Saturday, 29 September 2012

Botvinnik's daughter

There is a touching account of life with the late Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik as related by his daughter Olga available on the website of the Russian chess federation here. It is in Russian, but even English speakers should persevere.

She speaks of a two-room flat in Moscow where they lived from 1944. Note that there were five persons living there; Botvinnik, his wife Gayane, ailing mother, Olga herself and a nyana (a nanny perhaps?). There is also a discussion of life at Nikolina Gora.

Observe the comment that Perestroika misled the younger generation into believing they would get Western style capitalism, whereas Botvinnik forecast they would obtain capitalism as practised in Latin America. The late world champion was closer to the mark!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Chess in the news.

On Page B8 (i.e. the business section) of Wednesday's Daily Telegraph there are some paragraphs about chess. They are reproduced here.

A benevolent reiver.

In my salad days, when I was green, I was captive to a number of stories of the Covenanters (the death of Inchdarny I can still partly recall), fierce men of Presbyterian faith who lived and died for the Solemn League and Covenant. I was also exposed to tales of the borders, particularly about the reivers. Now both are just echoes from history, of whom few had heard. The Covenanters were done for by their divisions and the Battle of Bothwell Brig (1679); the reivers, rather earlier, by Jimmy the Sixth (the wisest fool in Christendom), who imposed order in the oft-wasted borderlands. Some prominent, highly respectable, families in today's Britain claim descent from the reivers.

It is alleged that history repeats itself, thus when Irish Home Rule dominated British politics a century ago, Ulster Protestants broadcast their opposition in 1912 by signing a Solemn League and Covenant.

Have we similarly witnessed a return to the ideals of the reivers? The reivers were ferocious riders, berserkers even, who would engage in cattle rustling and still more nefarious deeds, disdainful of allegiances owed to crown and country, men who cared not a whit for international borders. Some say the American West was like that, maybe they are right. But surely their ways are now just metaphorical?

In today's Russia and Ukraine there are many colourful figures in the world of business. Recently, the Ukraine born Vladimir Mironovich Palikhata, who heads the Moscow Chess Federation, issued an invitation to the Mayor of London to attend the London Grand Prix, a contest that is closed to ordinary members of the public. But who is Palikhata, to invite the Mayor of London to an event in London? Fortunately, it would appear that one of Palikhata's aides has provided an entry on Wikipedia, the first port of call for the ill-informed. Out of sheer laziness I shan't provide that link, I shall just note that it is gratifying that Palikhata was able to provide assistance to the children of needy families in the Republic of Kalmykia when FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a close friend, was also president of that republic. There is a photograph of the two benefactors available here. Other, Russian language, pages of interest are to be found here, here, here and here.

Palikhata's plans for chess are expressed in a Russian language interview here, a further interview he gave shortly after his elevation can be found here. It is ineffably good news that he shares a platform with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich (speaking through the microphone on the first photo), whom we must thank for keeping Ilyumzhinov at FIDE. It is wonderful, too, that he has Archimandrite Tikhon, believed to be Russian President Vladimir Putin's spiritual advisor, as a trustee for his charitable foundation. Not for Palikhata is the path of conflict with FIDE, I gather that the First Vice-President of the Moscow chess Federation is Nikita Vladimirovich Kim, who used to work for Ilyumzhinov.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

ECF elections: A servant of the click-on empire.

Further to my post of 13th September in which I decried the decision of an Ilyumzhinov loyalist to stand against England's Nigel Short for the position of ECF delegate to FIDE. I see that both candidates have published addresses. Grandmaster Short's prose is lucid and to the point. Some may take exception to Papua New Guinea's Rupert Jones being described as an opportunist, but what word can one use for someone who, not content to be labelled a useful idiot, has made it plain he is more than willing to dance to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's tune? Indeed, the former school teacher, in so far as one can make sense of a file that looks to have been knocked together by a landing party of Ilyumzhinov's aliens, who then proceeded to click on the send icon, has the greatest difficulty in distinguishing between FIDE and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. To oppose Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, in effect proclaims the man from Papua New Guinea, is to oppose FIDE!

