In 1952 he was awarded the Soviet Union's Honored Master of Sport. Introduced in 1934 by the Central Executive Committee, it was awarded by the State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport to athletes, including chess players, for outstanding performance. Recipients received a badge and certificate. It was conferred for life, but Alla Kushnir and Viktor Korchnoi had theirs revoked when they defected from the Soviet Union and Mark Taimanov's was revoked in 1971 following his crushing defeat at the hands of Bobby Fischer, but it was restored in 1991.
The Russian Civil War was fought from November 1917 to October 1922. It was a multi-party war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future.
The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favoring political monarchism, economic capitalism and alternative forms of socialism, each with democratic and antidemocratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists and non-ideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites.
Life in Russia and, also, chess was in turmoil. White Guards controlled much of the countryside and the Czech Legion, an army of former POWs trying to get home by marching east , shared much of Siberia with anti-Bolsheviks. A Polish army took advantage of the chaos and invaded the Ukraine in 1920 hoping to establish a new country.
During that time disease was rampant and food scarce. Vasily Panov recalled how one day during the hunger of 1918 and 1919 his mother brought home dog meat for dinner: it was selling for one third of the price of horse meat. In Nizhny Novgorod, one of the largest Russian cities east of Moscow, Dubinin found himself, at age 14, having to feed his family after his father died of hunger and exhaustion in 1921.
By 1931 Josef Stalin was in power. Some of his action that year included banning the sale or importation of Bibles and he ordered that Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral be blown up. Stalin turned Abkhazia into an autonomous region of Georgia. Beria, his secret police chief, later resettled Georgians from the western part of the country in Abkhazia.
In a little known part of history, the US Department of Commerce issued a pamphlet titled “Employment for Americans in Soviet Russia." The reason: in the early 1930s hundreds of Americans immigrated to the Soviet Union in search of jobs and a new life. Many ended up in mass graves.
It was a bad time in the Soviet Union and the 22-year old Dubinin found himself building a bridge across the Oka River in Gorky. From 1932 to 1990, it was known as Gorky after the writer Maxim Gorky, who was born there. Today it is known as Nizhny Novgorod.
In the evenings workers met at their club to read and play chess and there, Dubinin was known as “our Botvinnik.” Dubinin, who had a second category rating, studied for hours studying theory and playing over master games. A second category rating was roughly equal to the USCF Class A (1800-2000 Elo) rating.
In 1932 Dubinin was drafted into the Army. In 1938 he was to write in an article a load of political propaganda in which he stated “Our Army provides men with all the conditions for developing their abilities in every direction.” He added that he had the opportunity to participate in five major tournaments of Army players and improved to reached a First Category rating (USCF Expert, 200-2199 Elo).
During that time he carried a chess book in his backpack as he fought all over the Western front. Apparently Dubinin was a good soldier. He earned decorations for personally capturing German soldiers and other valorous actions. He also suffered frostbite of both legs.
One of his successes came in 1934 when he finished second behind Belavenets in the Russian Federation Championship. The same year he participated in the USSR Championship in Leningrad, but did not do especially well, scoring only 7.0-12.0. The only highlights were his wins over Ragozin, Ilya Rabinovich and Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky. By 1938 he had achieved the Soviet Master title as a result of his success in the semi-finals of the USSR Championship. Then in 1939, in the final of the USSR Championship he tied for 8th place. In 1939, he tied for 7th place, defeating Ragoin, Kotov and Boleslavsky in the process.
Just as his battalion was about to seize the Baltic port of Koenigsberg in February, 1945, he received an invitation to play in the Soviet Championship semi-finals which he refused. In the fighting he suffered heavy shell shock and was finally demobilized with the rank of deputy battalion commander.
Shell shock was a term coined in World War I to describe the type of post-traumatic stress disorder many soldiers were afflicted with. It is a reaction to the fighting that produced a helplessness appearing variously as panic and being scared, flight, or an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk.
After the War he returned to Gorky where he popularized chess and worked on the theory of various openings. Dubinin was a big man who weighed up around 300 pounds and took part in weight lifting competitions. At one time in a Moscow railway station a thief stole his luggage which contained many of his chess notes and as a result, he developed a distrust of people and a virulent hatred of thieves.
His opponent in this game was Nikolay Novotelnov (December 1911 - December 2006) was from St. Petersburg and received the IM title in 1951. A chess author, he was champion of Leningrad and won Russian Federated Republics championship in 1947.