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USSR Championship Tournament

Nikolay Pavlov-Pianov6.5/15(+5 -7 =3)[games]
Alexander Alekhine6/8(+4 -0 =4)[games]
Peter Romanovsky5.5/7(+5 -1 =1)[games]
Arvid Kubbel5.5/8(+5 -2 =1)[games]
Grigory Levenfish3/5(+2 -1 =2)[games]
Abram Rabinovich2.5/5(+2 -2 =1)[games]
Nikolay Grigoriev2/3(+2 -1 =0)[games]
Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky2/5(+1 -2 =2)[games]
Ilya Rabinovich1/3(+1 -2 =0)[games]
Ivan Golubev1/2(+1 -1 =0)[games]
Nikolay Tselikov1/4(+1 -3 =0)[games]
Dawid Daniuszewski1/3(+0 -1 =2)[games]
Benjamin Blumenfeld1/1(+1 -0 =0)[games]
Nikolay Zubarev0.5/3(+0 -2 =1)[games]
August Mundt0.5/4(+0 -3 =1)[games]
Dmitry Nikolaevich Pavlov0/2(+0 -2 =0)[games] Chess Event Description
USSR Championship (1920)

The 1st USSR Championship was held in Moscow from October 4 - October 22, 1920, and was not the 1st USSR Championship. Instead, it was advertised as the All-Russian Olympiad, though nobody really knew what was going on. In the wake of World War I everything was confusion in what would later become the Soviet Union, and it was not even known with certainty which players were alive or dead, let alone could play. So a kind of casting call was sent out, empty slots filled with local Moscow players, and the following field resulted:

Alexander Alekhine Benjamin Markovich Blumenfeld Dawid Daniuszewski Ivan Golubev Nikolay Dmitrievich Grigoriev Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky Arvid Kubbel Grigory Levenfish August Mundt Dmitry Nikolaevich Pavlov Nikolay Pavlov-Pianov Abram Isaakovich Rabinovich Ilya Leontievich Rabinovich Peter Arsenievich Romanovsky Nikolay Tselikov Nikolay Zubarev.

Living conditions were not good at the time in the country, and the tournament was no bed of roses either. Levenfish later wrote: "I arrived from Petrograd on the day before the first round and was billeted in an unheated room of a military training hostel. For our meals we were temporarily included amongst the military trainees. The hunger and destruction caused by the intervention and the civil war could be felt at every step, and the food was more than modest."

Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, who organized the tournament, recalled that seven of the players signed a petition threatening to go on strike if the food was not improved and a cigarette ration included. Alekhine did not sign the protest, but said he would act in solidarity with the strikers ... "as he did not think it right to play against hungry opponents." (It is not known whether he extended his solidarity to sharing his food.)

The tournament started as a three-way race, with Abram Rabinovich having a half-point lead over Alekhine and Romanovsky after eight rounds. However, he faded badly with only 2 points in the last seven games and ended tied for fifth, while Alekhine finished with 6/7 to win the title a point ahead of Romanovsky.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts 1 Alekhine * = = 1 1 1 1 = = = = 1 1 1 1 1 12 2 Romanovsky = * 1 0 = 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 11 3 Levenfish = 0 * 0 1 = 1 = 1 = 1 1 = 1 = 1 10 4 Rabinovich,I 0 1 1 * 0 0 0 = = 1 1 1 1 = 1 1 9½ 5 Grigoriev 0 = 0 1 * 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 8½ 6 Rabinovich,A 0 0 = 1 0 * 1 = 1 = 0 1 0 1 1 1 8½ 7 Kubbel 0 0 0 1 0 0 * = 1 = = 1 1 1 1 1 8½ 8 Blumenfeld = 1 = = 1 = = * 0 = 0 1 0 1 = = 8 9 Ilyin-Zhenevsky = 0 0 = 1 0 0 1 * 1 0 = 1 0 = 1 7 10 Daniuszewski = 0 = 0 1 = = = 0 * = = 0 1 = 1 7 11 Zubarev = 0 0 0 1 1 = 1 1 = * 0 0 0 1 0 6½ 12 Pavlov Pianov 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 = = 1 * 1 = 1 1 6½ 13 Tselikov 0 0 = 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 * 0 0 1 5½ 14 Mundt 0 0 0 = 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 = 1 * = 0 4½ 15 Pavlov 0 0 = 0 0 0 0 = = = 0 0 1 = * = 4 16 Golubev 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 = 0 0 1 0 0 1 = * 3

Very few of the games are available. For some reason, we are missing about half of Alekhine's games but have all the games of Niklolay Pavlov Pianov. Perhaps his Italian cousin Giuoco Pianov quietly saved them.

