Thursday, 29 November 2012

Averbakh 26: Centre Stage and behind the scenes: Final post.

Save for providing a list of errata and footnotes that should have been in the English edition, this will be my last post about Averbakh's memoirs.

A regret I have heard from many readers of the English translation is that Averbakh should have been more open about some of the controversies that dogged the chess world at various times: whether it be Bronstein's accusations concerning Zürich 1953, or what went on at Curaçao in 1962. Many recall Taylor Kingston's interview with Averbakh, which can be found in two parts at ChessCafé: here and here. In the first link one reads the words of Averbakh: In my book I publish only what I heard and saw. I have some documents to prove what I say, which is important.

To me this provides a complete explanation for some of the omissions. For instance: I heard this story about Bronstein, that they told him Geller will make a draw with him, and they did not tell Geller, and Geller won the game against Bronstein. I doubt this is a real story.

In light of the previous declaration, why would this tale appear in Averbakh's book?

On the subject of Bronstein, I'd have liked to have read something of his protector Vainstein. I can't recall any mention of him at all in the book and his name is not in the index (neither under v nor w).

Another point raised by Kingston is: Hague-Moscow 1948: there has long been the suspicion that Paul Keres was coerced to lose to Botvinnik in that tournament, so that Botvinnik would be assured of winning the world championship.

Again Averbakh gives an answer: That is something very difficult to prove, either side is very difficult to prove. ... soldiers in that invasion had papers, orders, to arrest various important men of Estonia. And my friend had orders to arrest Keres.

Have you any papers proving it?”. I had to say no,

There's no evidence, according to Averbakh, therefore it wasn't in the book.

Keres had been to hell and back during WWII, he was of a decidedly nervous disposition. He knew what Stalin's Soviet Union was like (when the Soviets overran the Baltics following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, there were many purges and executions). Did he need to be told, particularly given the trouble he had in being allowed to play chess, that he was not a desirable champion?

Kingston related: … orders came from Stalin himself, that Smyslov and Keres should perhaps lose to Botvinnik to make it easier for him to win the world title. Botvinnik claimed, though, that he refused to go along with this; he considered it an insult.

Averbakh responded: I don’t believe that Stalin would give such a recommendation, myself. It would be completely out of character. If it was given, it could not have been given by Stalin...

I won't repeat the rest of his answer. I cannot conceive of any Soviet defying an order of Stalin's in the late 1940s over such a matter and getting away with it. Whether one dates the absolute dominion of Stalin from the murder of Sergey Kirov in 1934 or some other time, the truth was he could and did do anything he wanted; for instance, on page 593 of Let History Judge (ISBN 0 19 215362 5), Roy Medvedev gave: His personal secretary Poskrebyshev was a frequent butt. One New Year's Eve Stalin rolled pieces of paper into little tubes and put them on Poskrebyshev's fingers. Then he lit them in place of New Year candles. Poskrebyshev writhed in pain but did not dare take them off. Cruel practical jokes were also played on highly placed officials invited to visit Stalin …

To me, some of the reaction to Averbakh's work is an echo from the Cold War. It is nonsensical to assume that all Russian triumphs were a product of cheating. Indeed, I am old enough to recall a Western grandmaster, one who has been compared favourably to Soviet players, perusing at a bookstall during an Islington Congress in the early 1970s. When challenged, it was discovered that the pages open related to the position on his board! The reality was that Botvinnik, Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal, … were great players. Only Fischer, amongst Westerners, could claim a superiority (Fischer never played at Islington, in case there is a misunderstanding).

What Averbakh does is tell his reader what life was like in the former Soviet Union for a member of the intelligentsia; one, moreover, of suspect ethnicity. From page 49:

'Let me ask you a confidential question: under “nationality”, why have you put “Jewish”?'

'But you have a Russian mother!' exclaimed Pavlov. 'If you want the advice of an old, experienced man, change the nationality. Under the law you have the right to choose.'

Soon after, I went to the police with the application form. Reading it, the section head grinned and said: 'Isn't it funny how all these Jews want to become Russian?'

Notwithstanding what that hated relic of Czarism the internal passport showed, Averbakh's name was a big clue as to his racial origins. Anyhow, here are the words of Article 123 of the Stalin Constitution:

Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.

Averbakh does describe some of the deal making that went on; and how it did not always go to plan. He was approached by the Moscow master Viktor Liublinsky with a draw proposal, which was agreed given this would not jeopardise Averbakh's prospects of qualification for the main contest. Liublinsky then got Averbakh tipsy before their game, which the Muscovite, contrary to the arrangement, went on to win.

I liked the mini-portraits of some of the figures of Soviet chess painted by Averbakh. It's a pity there were not more. I was entertained when I read how Spassky had thumped Aivars Petrovich Giplis when both were playing in the Soviet students team. Giplis was of grandmaster strength long before being awarded the title at the age of thirty. As related in previous posts by me, Averbakh's humour has sometimes been skipped in the translation. Fortunately surviving the cull was his account of how Postnikov, as head of the delegation to the 1953 Candidates, booked the Soviets into a hotel in the middle of the red light district in Zϋrich. It took him a week to extricate the players!

The lack of empathy of Soviet officials shines through when one reads that Averbakh was not informed of the death of his father, lest his play suffer in a match against the French in Paris.

In summary, as a social study, this book is outstanding. Regrettably, the number of mistakes in the English version is excessive, which will mar it for some; indeed, I very much doubt that much editing was done, presumably on the grounds of cost. Possibly, too, there should have been more attention paid to some of the oral histories; however, Averbakh is not alone in downplaying that.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

"This House would not in any circumstances fight for King and Country".

Probably only a small number of British readers will recognise these words. This was the motion tabled at a famous debate of the Oxford Union early in 1933: it was passed. Notwithstanding which, many of the young men who voted in favour went on to serve in the armed forces during the Second World War. Some have credited this vote, which was widely reported, with encouraging Hitler in his territorial aggrandisement in later years. An early example, perhaps, of the power of publicity. Still, I have always been sceptically inclined when it comes to anything resulting from a public discussion, whether it be from a debate or a lecture. Demosthenes' Philippics didn't stop the rise of Macedon.

Recently, Garry Kasparov proposed at an Oxford Union debate that there has been a slowing down in the rate of technological change with concomitant effects upon world growth. A debate that is available online. He was supported by Peter Thiel, a billionaire and a well known investor, who co-founded Paypal. The opposition was led by Mark Shuttleworth, another billionaire, who is best known for funding Ubuntu Linux. Also speaking against Kasparov's thesis was Kenneth Rogoff.

I am one of those who regrets that Kasparov gave up playing chess professionally. Yes, he had nothing left to prove; yes, playing at his level was very strenuous indeed. Nonetheless, he could well have produced many fine games that will not now see the light of day. On the other hand, when it comes to politics, despite his opposition to Putin, possibly, indeed, because of it, he is not taken seriously by many Russians. Writing for the Wall Street Journal will not help him one whit domestically, rather the reverse.

In the debate Shuttleworth teased that Russia is not a democracy. Rogoff (In my opinion, far and away the best speaker, even though he was softly spoken. I presume he has more experience of public speaking than the other three.) later followed this theme by cracking that had Kasparov become president of Russia, he'd have become a billionaire. I was surprised when Rogoff indicated that chess playing computers have already passed the Turing test: he finds it difficult to distinguish a game played by a machine from that ventured by a human.

As so often, much of what was said was not new. I've lost count of the number of times I've read that living standards for most Americans have not risen since the 1970s. Shuttleworth rightly pointed out that what Thiel said of America was true for America; however, in Asia, for instance, many people are better off than they were. This reminded me of a quip about VI Kulik (another toady of Stalin's, one who greatly damaged the Red Army): Each snipe looks to its own marsh. This was a play upon Kulik, which can mean a marsh bird (i.e. a snipe).

One oddity in the debate was the use of the expression Hobson's choice. A way to remember its meaning is: any colour you like, so long as it's black. Hobson was an ostler who would offer his patrons only the one horse, it was that or nothing.

For myself, I was persuaded by Rogoff's arguments. Those of moderate circumstances in the West are finding it hard to obtain credit. Smaller companies and enterprises are suffering from the identical problem. He added that he wanted a stabler world and cared about the environment. He wasn't bothered whether his kids voyaged into space or not (a mild quip aimed at Shuttleworth). Thiel may be right that bubbles are more frequent now than they used to be; he mentioned the South Sea Bubble and America before the Wall Street Crash, but not the Tulip Mania in the United Provinces (i.e. the Netherlands) of the seventeenth century. However, it could be argued that the number of recent bubbles is due to poor decision making (for instance, during the Greenspan era at the Federal Reserve).

For further reading there are two articles that recently appeared in the Financial Times. The first was written jointly by Thiel and Kasparov, the second by Gillian Tett, a highly regarded award winning journalist, she has had a good crisis.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Averbakh 25: Economists, arbiters and chess.

On pages 232-3 of his memoirs, Averbakh discusses the drawn game Hübner-Rogoff from the World Students Team Olympiad of 1972. The event was hosted by the Austrian city of Graz, which is in the province of Styria. This quick draw is the sort of thing that might attract the adverse attention of the educated reader who doesn't play chess in competitions. In the eyes of such an individual, the result, as described by Averbakh, can seem disappointing. However, chess can be very tiring. In his biography of Wilhem Steinitz, the first world champion, Kurt Landsberger touches on how difficult it was for Steinitz to obtain a good night's sleep during a chess match (i.e. an entire series of games, not just one). At my own, rather modest level, I find I can't sleep much when playing at the London Chess Classic. I stay up at night and watch television (no matter how mindless) until exhaustion guarantees some relief: that is better than retiring to bed at my usual hour. One could surmise that Rogoff, who later became a world class economist, to add to his chess grandmaster title, might also have been exhausted. In such circumstances, a draw offer from Hübner, a world title candidate, would have been very enticing.

When the arbiter refused to accept the first draw, the players had to return to the board. It is this game that Averbakh, rightly, takes exception to. At the bottom of the page is a translator's note giving the score of this splendid game. 

Here it is:
It's a pity that a more conventional drawn game, say twenty moves of a well known line, was not played. Some players can take exception to arbiter interference. But it would not be justified in this instance. More objectionable are some of the changes to the laws of recent years, such as forbidding a player from recording his move before playing it. One can find this approach recommended in Kotov's Think Like A Grandmaster; it's a device designed to avoid blunders. Some arbiters consider this note taking. A few years ago at an Olympiad, and before this law was introduced, an arbiter intervened to stop a player writing his moves first. The player concerned ignored this nonsensical demand, which could only have come from someone who hadn't played a game for decades …

However, my theme is chess and economics. Some months ago, in July, I read the following in the Financial Times:

… strategy was applied to chess in the Soviet Union. From 1937 until the country itself collapsed, and excluding the brief and farcical reign of Bobby Fischer, the world chess champion was a Soviet citizen. Excellence in chess gave prestige and diverted potentially troublesome intellectuals from thinking about other things. For East Germany, even chess was too dangerous: athletics and gymnastics were the favoured activities.

It can be found online at the website of the distinguished economist John Kay. Professor Kay writes a regular column for the paper, one I enjoy reading. In the realm of chess, though, I surmise that he plays casually, if at all.

In 1937, Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine won back his title from Max Euwe, having previously lost it in 1935. Alekhine, of course, having first become world champion in 1927. He was an émigré, one, moreover, who had attended White Guard banquets. And I haven't even discussed his track record during WWII. He may have been Russian, nonetheless, I consider it a stretch to say he was a Soviet citizen from 1937. I speculate that a list of world champions with Russian (sic) names caused this unimportant slip.

The penultimate sentence I have quoted from Professor Kay reflects an attitude that has been expressed before. In a well known letter to CHESS magazine, Fyodor Bohatirchuk wrote:

The declarations of red propagandists about the contribution of chess to the cultural development of the young generation are only a camouflage, under cover of which red propaganda pursues other aims. Soviet leaders are guided by a wise thought of a most reactionary Tsarist minister, Kasso. This minister was the first who permitted students to play chess because, he said, “Chess will divert them from politics”.

Lev Aristidovich Kasso (1865-1914) was the Minister of Education from 1910 until his death in 1914. An arch conservative of Romanian origin (from Bessarabia), he had a judicial background and was a law professor.

By way of contrast, Tsarist Russia witnessed the closure of St. Petersburg Chess Club because of alleged nihilism! This can be found in Adam Ulam's Lenin and the Bolsheviks (Fontana library, ISBN 0 00 631807), it's on page 83.

Playing chess at a high level requires a considerable investment of time; notwithstanding which, I've always doubted that that would keep a player politically inert. Nikolay Vasilyevich Krylenko (touched upon here and here) was genuinely interested in the game, the same was true of Lenin and Trotsky. In the 1920s the Soviets (Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky in particular springs to mind) made great strides to bring education to the masses, of which chess would have been a part. I suggest that chess is far from the ideal choice to stop a population from thinking. Throughout the Soviet period, powerful figures have been genuinely intrigued by the game. The same is true of today's Kremlin.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


Yakov Zusmanovich, who is originally from Moscow but now lives in California, has informed me that the first two volumes of a trilogy devoted to Fyodor Bohatirchuk are now at the printers in Moscow. At the moment only Russian language editions are available, although both Zusmanovich and his co-author Sergey Voronkov are considering the publication of English translations. Volume one is devoted to Bohatirchuk's chess career from 1911-35, volume two for the balance of his life. Much material has already been assembled by the two during their collaboration in anticipation of the third, and most difficult, book in the series. The final volume will examine his scientific career and his politics. Some of it has been made available in five Russian language articles that can be found on the chesspro website.

