EARLY SOVIET TOURNAMENTS

pgn-file of twenty-four tournaments (587 games) zip-file of CBase-files all 58 Soviet championships 1921-1991

Early Soviet championship from 1920 until 1954 and international tournaments from 1925 until 1936 are presented. The events range from the first events, when the tournament hall had little heating, until the fifties, when the 'state amateurs' played under professional conditions.

Moscow 1920: 1st Soviet championship - won by Alekhine

Petrograd 1923: 2nd Soviet championship - won by Romanovsky

Moscow 1924 / Leningrad 1924: 3rd Soviet championship - won by Bogoljubow

Leningrad 1925: 4th Soviet championship - won by Bogoljubow

Moscow 1925

 

The popularity of chess in Russia was revived by the government of the Soviet Union during the 1920's. Although Efim Bogoljubow lived in the German Triberg, he could become Soviet champion in 1925. The need of international competition was felt. Therefore, Krylenko organised a super tournament in Moscow from 10 xi - 7 xii 1925. Ten foreign stars, ten Soviet players and Bogoljubow participated. World champion Capablanca and his predecessor Lasker were lured to Moscow by gold. A race between them, like in New York 1924, was expected before the tournament, but Bogoljubow scored superiorly. Lasker and Capablanca followed at a distance. The other foreign stars competed at an equal level with the best Soviet players. Bogoljubow's win was regarded as a Soviet victory. 

The event aroused great interest among the citizens. Hundreds of spectators followed the games in Hotel Metropol and ten thousands watched demonstration boards downtown. Pictures of the event can be seen in the silent movie Chess Fever. Efim would never play in an important Russian tournament again. He became a German citizen. Later Bogoljubow and Alekhine were called 'renegades'. 

 

Hotel Metropol Moscow

Fedor Bohatirchuk

 

 Moscow 1927: 5th Soviet championship - won by Bohatirchuk and Romanovsky

The event was played in Moscow from 26 ix until 25 x 1927. Sixteen-years-old Botvinnik made his debut among the twenty-one players. The youth played well in the Hall of Columns, but the real battle went between the radiologist Bohatirchuk and bank worker Romanovsky. Romanovsky led by one point, when the penultimate round began. He lost to Grigoriev and Bohatirchuk caught up. The leaders played draws in the final round. They shared the first place with 14½/21, followed by Dus-Chotimirsky and Model with 13, Botvinnik and Makogonov with 12½, Nenarokov with 11, Grigoriev with 10½ and Ilyin Zhenevsky with 10 points. A match for the championship did not take place, because Bohatirchuk had medical duties. 

 

Odessa 1929: 6th Soviet championship - won by Verlinsky

 

Moscow 1931: 7th Soviet championship - won by Botvinnik

 

Leningrad 1933: 8th Soviet championship - won by Botvinnik

 

Leningrad 1934: 9th Soviet championship - won by Levenfish

The event took place in Leningrad from 7 December 1934 until 2 January 1935. Levenfish wrote the tournament book. Botvinnik could not partake, because he played in Hastings 1934/35. Fedor Bohatirchuk and Grigory Levenfish were the main rivals of the absent young star. I have analysed the games by these two senior players. Leningrad 1934 started as a race between Bohatirchuk and Alatortsev. Later Fedor gained a lead of one point on the other players, but he finished poorly. At the end Levenfish and Rabinovich had won the title. Bohatirchuk and Riumin shared the third place.

 

            1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Levenfish   1 ½ 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 12

Bohatirchuk ½ 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 11½

 

Bohatirchuk devoted his life to cancer research as a radiologist in Kiev. Chess was his hobby. He wanted to play only one tournament per year. The Stalinists objected. Fedor survived an interrogation in 1937. Many Ukrainians greeted the Nazis as liberators in 1941, but got a bad treatment instead. Bohatirchuk joined a German research institute. His family fled when the Russians returned. Fedor endorsed the naive Prague Manifesto in 1944. The main subject was freedom and democracy after Stalin. Maybe he was the only signer who was not executed by the Stalinists. Fedor defeated Czech chess maters in a simultaneous session during his visit. Pachman wrote a booklet about it. Although their train was bombed when they fled, his family managed to reach Bayreuth in the American section of Germany by foot. Eventually he moved to his daughter in Canada and became Professor of Radiology in Ottawa.

 

Grigory Levenfish

Mikhail Botvinnik

Paul Keres


Moscow 1935

 

The second Moscow international tournament was carried out from 15 ii until 15 iii 1935. Twenty players took part. 4000 spectators saw the first round in Hotel National.
Botvinnik (5000 roubles) and Flohr ($400) won by 13/19, Lasker ($250) followed at half-a-point, Capablanca ($150) scored 12 and Spielmann ($100) made 11 points. Miss Menchik ended at the last place. Botvinnik got a car as extra prize, an enormous reward.

