22 March 2009

Moscow 1936 Tournament Book

In Two More Votes for Ilyin-Zhenevsky I transcribed from a page scan on Labatechess.com the biographical introduction to 'Notes of a Soviet Master' by Ilyin-Zhenevsky. By coincidence, this week I noticed another relevant page scan from Labatechess.com, this time for a book on Moscow 1936 : International Chess Tournament; 'Notes by the tournament competitors, edited by G.Levenfish; Translated from the original 1937 edition and edited by Jimmy Adams; Volume 2 in the Caissa Editions series on the world's greatest chess tournaments'.

Translator's Preface: The present volume is a translation of "Tretii Mezhdunarodnyi Shakhmatnyi Turnir Moskva 1936", published by the State Department of Physiculture and Tourism, Moscow-Leningrad 1937.

The Moscow 1936 tournament, like its predecessors of 1925 and 1935, was held, under government sponsorship, to test the strength of leading Soviet players against top-class foreign grandmasters.

It was the highly influential Chairman of the Chess section of the All-Union Council for Physical Culture, Nikolai Krylenko (1885-1938), who was the driving force behind the organization of these tournaments. Krylenko, a keen chess player and editor of the Soviet chess magazine "64", had been a Commissar for War in the first Bolshevik government, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces after the October Revolution, a public prosecutor for the revolutionary tribunals, and, by 1936, Commissar of Justice for the USSR. In 1938, he was himself arrested and executed during Stalin's purges, but his reputation was later rehabilitated and due recognition given to the great importance of his work for Soviet chess.

For many years the Soviet chess movement had been developing in virtual isolation from the rest of the chess world, and it was not until the Moscow tournaments of the '30s that the West became fully aware of the true extent of the progress of Soviet chess power.

In the 1935 Moscow tournament, which contained former world champions Lasker and Capablanca, six other foreigners and twelve Soviet players, Botvinnik's joint victory with Flohr had immediately placed him amongst the leading contenders for the world championship. Moreover, a whole new generation of young Soviets, including such names as Kan, Ragozin, Ryumin, Chekhover, Alatortsev, etc., had here produced a high quality of chess and held its own against the best.

The 1936 Moscow tournament was intended to be an even greater test for the Soviet players - a double round event with five of the leading Soviet representatives due to play against five Western grandmasters. In fact only four Western grandmasters accepted invitations: Lasker, Capablanca, Flohr, and Lilienthal. It had been hoped that the fifth would be an American (Reshevsky, Fine, or Kashdan), but, as the event clashed with the U.S.A. championship, this proved impossible and the place was filled by the Austrian champion, Eliskases.

The page that caught my attention was the book's foreward by Nikolai Krylenko.

Foreward: The collection of games of the third Moscow international tournament, offered to the reader, represents a documentary contribution to the history of the chess movement in the USSR.

The introductory article describes the course of the tournament, the shortcomings and qualities of the play of the Soviet players, and it is not necessary for us to once again dwell upon this side... In any case, one thing is clear. Soviet masters need to learn and learn. Nottingham showed the strength of Botvinnik, but grandmaster Fine's encounters, following Nottingham, with other Soviet masters in Moscow and Leningrad, despite individual reverses of Fine, for example in the game against Yudovich, showed that this professional chess player is stronger than the Soviet masters.

The recently concluded championship of Tbilisi, bringing the title of USSR champion to Levenfish, likewise was characterized, on the one hand, by a number of important achievements, particularly on the side of youth [Makogonov and others], on the other, by a number of shortcomings and failures in the play of Soviet masters.

The inference is one and the same: not to give oneself airs, but to learn. Precisely under this slogan ought to be studied the games of the third international tournament, by everyone seriously interested in the chess art of the USSR.

N.Krylenko, Moscow 1937

Besides the seller Labatechess.com, the previous Ilyin-Zhenevsky post is connected to this Krylenko post by the publisher Caissa Editions.

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