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Monday, April 17, 2017

Ragozin at Saltsjobaden 1948

   The FIDE system of Zonal and Interzonal tournaments was not yet firmly established so most participants in this event, the first Interzonal, were selected by ballot. The twenty participants competed in a round robin in Saltsjobaden from July 16 to August 15, 1948.
     The tournament was won by David Bronstein, followed by Laszlo Szabo, Isaak Boleslavsky (who did not move on to the Budapest Candidates due to illness), Alexander Kotov, Andor Lilienthal, Miguel Najdorf, Igor Bondarevsky, Salo Flohr and Gideon Stahlberg. These players were joined in Budapest by Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres. 
     The United States was invited to send two players and it was assumed that Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine would be selected, but the USCF decided to send the top two players from the 1946 US Championship. Fine didn't play in the 1946 championship because of his studies, nor was he interested in an invitation to Saltsjobaden. Reshevsky won the tournament 2.5 points ahead of Kashdan, so they were the qualifiers, but both ended up declining their invitation to advance. That left Arrnold Denker next in line, but he also declined. I.A. Horowitz was then selected, but he, too, declined. So, no American players were included in the Saltsjobaden Interzonal. Part of the problem with the American players was no doubt that either the players themselves or their federations were required to finance their own travel and accommodations. 
     Among the other qualifiers, Albrec O'Kelly and Eric Eliskases also withdrew.  Najdorf was the pre-tournament favorite at Saltsjobaden, however he was in bad form, losing a won ending in round 4 against Kotov and in the next round losing a brilliancy prize game to Lilienthal. 
     Szabo led for most of the tournament but in the final round lost to tailender Eric Lundin and allowed Bronstein to move ahead of him. 
     Born in St. Petersburg, Vyacheslav Ragozin's chess career first came to the fore with a series of excellent results in the 1930s. He received the coveted title of Soviet Master in 1930 when he defeated Ilyin-Zhenevsky in a match and was himself awarded the title of Soviet master. At that time, the only way one got the Master titled was to defeat a recognized Master in a match which, given the strength of Societ Masters in those days was no easy task. 
     At Moscow 1935, he won the best game prize for his victory against Lilienthal. At the very strong Moscow tournament of 1936, he beat Flohr and Lasker and came very close to defeating Capablanca, but the game ended in a draw thanks to Capa's resourceful play. At the 1939 Leningrad-Moscow tournament, he finished third equal, behind Flohr and Reshevsky. Success continued into the 1940s with first prize at Sverdlovsk in 1942 and a repeat triumph at the Leningrad Championship of 1945. In 1946, he finished outright first at Helsinki and beat Bondarevsky in a match. His greatest achievement in over-the-board chess then followed at the Chigorin Memorial (Moscow) tournament of 1947, where he placed second, a half-point behind Botvinnik, but notably ahead of such luminaries as Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Keres. 
     By the 1950s, he and most of his generation had been overtaken by the new wave of players emerging from the Soviet chess schools, but Ragozin continued participating in the Soviet Championships. From 1934-1956, he took played in eleven championships. He rarely played in tournaments after 1950, but in 1956 in the Marianske-Lazne Steinitz Memorial he finished second behind Filip, ahead of Flohr, Pachman, Ståhlberg and Wolfgang Uhlmann.
     He was awarded the GM title in 1950 and in 1951 he became an International Arbiter. From 1956–1958, his focused on correspondence chess and won the second ICCF World Correspondence Champion in 1959 with a score of +9 -1 =4. For that achievement he was awarded the CGM title. 
     Because of his creative play and analytical ability Botvinnink chose Ragozin as his sparring partner and they played many training matches. Ragozin's style was experimental and risky and he had a unique ability to sacrifice of Ps for the initiative. For that reason Botvinnik, who was attempting to put together a solid opening repertoire, found Ragozin a good partner against whom he could test his openings. 
     From 1946 to 1955, Ragozin edited the magazine Shakhmaty v SSSR. He was Vice-President of FIDE from 1950 through 1961. Throughout his chess career, Ragozin maintained his career ad a civil engineer. He died in Moscow while putting together a collection of his best games, which his friends completed for publication in 1964. 
     His opponent in this game is Igor Bondarevsky (May 12, 1913 in Rostov-on-the-Don, Russia – June 14, 1979 in Pyatigorsk, Soviet Union), an economist by profession, a Soviet GM in both over-the-board and correspondence chess, an International Arbiter, trainer, and chess author. Bondarevsky shared the 1940 Soviet title, and later coached World Champion Boris Spassky.

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