I am an admirer of Alekhine's art, the magic of his games, his fighting spirit and his constant creative zeal. That is why I wrote this work, with love and with pain, for I knew this incomparable chessboard poet during his agony in Spain, and saw him suffer.
"Agony," of Greek etymology, means "struggle." In The Agony of Christianity, Unamuno affirms that he who struggles against life itself agonizes. And we believe that man never struggles harder than when he is dying. This is why I rejected the word "decline" for the book's title. Alekhine's decline commenced long before he reached Spain from Nazi Germany; Alekhine initiated his agony in Spain, to expire in Portugal.
A. Alekhine: Agony of a Chess Genius tries to encompass his last period, from October 1943 to March 1946. The Second World War made this a tragic period in world history. And the games which the world champion played in Spain are little known; they were either never published or appeared in short-live dailies and magazines. Of course they are not his best creations. They could not be, since he was ill, prematurely old and ruined. But they were his most tragic chess battles.
The drama of this genius can be glimpsed in his reply to the journalist and chessplayer Juan Fernández Rúa in July 1944:
"Plans? What plans can I have? The best part of my life has passed away between two world wars that have laid Europa waste. Both wars ruined me, with this difference: at the end of the first war I was 26 years of age, with an unbounded enthusiasm I no longer have. If, sometime, I write my memoirs - which is very possible - people will realize that chess has been a minor factor in my life. It gave me the opportunity to further an ambition and at the same time convinced me of the futility of the ambition. Today, I continue to play chess because it occupies my mind and keeps me from brooding and remembering."
I have gathered 45 of the 63 match and tournament games from the above mentioned period in Spain and Portugal. The remaining eighteen games were impossible to obtain, despite my having contacted most of Alekhine's opponents.
I have added a selection of his best simultaneous games and a glimpse of his previous visits to Spain, as well as a biographical sketch of Alekhine as I, and my friends, the Spanish chessplayers, knew him.
I thank them all for furnishing innumerable facts and advice, especially Dr. Ramón Rey Ardid, of Zaragoza; Juan Lacasa, of Jaca; Manuel de Agustín, of Madrid, and the late Portugese player Francisco Lupi.
Finally, a request. If any aficionado possesses a game not found in this work, or any interesting fact, I would appreciate his writing to: Pablo Morán, c/o McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.