15 March 2009

Two More Votes for Ilyin-Zhenevsky

In The Father of Soviet Chess?, I presented a good reason to award the 'father' title to Ilyin-Zhenevsky. It turns out I'm not alone.

Labatechess.com has several scanned pages from Notes of a Soviet Master by Ilyin-Genevsky, including the book's introduction titled 'A Short Biography of the Author'. Note the phrase (Cafferty's?) 'founding father of Soviet chess'.

Alexandr Ilyin-Genevsky (or Ilyin-Zhenevsky), patronymic Fyodorovich, is the founding father of Soviet chess. Born in 1894, died in 1941 from a Nazi bombing raid near Leningrad, he took part in the St.Petersburg on 1910 while still a schoolboy. Expelled from school in 1912 for pro-Bolshevik activity, he went abroad to Geneva to complete his education. He fought in the First World War, suffered from shell-shock, and had to learn how to play chess all over again from scratch!

In charge of various newspapers from 1917 onwards, he had the idea of bringing education and culture to the new Red Army by linking chess with with the literacy campaign. He organized the first Soviet Championship, won by Alekhine, in 1920. Continuing his editorial work, he was active in chess organization and play, and gained world fame in 1925 by beating the reigning world champion Capablanca by a counter-attack from a dubious position.

Later on he was sent abroad on diplomatic work, and as the Soviet political representative in Prague was instrumental in breaking the self-imposed boycott of Soviet chess by arranging for Flohr to come to the USSR to play Botvinnik in a match.

Ilyin-Genevsky's brother, Fyodor Fyodorovich Raskolnikov, (1892-1939), had the distinction of being referred to by Alekhine in his little booklet 'Das Schachleben in Sowjet-Russland' published by Kagan in 1921.

For many years Ilyin was editor of the chess magazine 'Shakmatny Listok' and wrote many articles on chess theory and organization. He is best known in theory for his contributions to the Ruy Lopez and the Dutch Defense.

Ilyin-Zhenevsky or Ilyin-Genevsky? Google currently gives a slight edge to 'chess Ilyin-Genevsky', with 1,690 pages over 1,310. Gaige uses 'Ilyin-Zhenevsky'; Hooper & Whyld use 'Ilyin-Genevsky'. Since I usually defer to Gaige on spelling, I'll go with 'Ilyin-Zhenevsky'.

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