This question is about chess linguistics. Alekhine's gun is the pattern where the queen is placed behind two rooks.

  1. Who came up with the phrase?
  2. Is it clear which kind of gun they had in mind?
  3. In which language did the phrase originate?

I always imagined "gun" in this context meant a piece of artillery such as a cannon, because surely the three heaviest chess pieces put together must be a heavy weapon! :-)

I see that several of the non-English Wikipedia articles about it use cognates of cannon, for example, Cannone di Alechin (Italian) or Canhão de Alekhine (Portuguese). But on the Spanish-speaking world, the situation seems more confused: there are more Google hits for pistola de Alekhine than for cañón de Alekhine, and I can't tell which could be considered more authoritative. Could this have been a mistranslation?
On the other hand, the metaphor of threatening the player across the table with a pistol is also interesting, and I've also seen the queen behind the bishop called Reti's rifle, so maybe there's more of a small arms tradition in chess phrases than I originally thought.

  • 3
    Related: The more abstract pattern (any group of two or three pieces of the same movement angle lined up) is called "battery".
    – Annatar
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 14:36
  • The original game: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alekhine's_gun Alas, wiki doesn't source the appelation.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 15:09
  • 5
    I wouldn't be surprised if one of the commentators of the times with flowerish language, like S.Tartacower or H.Kmoch, had coined the expression.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 16:07
  • might be inspired by: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun
    – prusswan
    Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 13:48
  • @prusswan I like that idea, and more to it is that Alekhine's gun functions much like Chekhov's in that it always fires! :) Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


Alekhine's gun is a formation in chess named after the former world chess champion Alexander Alekhine. This formation was named after a game he played against Aron Nimzowitsch in Sanremo 1930, ending with Alekhine's decisive victory.


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