The challenger writes:
I also feel the negative attitude towards England in the wider developing world also needs to be addressed especially if we want to make friends & influence people.

Yes indeed, a claque is unlikely to look kindly upon those who seek to take the money away. The objection goes that this negativity will have unfortunate consequences, England will become a pariah. Such consequences have included part of the FIDE Grand Prix being staged in London. May there be many more such consequences. The reality is that Mr Jones's fears are groundless, sponsors dictate the venue for major contests, local competitions don't need a central body, there's not much FIDE can do. The pettiness of refusing to accredit arbiters from England and other federations is to be expected from a bully and his gang. One stands up to such types. There's strength in numbers, other federations have many members who oppose Ilyumzhinov.

The challenger is thunderously silent, almost acting the dunderhead, on things that concern the ordinary player, such as inappropriate time controls or being properly seated when Lord Kirsan, a very superior person, is present. One thing he does mention is: Another area that needs to be addressed is getting more FIDE qualified trainers … Are our titled players to be subjected to fees such as those vexing many a modestly remunerated arbiter? Kirsan's got to obtain revenue from somewhere. No wonder Jones can't name a single English GM backing his candidacy. Does he even have an IM?

And that is to ignore the utter immorality of backing this gentleman (see entry number 68 on the link). Instead, the challenger rants on about the hypocrisy of the alleged moral superiority of the West: So one thing I learnt from that was not wanting to hear about the moral superiority of the supposed western chess nations. I don't know what the supposed adds to Mr Jones's argument, Britain is a Western nation, England has a long tradition of chess playing. I don't pretend that Garry Kasparov is an angel; however, to put it mildly, Garry Kimovich has never killed anybody: there is a difference, unless one is Mr Jones.
Bizarrely, the challenger boasts of his connections: In that time I have built up good contacts. Some of them we can well do without. As to recognition, the average man in the street is unlikely to have heard of either, but if he does identify a name, it will be Short's. In the chess world this disparity in recognition will be still more pronounced.

There may be some misguided personal loyalty to Jones from those purportedly representing the various Yorkshire chess bodies, nobody else has any reason to back him.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Averbakh 15: Budapest Candidates Tournament, 1950.

This is discussed from page 59, but, before proceeding, given that not all readers will be able to decipher the Cyrillic in the photograph at the top of that page, I shall digress and point out that Averbakh's opponent in that picture was German Samuilovich Fridstein (1911 – 2001). He became a Soviet master of Sports (i.e. a chess master) in 1945. He is best known in the West for his book on the Pirc-Umfintsev Defence, as that opening was called in the former USSR.

When discussing some of the background to the Budapest contest, Averbakh relates how the Yugoslav grandmaster Petar Trifunovich (Trifunovich has earned the reputation of being a very hard man to beat, and the other grandmasters have acquired a healthy respect for his technical skill. At Bled, for example, he lost only this one game - from the introduction to game 33 of Fischer's My Sixty Memorable Games, SBN 571 093 4) was kept out of the tournament. This was a knock-on effect of the breach between the communist dictators Stalin and Tito. The Soviets, in order to keep the Yugoslav out, sacrificed Bondarevsky's place. Grandmaster Bondarevsky will be known as Spassky's trainer, a subject treated by Averbakh elsewhere in the book. A bit of spice can be added by revealing that there may have been links to the NKVD (i.e. the Cheka).

On this page, chess historian Sergey Voronkov wrote:

Кроме того, Бондаревский тоже находился на оккупированной территории (и даже играл с румынским военврачом, мастером Троянеску), поэтому мог судить о происходившем «в тылу врага» не только по передовицам газет. Одно смущает. После освобождения Ростова осенью 1942 года он попал не в концлагерь, как любой бы другой на его месте («за сотрудничество с оккупантами»), а прямиком в Москву, где принял участие в турнире мастеров. Так что разговоры о том, что 28-летний гроссмейстер остался в Ростове по заданию советской разведки, не лишены оснований…

In English this reads:

Furthermore, Bondarevsky was also in the occupied territories (and even played against the Romanian doctor, and master, Troianescu), he could therefore judge what happened behind enemy lines, and not just from reading newspaper editorials. One thing that could confuse. After the liberation of Rostov in the autumn of 1942, he was not sent to a camp, as others would have been in his situation (for collaboration with the invaders), but sent straight to Moscow where he took part in a masters tournament. So talk that the 28 year old grandmaster remained in Rostov on the orders of Soviet intelligence is not without basis …

Rostov-on-Don, the gateway to the Caucasus, changed hands several times during the Great Patriotic War. It first fell to the invader, somewhat unexpectedly, on 21st November, 1941 (some accounts give the 20th). The outnumbered Nazis (outnumbered save in armour) were driven out by a counter attack that began six days later. This led directly to the resignation of Von Runstedt, the commander of the Nazi Army Group South. Following a major Nazi victory at Kharkov (a former capital of Soviet Ukraine, a status it lost in 1934) in the summer of 1942, a subsequent Nazi offensive captured Rostov again on 23rd July 1942:

Not that Rostov had surrendered lightly: NKVD units, crack, fanatical troops under rigid command, turned the city into a death trap, the streets tangled with spectacular barricades, houses sealed up with firing points.

Quoted from Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad. ISBN 0 297 76877 8, page 370.
There was time to evacuate. Note that Rostov was recaptured again by the Soviets in February 1943.

I suspect there is a typo in the Russian text and that the autumn of 1941 is intended, rather than the given 1942. It isn't easy to be precise over these things. Before examining this further, it should be pointed out that the Absolute USSR Championship of 1941 was completed before the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union. The best known tournament from the war years was the very strong Sverdlovsk (the name of that city has reverted back to  Yekaterinburg) 1943 contest. It cannot be either of those, Sverdlovsk is not near Moscow. It must be another competition. The 1964 Shakhmatny slovar' (i.e. Chess dictionary) contains a bird's eye view of Soviet events provided by I Z Romanov. Those occurring during the Great Patriotic War only include just the year. There is an entry for 1942, this masters' tournament was headed by Bondarevsky (10/14), followed by Petrov on 9½, then a quadruple tie involving lesser figures such as Mikenas, Panov … Later that year the Moscow Championship was won by Smyslov.

Those conspiratorially minded can feed on the non-existence in the famous series of Black Books (i.e. biographical and semi-biographical accounts of masters such as Mikenas, Panov, Kholmov, Ragozin, Lilienthal, Makagonov, Gufeld, …) of a volume about Bondarevsky. Bondarevsky's name doesn't feature as often as one might expect in other chess books. As Voronkov wrote: … talk that the 28 year old grandmaster remained in Rostov on the orders of Soviet intelligence is not without basis …

I should stress that Averbakh makes no such accusation of any association between Bondarevsky and the NKVD in his autobiography.

I should like to thank to Bernard Cafferty for the exchange of ideas on this topic and for looking up his copy of the 1964 Shakhmatny slovar' on my account.

Reverting back to the Budapest 1950 Candidates, which was won jointly by Boleslavsky (not to be confused with Bondarevsky!) and Bronstein.

Chess historians looking for evidence of machinations behind the scenes at the Budapest 1950 Candidates' Tournament will be disappointed. It is well known that Isaac Boleslavsky agreed a quick draw in the last round, which gave David Bronstein the opportunity to come equal first should he overcome Paul Keres, which Bronstein managed. There is a translator's note describing the allegation that this was prearranged by Bronstein's second Boris Vainstein, who was a member of the NKVD. As far as I am aware, the charge of collusion has never been substantiated or shown to be false. If anything, Averbakh, by examining Boleslavsky's character, appears to be hinting that there is nothing to this story. Boleslavsky and Bronstein were and remained firm friends (Bronstein later married Boleslavsky's daughter). Isaac Yefremovich Boleslavsky did not feel hard done by. Should an edition of Averbakh's memoirs come out aimed specifically at the Western reader, then Yuri Lvovich could boost sales by providing accusations of alleged improprieties that are of lesser interest to the Russian intelligentsia.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Chess in the mainstream press.

It's good to see that the first round of the FIDE Grand Prix currently being held in London is reported in my favourite quality newspaper, London's Financial Times. Page seven of today's edition boasts the headline US entrepreneur seeks to revive chess's popularity. The entrepreneur in question, Andrew Paulson, is a long time partner of the well connected Alexander Mamut, who owns Waterstones, a chain of bookshops in the UK. The article occupies quite a decent amount of space, together with a photograph of the chap I want to win, he's staring down at the board, not up at the ceiling.

There's no discussion of the differences between Andrew Paulson and Ilya Levitov,who runs the Russian chess federation; he was put there by Arkady Dvorkovich, a deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation (i.e. the Russian state, not the chess body). It was pressure from the Russian chess federation that resulted in the venue being shifted to London, a fascinating ripple, perhaps, from the stone throwing between the frondeurs and the Siloviki within the Kremlin.

For once, giving the Immortal Game as an example can't be faulted. It was played at Simpsons, where the contest is being held. Quite a good article for its intended audience, I suggest.

There are also a couple of paragraphs devoted to the competition in the Lex Column (page 26).

Friday, 21 September 2012

Averbakh 14: What was home life like in the former Soviet Union?

The Western reader used to a comparatively secure existence might look for the trappings of life similar to his own. He might observe that in Averbakh's childhood his family possessed a piano (page 20), which sounds very middle class and indicative of a capacious dwelling. This was far from the case, rather more a matter of parents doing what they could for their children in trying circumstances. The grandmaster relates (page 24) that he lived in a communal apartment: his family had two rooms. There was no hot water, no gas, nor electric light. Everyone cooked in a communal kitchen … And sanitation? … there was a cesspool outside the windows … in the summer we were pestered with flies. Therefore, I expect this piano wasn't a concert or baby grand, say a Blüthner, but more probably an upright, which could be pushed against a wall (one hopes the neighbours liked the sound of children practising, maybe they were out at such times!). Before the Khrushchev era in the 1950s, there was a desperate shortage of housing.

It's time to adapt an uncommon transliteration of a name in connection with the piano, it's on page 20; not practise the works of Gedik, instead more usual would be: then I started to learn the works of the composer Goedicke. The entire sentence (which I've not translated) in Russian is:

Сначала я добросовестно играл гаммы, затем стал разучивать произведения композитора Гедике.

Goedicke is almost certainly not a name familiar to Western chess players (I'm not sure whether the typical listener to classical music in the West will be able to pinpoint him either. It may be inattentiveness on my part, for I can't recall hearing any score of his on BBC Radio Three, a British radio station devoted to classical music. My copy of The Oxford Companion to Music has: Gedike: see Goedicke and no entry for Goedicke). Alexander Fyodorovich Goedicke (1877-1957) won the Anton Rubinstein Prize in 1900 and was a professor of music at the Moscow Conservatory. One can listen to his music by googling composer Goedicke, it throws up several videos on YouTube. The composer Reingol'd Moritzevich Gliere (1875-1956), also mentioned on that page by Averbakh, is a little better known, he actually has an entry in my Oxford Companion. Perhaps mention of his life span would have sufficed for a footnote, given that Averbakh refers to the best known of Gliere's works.

Reverting to the theme of home-life in the Soviet Union, quite a few Western readers won't understand the background to the following (page 17):

This decision was necessary, because life in the capital had deteriorated noticeably. There were problems getting foodstuffs, and a ration system was introduced. My father's pay started to become inadequate to support a family with two children, and my mother had to seek work.
In 1928, the year under discussion, the New Economic Policy came under heavy attack. In his book The Whisperers (ISBN 978-0-713-99702-6), Professor Orlando Figes of London University's Birkbeck College wrote (page 7):

The New Economic Policy which Lenin introduced … in March 1921, replaced food requisitioning with a relatively lenient tax in kind and legalised the return of small scale private trade and manufacturing … As Lenin saw it, the NEP was a temporary but necessary concession to the smallholding peasantry … to get the country on its feet again… Private trade responded quickly … private cafés, shops and restaurants, night clubs and brothels, hospitals and clinics, credit and savings associations, even small scale manufacturers sprang up like mushrooms after the rain.
On pages 71-5, Professor Figes added of one Nepman (the term used to describe small traders and the like):

