Lately, I have been thinking about the greats who weren’t greats specifically because someone greater existed in their time. This has happened in every generation, but the 1920s and 1930s were a great example of the phenomenon, so we’ll use Alekhine as an example.
Because Alekhine existed and was so powerful, many great players unfortunately lived in his shadow, both then and now. When someone like Alekhine comes along, it’s very difficult to make a name for yourself.
Here is a list of a few greats who weren’t great because of Alekhine:
There are a ton more, but I’ll leave it at that so you get the gist. Now, just about every player on that list was very accomplished and extremely strong. Many of them had opening variations named after them, which are still regularly used today, such as Gruenfeld, Reti, and Pirc.
Now, have you ever wondered what the heck would have happened if the big boys like Euwe, Alekhine and Capablanca were out of the picture? Some of these ‘big’ chess names would have become giant chess names, that’s what.
I try and appreciate the games of these lesser masters, but the draw to Alekhine prowess is simply too great for me. I always end up firing up the Alekhine database and scrolling through the moves with awe.
Do you have a favorite player who lived in the shadow of a greater player?