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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

1933 USSR Championship

    1933 was an active chess year. The 5th Chess Olympiad was held in Folkestone and the United States won the gold medal, Czechoslovakia silver, and Sweden bronze. In conjunction with the Olympiad. Vera Menchik retained her women's world champion title when in a double round 8-woman tournament she crushed all opposition and scored +14 -0 =0.
     Chess Review was established by Isaac Kashdan. Kashdan left after only one year and I.A. Horowitz took over. The leading American chess magazine for most of its run, the Chess Review would be published from January 1933 until November 1969 when it merged (disappeared would be a better description) with Chess Life which deteriorated into a rag hardly worth reading. As a life USCF member I canceled my paper edition a year ago and haven't even bothered to read the online issues.
     In tournament play there was the annual Hastings Christmas Congress that was won by Salo Flohr, then of Czechoslovakia, for the second consecutive year. Sandwiched between the Soviet Championship and Flohr's win at Hastings, he also played a drawn match with Botvinnik. Esteban Canal won a tournament in Budapest ahead of such prominent players as Pal Rethy with 9½, Lilienthal, Lajos Steiner and Erich Eliskases.
     In the United States a tournament was held to see who would join Frank Marshall and Isaac Kashdan on the US Olympiad team. Reuben Fine won followed by Arthur Dake and A.C. Simonson.
   A tournament was held in Aachen and won by Bogoljubow. The tournament was organized by the Grossdeutsche Schachbund, a new state-supported chess federation with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels serving as honorary chair. The editors of Chess Review decried the virtual exclusion of Jews from German chess, not only from tournaments but also from chess cafes and playing rooms.
     To test the strength of Soviet chess masters Nikolai Krylenko had organized the Moscow 1925 tournament. On a rest day world champion Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Leningrad and a young Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995) was selected as one of his opponents and won the game which gained him recognition as a player to be watched. Six months later he was invited to play in the Leningrad Championship and the rest was history.
     The 1933 Soviet Championship was his second Championship win. The tournament was a battle between the new generation of Soviet players and those who first made their mark before the Revolution. There was no love lost between the generations.  Against Dus Chotimirsky, Botvinnik defended a R and P ending which eventually ended up with both sides having only their K and R, but Dus Chotimirsky continued playing.  The game was only declared a draw by the intervention of the tournament committee. Botvinnik later learned that his opponent had planned to play 150 moves before offering a draw. At least that's how the story goes; I was unable to locate the game.
     Previous championship tournaments (Odessa 1929 and Moscow 1931) didn't have the best players in the country, but this tournament did and it was the younger generation that that succeeded. While Botvinnik faltered towards the end, he was still able to confirm his previous successes. Botvinnik lost two games: Bohatirchuk and Riumin. 
     It was shortly after this tournament that the champion of Czechoslovakia, Salo Flohr, suggested a match between himself and Botvinnik that was drawn. Things went badly for Botvinnik early in the match and he trailed 4-2, but in the last half he evened the score. The tie was considered a great success because at the time Flohr was considered a serious world championship contender. In 1942 Flohr became a Soviet citizen.

Final standings:
1) Botvinnik 14.0
2) Alatortsev 13.0
3-5) Levenfish, Lisitsin and Rabinovich 12.0
6) Rauzer 11.5
7) Chekhover 11.0
8) Bohatirchuk 10.5
9) Kan 10.0
10-11) Riumin and Romanovsky 9.5
12-13) Verlinsky and Yudovich 9.0
14) Savitsky 8.5
15) Sorokin 7.5
16-17) Goglidze and Freymann 7.0
18) Zubarev 6.5
19) Dus Chotimirsky 5.5
20) Kirillov 5.0

     Many games are missing from this event because the tournament book contained only 46 of the 190 games. The following game was the first of Botvinnik's that went viral in the chess magazines and it was subjected to analysis by such great theoreticians as Tarrasch and Becker. The game is given in the book Secrets of the Sicilian Dragon by Gufeld and Schiller under the heading of The Dragon Hall of Fame.


  1. Your article inspired a wave of nostalgia for the old Chess Review. What an excellent magazine, although, to be fair, at that time, Chess Life was also a pretty good magazine. I have to agree that the current version is pretty weak. But where can the ordinary patzer find a good magazine? Masters all kvell over New in Chess, but a lot of the grand masterly annotation seems to go just a bit over my head.

  2. For more nostalgia...
    You can view/download some old CRs here:

    Also fascinating are viewable copies of the West Virginia Chess Bulletins dating from 1942: