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USSR Championship Tournament

Paul Keres11.5/17(+8 -2 =7)[games]
Isaac Lipnitsky11/17(+8 -3 =6)[games]
Alexander Tolush11/17(+8 -3 =6)[games]
Lev Aronin11/17(+9 -4 =4)[games]
Vasily Smyslov10/17(+6 -3 =8)[games]
Alexander Konstantinopolsky10/17(+5 -2 =10)[games]
Vladimir Alatortsev9/17(+5 -4 =8)[games]
Isaac Boleslavsky9/17(+5 -4 =8)[games]
Efim Geller9/17(+7 -6 =4)[games]
Salomon Flohr9/17(+5 -4 =8)[games]
Vladas Mikenas8.5/17(+6 -6 =5)[games]
Tigran V Petrosian8/17(+5 -6 =6)[games]
Igor Bondarevsky8/17(+4 -5 =8)[games]
Yuri Averbakh7/17(+4 -7 =6)[games]
Alexey Suetin6.5/17(+5 -9 =3)[games]
Georgy Borisenko6.5/17(+3 -7 =7)[games]
Alexey Sokolsky4/17(+1 -10 =6)[games]
Viktor Lyublinsky4/17(+1 -10 =6)[games]
* Chess Event Description
USSR Championship (1950)

The 18th Soviet Chess Championship took place in the capital of Moscow from November 11th to December 11th, 1950. Fifteen of the Soviet Union's best masters and grandmasters qualified from five semi-final tournaments held earlier in the year. Lev Aronin, Victor Liublinsky, and Tigran Petrosian qualified from Gorky; Isaac Lipnitsky, Alexey Sokolsky, and Efim Geller qualified from Kiev; Vladimir Alatortsev, Alexander Tolush, and Igor Bondarevsky qualified from Leningrad; Salomon Flohr, Alexander Konstantinopolsky, and Vladas Mikenas qualified from Tartu; and Yuri Averbakh, Georgy Borisenko, and Alexey Suetin qualified from Tula. Vasily Smyslov was invited as returning Soviet champion, and since both Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein were preparing for their upcoming world championship match in several months, their invitations went to 1947 USSR championship winner Paul Keres and world candidate semi-finalist Isaac Boleslavsky. The round robin event was dedicated in memoriam to the 100th birthday of Mikhail Chigorin. Whereas the field was exceptionally strong (minus Botvinnik and Bronstein) it was surprising that players like Smyslov, Boleslavsky, and Flohr were not as dominant as usual. Long time Soviet players Aronin, Lipnitsky, and Tolush surprised everyone by keeping pace with both Smyslov and Keres. Eventually, Keres and Tolush rose in the second half until they were even in the final round. While Tolush misplayed into the adjournment and had to accept the draw, Keres managed an excellent position and won his resumed game to finish half a point ahead of the next three players, taking the Soviet crown with eleven and a half points out of seventeen for the final. It was the second of what would be three titles for Keres, and a return to form from having finished in the middle of the field in the previous two editions of the Soviet championships.

The final standings and crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts 1 Keres * ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 11½ =2 Lipnitsky ½ * ½ 1 1 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 11 =2 Tolush ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 11 =2 Aronin 0 0 1 * 0 1 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 11 =5 Smyslov ½ 0 ½ 1 * ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 1 1 10 =5 Konstantinopolsky ½ 1 0 0 ½ * ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 10 =7 Alatortsev 1 1 0 ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1 9 =7 Boleslavsky 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 1 * 1 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 9 =7 Geller 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 * 0 ½ 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 9 =7 Flohr 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 * 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 9 11 Mikenas 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 * 1 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 8½ =12 Petrosian 1 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 * 1 0 0 1 ½ 1 8 =12 Bondarevsky ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 0 0 1 0 * 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 8 14 Averbakh 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 * 1 ½ 1 1 7 =15 Suetin ½ 1 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 0 1 0 0 * 1 1 0 6½ =15 Borisenko 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 * 1 ½ 6½ =17 Sokolsky ½ 0 0 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 * ½ 4 =17 Liublinsky 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ * 4

This collection would not have been possible without the efforts of <Phony Benoni>.