Here is a conjectural list of pairings, intended to help follow the course of the tournament. While it fits all the known facts, it should not be considered definitive without first hand confirmation.

Round 1 (Monday, 10/4/1920): Grigoriev 0 Alekhine*; Pavlov 0 A. Rabinovich; Pavlov Pianov 1 Tselikov*; llyn-Zhenevsky 0 Kubbel*; Golubev 1/2 Blumenfeld; Romanovsky 1 Levenfish*; I. Rabinovich, 1 Zubarev; Daniuszewski 1 Mundt

Round 2 (Tuesday, October 5): Alekhine 1 Mundt; Zubarev 1/2 Daniuszewski; Levenfish 0 I. Rabinovich; Blumenfeld 1 Romanovsky; Kubbel 1 Golubev; Tselikov 0 Ilyin-Zhenevsky; A. Rabinovich 1 Pavlov Pianov*; Grigoriev 1 Pavlov

Round 3 (Thursday, October 7): Pavlov 0 Alekhine; Pavlov Pianov 0 Grigoriev*; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0 A. Rabinovich*; Golubev 0 Tselikov; Romanovsky 1 Kubbel; I. Rabinovich 1/2 Blumenfeld; Daniuszewski 1/2 Levenfish; Mundt 1 Zubarev

Round 4 (Friday, October 8): Alekhine 1/2 Zubarev; Levenfish 1 Mundt; Blumenfeld 1/2 Daniuszewski; Kubbel 1 I. Rabinovich*; Tselikov 0 Romanovsky*; A. Rabinovich 1 Golubev; Grigoriev 0 Ilyin-Zhenevsky; Pavlov 0 Pavlov Pianov*

Round 5 (Sunday, October 10): Pavlov Pianov 0 Alekhine*; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1/2 Pavlov; Golubev 0 Grigoriev; Romanovsky 1 A. Rabinovich*; I. Rabinovich 1 Tselikov; Daniuszewski 1/2 Kubbel; Mundt 0 Blumenfeld; Zubarev 0 Levenfish

Round 6 (Monday, October 11): Alekhine 1/2 Levenfish*; Blumenfeld 0 Zubarev; 43 Kubbel 1 Mundt; Tselikov 1 Daniuszewski; A. Rabinovich 1 I. Rabinovich; Grigoriev 1/2 Romanovsky; Pavlov 1/2 Golubev; Pavlov Pianov 1/2 Ilyin-Zhenevsky*

Round 7 (Tuesday, October 12): Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1/2 Alekhine*; Golubev 0 Pavlov Pianov*; Romanovsky 1 Pavlov; I. Rabinovich 0 Grigoriev; Daniuszewski 1/2 A. Rabinovich; Mundt 1 Tselikov; Zubarev 1/2 Kubbel; Levenfish 1/2 Blumenfeld

Round 8 (Thursday, October 14): Alekhine 1/2 Blumenfeld; Kubbel 0 Levenfish; Tselikov 1 Zubarev; A. Rabinovich 1 Mundt; Grigoriev 0 Daniuszewski; Pavlov 0 I. Rabinovich; Pavlov Pianov 1 Romanovsky; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1 Golubev

Round 9 (Friday, October 15): Golubev 0 Alekhine; Romanovsky 1 Ilyin-Zhenevsky; I. Rabinovich 1 Pavlov Pianov*; Daniuszewski 1/2 Pavlov; Mundt 0 Grigoriev; Zubarev 1 A. Rabinovich; Levenfish 1/2 Tselikov; Blumenfeld 1/2 Kubbel

Round 10 (Sunday, October 17): Alekhine 1 Kubbel*; Tselikov 1 Blumenfeld; A. Rabinovich 1/2 Levenfish*; Grigoriev 0 Zubarev; Pavlov 1/2 Mundt; Pavlov Pianov 1/2 Daniuszewski*; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 1/2 I. Rabinovich; Golubev 0 Romanovsky

Round 11 (Monday, October 18): Romanovsky 1/2 Alekhine; I. Rabinovich 1 Golubev; Daniuszewski 0 Ilyin-Zhenevsky*; Mundt 1/2 Pavlov Pianov*; Zubarev 1 Pavlov; Levenfish 1 Grigoriev; Blumenfeld 1/2 A. Rabinovich; Kubbel 1 Tselikov*