Both Zusmanovich and Voronkov are fiercely anti-Soviet in their outlook, in harmony with Bohatirchuk's own beliefs. They were granted the approval of Bohatirchuk's daughter, the late Dr. Tamara Fyodorovna Eletskaya, in the writing of these works. She sent Voronkov many papers from Bohatirchuk's own archive.

Fyodor Parfyonovich Bohatirchuk (1892, Kiev – 1984, Ottawa) won the fifth Soviet Chess Championship in 1927 jointly with Peter Romanovsky. As a radiologist who had served with anti-Bolshevik forces during the Russian Civil War, and as a member of the intelligentsia, he was automatically suspect in Stalin's Soviet Union. Numerous medical men did end up in the Gulag, thus he could be considered rather fortunate to survive the many purges more or less unscathed.

Bohatirchuk would have been well aware of the Great Famine of 1932-3 (known as the Holodomor in the Ukraine. I tend to avoid this term as the famine extended to well outside the Ukrainian SSR to, for instance, Kazakhstan and the Kuban). Food was requisitioned in the countryside for shipment to the cities; starvation in the countryside, rather than the cities, being the very antithesis of what happens in a normal famine. Thus, like many Ukrainians, he would, initially at least, have welcomed the seeming end of Soviet power. Note, however, that the Dnieper Ukrainians of the early 1940s were more anti-Soviet than anti-Russian. The term nashi (our people) described Russians and Dnieper Ukrainians, not Ukrainians from the west, such as from Galicia and Bukovina.

When the Nazis occupied Kiev on 19th September 1941 they were followed by the Melnykites, one of the two main factions of the OUN (the Organisation of Ukrainian nationalists), whose membership hailed overwhelmingly from the western Ukraine (using today's boundaries). In October 1941 the Melnykites established a semi-legal Red Cross in Kiev. Initially ten thousand roubles were made available. Bohatirchuk, a highly skilled doctor (he was awarded the Barclay medal in 1955), was persuaded to take charge. He was involved in achieving the freedom of some Ukrainians held at the Darnytsia prisoner of war camp, which was near Kiev. Note that, despite the abundant harvest, the Nazis intentionally starved the prisoners. Observe, too, that the Nazis wouldn't free most prisoners, owing to their racial theories. Eventually, even the freeing of Ukrainians was stopped.

Bohatirchuk did not only save Ukrainians from almost certain death, he saved others according to the testimony of Boris Ratner. Sergey Voronkov has written:

С этим, однако, резко не соглашался мастер Борис Ратнер (кстати, участник войны). Он подчеркивал:

– Богатырчук немцам не служил! Он во время оккупации руководил больницей Украинского Красного Креста, где, в частности, прятал мою родную сестру и спас ее, и не только ее, от Бабьего Яра! Она и я до нашей смерти будем благодарны Федору Парфеньевичу!


The master Boris Ratner (himself a war veteran) strongly challenged this opposition, he emphasised:

Bohatirchuk did not serve the Germans! During the occupation he was in charge of the Ukrainian Red Cross hospital in which he hid my sister. He saved her, and not only her, from Babi Yar. We shall be grateful to Fyodor Parfyonovich until our dying days.”

Babi Yar is the ravine on the outskirts of Kiev where the Nazis slaughtered tens of thousands. Anatoly Kuznetsov wrote a famous account of it which has gone through several editions and been translated more than once. The academic Karel Berkhof discusses this in a chapter of The Shoah in Ukraine devoted to the differences in the accounts of Dina Pronicheva, who managed to survive execution.

When the tide of war changed and the Soviets marched on Kiev, Bohatirchuk had a decision to make. He could either stay in defiance of Nazi wishes, a risky proposition, or flee west. Even if he had successfully hidden from the Nazis, he would have been greatly at risk of punishment from the advancing Soviets. Some doctors were spared from retribution, however, they had patients willing to testify on their behalf; furthermore, they had not been in charge of a Melnykite organisation.

At this stage in the war, late 1943, it was obvious to most that the Nazis were losing. There were many defections from the Vlasovites (conceived of by its founder Andrey Vlasov as an indigenous anti-Soviet movement) back to the Soviets. Nonetheless, Bohatirchuk chose to join this organisation rather than the Ukrainian nationalists. In a sense, this is an example to buttress the opinion of the late Professor John Erickson that many Vlasovites were desperate men out to save themselves. Note, however, that some, too, were out and out Nazis (the Kaminsky Brigade became notorious for its behaviour during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Earlier in the war, in Orel, Bryansk and Kursk oblasts inside the former Soviet Union, Kaminsky's men committed many further outrages). I haven't tracked it down yet, but according to Blowback (ISBN 0-297-79457-4), a book written by the journalist Christopher Simpson, there is a State Department document calling the prominent NTS (it provided much support to Vlasov) member Vladimir Porensky a two hundred percent Nazi. This can be found in a note on page 224.

As the reader can see, the subject of Bohatirchuk is a very difficult one. I can recall a conversation I once had with a Dutchman who was a teenager during the German occupation of the Netherlands. He stated that he did nothing heroic; his main aim was to avoid deportation to Germany as a slave labourer. In situations such as that encountered by Bohatirchuk, it isn't easy to recommend a course of action. Suffice it to say that he did save lives and that I know of no evidence that he committed any war crimes (had he done so, the Soviets would almost certainly have publicised them).

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Averbakh 24: Newspapers.

Whilst most Western chess players will recognise the Soviet chess magazines Shakhmaty v SSSR (Chess in the USSR) and Shakhmatny Bulletin (Chess Bulletin, note the adjectival rendition of Chess in the Russian), there are other publications discussed by Averbakh for which recognition will be more problematic.


On page 123 there is no note about the newspaper Borba (The Struggle, the same meaning as in Russian). This was a Belgrade based paper, even though it was established in 1922 in Zagreb. It was the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Because of the text before the tournament a reader might not realise where Borba was published.

Sports Illustrated

The translator was quite right not to expand upon Averbakh's description of the American magazine Sports Illustrated. However, it might have been worth pointing out that Fischer's article about the Curaçao 1962 Candidates, which is available online, included Kortschnoi in this alleged conspiracy (note the use of thereafter when accusing Tal). Nowadays, Kortschnoi is excluded from the circle of alleged conspirators. The American wrote: At Curacao there were five Russians out of the eight contenders. Mikhail Tal, however, the former world champion, had recently recovered from a kidney operation, became ill during the tournament and withdrew to enter a hospital, having no part in the general Soviet team effort thereafter. The other four Russians swam in the afternoons, dressed, came to the start of the games in the chess room at the Hotel Intercontinental, dawdled at the chessboards for half an hour or so, made a few quick moves, traded off as many pieces as possible and then offered a draw. "Niche!" one would ask. "Niche," his opponent would reply. They would sign their scorecards, go through the formality of turning them in to the officials and then have dinner or change their clothes and go back to the pool … But when the Russians drew with each other, they drew early, before the time of adjournment. They thus played only four days a week. In the weeks when all four Russians happened to be playing each other, and drew all their games, they really played only two days that week.