In 1928, the Moscow Soviet again imposed a special business tax on small traders … arrested, imprisoned briefly in Moscow and then sent into exile into Nizhni Novgorod. The arrest was part of a nationwide assault on private trade, which began in 1927 …
The Bolsheviks had always been ambivalent about the NEP, but many of their proletarian supporters, who could not afford the prices charged by private shops, were firmly opposed to it. … a second major breakdown took place in 1927-8, when a poor harvest coincided with a shortage of consumer goods… Denouncing the grain crisis as a "kulak strike", Stalin called for a return to the requisitionings of the Civil War…
Thousands of Nepmen were imprisoned or driven from their homes. By the end of 1928, more than half the 400,000 private businesses registered in 1926 had been taxed out of existence or closed down by the police; by the end of 1929, only one in ten remained. New restrictions … made life even harder for the families of Nepmen. Rationing cards (introduced in 1928) were denied … More frequently than before, their families were expelled from state housing, and their children barred from Soviet schools and universities.
As an aside, American readers might be aware that Dr Armand Hammer, who later in life ran the oil giant Occidental Petroleum, made a lot of money in the 1920s through his dealings with the Soviets.

Let us return to Averbakh's family life. On page 35 of his book we are told that his mother worked in the trust called Soyuzkhimontazh. No explanation is provided. This enormous trust was established in 1931. Its purpose was the construction of chemical engineering plants. It was also responsible for the provision of specialists and suitable equipment.
On page 40 there is a sketch of the childhood friend, writer and critic Arkady Belinkov, later to be another victim of the Georgian tyrant (the list is practically boundless), it could be of interest to literary scholars. Towards the end of his account, Averbakh states that Belinkov's mother was repressed, the talk was: How can she be allowed to bring up other people's children, when she couldn't bring up her own son properly? Such was the logic of Stalin's Soviet Union. On this page Averbakh relates that she was the victim of a campaign against Jews in the late 1940s. The best known narrative of this particular repression, certainly, is the murder in 1948 of Solomon Mikhoels. But there were others, for instance the author of the standard Russian-Yiddish dictionary Eli Spivak (1890-1950). He was a leading authority on Yiddish as spoken in the former Soviet Union. He produced some fifty publications. He was arrested in 1949, dying in Moscow's Lefortovo prison more than a year later.

On page 114 the reader is effectively told that the size of accommodation available in the 1950s had not improved from thirty years before. A typo is that there is no squared after qualifying 11.8 metres (the Russian is correct); however, of greater moment, I'd have liked to have seen an indication in imperial units, in the form of a footnote, to assist older readers in the English speaking world. For the record, this is about 130 square feet. Thus a nearly square-shaped flat (to use British English, the translator favoured a mix of flat and the American apartment), assuming that to have been the case, would have been roughly ten by thirteen feet, for an entire family! Note that the kitchen in which Averbakh wrote his famous series of endgame books was probably communal, shared by all those on the same floor in a housing block. He really did have to write at night, to obtain privacy.

A trickier point, which perhaps is unimportant, is that there is no explanation of maid in the clause: which I shared with my wife, child and maid. In English, the noun maid carries connotations of class differences, how could that be in the workers' and peasants' paradise? The problem is that it is not easy to translate words such as domashniye or prisluga. The maid might have been a relative, such as a babushka, or a widow with some connection, close or distant, to the parents. There was a huge disparity in the populations of the two sexes following the catastrophic losses of World War Two.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Averbakh 13: The Great Patriotic War.

By now most readers of this blog will be aware that there are missing explanations and the occasional slip in the English language version of Averbakh's memoirs. The slips are not present in the Russian. It need hardly be said that Averbakh did not provide the English language translation! I should add, too, that one should not judge the translator or the publisher harshly, both time and money were limited. The result is that it is difficult to cover everything; for instance, I was puzzled by the following, it's on page 16:

A proclamation was issued (known as the Voroshilov Order, after the then head of the armed forces), which required all those aged 18 to join up with the army.
It wasn't the name I expected, the 1939 Law of Universal Conscription or a similar formulation. It turns out that Kliment Voroshilov gave a bombastic speech to the Supreme Soviet on 31st August 1939. It can be viewed here.