Original collection: Game Collection: USSR Championship 1950, by User: suenteus po 147.

 page 1 of 7; games 1-25 of 153  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tolush vs Flohr 1-0411950USSR ChampionshipB11 Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4
2. Geller vs Smyslov ½-½561950USSR ChampionshipD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
3. Keres vs I Lipnitsky  ½-½411950USSR ChampionshipE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
4. V Mikenas vs Boleslavsky  ½-½271950USSR ChampionshipE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
5. Suetin vs Petrosian 1-0601950USSR ChampionshipC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
6. Bondarevsky vs Averbakh 1-0391950USSR ChampionshipD85 Grunfeld
7. A Konstantinopolsky vs Alatortsev ½-½331950USSR ChampionshipC50 Giuoco Piano
8. G Borisenko vs V Lyublinsky ½-½451950USSR ChampionshipE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
9. Sokolsky vs Aronin 0-1471950USSR ChampionshipB51 Sicilian, Canal-Sokolsky (Rossolimo) Attack
10. Flohr vs V Mikenas 1-0371950USSR ChampionshipD02 Queen's Pawn Game
11. A Konstantinopolsky vs Geller  ½-½191950USSR ChampionshipA48 King's Indian
12. Smyslov vs Keres  ½-½231950USSR ChampionshipE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
13. Petrosian vs Tolush 1-0191950USSR ChampionshipD43 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
14. Averbakh vs Suetin 1-0331950USSR ChampionshipB62 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
15. Alatortsev vs Aronin ½-½351950USSR ChampionshipA67 Benoni, Taimanov Variation
16. Boleslavsky vs G Borisenko  ½-½281950USSR ChampionshipE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
17. V Lyublinsky vs Sokolsky  ½-½541950USSR ChampionshipC19 French, Winawer, Advance
18. I Lipnitsky vs Bondarevsky  ½-½421950USSR ChampionshipC61 Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense
19. G Borisenko vs Flohr 0-1331950USSR ChampionshipD21 Queen's Gambit Accepted
20. Geller vs Alatortsev  ½-½271950USSR ChampionshipD28 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
21. Keres vs A Konstantinopolsky ½-½261950USSR ChampionshipB40 Sicilian
22. V Mikenas vs Petrosian 1-0411950USSR ChampionshipE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
23. Bondarevsky vs Smyslov 0-1511950USSR ChampionshipE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
24. Suetin vs I Lipnitsky 1-0481950USSR ChampionshipC78 Ruy Lopez
25. Sokolsky vs Boleslavsky  ½-½281950USSR ChampionshipE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
 page 1 of 7; games 1-25 of 153  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-09-13  ughaibu: I looked at Keres' "event details" page: The rating for the USSR Championship is given as January 1950 and the Candidates as April.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <ughaibu> Thanks for the link. Apparently, if the exact month of the tournament was not available, it was considered to have been held at the beginning of the year and was rated on the January list. This happens quite a bit with the USSR Championships: for instance, the 1948 Championship (November-December) and 1949 Championship (October-November) are rated on the January lists for those years.

I couldn't say how this affects his statistics, if at all, but it does demonstrate some lack of depth in research. The exact dates for the USSR Championships are not difficult to find.

Apr-09-13  ughaibu: I see. Thanks for the explanation.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <suenteus po 147: <ughaibu> Thanks for your words, and for the info about Keres!>

Yes, though occasionally petulant ughaibu is no cypher.

Jun-27-14  jerseybob: Boleslavsky, having narrowly missed qualifying for a match with Botvinnik, may have been in a bit of a funk. It was as close as this great player would ever get.
Jun-04-15  zydeco: This tournament was the triumph of the Soviet 'B-team' -- a group of obscure but obviously very strong Soviet players (Aronin, Tolush, Liptnisky, Konstantinopolsky) keeping pace with Keres, Smyslov, Boleslavsky.

Aronin led through round eight; Smyslov from round eight to round twelve. Lipnitsky led after round thirteen. Then he lost; Keres and Tolush held the lead after round fourteen; Tolush lost to give Keres the lead. Keres lost to Petrosian in the penultimate round, creating a three-way tie between Keres, Tolush, and Aronin. Keres was the only one of the three to win in the last round.

Geller and Petrosian both had inconsistent tournaments but produced a few beautiful games.

Good games from this tournament:

Bondarevsky vs Smyslov, 1950
Boleslavsky vs Aronin, 1950
Lipnitsky vs Tolush, 1950
Alatortsev vs Boleslavsky, 1950
Petrosian vs Aronin, 1950
Boleslavsky vs Flohr, 1950
Lipnitsky vs Aronin, 1950
Aronin vs Geller, 1950
Tolush vs V Mikenas, 1950
Aronin vs Tolush, 1950
Lipnitsky vs Smyslov, 1950
Geller vs Averbakh, 1950
Keres vs Petrosian, 1950
Petrosian vs Bondarevsky, 1950
Averbakh vs Keres, 1950
Bondarevsky vs V Mikenas, 1950

Aug-12-16  Calli: Article by Voronkov on this site:

In Russian, of course. I use the Google translate extension of the Chrome browser to read the site. It's still a bit incoherent, but the article has a ton of information.

Apr-16-19  NeverAgain: Thanks for the link, Calli. That's a huge article with a lot of interesting information. I'll translate the parts that deal with the history and the characters, the rest (the games and the commentary) should be easy enough to follow as is.
Apr-16-19  NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat
by Sergei Voronkov, writer and historian

The "Chigorin" year clearly got off on the wrong foot. Everything started with the Candidates tournament won, in an odd twist of luck, by two Jews -- Isaak Boleslavsky and David Bronstein. Good thing at least that our representatives had hustled, bustled and pushed Budapest through in full knowledge that the US State Department wouldn't let Reshevsky go to the Communist Hungary, thus preventing an even worse scenario: an American Jew making it to the final. Then Bronstein won the play-off match which greatly stressed not only Mikhail Botvinnik but also the chess authorities: whereas the champion had the 7-0 score (with four draws) vs. Boleslavsky, against Bronstein it was 0.5-1.5. Of course Botvinnik, too, was weak on "point five" (apparently a reference to the nationality entry in the Soviet passport -- NA), nevertheless he was a tested man and a member of the party unlike that son of a former Gulag inmate. And finally at the end of the jubilee year the USSR championship was won not by a Russian "Chigorinist" like Kotov or Smyslov -- someone our people could be proud of -- but the Estonian Paul Keres who barely avoided being arrested after the war for taking part in German tournaments... And all that in the middle of the campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans"!

The State Sports Committee was then headed by Colonel General A. Apollonov, on Stalin's personal appointment. The new boss was rude and didn't stand on ceremony with people; hardly surprising given that in his previous position as a deputy chief of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) he was in charge of tje penitentiary system, and before that he commanded NKVD's internal troops. The General had little understanding of sports and dealt with the "personnel" under his jurisdiction in a military manner. A typical case. The secretary reports: "Such and such has arrived." Apollonov: "Bring him in."

The only thing in his favor was his love of chess. The general himself wasn't a bad player; according to Yuri Averbakh's estimate "approximately of first category strength".

Averbakh: "Apollonov's appointment to the Sports committe was akin to making an army Sergeant the head of a university Philosophy faculty. He was much feared and with good reason. Blunt, peremptory, he, like many other leaders of the time, addressed all his subordinates with the informal "you" and often peppered his pronouncements with rough barracks humor and sayings.