Both Averbakh and Timman, who maintain different interpretations of what happened, are former world title candidates. I'm not in a position to add to the discussion as to whether there was an agreement. Note, however, that Averbakh is consistent, he has denied that such a deal existed in earlier works. It could be that no verbal undertakings were given and that Keres was quite happy not to exert himself more than was required. That would be be in harmony with Averbakh's interpretation. Note the vehemence (page 134) of: As far as Keres is concerned, it is laughable to accuse such a gentleman and sportsman as he of a conspiracy.

The use of Russian was typical of Fischer. Petrosyan, although born in Tbilisi, was ethnically Armenian. Geller was born in Odessa, a cosmopolitan Black sea port, today it is part of Ukraine; his family name indicates his Jewish ancestry. Keres was Estonian. Kortschnoi part Jewish. 

Novy Mir 

Also absent is a translator's note about Novy Mir (New World) on page 138. This magazine was founded in 1925. Its early contributors came from the world of Soviet politics (Bukharin, Trotskii, Radek, Zinoviev …) and literature (Grossman, Babel, Zoshchenko, Mayakovsky, Alexei Tolstoi …). Despite the calibre of its contributors (including the politicians), the magazine enjoyed no great popularity in the 1920s. Its readership increased in the thirties, but it only took off in the post-Stalinist period when many of its shackles were removed. It published Solzhenitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962). It is struggling to survive in today's climate.

Home Patriot

The account giving the newspaper Home Patriot on page 138 is lacking in detail. I've found a page giving a brief obituary notice, together with a photo of its deputy editor's grave. As expected, it mentions that its purpose was to produce wartime propaganda. It is briefly mentioned here in connection with the interrogation of a photographer.

Fizkultura I Sport 

On page 141, Fizkultura I Sport is not explained. There is just the mention that it was an editorial house, i.e. a publisher. As the name indicates, it specialised in sports and physical culture publications, including chess. Established in 1923, it was the leading publisher in its field.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bondarevsky and Collaboration, part 3.

Further to my posts of 20th October and 24th September, it appears likely that the tournament Bondarevsky won took place in February and March of 1942. I have found a Russian language website providing a diary. Before providing the link, I should caution the reader that it is flagged as potentially malicious; no one should access it without adequate Internet security, the diary is available here. The dates given on that page are 16th February to 13th March, 1942. Another site provides a tournament cross-table. It also provides a PGN of some of the games. Note that this gives slightly different dates; beginning one day later and ending one day earlier. That could be due to opening and closing ceremonies, there is not necessarily an inconsistency between the two versions.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I am inclined to accept the veracity of these accounts. This does, however, give rise to a further question. Did Bondarevsky have time to travel to Romania and Hungary? Rostov fell on 20th/21st November 1941 to the Nazis, it was recaptured on the 27th November by the Soviets. (In my post of 24th September, I wrote that Von Runstedt, the commander of the Nazi Army Group South, resigned following this Soviet victory. It would have been more precise to have written that, under pressure, expecting to be sacked, he asked Hitler to relieve him of his command if the dictator had lost confidence in his judgement. The resignation was more of a dismissal.)

I am sceptical that three months was sufficient time to travel these distances over a poor road network in the difficult weather that prevailed in the autumn and winter of 1941-2. Even Heinrich Himmler, Reichfuhrer-SS, found he was slowed down when making an inspection due to the poor state of the roads. Travelling by train was even less practical. The Soviet rail track was broad gauged, the Nazis used a narrow gauge; the advancing Axis forces had to convert rail lines so that their rolling stock could use it. Note, as well, that the Soviet rail system was better developed for north-south communications. The Nazis tried to compensate through the building of Thoroughfare Four, a little known history within WWII. An entire chapter is given over to it in the book The Shoah In Ukraine (ISBN 978-0-253-22268-8), a joint effort by several academics. The author of that chapter is Andrej Angrick (a brief biography is available here). This vast road project was planned to start in Lviv (German Lemberg, Russian Lvov) and end in Tagangrog (not far from Rostov), a distance of some 1360 miles. Work only began in September 1941, ostensibly under the Todt organisation, which was then responsible for such undertakings. Slave labour was used (to give an idea of the eventual size of this scheme, in July 1943 there were 140,000 slaves, 12,000 local policemen overseeing them and a few Germans in charge), progress was repeatedly slowed down by the SS seizing slaves in order to kill them; murder enjoying a higher priority than supplying the Wehrmacht on the front line.

A further reason for my doubts are that Romania and Hungary enjoyed troubled relations during WWII. The Nazis had to be careful when it came to positioning the forces of the two allies, they were quite likely to shoot at one another. Without going into too much detail, both countries claimed Transylvania, it had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the Great War (1914-18), but was awarded to Romania following the Treaty of Trianon (1920). The Second Vienna Award (1940) returned to Hungary half of Transylvania. The Hungarian regent Admiral Horthy greeted with satisfaction the news of very heavy Romanian army losses during the siege of Odessa (David Stahel in his book Kiev 1941, ISBN 978-1-107-01459-6, gives on page 315 a figure of 98,000 casualties suffered by the Romanian Fourth Army when capturing that city). It would not have been straightforward to have travelled between these two countries. It might well have required German intervention. The whole thing strikes me as unlikely, but not impossible should a chess playing German of sufficient rank have taken an interest.

Image scanned from page 282 of Paul Carrell's book Hitler's War on Russia.

Where, then, would Bondarevsky have played Troianescu? Observing that Romanian troops supported the Nazi push into the Crimea and near the Sea of Azov in late 1941. It seems to me more probable that Bondarevsky played Troianescu close to Rostov, the distance being more manageable. Nonetheless, there are more uncertainties than I should care for. Was there really time to print pamphlets? Was Bondarevsky in uniform when he encountered the Axis; if not, why not? One thing I don't have trouble understanding is that Bondarevsky could have convinced the Nazis that he was anti-Soviet. When one says Rostov, one immediately thinks of the Don Cossacks, who were oppressed in Stalin's Soviet Union, and not just during Stalin's anti-Kulak drives. They suffered, too, in the artificial famine of 1932-3. Some Cossacks did fight for the Nazis.

Given the fluidity of the front line in the winter of 1941-2, it would not have been hard for Bondarevsky to have slipped through the front lines. The dreadful weather acting as cover, assuming the Red Army did not simply overrun wherever Bondarevsky was staying. It would be speculative as to why it took a year to arrest Bondarevsky.

