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Monday, July 15, 2019

Sozin Attacks Like A Mad Dog

     One of my older books is The Russians Play Chess by Irving Chernev; it was originally published in 1947 and updated in 1963 which is the edition I have. The games (in descriptive notation) all have an introduction, comments every move or two and lots of diagrams. 
     A lot of the games are by lesser known Russian players. In choosing them Chernev examined thousands of games and selected games based on variety (26 different players), modern (meaning between 1925 and 1946) and reasonably short (the average was 30 moves per game). Additionally, Chernev selected the games because their brilliancy made them enjoyable to play over.
     When I came across the following game played by Veniamin Sozin (1896–1956) against somebody named Nekrasov at Moscow, 1931 I was impressed with Sozin’s Queen sacrifice which netted him four pieces for his Q. All of his pieces were aimed at black’s K and there was nothing black could do to defend himself.
     Chernev’s book, and all the other databases I checked, only list the game as being played in Moscow, but the wonderful site Rusbase 1913-1994 shows that it was played in one of the sections of the semi-finals of the USSR Championship: 

1-2) Sozin and Lisitsyn 6.5 
3-4) Verlinsky and Podolny 6.0 
5) Yuriv 5.0 
6) Nekrasov 4.5 
7) Kaspersky 4.0 
8) Ratner 3.0 

     I wonder if Kaspersky Anti-Vitus is named after the guy who finished 7th?! Searching for the identity of Neksarov turned up a bunch of Russians named Nekrasov, not all of them chess players. There is a Wikipedia article on Nikolay Nekrasov, a Russian poet, writer, critic and publisher, but he’s not our man. This fellow was born in 1821 and died in 1878.
     In his delightful book, For Friends & Colleagues: Volume 1: Profession - Chess Coach, Mark Dvoretsky mentions a player named Neksarov during the 1980s, who was a coach of several younger players including Ivanchuk, but there’s no way of knowing if it’s the same guy. However, I found mention of a Nikloai Nekrasov in a Chess.com article that quotes a 1929 article from the Russian chess magazine 
     A little bit more is known about Veniamin Sozin (1896–1956). He was a Russian master, author, and theoretician who is best known today for his contributions to the Sozin Attack, 6.Bc4 against the Sicilian. 
     Sozin, an accountant by profession, was an active player during the 1920s and 1930s and competed in four Soviet championships. Following the third Soviet Championship in 1924, in which he finished a creditable ninth with a score of 9.0-8.0, Sozin was awarded the title of Master of Sport. 
     He contributed many articles to the Moscow magazine Shakhmatny Vestnik and authored two books, Combinations and Traps published in 1929 and What Everyone Should Know about the Endgame which was published in 1931. 
     The Wikipedia article on Sozin says that he was unable to maintain the level of performance expected from a Master of Sport and was one of several players whose title was revoked in 1935. 
     In the Soviet Union, the Master title was conferred by the federal government and was connected to the title of Master of Sport. The first chess player to receive the title was Peter Romanovsky in 1934. Only players who featured prominently in the Soviet Chess Championship were considered for the title, and less than 100 awards were made altogether. The majority of the players were eventually FIDE IMS or GMs. 
     One suspects that given what was going on under Stalin in the Soviet Union during that era that something more than Sozin’s results were behind getting his title revoked. 
     Here’s an interesting little tidbit...In April of 1935 the age of legal responsibility was lowered to 12 years. This meant that children over the age of 12 could be treated like adults and exiled or executed if they were deemed to be guilty of crimes against the state. And, in December 1935 The Central Committee recognized the Stakhanovite movement and introduced competitions where the most productive workers could be rewarded with rich, quality flats and luxury foods. 

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