Igor Bondarevsky, for example, told me that during one of his first meetings with the general he started complaining about some difficulties. Apollonov cut him short:

-- And what's easy? Only pissing in a public bathhouse is easy!

Paradoxically, Apollonov loved chess and had a pretty good understanding of it. I remember how we were getting ready to leave for the international tournament at Szczawno-Zdrój (June 1950 -- SV). The flight was take off late at night and around midnight the chess contingent gathered in the Sports Committee building. In those days all authorities followed Stalin's habit of working nights, so the General was at his office as usual. First our delegation -- Keres, Bondarevsky, Taimanov, Geller, Simagin and I, along with Alatortsev (the leader) and Veresov (the coach) -- was given a strict injunction to win the tournament, and then Apollonov offered Keres to play "a short game". His play was reasonable enough and the game started getting drawn-out. We had to leave already but the General, taken up with the game, was not in a hurry. The punctual Zubarev, not daring to interrupt, was ready to beat his head on the wall when the game at last ended. Fortunately, we made in on time to the airport... A few years later the powers that be apparently decided that the General put the sports' house in order and reassigned him back to the security services with a promotion -- he was made the chief of the border troops. I remember him coming to the Sports Committee in a car with an escort to say his goodbyes. And Romanov was made the head of the commitee again." (from the book "What Chess Pieces Are Silent About", 2007)

(to be continued)

Apr-16-19  NeverAgain: Before anyone accuses SV of anti-semitism on the strength of the first paragraph allow me to state that his narrative is laced with a healthy dose of irony. The scare quotes and bits like "our people" are the giveaways. If that doesn't come across clearly enough blame the translator, not the author. :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <NeverAgain>, plenty of inter alia, anti-Semitic commentary has been allowed and even condoned elsewhere; this piece by Voronkov is very clearly a parody--to those willing to see it for what it is.

Rich theatre.

Apr-17-19  NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat part 2

The General's relations with Botvinnik "didn't quite work out", according to Averbakh, to the extent that in 1954 the former told V. Baturinsky "You know, your Mikhail Moiseyevich has been a major pain in the neck". On the other hand the "short game" episode revealed Apollonov's good will, if not empathy, towards Keres. And perhaps that saved Paul Petrovich from the next round of witch hunt that, as was recently discovered, menaced him in that same "Chigorin" year!

I had thought that all Keres' troubles ended in 1947 when he was given permission to take part in the USSR Championship. Despite a group of participants lodging a half-baked complaint against him, calling him a fascist, he brilliantly won the gold medal which seemed to be a guarantee against further attacks... Alas, the emergent "fight against the apologists of the West" bore poison fruit in the field of chess as well. Our masters were not above "ratting out" each other (see the article on the 13th championship) yet never had a denunciation took shape of an opening book review!

<The Estonian State Publishing House has released the first volume of the chess grandmaster Keres' theoretical treatise "Open Game".

There is no task more noble and responsible for an author in the field of theoretical research than to establish the unquestionable authority of the pre-Revolution Russian and the Soviet School, to demonstrate vividly and convincingly <the leading role of the Russian people> (here and later the emphasis is mine -- SV) in such a unique branch of culture as chess.

Keres failed in this task. Worse yet, he used the literary platform at his disposal for unrestrained glorifying of foreign theoreticians, including even <fascists' hirelings and out-and-out traitors of the Soviet people>, whose pathetic "theoretical" efforts offer no value whatsoever.

(...) The systematic, completely unjustified, in-your-face multiple mentions of the <fascists' fosterling Bogolyubov>, nowadays operating in the American occupation zone in Germany, arouse just anger and astonishment among Soviet chess players. Everybody knows that Bogolyubov's pathetic attempts at theoretical research never offered any value and his authority as a chess player, not to mention his revolting political mien, has long been equal zero; that is, if it's even possible to speak of a <fascist rogue> having any authority.