Round 12 (Tuesday, October 19): Alekhine 1 Tselikov; A. Rabinovich 1 Kubbel; Grigoriev 0 Blumenfeld; Pavlov 1/2 Levenfish; Pavlov Pianov 1 Zubarev*; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0 Mundt; Golubev 0 Daniuszewski; Romanovsky 0 I. Rabinovich

Round 13 (Thursday, October 21): I. Rabinovich 0 Alekhine*; Daniuszewski 0 Romanovsky; Mundt 0 Golubev; Zubarev 1 Ilyin-Zhenevsky; Levenfish 1 Pavlov Pianov*; Blumenfeld 1/2 Pavlov; Kubbel 0 Grigoriev*; Tselikov 1 A. Rabinovich*

Round 14 (Friday, October 22): Alekhine 1 A. Rabinovich; Grigoriev 1 Tselikov; Pavlov 0 Kubbel*; Pavlov Pianov 0 Blumenfeld*; Ilyin-Zhenevsky 0 Levenfish; Golubev 1 Zubarev; Romanovsky 1 Mundt*; I. Rabinovich 1 Daniuszewski

Round 15 (Sunday, October 24): Daniuszewski 1/2 Alekhine*; Mundt 1/2 I. Rabinovich; 115 Zubarev 0 Romanovsky*; Levenfish 1 Golubev; Blumenfeld 0 Ilyin-Zhenevsky; Kubbel 1 Pavlov Pianov*; Tselikov 0 Pavlov; A. Rabinovich 0 Grigoriev


The Soviet Championships, by Bernard Cafferty and Mark Taimanov, pp. 12-13.
Alexander Alekhine (Chess Stars series), vol. 1, 1902-1922, edited by Alexander Khalifman.

Original collection: Game Collection: USSR Championship 1920, by User: Phony Benoni.

 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 39  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. N Grigoriev vs Alekhine 0-1251920USSR ChampionshipC60 Ruy Lopez
2. Ilyin-Zhenevsky vs A Kubbel  0-1451920USSR ChampionshipC60 Ruy Lopez
3. N Pavlov-Pianov vs N Tselikov  1-0451920USSR ChampionshipC48 Four Knights
4. P Romanovsky vs Levenfish 1-0421920USSR ChampionshipB16 Caro-Kann, Bronstein-Larsen Variation
5. A Rabinovich vs N Pavlov-Pianov 1-0491920USSR ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
6. N Pavlov-Pianov vs N Grigoriev  0-1741920USSR ChampionshipA47 Queen's Indian
7. Ilyin-Zhenevsky vs A Rabinovich 0-1291920USSR ChampionshipC77 Ruy Lopez
8. N Tselikov vs P Romanovsky 0-1321920USSR ChampionshipD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
9. Levenfish vs A Mundt  1-0571920USSR ChampionshipB13 Caro-Kann, Exchange
10. D N Pavlov vs N Pavlov-Pianov  0-1501920USSR ChampionshipB40 Sicilian
11. A Kubbel vs I Rabinovich  1-0621920USSR ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
12. N Pavlov-Pianov vs Alekhine 0-1271920USSR ChampionshipC01 French, Exchange
13. P Romanovsky vs A Rabinovich 1-0291920USSR ChampionshipC56 Two Knights
14. N Pavlov-Pianov vs Ilyin-Zhenevsky  ½-½461920USSR ChampionshipD43 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
15. Alekhine vs Levenfish ½-½351920USSR ChampionshipD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
16. Ilyin-Zhenevsky vs Alekhine ½-½401920USSR ChampionshipC77 Ruy Lopez
17. I Golubev vs N Pavlov-Pianov  0-1311920USSR ChampionshipC46 Three Knights
18. N Zubarev vs A Kubbel  ½-½451920USSR ChampionshipC49 Four Knights
19. N Pavlov-Pianov vs P Romanovsky 1-0601920USSR ChampionshipD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
20. I Rabinovich vs N Pavlov-Pianov  1-0551920USSR ChampionshipB16 Caro-Kann, Bronstein-Larsen Variation
21. Alekhine vs A Kubbel 1-0201920USSR ChampionshipC83 Ruy Lopez, Open
22. A Rabinovich vs Levenfish ½-½291920USSR ChampionshipB01 Scandinavian
23. N Pavlov-Pianov vs D Daniuszewski  ½-½231920USSR ChampionshipC77 Ruy Lopez
24. A Kubbel vs N Tselikov  1-0451920USSR ChampionshipC48 Four Knights
25. P Romanovsky vs Alekhine ½-½91920USSR ChampionshipC48 Four Knights
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 39  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: "Perhaps his Italian cousin Giuoco Pianov quietly saved them."