It's true that one source, Damsky, is perhaps too slender a reed for so much conjecture; however, he was considered a reliable recorder of chess history in his lifetime.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Averbakh 23: The Laws of Chess

Averbakh was recognised as an International Arbiter (the senior of the two arbiting titles, the other is FIDE Arbiter) in 1969. As someone who likes to look at the laws of chess from an evolutionary perspective (if one can see how a particular rule is arrived at, it can make it easier to understand and remember), I find accounts such as that given (page 119) of the game Yukhtman – Spassky, Soviet Championship 1959, in which the future World Champion claimed a draw by threefold repetition, useful. Apparently the draw claimant was not permitted to stop the clocks in the 1950s. It's probably worth recalling the laws applicable now:

9.2 The game is drawn upon a correct claim by the player having the move, when the same position, for at least the third time (not necessarily by a repetition of moves):
a. is about to appear, if he first writes his move on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move, or
b. has just appeared, and the player claiming the draw has the move.

9.5 If a player claims a draw as in Article 9.2 or 9.3 he may stop both clocks …

Incidentally, Yakov Yukhtman (1935 – 1985) was a well known eccentric, his ways did not always go down well inside the former USSR, particularly given he was Jewish. He was once banned from playing for three years by the Soviets. He later successfully applied to emigrate to Israel and subsequently moved from there to the United States. A formidable blitz player, he could get the better of most grandmasters. He won the Ukrainian Championship in 1953. There is an affectionate online tribute (in Spanish) to Yukhtman here. There is also a Sunday Telegraph chess column devoted to him. Averbakh relates some of Yukhtman's history on page 124. A man who tilted at windmills, a reader might say, recalling Cervantes and the true history, as he wrote, of Don Quixote. Alas, we can't all settle for tolerance of life's injustices, real or imaginary, especially when young. I have a lot of sympathy for an impractical refusal to compromise.

Switching topics to chess clocks, that necessary weapon in the war against the slowness of genius and the even more painful slowness of mediocrity have been used to speed up the game considerably in recent years. I am old enough to have played when tournament games were adjourned or adjudicated (in the UK they still apply in many evening league matches). The passing of the former I regret for when the game was interesting, the latter I have never cared for. British arbiters have supplied much of the impetus behind these changes. They have the advantage of being native speakers of the language of the laws of chess and have traditionally been well represented in the relevant FIDE committees.

Quickplay finish rules were introduced to make the running of a Swiss tournament over a weekend far more practical. Now, many arbiters are pushing for the elimination of quickplays through the introduction of Fischer time controls (had suitable clocks been available earlier, I rather doubt that quickplay finish rules would ever have been introduced). The QPF rules on the FIDE website are quite succinct:

10.1 A ‘quickplay finish’ is the phase of a game when all the (remaining) moves must be made in a limited time.

10.2 If the player, having the move, has less than two minutes left on his clock, he may claim a draw before his flag falls. He shall summon the arbiter and may stop the clocks. (See Article 6.12.b)

a. If the arbiter agrees the opponent is making no effort to win the game by normal means, or that it is not possible to win by normal means, then he shall declare the game drawn. Otherwise he shall postpone his decision or reject the claim.

b. If the arbiter postpones his decision, the opponent may be awarded two extra minutes and the game shall continue, if possible in the presence of an arbiter. The arbiter shall declare the final result later in the game or as soon as possible after a flag has fallen. He shall declare the game drawn if he agrees that the final position cannot be won by normal means, or that the opponent was not making sufficient attempts to win by normal means.

c. If the arbiter has rejected the claim, the opponent shall be awarded two extra minutes time.

d. The decision of the arbiter shall be final relating to (a), (b) and (c).

Contrast that with the 1995 BCF arbiters' version (click to enlarge):

Note the greater detail and the absence of a specification as to the amount of time to be added to the clock of the opponent of a claimant, should a penalty be imposed.

D. Quickplay finishes where no arbiter is present in the venue

D.1 Where games are played as in Article 10, a player may claim a draw when he has less than two minutes left on his clock and before his flag falls. This concludes the game.
He may claim on the basis:

that his opponent cannot win by normal means, and/or
that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means.

In a) the player must write down the final position and his opponent verify it.
In b) the player must write down the final position and submit an up to date scoresheet. The opponent shall verify both the scoresheet and the final position.
The claim shall be referred to an arbiter whose decision shall be final.

With the BCF guidelines (from sometime in the 1990s, I can't remember the precise year):

One thing I have never liked is the inability to appeal against an arbiter's decision. It has a long history.

I should caution the reader that the FIDE laws on quickplay are intended to completely replace any older laws, including those produced by the then British (now English) Chess Federation.

The best guidance as to when to award a 10.2 claim I have ever seen can be found on pages 122-4 of The Chess Organiser's Handbook (ISBN 1-84382-170-2), a book written by the secretary of the FIDE rules' commission Stewart Reuben. Note that the most recent edition no longer contains the current laws of chess, although, in my opinion, it is still usable (for instance, one can manually insert replacement Scheveningen tables on page 213).

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Averbakh 22: The Sports Committee and the Chess Section.

Inevitably, the same family names crop up over and over again. This can lead to confusion. On page 144 Averbakh informs his readers that Serov was the Chairman of the All-Union Chess Section. The grandmaster's words are: Serov, a Communist Party official. He is discussed further on pages 152-3. This was Alexey Kapitonovich Serov (1918 – 93), a former assistant to Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party and de facto ruler of the Soviet Union until his ousting in 1964. This shift in power could have made Serov seem vulnerable, even four years later. This bureaucrat should not be confused with the mass murderer Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov (a Chekhist general notorious for his roles in the Ukraine famine and post-war deportation from Checheno-Ingushetia) or the artist Vladimir Serov.

The English text on page 153 should have included a note as to what was meant by People's Control Committee. The People's Control Committee's, a successor to Rabkrin (The People's Commissariat of Workers' and Peasants' Inspection), function was to root out bureaucracy and red tape in all Soviet institutions. Its first head was Stalin and it was useful as a tool for him when seeking to obtain absolute power in the 1920s.

The one name of a leader of the chess section that has defeated me is Postnikov. I did find one article; however, its author stated that Beria ran the Soviet Union in Stalin's twilight years, an interpretation of history I do not subscribe to. For what it's worth, he called Postnikov an old Stalinist, which could well be true, but I'd prefer a higher standard of proof. None of my books, apart from Averbakh's, revealed anything. I spent hours trawling the Internet (I tried various permutations of Постников спорта Дмитрий Васильевич шахмат) in this futile search. As stated in previous blog entries, this result is unsurprising.

Far easier to provide an account of is Yuri D. Mashin (1932 – 2006). Note that there is a spelling error on page 51, not Mishin, Mashin. Mashin took over the Sports Committee in 1962. I do wonder whether that had anything to do with Averbakh being preferred to lead the Soviet delegation for the Curaçao 1962 Candidates tournament. Mashin's tenure as chairman of the Sports Committee lasted until 1968. As one can see from his birth year, he took over this comparatively senior position at a fairly young age. On the Internet is a speech given by him in Moscow at the fifty-ninth session of the Olympic Committee. It is available here. A brief Russian language obituary is available here. It can also be found here.