(...) The phrase "Fine recommends" occurs more than 15 times, "Euwe recommends" and "Tartakover recommends" -- more than 30 times. Whereas the name of the brilliant Russian master, the original author of most of the modern systems of attack and defence in the so-called "Spanish Game", "Evans' Gambit" and other open games, which are precisely the subject of Keres' book, is rarely to be seen. Throughout the whole book the phrase "Chigorin recommends" has only a couple of fleeting occurrences (...) and his role is represented in Keres' book in a shamefully parsimonious manner.

Keres attains <the limits of absurdity> (...)

This begs the question: how to explain such <extremely gross political> and theoretical <gaffes>, such adulation of any, however insignificant, foreign name, such poor reflection of pre-revolutionary and Soviet theoreticians' merits? The answer stares one in the face! Keres' work does not represent independent, original creative research (...) It's little more than a compilation of post-war opening reference books by Euwe and Fine, released abroad, and well-known foreign opening guides by Tartakover, Tarrasch et al, condemned by the Soviet critics long ago.

The lack of creative independence, of originality, together with slipshod attitudes present fertile ground for <worship of anything foreign, for cosmopolitanism, for political and theoretical blunders>. (...)

The cosmopolitan, objectivist book by Keres creates a completely false presentation of theory and history of national and foreign chess art.

Panov V.N.

Master of Sports in chess, member of VKP(b) (All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) -- NA)


Apr-17-19  NeverAgain: This vivid relic of the age of "advanced Stalinism" surfaced only in our days, in Genna Sosonko's article "The Panov Attack" ("64" #7, 2014). The author writes that this text "was discovered relatively recently in KGB's main archives in Moscow and is published here for the first time" (apparently, The Central Archives of the Russian FSB is meant). He further notes: "The Keres' book review was evidently written by an order of "the relevant authorities", since KGB's observation of the Estonian grandmaster was particularly intense during this period." Indeed, during 1945-52 MGB had an active file open on Keres, but does it follow that Panov composed his opus to fulfil an order of the CheKa men?

(to be continued)

Apr-19-19  NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat part 3

We cannot rule out the possibility that the text was originally intended for "Shakhmaty v SSSR" (Chess in USSR -- NA) and later was reworked with an ideological slant. That's when all those "fascists' hirelings", "fosterlings" and "rogues" appeared -- you won't find these words in the magazine itself. What makes me think so? In those days there was no book, including little pamphlets like "All-Russian Chess Tournament of Kholhoz Workers", that would not elicit a critical response -- in 1950 alone the magazine put out 10 reviews, including one by Panov. Nevertheless a review of Keres' fundamental work for some reason is not among of them.

All of this is not enough to explain what could the reason for the attack on Keres be.

At first my suspicions were misdirected toward the Candidates tournament where he suffered a setback around that same time: Keres was among the leaders but in the last five rounds made only a point and a half and fell back to the 4th place. Perhaps someone didn't want to see him make it to a match vs. Botvinnik and the review served as the means of blackmail: "if you don't slow down we'll publish it"? But the dates don't match: the fateful loss to Kotov occurred on May 9, a day before the review's date. And, frankly, why create such complications when a simple "friendly talk tête-a-tête" would do just as well? There was just the man for the job, too: our delegation in Budapest was headed by master Viktor Goglidze whose [older] brother [Sergey Goglidze], a Colonel General of security services like Apollonov, was Beria's righ-hand man...

No, something more serious was afoot. Quite possibly, an arrest was in the cards!

Sosonko, for his part, calls the review "closed". However, during the long years of my work as an editor I never heard of such. There are internal reviews but those are written by an order of the publisher, and not after the book's release but before it, to evaluate the quality of the manuscript. And what's the point of being closed? To prevent anyone from finding out what sins Keres was taken in for? No, famous people received different treatment in those days: first they were stigmtized in the press and only then the arrests followed. In the worst case they were quietly "disappeared", as happened to Mikhoels...

