The Alekhine Defense – A Rock-Solid Chess Opening

Yes, you can play a counterattacking chess opening while keeping a solid position. You might find white has a slight advantage in some positions but you can still play for a win with black.

This defense is named after one of the greatest world chess champions of all time – Alexander Alekhine – and shocked the chess world when he first played it.

The current world champion Magnus Carlsen has also used this opening successfully.

Why not you?

The Provocative 1…Nf6 Introduces The Alekhine Defense Chess Opening

Let’s face it, if you can obtain a solid position without needing to know lots of opening theory with black then you are doing well. The lines recommended in this Deep Dive course have been played at the highest level.

Everything You Need to Know to Play The Alekhine Defense With Confidence

This comprehensive opening course covers all you need to know. You will learn how to get a solid position with chances to play for a win against the following white plans:

  • Sidelines
  • The Exchange Variation
  • The Classical Variation
  • Four Pawns Attack

You will find your study time of his chess opening reduced by playing similar moves against the different plans chosen by white. This overlap makes it easier for you to remember the different plans and tactics.

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Here is an example of how effective the Alekhine Defense chess opening can be at the top level. Black has achieved light square domination at move 20!

Many of your opponents will face the Alekhine Defense infrequently in their games. They won’t be as familiar as you with the tactics and in a counterattacking defense this is a big plus in your favor.

One of the central themes in this course is to enter positions where you get counterplay in exchange for conceding a small space advantage to white.

An added bonus is you will find playing such positions makes you a better chess player overall.

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Play a rock solid Alekhine’s Defense

Alekhine Defense Sidelines

The extensive coverage of sidelines in this chess opening begins with white playing 2.Nc3 instead of e5. In keeping with the spirit of the Alekhine Defense black plays 2…d5.

What you must remember in this line is not to take on b2 with your pawn. The correct capture is …cxd2 with check giving you the tempo you need to achieve equality.

Another option for white is to chase the knight with 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.c5 Nd5 but any player is going to be happy to see white following such a plan.

While in most instances you want to stop your opponent’s plan, when he is following a bad plan you want to see how you can encourage him to keep on with it.

Here, white has pushed two pawns up the board within reach of your pawns and has neglected his development.

Aleander Alekhine a world chess champion with a chess opening named after him - The Alekhine Defense
Alexander Alekhine 1909

Yes, it’s true black’s development has also fallen behind but we haven’t over-extended ourselves or created weaknesses. Bc4 attacking the knight is easily met with …e6.

The light-square bishop will get developed on b7 or a6. ..Na6-c7-e6 is always a useful maneuver to keep in mind if white ever plays Bxd5.

Keep in mind both the white pawns can be attacked simultaneously with the simple …d6.

Alekhine Defense Exchange Variation

Another very strong GM to have played the Alekhine Defense recently is GM Vassily Ivanchuk. Reviewing his games will teach you lots more than just the opening moves.

After the opening moves 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.exd6 you play the solid 5…exd6.

Now if white develops his knight to f3 right away you seize the opportunity to exchange your bishop for the knight and play 6…Bg4. If white plays 6.h3 to prevent this you continue in similar vein to the line starting with 6.Nc3.

Develop your bishop to e7 with the idea of placing it on f6, and castle quickly. When playing an opening that involves lots of piece play rapid development is a must.

Enjoy this model game by GM Vassily Ivanchuk showing us how to meet the Exchange Variation.

Remember placing your bishops on the h8-a1 and g8-a2 diagonals is a common theme in many of these variations. You will often place your light-squared bishop on e6 and the dark square bishop on g7 or f6.

Another key point to remember is you don’t mind if white meets …Be6 with d5. Yes, you lose time by retreating the bishop to d7 but you gain the c5 square for your knight and the bishop on f6 gets a great diagonal.

The bishop on f6 often captures the knight on c3 doubling the white pawns. In a situation where your opponent has a space advantage, you want to exchange pieces because it helps free up your position.

Alekhine Defense Classical Variation

GM Damian Lemos gives two options for black in the Classical Variation of this chess opening. The best part is both are extremely solid and aren’t the mainline with its large amount of theory.

Once again themes found in the Exchange Variation are repeated here. Further reducing the amount of theory you need to know.

After the moves 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 play 4…dxe5 5.Nxe5 and now you can play either 5…g6 or 5…c6.

In this variation, white will often place his bishop on c4. You must be aware of the tactical opportunity to win a pawn by playing Bxe5 if you have a bishop on e6.

The capture on e5 eliminates the defender of the c4 bishop allowing your knight to capture on c3. White has no time to move the bishop because his queen is under attack.

Alekhine Defense Four Pawns Attack

The Four Pawns Attack is the most dangerous weapon against the Alekhine Defense so its popularity isn’t surprising. Once again a sound approach involves bishops on g7 and e6.

Play starts 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6 5.f4 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 Be6 8.d5 and now retreating the bishop back to c8 is the key move to remember.

The white center looks very impressive but notice how quickly the black pawns can engage it. This time both c5 and f5 are ideal squares for the black pieces to occupy.

This position is rich in possibilities for both sides. Here is a perfect example of why playing the Alekhine Defense will improve your overall game.

A tough battle lies ahead but you will find the victory after a challenging game is sweeter than a much easier victory.

Final Thoughts On The Alekhine Defense Opening

Choosing a counter-attacking defense doesn’t mean you can’t play rock-solid chess and get good winning chances. The knight moves might cost you time but they gain you great counterplay.

This is a good choice for people who enjoy playing with their pieces and counterattacking. The Alekhine Defense gives you the chance to do both from a sound foundation.

By choosing to play the Alekhine Defense you are putting your opponent to the test in all phases of the game. In the unlikely event he has done an in-depth study of the Alekhine defense you can still achieve a good position using what you have learned in this wonderful course.

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Alekhine Defense Deep Dive – GM Damian Lemos

Having fun is an often neglected element of chess play. The Alekhine Defense will allow you to have fun and even feel excited about playing with the black pieces.

Also, improve your game with these fine articles:

Because the Alekhine Defense involves a lot of piece play and counterplay it’s a good idea to keep your middlegame skills razor-sharp and the blog is packed full of useful articles.

Here is a small sample to get you started.


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