09 August 2009

1st: Botvinnik, 2nd: ???

Over my last few posts, especially Does 'Soviet School' Mean Botvinnik?, I've been focusing on Botvinnik as the first of the great Soviet players, a historical successor to Chigorin and Alekhine, whose styles were formed in the pre-Soviet era. The Soviet chess era can be split naturally into two histories: the pre-WWII era (before 1941) and the post-Alekhine era (after 1945), when the Soviet Union joined FIDE and contributed to the development of the modern World Championship.

Since the post-Alekhine era is the better known of the two histories (and I intend to examine certain aspects in future posts), what can be said about the pre-WWII era? D.J. Richards pointed out various important milestones in the timeline of the 1930s (see my post on D.J. Richards, 'Soviet Chess'), while another source would be the Soviet championships of that decade. The first question that comes to mind is: 'Who were Botvinnik's chief Soviet rivals of the 1930s?'

I dusted off my database of Soviet championships (see Players in the USSR Championships and the subsequent Notes), concentrated on the six Soviet championships of the 1930s, and devoloped some statistics to determine the most successful players. The year and number of players in each event is given in the following list -- 1931: 18, 1933: 20, 1934: 20, 1937: 20, 1939: 18, and 1940: 20.

The year 1933 was somewhat problematic to analyze, because the record of games is incomplete. Rusbase, for example, in 8th Championship of USSR - Leningrad 16.8-9.9.1933 has only '74 games of 190' played, but since I'm only interested in the final scores, the crosstable was sufficient to make the stats.

I determined that the 116 competitors in the six events covered 48 different players. Players scoring at least 50% in the events where they took part are shown in the following table, along with the number of events played, the first and last year of participation, the number of games played, and the total score. Botvinnik, for example, played in four of the six events, where the first in my survey was in 1931 (he also competed in 1927 and 1929, which are not covered here) and the last was in 1940; he scored 51.5 points in 72 games, for an overall scoring percentage of 71.5%:-

Botvinnik, Mikhail4193119407251.571.5%
Smyslov, Vassily1194019401913.068.4%
Keres, Paul1194019401912.063.2%
Boleslavsky, Isaak1194019401911.560.5%
Bondarevsky, Igor3193719405533.060.0%
Riumin, Nikolay Nikolaevich3193119345532.559.1%
Belavenets, Sergey Vesevolodovi3193419395532.058.2%
Bohatirchuk, Fedor Parfenovich3193119345532.058.2%
Alatortsev, Vladimir4193119377443.058.1%
Lilienthal, Andor2193719403822.057.9%
Makogonov, Vladimir Andreevich4193419407442.557.4%
Rabinovich, Ilya Leontievich4193319397441.556.1%
Levenfish, Grigory5193319409351.555.4%
Lisitsin, Georgy61931194011059.554.1%
Ragozin, Viacheslav4193419407439.553.4%
Chekhover, Vitaly4193319397439.553.4%
Verlinsky, Boris2193119333619.052.8%
Konstantinopolsky, Alexander2193719403820.052.6%
Rauzer, Vsevolod4193119377438.552.0%
Veresov, Gavriil2193419403819.551.3%
Yudovich, Mikhail5193119399146.551.1%
Kan, Ilia Abramovich5193119399146.050.5%
Kotov, Alexander2193919403618.050.0%

The four players who competed in more championships than Botvinnik -- Lisitsin (all 6 events), plus Kan, Levenfish, and Yudovich (5 each) -- are all shown in the table. Eight players, including Botvinnik, played in four events, while seven played in three.

After Botvinnik, the three most successful players played in their first Soviet championship in 1940, marking them as future rivals in the post-WWII, post-Alekhine era. The rest of the names in the table are also worthy of special attention.

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