Nevertheless the date under the review turned out to be an important clue! I knew that in 1945 Keres avoided reprisals thanks to the intercession by the first secretary of the Communist Party of Estonia Nikolai Karotamm. And then, while going over Valter Heuer's article "The Secret of Paul Keres", I bumped into this sentence: "he (Karotamm) supported the grandmaster until his fall in 1950". So this is it, then... Everything finally clicked into place when I learned the exact date of the "fall": March 26, ten days before the Soviet chess masters departed for Budapest!

Thus Keres suddenly found himself without a "cover". And someone decided to take advantage of the fact, especially since there was no shortage of those wishing Paul Petrovich ill, both in Estonia (read Heuer) and in Moscow (those who branded him a fascist in 1947 had not vanished into thin air). What was missing was an appropriate occasion: the KGB documents reveal that the "development" of Keres' case failed to produce anything substantial, whereupon his "record file was archived in 1952"... And perhaps it was then that someone hit upon the idea of using a chess book review, worded like a political denunciation, as a battering ram?

Panov was not a random pick for this part. A party member, a model "Soviet patriot", an ethnic Russian and a true "Chigorinist" to boot, who would go on to write two eulogistic books about his idol. As any neophyte (he had joined the party only three years previously) Panov must have been proud to be given this task and happy to be able at the same time to lay into Bogolyubov, whom he hated bitterly. And dashed off what was demanded of him. Why "dashed off"? Because it's obvious that the text was written hastily, in a sort of frenzy. Panov was one of our best journalists, and what we got here? Paucity of thought, repetitions. Here he writes "whose pathetic "theoretical" efforts offer no value whatsoever", and next to it "Bogolyubov's pathetic attempts at theoretical research never offered any value". Another example: "does not represent independent, original creative research", followed by "The lack of creative independence, of originality"!

...One can only guess the stage at which this affair was called off. The fact that the review floundered in Lubyanka's depths is nevertheless quite noteworthy. Too bad one cannot ask Apollonov who deflected the blow away from Keres: the general himself or somebody else.

(to be continued)

Apr-20-19  ughaibu: NeverAgain: Great stuff! Thanks for all the work.
Apr-20-19  mckmac: <NeverAgain> Fascinating posts! Many thanks.
Apr-20-19  Sally Simpson: ***

Excellent intriguing posts 'Never Again.'


Apr-22-19  NeverAgain: Thank you for the kind words, much appreciated! Especially nice to see some of my all-time favorite posters chiming in.

I can't take any credit for the material itself, though; all credit belongs to Sergei Voronkov. It's a shame that such a large repository of information on chess history is virtually unknown because of language barriers.

On with the article. After a long detour discussing Keres it finally focuses on the tmt itself.

Apr-22-19  NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat part 4

<Candidates vs. Grandmasters>

In contrast to the two previous championships this time there was no semi-final bulletin, which looks odd given that there were five (!) tournaments to cover. It's possible that the paper initially assigned to it was redirected to the unscheduled edition dedicated to the Bronstein-Boleslavsky match. As a compensation, a selection of semi-final games appeared in the "XVIII shakhmatny chempionat SSSR" (XVIIIth USSR Championship -- NA) bulletin, and the best 23 games were included in the "Shakhmaty za 1950 god" (Chess of 1950) anthology.

The main innovation introduced in these qualifying tournaments was grandmasters' participation -- from now on mandatory rather than voluntary. Even though five of the "grosses" were exempted from the "exam", the idea proved its worth: of the five others -- Bondarevsky, Flohr, Levenfish, Lilienthal and Ragozin -- only two managed to break through to the final!

<Ragozin: The number of masters, growing year after year, long ago forced our chess organization to abandon the individual assignment system for competitions in favor of the current system of multi-stage elimination system in order to select participants for the final of the USSR championship. Around 200 highly qualified players (from the first category to grandmasters) take part in the battle for the title of USSR champion in quarter-final, semi-final and final competitions.