The actual law was passed on 1st September 1939, it can be found here. Note that that was signed by M.I. Kalinin and A. Gorkin on behalf of the Supreme Soviet. It goes without saying that not every eighteen year old would necessarily have gone into the army. This proclamation was to do with the building up of a reserve.

The key point was that conscription was lowered to eighteen years, having, apparently only recently been reduced from twenty-one to nineteen (Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Seaton, ex-US military retired, in note 36 on page 18 of his book The Russo-German War, ISBN 0-89141-392-8, talks of this reduction to nineteen from twenty-one in September 1939, that is the same date. I'm not sure how to reconcile this. The whole subject is confusing and perhaps best left to specialists. I'm not convinced I understand it). There is another law discussed by David M. Glantz, also a retired US Army lieutenant-colonel, who is considered by many to be the West's premier authority on the war on the Ostfront. He has this to say on page 61 of Operation Barbarossa (ISBN 978 - 0 - 7524 - 6070 - 3):

… Pre-war Soviet theory estimated that the army would have to be completely replaced every four to six months during heavy combat. To satisfy this need, the 1938 Universal Military Service Law extended the reserve service obligation to age 50 …

Note the assumption of an absolutely horrifying rate of loss. The obligation to join the military was also included in article 132 of the Soviet constitution of 1936 (the Stalin Constitution).

On the same page Glantz adds:

By the time of the German invasion, the Soviet Union had a pool of at least 14 million men with at least basic military training.

On 22nd June 1941, the day on which the Nazis attacked, there were roughly five million men in the Red Army (The late Professor John Erickson in The Road to Stalingrad, ISBN 0 297 76877 8, page 225, gave a figure of 4.7 millions).

It is likely that many in Averbakh's circle, as well as others, referred to the 1939 law as the Voroshilov Order. It's not a name, as a Westerner, that I'm used to. However, Voroshilov was promoted as a great military hero, so listeners to his speech would automatically associate him with the order. In the English version, a note explaining this would have been useful, although I can't blame a translator of chess books for not doing so: one can't know everything.

Kliment Voroshilov is someone I can expatiate on with confidence. Doubts about his competence go all the way back to the Russian Civil War.

Born in the Ukraine in 1881, the son of a railway worker, Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov joined the Bolshevik faction after the 1903 split in the Russian Social Democratic Party. A participant in both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, he was one of the first recruits to the Cheka, which was established by Feliks Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926) during the Russian Civil War. In 1918 he was chosen by Stalin as the military specialist commander of the Tsaritsyn (modern day Volgagrad, but better known as Stalingrad) front even though he had no experience or knowledge of military affairs: it was the making of his career. Upon arrival, he had many dedicated military professionals arrested or sent back to Moscow on the charge that they were counterrevolutionaries.

His arrival did nothing for military efficiency. In Trotsky's opinion large numbers of troops were needlessly tied up at Tsaritsyn, thereby enabling Stalin to invent the myth of a heroic defence. Stalin went on to clash with Trotsky and Tukhachevsky (1893-1937) over the conduct of the war with Poland that broke out in 1920, Voroshilov was in Stalin's camp. As a loyal supporter of the future dictator, Voroshilov was promoted repeatedly and lauded as a military genius. In late 1925 he replaced Mikhail Frunze as People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs, a marker as to who was the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. Voroshilov held this position (the title later changed to Commissar of Defence) until 1940. He was notorious amongst those who knew him for having no head for detail. Despite being blamed by many for the Soviet debacles in the Winter War with Finland (1939-1940), Voroshilov was not purged, merely sidelined. No longer Commissar of Defence, he was appointed the deputy chairman of the Defence Committee. Following the disasters on the frontiers after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941, Voroshilov, to the great cost of many, was appointed glavkom (commander-in-chief) of the fronts to the north-west (10th July 1941). Out of his depth, Leningrad was cut-off, save for a route over Lake Ladoga, and appeared on the verge of falling. Fortunately for the defenders, he was superseded, although he continued to hold senior positions throughout the war.

