play. This is ideal for players just beginning to get into the game
  • This is a very tricky opening for somebody who is playing against an experienced player
  • Alekhines Defence is not a very well known or researched opening. As a result, you may take your opponent by surprise.

Some of the disadvantages of this opening are:

  • White gains a lot of space to expand and develop in the center of the board. This can create problems for black later on
  • White will force the knight to move around the board while advancing its pawns. This is the biggest issue for black surrounding this opening
  • This is not a very reliable opening. It is a risky opening but boasts great statistical advantages
Alekhine's Defence

There is just one move involved in Alekhines Defence and that is:

  1. e4 Nf6

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Now is a good time to review the all important chess notations to have a better understanding of the variations below. Check out our article on chess notations here:

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Let us look at some of the variations of Alekhines Defence

Four Pawns Attack

The four pawns attack involves chasing the black knight around and maintaining dominance of the center of the board. In doing so, white gains an immense space advantage for the development of its major pieces. It should fortify these weaker links before black gains a chance to counter attack. Black on the other hand must initiate quick gameplay to counter white’s plans on domination of the center. If not, white may get a chance to develop its major pieces and take up space on the board. White’s best moves would be to develop its Queenside and launch an attack from there. This is because the pawns in the center are expendable and time should not be wasted in supporting them.

Four Pawns Attack

The moves involved in the Four Pawns Attack are:

  1. e4 Nf6
  2. e5 Nd5
  3. d4 d6
  4. c4 Nb6
  5. f4

Exchange Variation

In the exchange variation white captures the black pawn on d6. Looking back, this is now a weakness for white. This is because it already has a pawn in the d file. This leads to a double pawn structure that is not beneficial to anyone. But black cannot allow the pawn to stay uncaptured and therefore goes for the exchange. After the exchange, Black has two options to move forward. It can either re-capture with the c pawn or the e pawn. If it chooses to capture with the c pawn, it leads to an imbalanced setup. This is very much in accordance with the style of play in Alekhines Defence. The imbalanced structure creates good opportunities for counter attacks. If black chooses to capture with the e pawn, this is more in line with a more conventional style of play. It leads to defensive setups and symmetrical structures.

Exchange Variation

The moves involved in the Exchange Variation are:

  1. e4 Nf6
  2. e5 Nd5
  3. d4 d6
  4. c4 Nb6
  5. exd6

Modern Variation

The main reason for black to play Alekhines Defence is to over expose the pawn structure of white. To avoid this, the modern variation comes into play. Initially it does involve chasing around the knight a bit. But then it settles on anchoring the pawns in the center of the board through the white knight. The e5 pawn is also known to be the weakest piece on the board. Hence reinforcing this is crucial. There is a high probability that black may use its bishop to pin the knight to the Queen. We need to break this pin immediately. To do this, we can conveniently move our bishop to e2.

Modern Variation

The moves involved in the Modern Variation are:

  1. e4 Nf6
  2. e5 Nd5
  3. d4 d64
  4. Nf3

Further Reading 1: https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/alekhinedefence.html

Further Reading 2: https://www.ichess.net/blog/alekhine-sharpest-variation/