Before the Great Patriotic War (the Eastern Front of WWII, 1941-1945 -- NA) the championships of [Soviet] republics, the largest chess centers of the nation -- Moscow and Leningrad, as well as exhibition master tournaments played a great role in the development of creativity among youth and masters. However the USSR championship semi-finals are gradually assuming increasingly greater importance since they are superior to traditional local tournaments not just in the strength of the participants but also in the intensity of the sporting spirit. Now every master makes particularly thorough preparation for a USSR championship semi-final as his most important competition> ("Shakhmaty v SSSR", #12 1950).

caption: "Participant's card" for the 18th USSR Championship quarter-final in Ulyanovsk, issued to candidate master Boris Voronkov. Big, in calico binding -- not something you would carry around in a pocket!

Apr-22-19  NeverAgain: <Abramov: Unfortunately, the difficult task of forming groups [of participants] of equal strength was not performed satisfactorily. An objective system, e.g. one that calculates individual coefficients (incidentally first used in USSR by Lev Abramov in that same 1950) or some other method has been long overdue.> ("Shakhmaty za 1950 god")

The Leningrad group: 1-2 Alatortsev and Tolush -- 10.5/15; 3 Bondarevsky -- 9.5; 4-5 Kan and Lisitsin -- 8.5; 6-9 Klaman, Kondratiev, Taimanov and Khasin -- 8; 10 Abramov -- 7.5; etc.

<Abramov: One must acknowledge the results as just: the victors played forcefully throughout and showed high class. The rest achieved results that correspond to their sporting form. Even Taimanov, whom many had hoped to see among the participants in the final, this time couldn't have expected a better outcome as his play was uneven and lacked the customary confidence.> ("Shakhmaty v SSSR", #12 1950)

The Kiev group: 1-2 Lipnitsky and Sokolsky -- 9.5/15; 3 Geller -- 9; 4-5 Ragozin and Saigin -- 8.5; 6 Aratovsky -- 8; 7-9 Vatnikov, Kopayev and Tarasov -- 7.5; 10-11 Sakharov and Chistyakov -- 7; etc.

<Ragozin: For five years I took no part in semi-final competitions and must note with satisfaction the increased mastery level of our youth. Lipnitsky conquered the master title only this year, yet he is quite a mature and experienced player. He knows theory well and his style is inclined toward combinational struggle. Sokolsky's play was very uneven, marred by oversights; [nevertheless] some of his games were carried out with great force. Geller, who distinguished himself in last USSR championship with very interesting and vivid play, this time went through the tournament with uncertain steps> (ibid)

<<If anyone has a copy of the "Shakhmaty za 1950 god" anthology open it on page 104. What, no such page? Don't be surprised: the sheet bearing that page was torn out from practically all copies. Why? Printed on it was the crosstable of the Kiev semi-final, the one Yuri Sakharov, later twice champion of Ukraine, took part in. The reason for the "vandalism" was his arrest in 1951, shortly after winning the Lvov semi-final of 19th USSR championship. You will find no mention of this tragic story in either "Shakhmaty" or Wikipedia. I promise to go over this subject in more detail in my next article...

Incidentally, the same yearbook is missing the sheet with pages 185-186 which must have also had some crosstables since the text on page 184 smoothly segues into that on page 187. I haven't managed to locate a single intact copy so far and thus don't know anything about the reasons for the removal.>>

caption: that same page with the Kiev semi-final crosstable, torn from practically the whole run of the "Shakhmaty za 1950 god" yearbook. Yuri Sakharov's name was the reason.

(to be continued)

Apr-22-19  NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat part 5

The Gorky group: 1 Aronin -- 10.5/15; 2-3 Lyublinsky and Petrosian -- 10; 4 Furman -- 9.5; 5-6 Nezhmetdinov and Ufimtsev -- 9; 7 Konstantinov -- 8.5; 8 Dubinin -- 7.5; 9-10 Levenfish and Soloviov -- 7; etc.