Mashin's predecessor Nikolay Nikolayevich Romanov (1913-1999) is also mentioned in the book. This Russian language article doesn't add much to Averbakh's account. According to this article he liked to smoke nearly three packets of cigarettes a day before giving up on doctor's orders. A brief, Russian language, notice, together with a photo of his grave is available on this page.

Mashin's successor Sergey Pavlovich Pavlov (1929 – 1993) followed the tradition of being a former head of the Komsomol. A Russian language article can be found here. A brief English language account is given here.

Of Sports Committee head Apollonov, Averbakh wrote: Strangely enough, Apollonov loved chess and was a good player, about first category strength. In other words, no one would have been taken aback if Apollonov had known nothing of the game. Arkady Apollonov (1907-1978) was one of those NKVD operatives who was involved in the deportation of the Chechens on Stalin's orders in the mid-1940s. There is a Russian language chronology of his life available here. Note that he was awarded a medal for his treatment of the Chechens (a crime against humanity. One reason this operation went smoothly {sic, not a few died en route} is that many women, children and old people were forcibly removed. The menfolk were in the Red Army fighting the Nazis.) and other groups. That page mentions his involvement in fighting against the OUN (the Organisation of Ukrainian nationalists) at the fag end of WWII, that conflict lasted into the 1950s. From what I can recall reading, Apollonov lacked the vile reputation of Ivan Aleksandrovich Serov, that could be ignorance on my part.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Averbakh 21: World Defence Committee.

On page 126 whilst discussing Living Chess Averbakh relates:

Most of the money from selling tickets went to the World Defence Fund, and this gave chess a political significance, and it was well looked upon by the authorities.

I am not convinced that all readers would recognise the words World Defence Fund. There should have been a note. The Russian is Комитета защиты мира. That would probably be better translated as World Peace Committee. The Soviet Union's World Peace Committee was established in 1949, it was a member of the World Peace Council, also established in 1949. The latter has a website here. It is a non-governmental member of the United Nations. Its aims include the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as a reduction in conventional arms stocks. Its first president was the physicist Frédéric Joliot-Curie of France.

Rapid collectivisation (i.e. the elimination of private ownership of farms and so forth) was a reality of the tightening of Stalin's grip in 1948 on eastern Europe. The dictator at that time did not feel secure in the recent aggrandisement of his empire: for there was no Soviet nuclear bomb until August 1949. Given Stalin's paranoid nature, an international body devoted to world peace was useful as a means of discouraging a pre-emptive nuclear strike from the USA, regardless of whether the Americans intended to do such a thing or not.

Averbakh's words as to the political significance of the money going to the World Peace Committee are well chosen.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bondarevsky and collaboration.

This subject was first discussed in my post of 24th September. It is possible to clarify matters a little, thanks to Yakov Zusmanovich of California, who was kind enough to email me an extract from Yakov Damsky's book King Boris the Tenth - Король Борис Деcятый" (Moscow, Ripol Classic, in Russian, 2004). In it Damsky discusses the case of Bondarevsky. Many readers will be aware that Zusmanovich and Voronkov are writing a Russian language account of the life of Fyodor Bohatirchuk, who, together with Peter Romanovsky, won the Soviet chess championship in 1927.

Here is the extract:

A translation is available here.

It appears that Bondarevsky, following the first capture of Rostov in November 1941, ended up playing in Hungary and Romania in 1942. Given that Bondarevsky also played in a masters' tournament in Moscow that year, he must have escaped east before the second recapture of Rostov in February 1943. Thus his detention took place well after his return to the Soviets. Did somebody denounce him? Did someone in the NKVD see a copy of a chess magazine published in Romania or Hungary during wartime?

It would be useful to see the germane copy of the Romanian magazine Revista Romana de Sah to clarify matters. Equally handy would be sight of Bondarevsky's NKVD file, although whether that ever sees the light of day is problematic. Putin's Russia has been cracking down on bodies such as Pamyat’ (Memory, Memorial or Monument), the organisation dedicated to recalling the victims of the Georgian tyrant.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Averbakh 20: How many GMs?

One discrepancy, possibly too strong a word, between Averbakh's account and Mikhail Tal's recollection can be found on page 112 of the English edition. Averbakh relates how the grandmaster title was awarded to the then USSR champion Mikhail Tal in exchange for also awarding it to the then US champion Arthur Bisguier.

On page 63 of The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (first English edition, RHM Press, US; Pitman, UK. ISBNs: 0 89058 0278, RHM; 273 014 90 3 Pitman), Mikhail Nekhemievich wrote:

During the championship of Europe a FIDE Congress was held, and our Federation proposed me for the title of International Grandmaster … I was 'exchanged' for L. Evans and A. Bisguier.

I've checked the Russian text of Averbakh's memoirs. There is no mention of Evans. Many years ago I had a conversation with the late Bob Wade about this deal. Unfortunately, he could not remember anything about it.

Tal was awarded the title in 1957; the same is true of the two Americans.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Averbakh 19: Byasha's poem.

In my introductory post, I mentioned that I couldn't come up with satisfactory rendition of Glazkov's poem dedicated to Averbakh's poodle Byasha. This comes up on page 152 of the English edition of Averbakh's book. I tried rhyming couplets, first as pentameters, then tetrameters; sometimes iambic, other times not.

One can't translate poems, one hears this all the time. Yet, the attempts are made and books written. I was ticked off by a friend for mutating As I was when twenty-five … in my first post to And what I was when agéd twenty-five. Nonetheless, my rendering followed the original rhyme scheme aabb ccbb ddbb bbcc eeff, used pentameters and was iambic. The slight loss of accuracy seemed insignificant. However, this time I admit to being beaten.

The following follows no scheme. I won't cop out and call this free verse.

At grandmaster Averbakh's
Resides his dog,
Which sits nearby on its haunches,
And is treated to the finest sugar:
The discussion of chess battles,
Of beautiful openings' moves,
Endgame discoveries,
Of studies and three-movers.
And the dog understands it all,
It just doesn't play chess!

And the Russian original?

У гроссмейстера Авербаха
Проживает в доме собака,
Он сажает ее с собой рядом,
Угощает ее рафинадом,
Рассказывает о шахматных битвах,
О красивых ходах самобытных,
О концовках и находках,
Об этюдах и трехходовках.
И собака все понимает,
Только в шахматы не играет!

I offer this as a challenge to my readers. Can you do better? Should a non-chess player wish to try, a three-mover is a technical term. It is largely self-explanatory, a task must be completed in three moves; for instance, White to play and mate in three. There is an impishness in the Russian, which it is useful to try and emulate too.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Averbakh 18: Russian geography.