Early in the 1950s, the paranoid Stalin began to entertain doubts as to Voroshilov's loyalty, the dictator wondered whether his underling was an English spy. Happily for Voroshilov, Stalin died in 1953. Voroshilov was appointed Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1953-1960). A long time member of the Politburo, he was denounced by Khrushchev in 1961 and stripped of his posts. He died in 1969.

For most of the Stalin period Voroshilov was promoted as a great military leader, towns were named after him and the heavy KV tanks (not as famous as the T34 medium tanks, but also an unpleasant shock to the invading Nazis) also bore his name. An irony is that Voroshilov was opposed to the expansion of the armoured forces (see Erickson op. cit., page 32). Not hated in the manner that Mekhlis was, many Red Army officers nonetheless held a low opinion of Voroshilov personally, they felt he could have done more to protect the officer corps before it was shattered (tens of thousands were shot or sentenced to the Gulag) by the dictator.

On page 43, Averbakh recalls that he was sent to Naro-Fominsk, where he spent twelve hours a day building BT tanks (almost certainly BT-7s, the BTs performed well in the 1939 battle of Khalkhin Gol, which put a halt to Japanese ambitions at the expense of the Soviets; but, as Averbakh relates, were of little use when fighting the Nazis). The town is about forty miles south-west of the centre of Moscow (it's more or less on a straight line drawn from Moscow to Kaluga, where Averbakh was born). Averbakh relates that he was sent back to Moscow in September 1941 when the Nazis advanced closer to Moscow. Bock, the commander of the Nazi Army Group Centre, issued the directive for Operation Typhoon, which was supposed to result in the capture of Moscow, on 16th September. Thus Averbakh probably returned in the latter half of that month. It is probably worth noting that Naro-Fominsk was the site of one of the first morale boosting Soviet successes against the Nazis (along with Tikhvin, which helped save Leningrad). Glantz (op. cit.) on page 168 gives:

… the XX Army Corps' 258th and 292nd Infantry and 3rd Motorised divisions north of Naro-Fominsk, and the 183rd Infantry and 20th Panzer divisions and one regiment of the 15th Infantry south of Naro-Fominsk. All three attacked … on 1st December, but the attack had only limited armoured support and ran directly into a carefully prepared Soviet anti-tank region … To the south, the systematic defence by Colonel V.I. Polosukhin's 1st Guards Motorised Rifle division at Naro-Fominsk became a legend of tenacity.
Also on page 43, the words: Once the bombing started and More than once, I … put the out the fires started by the incendiary bombs … appear to have been misunderstood by some readers. The pro-Nazi Paul Carell (aka Paul Karl Schmidt, he was an SS obersturmbannführer responsible for propaganda during the war) in his book Hitler's War on Russia (published by Harrap and Son in 1964) has this to say on page 193:

Anyone remembering the wartime enemy raids on German towns will ask: What about the Luftwaffe? He will note with surprise that the German Luftwaffe did not succeed in interfering with the passage of Soviet troops to the front through the Moscow transport network, nor in preventing the arrival of Siberian divisions, nor generally in paralysing Moscow itself as an area immediately behind the lines. Nothing of that kind happened. The last German air raid on Moscow was made during the night of 24th/25th October with eight machines. After that, only nuisance raids were made in December… Why?
Every German airman who was at Moscow knows the answer. The Russians had established tremendously strong anti-aircraft defences around the city. The forests were thick with AA batteries. Moreover, the German Luftwaffe in the east had been decimated in ceaseless operations, just as much as the armed forces, and had to yield the air to the Soviet Air Force, which, before Moscow, was numerically twice as strong. Besides, the Soviet Air Force had numerous well-equipped airfields near the front, with heated hangars, enabling any unit to take off swiftly and repeatedly, regardless of the weather. The Germans machines, by way of contrast, were based on primitive airstrips, a long way behind the fighting line, which permitted operations only in favourable weather. Moscow was virtually spared from the air.
I am sure that grandmaster Yuri Lvovich Averbakh, unlike his detractors, is well aware of this. It is not all that difficult to imagine that living in cramped conditions in an attic, and getting bombed to an accompaniment of tremendously strong anti-aircraft fire (Soviet anti-aircraft equipment was very good) was a vivid experience. There is no need to read more into it than the facts warrant.