<Aronin: Petrosian is an up-and-coming player. One is struck by the ease of his play, the sharpness of his combinational vision. At the same time his strategic interpretation of most diverse positions is on a high level.

Lyublinsky's play's strongest features are his artful maneuvering in complex positions and stubborness in defence. As usual, Nezhmetdinov showed some interesting games. Having achieved the master title this year he once again exceeded the master norm>. (sic -- NA; ibid)

<Abramov: Levenfish couldn't stand the tension of the difficult tournament and lost his last four games. Particular noteworthy is Aronin's victory, which secured his fourth consecutive entry into the final; moreover, of those four semi-finals he took the first place in three.> ("Shakhmaty za 1950 god")

The Tula group: 1-2 Averbakh and Borisenko -- 11.5/15; 3-4 Moiseyev and Suetin -- 9; 5-7 Ilivitsky, Polyak and Simagin -- 8; 8 Fridstein -- 7.5; 9 Gusev -- 7; 10 Lilienthal -- 6.5; 11-13 Goldberg, Kasparyan and Korchnoi -- 6; etc.

<Abramov: Candidate master Borisenko played the whole tournament in fine style. He achieved nine victories -- more than any other of the semi-finals' 80 participants!> (ibid)

<Borisenko: The winner of the tournament Averbakh displayed good treatment of the opening stage, persistently fought for the initiative and skillfully converted any advantage. For Moiseyev the tournament ended with a dramatic twist. He lost his last two games and Suetin caught up to him; the latter turned out to have superior individual coefficients...

<<Suetin: ... it happened so that I not only got the master title but made it into the final as wll. I must admit that my first-round win vs. Lilienthal greatly inspired me -- that was my first victory over a grandmaster. His lack of confidence was surprising. The symptoms of a deep crisis were evident, although he was only 39 years old. The next few years showed that the process of decline was inexorable. One can only guess about its causes; evidently, psychological wear and the emergence of the new, post-war generation took their toll.>> (from the book "Shakhmaty skvoz' prizmu vremeni" )(Chess Through the Prism of Time -- NA), 1998)

Korchnoi's play merits special attention. It is witty and contains a large dose of ingenuity. It must be noted that Korchnoi would have achieved a better result if hadn't kept getting into severe time trouble. Moreover, the young player tends to overestimate his position.> ("Shakhmaty v SSSR", #12 1950)

<Beilin: 1949. Korchnoi and I are playing in the national championship's quarter-final in L'vov. He is 18, the tournament's youngest participant. Withdrawn during play. Active in his free time. In debates with his seniors doesn't stand on much ceremony, never at a loss for a repartee. Once we got into an argument about a certain position I had. We decided to determine who was right in blitz. Turned out that I was a clear underdog, despite making it into the semi-final. Viktor, who shared 8th-10th places, concluded our little series of games with the words "You're playing in the wrong weight category, Maestro"> (from the book "Moyi vsrechi v shakhmatnom korolevstve" (My Encounters in the Kingdom of Chess), 2003).

(to be continued)

Premium Chessgames Member
  technical draw: Bad finish for the 21 year old future WC Tigran Petrosian. Of course with Geller, Smyslov, and Keres playing maybe it's not that bad after all.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: The "defensive" shield is put up a bit more than the previous edition of this where he lost 8 games - here he only lost 6.

In the next edition he nearly wins it and only has 2 losses:

USSR Championship (1951)

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <....Korchnoi's play merits special attention. It is witty and contains a large dose of ingenuity. It must be noted that Korchnoi would have achieved a better result if hadn't kept getting into severe time trouble....>

As the saying runs about the leopard and its spots....

The translation provided by <NeverAgain> provides a penetrating view into the inner machinations of Soviet chess and the role bureaucracy played in shaping the destinies of even top players.

Dec-21-22  jerseybob: <NeverAgain: The Chigorinist's Feat part 5.> I only intended to read Part 1, but got hooked and read all 5 parts. Gripping stuff!
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