You are funny, <USSR Championships>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <The 1st USSR Championship was held in Moscow from October 4 - October 22, 1920, and was not the 1st USSR Championship. Instead, it was advertised as the All-Russian Olympiad, though nobody really knew what was going on. In the wake of World War I everything was confusion in the Soviet Union>

Nice humor :). What actually happened was - it <was> the All-Russian Olympiad (the Soviet Union was founded on December 30th, 1922), but in the Soviet times it was renamed the 1st USSR championship, to make the tradition slightly longer than it actually was :)

Jun-11-14  Bruce Graham: Players were dragooned to participate. Seven players threatened to strike unless they were fed better. Possibly the strangest tournament in history. Alekhine's last on Soviet soil.
Jun-07-16  TheFocus: From the bio above: <Very few of the games are available. For some reason, we are missing about half of Alekhine's games but have all the games of Niklolay Pavlov Pianov. Perhaps his Italian cousin Giuoco Pianov quietly saved them.>

Is this pun/joke really necessary in a tournament report?

Sep-08-16  Phony Benoni: <TheFocus> Probably not. The introduction originally appeared on my collection of the tournament, where perhaps a little latitude may be permitted. There is nothing t stop any Editor from changing it here, and I certainly won't complain.
Sep-08-16  zanzibar: Some readers liked the humor, even enough to comment on it.

Perhaps <CG> could have a flag to pick versions of the intro...

<Humor <on|off>>

or maybe

<Humor <less|more>>


Dec-12-17  visayanbraindoctor: <Alekhine's last on Soviet soil.>

Not his last event. It's recorded he played a match in 1921 in Moscow.

<whiteshark: According to rusbase there has been a match of 7 games in (March) 1921. Alekhine won it with (+2 =5 -0) >

N Grigoriev vs Alekhine, 1921

Alekhine was still residing in post-revolutionary Russia at this time (after 1917). He well could have been actively playing in numerous local clubs and chess events from post revolutionary 1917 to 1921, but I find records of these (and the WW1 era) quite fragmentary or direly lacking. An area for chess historians to research on.

Dec-12-17  Straclonoor: By the way
<The 1st USSR Championship was held in Moscow from October 4 - October 22, 1920, and was not the 1st USSR Championship.> USSR was formed in 1922. It was first Soviet Russia championship. Later, when regular USSR championships occurs, '1st championship' title was ensigned for regular counting.
Dec-12-17  visayanbraindoctor: <Straclonoor USSR was formed in 1922.>

I am not contradicting you but I take the perspective of <post 1917 revolutionary Russia>, even if you are technically correct that the USSR was officially proclaimed only in 1922.

It was the Soviet authorities that organized this tournament, not the Tsarist pre 1917 one. Consequently I regard the appellation <1st USSR Championship> as being appropriate.

Dec-12-17  Marmot PFL: <USSR was formed in 1922. It was first Soviet Russia championship. Later, when regular USSR championships occurs, '1st championship' title was ensigned for regular counting.>

Probably added to the list after Alekhine was rehabilitated by Kotov and Yudovich.

Apr-19-20  Russian Patzer: Dear Chessgames! Please change the title for "Soviet Russia Championship 1920" or something like that. No USSR existed in 1920. USSR was formed in the end of 1922. I beg you!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: I have to admit that the first sentence: <The 1st USSR Championship was held in Moscow from October 4 - October 22, 1920, and was not the 1st USSR Championship> doesn't make any sense.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

(I'm just pointing this out, not advocating we keep it.)

'The 1920 - Chess Olympiad, organised by Vsevobuch ( ) and won by Alekhine, is now regarded as the first Soviet Championship.'

Page 22, 'Soviet Chess' by D.J. Richards.

A book about chess with no game or diagrams in it. A monster of a read.