 

Moscow 1936

 

Five foreigners (Capablanca, Lilienthal, Flohr, Lasker and Eliskases) plus five Soviets (Botvinnik, Ragozin, Levenfish, Kan and Riumin) played double rounds in Moscow’s Hall of Columns from 14 v until 8 vi 1936. The event became a race between the former champion Capablanca and future champ Botvinnik. Krylenko was the main organiser again. 

Capablanca triumphed by one point before Botvinnik. Capa played highly accurate and was superior in the endgame. Botvinnik showed great consistency. The 68-years-old Lasker competed well at first but became too tired during the second cycle. 

Public interest was enormous again. Tickets were sold out quickly and chess players followed the reports throughout the Soviet Union. It gave people comfort during hard times. Krylenko was arrested in 1937 for being too absorbed by chess. He died the next year. 

 

                1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10

1  Capablanca  ** 1½ ½½ 1½ 1½ ½1 ½½ ½1 ½1 11  13

2  Botvinnik   0½ ** ½1 1½ ½1 ½1 ½½ ½½ 11 ½1  12

3  Flohr       ½½ ½0 ** ½1 0½ ½1 ½0 11 0½ ½1   9½

4  Lilienthal  0½ 0½ ½0 ** ½½ ½1 ½1 ½½ ½1 ½½   9

5  Ragozin     0½ ½0 1½ ½½ ** 1½ 1½ ½0 0½ ½½   8½

6  Lasker      ½0 ½0 ½0 ½0 0½ ** ½1 1½ ½½ 1½   8

7  Levenfish   ½½ ½½ ½1 ½0 0½ ½0 ** 10 ½½ ½0   7½

8  Eliskases   ½0 ½½ 00 ½½ ½1 0½ 01 ** ½½ ½½   7½

9  Kan         ½0 00 1½ ½0 1½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ** 0½   7½

10 Riumin      00 ½0 ½0 ½½ ½½ 0½ ½1 ½½ 1½ **   7½

 

 

Tbilisi 1937: 11th Soviet championship won by Levenfish

Moscow/Leningrad 1937: Match Levenfish - Botvinnik. Levenfish remained the champion, but Botvinnik played in AVRO 1938. He did not become the challenger of Alekhine.

 

Leningrad 1939: 11th Soviet championship won by Botvinnik

 

Moscow 1940: 12th Soviet championship won by Bondarevsky and Lilienthal

Leningrad / Moscow 1941: Absolute Soviet championship - won by Botvinnik

Botvinnik became the Soviet challenger of Alekhine. However, Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) stopped competitive chess.

Moscow 1944: 13th Soviet championship won by Botvinnik

 

Moscow 1945: 14th Soviet championship won by Botvinnik

Botvinnik had become champ in the summer of 1945. Again he wanted to play against Alekhine, but some war activities of the world champion were despised. An official challenge was sent in the spring of 1946 at last. Thereafter, Alekhine died under suspicious circumstances. The quest of Botvinnik for a match against Alekhine had been in vain.

Leningrad 1947

Paul Keres returned to his family in Estonia after World War II. Despite his participation in Nazi tournaments, his life was spared, but he was not allowed to participate in Groningen 1946. He was invited for the fifteenth Soviet championship. Other invitees were Botvinnik, Boleslavsky, Smyslov, Flohr and Ragozin. Qualifiers from the semifinals were Tolush, Bronstein, Levenfish and Dubinin in Leningrad, Bondarevsky, Lilienthal, Kan, Yudovich and Alatortsev in Moscow and Kasparian, Makogonov, Ufimtsev, Aronin and Klaman in Tiflis. Botvinnik was mentioned in the tournament program, but he withdrew in anger, when the world championship was cancelled in 1947. Goldenov became his replacement. The Soviet championship took place in Leningrad from 2 ii until 8 iii 1947. Reports were published in Shakhmaty i SSSR.

The games among the twelve best players of the fifteenth Soviet championship have been analysed. Keres had an incredible score against the finest opponents. The turning point was his swift win against Smyslov. Paul was ‘rehabilitated’.

 

                 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2     Rest

1 Keres         * ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1  8½  5½  14  I

2 Bondarevsky   ½ * ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1  7   5   12  III/IV

3 Smyslov       0 ½ * ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1  7   5   12  III/IV

4 Boleslavsky   ½ ½ ½ * ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1  6½  6½  13  II

5 Flohr         ½ ½ ½ ½ * ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½  6   4½  10½

6 Lilienthal    ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ * 1 0 ½ ½ 1 1  6   4½  10½

7 Bronstein     ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 * ½ 1 1 0 ½  5½  5½  11

8 Tolush        0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ * ½ ½ 1 1  5½  5½  11½

9 Makogonov     0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ * ½ ½ ½  4   5    9

10 Levenfish    0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ * 0 ½  3½  5½   9

11 Kasparian    0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 ½ 1 * 0  3½  5½   9

12 Ragozin      0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 *  3   7   10

 


 

Moscow 1948: 16th Soviet championship won by Bronstein and Kotov

 

Moscow 1949: 17th Soviet championship won by Bronstein and Smyslov

 