Paris? Yes that's in Texas, a venturesome American might say to a Britisher. He might even be understood. However, the number of English speaking Westerners who could correctly locate Sovetsk (spelt, uncommonly, Sovietsk on page 93 in the book) is rather more modest. I'm not certain that many readers of the campaigns of Napoleon would do any better. Yet, tell them that it was once called Tilsit and recognition dawns: it's in East Prussia, where the emperors Alexander and Napoleon made peace in 1807 they would say. They might tell of Napoleon's victory at Friedland, which persuaded the Czar to become an ally. They might further relate it to Napoleon's first significant check on land at Preussisch-Eylau, earlier that very year. But there is no note in the book to guide anyone. Even the prosaic it's on the Baltic coast in the Kaliningrad enclave would have helped. Although not everyone knows that Kaliningrad was once Koenigsberg: a very important town in the history of Prussia, where the estates of East Prussia met and raised the banner of rebellion against Napoleon at the beginning of 1813. Thus can one make sense of Averbakh's comment about a ship to Sovetsk in the context of his military service.

As an inhabitant since birth of Cobbett's Great Wen (London), I can recall when the then IM Sergio Mariotti left the land of his forfathers, rather than be subject to an absurd law of conscription, I was about twelve years of age. My recollection is that he was set the senseless chore by the Italian military, for a chess master, of peeling potatoes (a less than spellbinding task; one, I suppose, that even a US Republican Party supporter would quail in horror of). Quite a few, to avoid such a fate, trod the road from Italy to London. In the Soviet Union, it wasn't so easy for Lieutenant Averbakh to skip what he should never have had to endure in his thirties in peacetime. But the account on page 94 is not quite right, had the initials VMF been explained, that they stand for Военно-морской флот (the Russian letter В corresponds to the English V, the м to M and the ф to F), literally the military-sea fleet i.e. the Navy, then the English reader would have known that something was rotten in the sentence: Senior Lieutenant Averbakh to be sent to take command of VMF in Moscow. Preferable, possibly, is: Engineering Lieutenant Yu. L. Averbakh to be sent to naval headquarters in Moscow. The Russian reads: Направить инженера-старшего лейтенанта Авербаха Ю. Л. в распоряжение командования ВМФ в Москву.

The absence of strict editing by the publisher has resulted in further inconsistencies of explanation. On page 44 the reader is told that Izhevsk is in the western Urals, which is correct. But then why isn't he also informed as to the location of Murom? I'd have also reported where Vladimir is, although I can more readily understand an omission in that instance. I can recall two towns called, in English, Murom, there may be more; one is north-east of Kharkov (Ukraine), roughly equidistant on a triangle whose other vertices are Kharkov and Belgorod, one can infer from the context (… Vladimir, and then on to Murom) that that is not the town, rather the Murom under discussion is in Vladimir Oblast (province). The principality of Vladimir-Suzdal may be famous in Russian history, as one of the successor states to Kievan Rus; however, I have my doubts that many English speaking chess players interested in Russian chess history can do more than, perhaps, name Alexander Nevsky (considered a saviour of the Russian nation and, accordingly, canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church). The associations are all there to a Russian chess player; a foreigner needs help, he would not relate to Prokofiev,  Eisenstein and the famous film sequence The Battle of the Ice, which is about fifty-three minutes into the motion picture Alexander Nevsky (regrettably the sound quality is poor), from which one can see and hear how many of the ideas contained therein have been filched by generations of Hollywood producers and composers. He would have to have pointed out the design of the helmets of the crusading Livonian knights, for it was no coincidence that they were similar to those worn by the Kaiser's men during World War One. Indeed, Alexander Nevsky was used for propaganda purposes throughout the Great Patriotic War. At the very least the book should have included a publisher's note that Vladimir is some 120 miles east of Moscow, and Murom roughly seventy miles south-east of Vladimir. The very name Murom is testimony to the existence of Finnic tribes in northern and central Russia. Modern Russians are, amongst other things, an admixture of Finnic and Slavic tribes.

Tushino, given on page 149, is now part of Moscow, in the north. Previously, it was classified as a separate town. The name may be recognised as the haven of the second False Dmitri in the Time of Troubles, the interregnum between the death Fyodor I, the son of Ivan IV (The Terrible), and the ascension of Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov in 1613.

On page 140 Staraya Ploschad, more commonly spelt Staraya Ploshchad, is not explained in the sentence I was suddenly summoned to Staraya Ploschad, to see comrade F. Mulikov of the Sports Section. Staraya Ploshchad (Old Square) is about a mile from the Kremlin, it is often a figure of speech, in Soviet times to be summoned to Staraya Ploshchad meant to be summoned to see Soviet officialdom. The Communist Party archives were kept there. Mulikov actually worked for Agitprop, the Agitation and Propaganda Department. Many Soviet organisations had this section. Thus the discussion about abstractness in chess would have been in his proper sphere, absurd though it is in Western eyes. As usual, is is doubtful whether this bureaucrat played chess seriously.

The editor should have included a footnote on page 150, where the account turns to Vladimir Pavlovich Simagin; he should have indicated that Kislovodsk is in the North Caucasus and, moreover, it is the birthplace of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The shortage of time in which to check things led to uncalled for complications. On page 165, the English text reads … at the beginning of 1972 I was sent to Pakhru, … I believe this is the Pakhra River, which is a tributary of the Moskva River. The Russian text reads:

Я забыл сказать, что еще в конце 60-х годов меня назначили председателем тренерского совета федерации и в начале 1972 года отправили в Пахру, где проходил тренировочный сбор Бориса, что бы посмотреть, как идет подготовка.

Pakhru is a closer rendition of the correct pronunciation for a native English speaker, however, Pakhra is the commoner spelling in English. The country near the river is a destination for tourists, it is convenient for Muscovites. As an aside, there is a mild rebuke administered to Spassky for not trying harder in his preparation for the match against Fischer. The image of a proffered bottle of whisky certainly is a lackadaisical one. The Russian text used is виски, which could be Scotch whisky, as given in the translation, or North American, Isle of Man, Japanese, Irish or Lord knows what else whiskey. Given we are talking of Spassky, I suspect it was whisky. The Scottish distillers have sued and will sue any non-Scottish rival who omits the letter e!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Averbakh 17: Outside the world of chess.

Trickling down the pages, in ones and twos, sometimes more, are the names of many whose involvement with chess was at best tangential: few are identified. It can be that little is in the public domain. An all too common problem when researching individual Soviets. Even the life histories of relatively prominent men can be largely obliterated. For instance, David Glantz (page 130, Kharkov 1942, ISBN 978-0-7110-3468-6) quotes Marshall Bagramyan's biography of an army group commander:

Maj-Gen Leonid Vasilyevich Bobkin (birthplace unknown) joined the Red Guard in 1917 and later served during the Civil War, where he earned the Order of the Red Banner. A cavalry officer, during 1924 and 1925 he served with G.K. Zhukov, K.K. Rokossovsky, A.I. Yeremenko and Bagramyan at the Higher Cavalry School in Leningrad. There, and subsequently, he proved to be a skilled commander and expert in cavalry tactics. In May 1942 he was Assistant Commander of South-Western Front forces for cavalry. In this capacity Timoshenko tasked him with organising and leading the specially formed Army Group.