Two slips I've noticed without even checking is he has Pilnik as an American and Fischer born in New York.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Messiah: <Perhaps his Italian cousin Giuoco Pianov quietly saved them.> I'm crying.
Dec-06-20  WilhelmThe2nd:

In the November, 2020 issue (#11) of the Russian chess magazine '64-Shakhmatnoe Obozrenie' there is an article (pages 78-83) by S. Voronkov about his new book on Alekhine. The article includes a photo of a page from a hand-written manuscript of Alekhine's of games from the 1920 All-Russian Chess Olympiad. The caption states that the manuscript was found among the papers of Alexander Kotov and that of the 25 games in it, 12 are previously unknown (including two of Alekhine's). The photographed page includes the following games lightly annotated by Alekhine:

(6th Rd.) Alekhine-Levenfish
(6th Rd.) A.Rabinovich-I.Rabinovich
(6th Rd.) Blumenfeld-Zubarev
(7th Rd.) Ilyin-Zhenevsky-Alekhine
(7th Rd.) I.Rabinovich-Grigoriev
(8th Rd.) Pavlov-Pianov-Romanovsky (first 39 moves only)

Below are transcriptions of the scores of the games that are not already included in this database:

[Event "USSR Championship"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "1920.10.11"]
[EventDate "1920.10.04"]
[Round "6"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Abram Isaakovich Rabinovich"]
[Black "Ilya Leontievich Rabinovich"]
[ECO "C64"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 f5 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.d4 Qh4 7.dxc5 Qxe4+ 8.Qe2 c6 9.Qxe4 fxe4 10.Be2 b6 11.Bf4 Nf7 12.Nd2 Nf6 13.Be3 bxc5 14.Bxc5 d6 15.Ba3 Be6 16.Nc4 O-O-O 17.O-O-O c5 18.Rd2 Nd5 19.g3 Nb6 20.Na5 Kc7 21.b4 c4 22.f3 exf3 23.Bxf3 Ne5 24.Be4 d5 25.Bc2 Bd7 26.Kb1 Rhe8 27.Bc1 Na4 28.Rd4 Nxc3+ 29.Kb2 Na4+ 30.Ka3 Nb6 31.Bxh7 Kc8 32.h4 Nf3 33.Rf4 Rf8 34.Rd1 Rxf4 35.Bxf4 Bg4 36.b5 Re8 37.Bb1 Nxh4 38.Rh1 Nf5 39.Rh7 Rg8 40.Nc6 Nd7 41.Bxf5 Bxf5 42.Ne7+ Kb7 43.Nxf5 Kb6 44.Kb4 1-0

[Event "USSR Championship"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "1920.10.11"]
[EventDate "1920.10.04"]
[Round "6"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Benjamin Markovich Blumenfeld"]
[Black "Nikolay Zubarev"]
[ECO "C45"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.Nb5 Bxe3 7.fxe3 Qh4+ 8.g3 Qxe4 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 Qxh1 11.Qd6 Nf6 12.Nd2 Ne8 13.Qa3 Qxh2 14.O-O-O Qxg3 15.Bb5 Qd6 16.Qa4 a6 17.Nc4 axb5 18.Nxd6 bxa4 19.Nxf7+ Ke7 20.Nxh8 d6 21.Nb6 Be6 22.Nxa4 g5 23.Nc3 Nf6 24.Kd2 Ne5 25.b4 h5 26.a4 h4 27.a5 h3 28.Rh1 g4 29.Ne2 Ne4+ 30.Kc1 g3 31.b5 g2 32.Rh2 Kd7 33.Ng1 Ng5 34.a6 bxa6 35.bxa6 Kc7 36.c4 Nef3 37.Nxh3 Bxh3 38.Rxg2 Bxg2 39.Ng6 Ne5 0-1

[Event "USSR Championship"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "1920.10.12"]
[EventDate "1920.10.04"]
[Round "7"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Ilya Leontievich Rabinovich"]
[Black "Nikolay Dmitrievich Grigoriev"]
[ECO "A50"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 Bb7 4.Nc3 d6 5.Qc2 Nbd7 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 e6 8.e4 Be7 9.Rd1 O-O 10.Be2 Nh5 11.Bg3 f5 12.Nh4 Qe8 13.exf5 Bxh4 14.Bxh4 Nf4 15.Bg3 Nxg2+ 16.Kd2 exf5 17.h3 f4 18.Bh2 Ne3 19.Qd3 Nxd1 20.Rxd1 Qe7 21.Bg4 Rae8 22.Bh5 Rd8 23.Re1 Qh4 24.Bg4 Nf6 25.Be6+ Kh8 26.d5 Bc8 27.Nb5 Bxe6 28.dxe6 Rc8 29.Qf3 a6 30.Nd4 Rce8 31.Rg1 Nh7 32.Rg6 Ng5 33.Qe2 Qxh3 0-1

Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: "...Italian cousin Giuoco Pianov quietly..."

You went there. You actually went there.

Rather wish I went there first.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Link on this event with some contemporaneous observations by Alekhine et al:

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