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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Great Britain vs. Soviet Union Radio Match 1946

     At the first proposal of the match, the English players had sent a letter to the Soviets saying they hoped the “American Tragedy” could be avoided; the Soviet team had defeated the Americans with the astonishing score of 15 ½ to 4 ½ and the chess world had been surprised. 
     It was felt the Americans had underestimated the Soviet team, but the British players did not make the same mistake. They knew the strength of the Soviets and were well prepared. They studied the style and opening repertoire of each member of the Soviet team. It was considerably more difficult for the Soviet players to prepare because some of the British players had not played in a major tournament for six years.
     As things turned out though, the U.S. got to share the embarrassment of their humiliating 1945 defeat at the hands of the Soviets when Great Britain also lost their match which was played in June of 1946. At least on the men's boards the British players did a little better; they scored a half point more than the U.S. team had done. This match also had the addition of two female players for each team with the Soviet ladies winning all four games. 
     Like the match with the U.S. this match was viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate the friendship between the two countries. The day before the match began two trial games were played: G. Wood and J. Stone faced A. Konstantinopolsky and V. Alatortsev respectively. After Wood gained a winning opening advantage and with good communications established, the Soviets sent a friendly message suggesting that play be stopped. While the transmission of moves was instantaneous it took a lot of time to check, encode/decode the moves and it was soon realized that four hours for a game was going to mean at least eight hours sitting at the board for the players.
     After the match started there was soon a big surprise: Bronstein resigned to Winter! That was ironic because it was Winter who first conceived the idea of the match despite a lot of opposition because it was said by the British players themselves that they would not score a single point so he must have been greatly pleased!
     Winter's early victory notwithstanding, other games were not going so well; soon Aitken, who had been dragging out on a hopeless position, resigned his game against Bondarevsky. Then soon after, Bruce resigned to Rudenko, Konig to Smyslov, and Alexander to Botvinnik. Just before eleven at night the Wood-Lilienthal game, with both players very short of time, ended with Wood's reignation. The score was 5-1 in favor of the Soviets.
     Of the remaining games, Klein, a Pawn up, had Keres under pressure, Fairhurst was struggling with two knights against two bishops but was about equal against Flohr and Tranmer's game against Bykova was equal. List's position against Kotov was not looking good.  Golombek had a dead draw against Boleslavsky, but Golombek's repeated draw offers had been refused. Finally, Abrahams' game against Ragozin was looking good: he was about to win a pawn in a bishop-and-pawn ending. The score was the Soviet Union 9.5 - Great Britain 2.5.   As B. H. Wood pointed out, Great Britain had at least improved on the U.S.'s showing; their first round total had been only two points.
     The next day things didn't go well for the British. Bruce looked to be losing early on, but the grin on Alexander's face told everyone that he was winning against Botvinnik. Then Winter resigned to Bronstein and Fairhurst vs. Flohr and Golombek vs. Boleslavsky were drawn. Meanwhile the games Aitken vs. Bondarevsky and List vs. Kotov were looking bad for the British. Konig was defending desperately against Smyslov and Wood had a passed pawn but was battling against strong counterplay by Lilienthal. Keres hammered Klein who resigned at the adjournment. In his game against Alexander, Botvinnik had run extremely short of time which delayed the adjournment until midnight; they had been playing thirteen hours!
     The next day Alexander and Abrahams won quickly while, with the exception of the Wood vs. Lilienthal game, the other games were quickly drawn. Wood finally notched a final half-point after an hour's play making the final score for the men 14 to 6 in favor of the Soviets.  At least that was half a point better than the U.S. team had done. Unfortunately for the British, the lady players lost all four games making the final score 18 – 6.

Bd 1: Mikhail Botvinnik 1 vs. C.H.O'D. Alexander 1
Bd 2: Paul Keres 1.5 vs. Ernest Klein 0.5
Bd 3: Vassily Smyslov 2 vs. Imre Konig 0
Bd. 4: Isaac Boleslavsky 1 vs. Harry Golombek 1
Bd. 5: Salo Flohr 1.5 vs. W.A. Fairhurst 0.5
Bd. 6: Alexander Kotov 2 vs. P.M. List 0
Bd 7: David Bronstein 1 vs. William Winter 1
Bd 8: Igor Bondarevsky 2 vs. J.M. Aitken 0
Bd 9: Andor Lilienthal 1.5 vs. Brauch H. Wood 0.5
Bd 10: V. Ragozin 0.5 vs. Gerald Abrahams 1.5
Bd 11: Elizabeta Bykova 2 vs. Eileen Tranmer 0
Bd 12: Lyudmila Rudenko 2 vs. Rowena Bruce 0

Here is Bronstein's instructive win over Winter.  For an explanation of the P-formation (the Boleslavsky Wall) click HERE.

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