Makogonov never became well known outside the Soviet Union, but was highly respected in the country as a player and coach. He helped Smyslov prepare for his 1957 World Chess Championship match against Botvinnik, trained Vladimir Bagirov and on Botvinnik's recommendation, became one of Kasparov's first coaches.
He was one of the world's strongest players in the 1940s: Chessmetrics calculates his highest historical rating as 2735 in October 1945, and his highest historical world rank as fifth in July 1945.
His tournament results included a tie for third place at Leningrad–Moscow 1939, second place at Sverdlovsk 1943. In 1942, he defeated Salo Flohr in a twelve-game match held in Baku by a score of 7½–4½. He played on Board 9 in the 1945 USSR–USA radio match, beating Abraham Kupchik 1½–½.
As a player, Makogonov was noted for his positional style and he made several contributions to opening theory; the Makogonov Variation in the King's Indian, the Grünfeld and the Tartakower System in the QGD.
His debut in the USSR championship was in 1927 where, along with Botvinnik, he was awarded the title of Soviet Master. In 1943 he was awarded the Soviet Honored Master title.
His best championship performances were: fourth in 1936, a tie for fourth in 1939 and a tie for fifth in 1944.
A math teacher by profession, Makogonov first made a name for himself in the trade union tournaments and city championships in Baku. He won the champion of Azerbaijan five times from 1947 to 1952 and played in eight USSR Championships between 1927 and 1947, his best result being fourth in 1937 and a tie for fourth place in 1939.
In the following game from the Leningrad/Moscow in 1939 he defeated Reshevsky in fine style. The tournament was organized on fairly short notice. The Soviet press referred to it as a training tournament and a preliminary to the regular Russian Championship. The first half was held in Leningrad and the second half was held in Moscow during the month of January. Salo Flohr's victory was a surprise as he had pretty much been written off as a top player after his last place finish at AVRO a few months before. It is believed that Panov may have withdrawn at some point.
1) Flohr 12.0
2) Reshevsky 10.5
3-5) Lilienthal, Makogonov, Levenfish and Ragozin 10.0
6-7) I. Rabinovichand Belavenets 9.5
8-9) Alatortsev and Kan 9.0
10) Konstantinopolsky 8.5
11-12) Smyslov and Keres 8.0
13) Goglidze 7.5 14) Tolush 7.0
16) Romanovsky 6.0
17) Bondarevsky 5.0
18) Panov 3.5