Moscow 1950

The eighteenth championship took place in Moscow from 10 November until 12 December 1950. It was dedicated to the hundredth birthday of Chigorin. Keres, Smyslov and Boleslavsky had accepted the invitation to participate. Fifteen players qualified in the semifinals: Tolush, Alatortsev and Bondarevsky in Leningrad, Aronin, Petrosian and Liublinsky in Kharkov, Lipnitsky, Geller and Sokolsky in Kiev, Averbakh, Borisenko and Suetin in Tula and Konstantinopolsky, Flohr and Mikenas in Tartu. I have analysed the games of the winner Keres and runner-up Tolush. Alexander Tolush was an adventurous attacker with mixed results. Once a fan shouted: "Forwards Kasimirovich!"

Dominating players in Moscow 1950 were Aronin, Lipnitsky and Smyslov at first. Keres and Tolush scored well in the second half. Paul made a sprint of 6½/7 but Alexander could catch up before the last round. The ferocious attacker Tolush got a winning position against Boleslavsky in the final round but blundered and had to accept a draw after the adjournment. Keres had a better endgame against Averbakh, won after the resumption and became the champion.

 

       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Keres  ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 0 1 11½

Tolush 1 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 11

 

Moscow 1951

The nineteenth final of the Soviet championship was played in Moscow from 11 xi until 14 xii 1951. Two thousand spectators could follow the games in the House of Unions. It was the strongest event in a long series. Two games have been annotated for most rounds. 

Four players were invited: defending champion Keres, world champion Botvinnik, former challenger Bronstein and Kotov. Four semifinals had been played in the same year. The fourteen qualifiers were Smyslov (!), Kopylov, Moiseev and Terpugov in Leningrad, Geller, Petrosian, Averbakh and Boleslavsky in Sverdlovsk, Aronin, Flohr and Simagin in Lvov and Taimanov, Lipnitsky and Novotelnov in Tallinn. Boleslavsky could not partake due to illness. His place was taken by Bondarevsky, number five in Leningrad. 

 

                1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1 Keres         * ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 1  12

2 Petrosian     ½ * ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1  11½

3 Geller        0 ½ * 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1  11½

4 Smyslov       0 0 1 * 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 1  11

5 Botvinnik     ½ ½ 0 0 * ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1  10

6 Averbakh      ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ * 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 1  9½

7 Bronstein     ½ ½ 1 0 0 1 * 1 ½ 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1  9½

8 Taimanov      0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 * ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1  9½

9 Flohr         ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1  9

10 Aronin       0 1 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 * 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½  9

11 Kopylov      1 1 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 * 0 1 1 0 1 1 ½  8½

12 Kotov        1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 * ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0  8

13 Bondarevsky  ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ * ½ 1 0 1 1  8

14 Simagin      0 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ * 1 ½ 1 1  7½

15 Moiseev      0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 * ½ 1 1  6½

16 Lipnitsky    0 0 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ * ½ 1  6½

17 Novotelnov   0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ * ½  3

18 Terpugov     0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 0 0 0 ½ *  2½

 

Keres had renewed his title in a crowded House of Unions. The youngsters Petrosian and Geller shared the second and third place before the settled stars Smyslov, Botvinnik and Bronstein. 

The battle continued after the event. Botvinnik was not invited for the Olympiad Helsinki 1952 due to a plot by other players.

 

Smyslov, Keres, Petrosian and Geller in 1951

Taimanov and Botvinnik in 1953

 

Moscow 1952

Twenty players participated in the final of the twentieth Soviet championship from 29 xi until 29 xii 1952 in Moscow. World champion Botvinnik and the Olympians Keres, Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller and Boleslavsky were placed. Fourteen players qualified in semifinals. 

Taimanov took a lead of two points on the field. He led by one point on Botvinnik at the end of the penultimate round. Geller defeated Taimanov and Efim became third. Botvinnik tricked Suetin in the endgame during the last round. A playoff became necessary. 

The match of six games between Botvinnik and Taimanov was played in a concert hall from 25 i umtil 5 ii 1953. Taimanov showed a great expertise in the opening, but it was not enough against the fighting spirit of the world champion.

 

Playoff     1 2 3 4 5 6

1 Botvinnik 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½  3½

2 Taimanov  0 ½ ½ 0 1 ½  2½

 

Botvinnik had gained his seventh and last gold medal in a Soviet championship. ‘Everybody’ had been against him, but the Patriarch had restored his order. 

 

Kiev 1954

Averbakh seemed to become an engineer but turned into a chess professional due to successes in the fifties. His greatest achievement was one title of Soviet champion. 

Twenty players entered the final of the twenty-first Soviet championship from 7 i until 7 ii 1954 in Kiev. Lisitsin took an early lead, but the event became a race between Averbakh and Kortschnoj. Averbakh won. Although the greatest stars did not participate, his score of 76% was highly impressive. The second and third prizes were shared by Taimanov and Kortschnoj. 

 

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