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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weird View on Chess Problems

       In 1936 Chess in the USSR magazine ran an article titled “Confusion in Composition” by Botvinnik who wrote, “the basis of chess is practical play” and advocated a “merciless” fight against abstract compositions.  Botvinnik’s campaign against chess problems not derived from real games also happened to coincide with a Soviet crusade then taking place for realism in art.
       Botvinnik favored endgame studies that might have arisen from real games and he condemned abstractionists who preferred unusual themes that were unlikely to arise from actual games.
       GM Yuri Averbakh commented on the period saying, “Things like chess composition which were so far from anything relating to everyday life started to become the center of political discussions.”
       During the Soviet purges of the 1930’s Rostoslav Alexandrov and Alexander Rotinyan were expelled from the Soviet chess federation because some of their problems had been published in Nazi Germany.  Their publication had not been approved by the proper authorities before being submitted abroad.  After WW2 when Alekhine was accused of collaborating with the Nazis, the Alekhine Defense was renamed the Moscow Defense in the USSR.  After his death, Alekhine’s name was rehabilitated and Kotov and Yudovich writing in The Soviet School of Chess, called him Russia’s greatest player.
       In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice David Bronstein, tongue-in-cheek, called Botvinnik “a good communist” so most likely Botvinnik, who was a snake anyway, probably wrote the article to get his “brownie points.”
       Incidentally, after Alekhine’s death there appeared in Al Horowitz’ magazine, Chess Review, a big brouhaha over whether or not Alekhine’s games should be published.  Many letters to the editor from the well-known and not so well-known appeared in the magazine on both sides of the issue.  Horowitz took the stand that he was going to continue to publish the games.  Alekhine’s sudden death pretty much ended the debate.

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