The commander of the 38th Army at that time, Lt-Gen K.S. Moshkalenko, endorsed this assessment of Bobkin's abilities: an extremely capable, skilful and energetic commander.

To remove all doubt, Bobkin's name does not pop up in Centre-Stage.

On page 119 Averbakh tells of a battle between Armenians and Georgians when the music of Babadzhanian was played over and over again. Probably many readers will know that there are many rivalries in the Caucasus, thus both nations, despite practising distinct forms of Christianity, have traditionally had troubled relations. Something that Moscow has been able to exploit in the past. Incidentally, Bagramyan, briefly mentioned above, notwithstanding his status as a hero of the Great Patriotic War, was ethnically Armenian, something his name so indicates. Similarly, Prince Bagration, a Russian hero from the campaign of 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, was a Georgian prince.

Arno Harutyuni Babadzhanian (1921 – 1983) was a notable composer and pianist. Born in Yerevan, he studied composition at its Conservatory, graduating in 1947. He moved to the Moscow Conservatory from which he graduated in 1948. In 1950 he became a faculty member at Yerevan Conservatory. His Piano Trio, with its strong national overtones, won a USSR State Prize in 1953.

There is no note on page 120 about Vakhtang Mikhaylovich Chabukiani (1910 – 1992). Dancer, choreographer and teacher, he first studied ballet in Tbilisi, before moving to Leningrad Ballet School (the School was founded at the same time as the Maryinsky Ballet, it has been known successively as the Imperial Theatre School, the St. Petersburg, the Petrograd State Ballet School, the Leningrad Ballet School and from 1957 as the Vaganova School) from which he graduated in 1929. He then became a leading soloist at the Kirov (as the Maryinsky Ballet was then known. There has been much debate as to whether Sergey Mironovich Kirov was murdered in 1934 on Stalin's orders.) until 1941, during which time he developed a broad repertoire and became known for his magnificent technique, particularly for his heroic style and great leaps. He was one of the first Soviet dancers to visit the United States (1934). Moving to Georgia in 1941, he served as the principal choreographer and teacher of the Paliashvili Theatre of Opera and Ballet (an online history is available at the official site) until 1973, as well as other arts establishments within Georgia.

On page 125 Ivan Kozlovsky enters the narrative, The Soviet Union, a biographical dictionary gives:
Ivan Semenovich Kozlovsky (born 1900) Tenor. Ivan Kozlovsky was born in the village of Mar'yanovka. Of humble origins, he studied under Yelena Murav'eva at the Kiev Institute of Music and Drama (1917-19), after which he served in the Red Army for the following five years. In 1924 he became a soloist with the Khar'kov Opera Theatre, joining the Sverdlovsk Theatre in 1925. From 1926 to 1954 he was attached to the Bol'shoy, where his lyrical tenor voice with its appealing timbre was highly esteemed. He was made a People's Artist in 1940 and is the recipient of several State Prizes.

Worth recording is that Mar'yanovka is a village of some antiquity, in Kiev Oblast. Kozlovsky passed away in 1993. There are videos dedicated to him on YouTube, I enjoyed  listening to them. According to this web page there is a bust dedicated to his memory in Kiev. As an aside, Sverdlovsk has reverted to its earlier name of Yekaterinburg.

Also mentioned in that same sentence is Igor Ilyinsky. The Biographical Dictionary yields: Igor Vladimirovich Il'insky (1901-1987) Actor. Il'insky was an enormously popular comic actor of stage and screen. He began his career in Foregger's Theatre of the Four Masks in 1918 appearing in French farces and worked in the Meyerhold Theatre from 1920 to 1935, acting in Meyerhold's productions of Verhaeren's 'The dawn' (1920), Mayakovsky's 'Mystery-bouffe' (1921), and Ostrovky's 'The Forest' (1924). He later worked in the Moscow Malyy Theatre. His first film role was the detective in Protazanov's 'Aelita' (1924) and he subsequently played with great success in 'The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom' (1924), 'The Tailor from Torzhok' (1925), 'The Three Millions Trial' and 'Miss Mend' (both 1926), 'The Kiss of Mary Pickford (1927) and 'The Feast of St Jürgen' (1930). One of his greatest film roles was his portrayal of the bureaucrat Byvalov in Alexandrov's 'Volga-Volga' (1938).

Unknown to me prior to reading Averbakh was Artur Arturovich Eisen (1927 – 2008). I couldn't find his name in any book of mine. There is a web page here, it appears to have been written by one of his children. It says that he sang the role of Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville. From which I conclude that he was a bass opera singer. Another web page, which is consistent with the first is here. This second looks inaccurate to me, it states that he was born into a family of Latvian nationalists. The noun nationalist is a loaded word, it seems incongruous for a Soviet singer. The first text prefers revolutionary, which is likely to be closer to the truth, given the source.

Quickly going through the other names given:

Nikolay Osipovich Ruban (1913 – 1987), another opera singer, he seemed to specialise in lighter roles. This is sourced from this Russian language website, which is credited to his daughter Tatiana Nikolayevich Ruban.

Mark Bernes (1911 – 1969) unlike the previous singers was more of a popular entertainer. He also appeared in Soviet films. Examples of his art can be found on YouTube using the Russian Марк Бернес.

Boris Sergeyevich Brunov (1922 – 1997) was a Soviet actor. He was born in Tbilisi. He was the director of the Moscow Variety Theatre from 1983. There is a Russian language article about him available here. On this page one can see his well maintained, imaginative grave. Also worth reading is this.

Mikhail Naumovich Garkavy (1897 – 1964) was a professional actor and comedian. There is an online article devoted to him (in Russian) available here. First mentioned on page 125 in the English edition of Averbakh's memoirs, a portrait is painted on pages 148-9. Quite amusing is the tale of the simultaneous display (sic) given by Garkavy!

Vadim Svyatoslavovych Sinyavsky (1906-1972) was a radio sports commentator. He briefly attracted attention in the West following some adverse comments about British hospitality in relation to the tour of Britain by Moscow Dynamo in 1946. Sinyavsky had accompanied the footballers. There is a Russian language interview with his daughter available online here. A brief Russian language biography is available here. Apparently he was badly wounded (1942) during the siege of Sevastopol.

Nikolay Ozerov (1922 – 1997) also was a Soviet sports commentator, a very well known one, which he took up when his tennis career ended. He also was an actor at the Moscow Arts Theatre. There is an English language article devoted to him here.