Note, too, that Moscow was never under siege, although the Nazis got very close. The scholar David Stahel, in his book Kiev 1941 (ISBN 978-1-107-01459-6), has this to say on page 386 about the sieges and near sieges in the opening months of Barbarossa (note that not all of these were cities):

The Soviet naval base of Hanko on the southern coast of Finland was blockaded by mines and defended by almost 20,000 Soviet troops along the narrow peninsular linking it to the mainland. It was only evacuated early in December 1941. Across the Gulf of Finland the siege of Tallin lasted from mid-July until 28 August and ended with the capture of 20,000 Soviet POWs. The monumental siege of Leningrad was only getting underway in early September. Further south the siege of the Soviet fortress of Brest lasted from the first day of the war until the last few defenders were killed in late July. Mogilev on the Dnepr was the site of another desperate siege in July,… Kiev was also under siege from the second week of July …
It's true, though, that David Glantz (op. cit., page 148) wrote: In essence, Moscow was under a state of siege. He was describing the rushed construction of additional defences in October on the immediate approaches to Moscow and in the city itself. Six thousand NKVD (i.e. Chekist) troops, supplemented by militia units, blocker detachments and so forth were responsible for security and the construction of defences. Four hundred thousand inhabitants of Moscow and its oblast (province) were pressed into service to construct these defences. They did so over twenty days. There was real panic in Moscow, as discussed by Averbakh on page 44. Nonetheless, this was not a siege as commonly understood.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Averbakh 12 - Florencio Campomanes.

The late president of FIDE is first mentioned in the book on page 111, at the Portoroz Interzonal (1958) in the capacity of second to the Filipino master Rodolfo Tan Cardoso (born 1937). This, however, was not his first appearance at an international chess contest; the always dapper Campomanes played on board two for the Philippines at the 1956 Moscow Olympiad.

Not wishing to reinvent the wheel, more about Campomanes can be gleaned here, an obituary that skips, being on the FIDE web site, some of the racier aspects of his life. His conviction and gaoling are touched upon in a somewhat unsatisfying New York Times obituary. There were many other suspicions about the reality of his financial affairs, which I won't discuss.

An allegation that has been made is that he was an agent of the KGB. This has always struck me as somewhat fanciful. A highly intelligent man, he knew how to play the game of life, as hinted at in my previous post. No more need be read into it. On page 204, Averbakh gives an instance of Campomanes acting in a manner unbefitting a KGB officer: In the final analysis, the FIDE president has refused to satisfy the legitimate protests of the Soviet side, … Far more plausible is that Campomanes was susceptible to an inducement from Gaidar Aliyev, as hinted at by Averbakh on pages 205 and 206. Minds innocent and quiet, I suppose, might believe that the extra one hundred thousand dollars was all spent on seminars for players in developing countries.

His spirit lives on.


Ilyumzhinov the current FIDE president is far worse than Campomanes ever was, thus the former president of Kalmykia is not beyond aping the old and questionable ways. For a modern day example of hoped for gullibility, one can look here. Consider the words: Then in the afternoon by the hotel swimming pool we met the Federation members and handed over the chess equipment FIDE had donated which included their first chess clocks. No intimation of the monetary value of this gift is given, one has to guess. Not very much, I speculate (depending upon the make, a chess clock retails at around thirty pounds sterling; if there were a hundred clocks, that would be £3,000 and that's assuming that the buyer lacked the nous to negotiate a discount. Furthermore, it is not clear from the article whether these were old clocks that FIDE was abandoning. Indubitably, a key word is equipment, but a clock is usually the most expensive item when equipping). Note, however, the insinuation that recent court actions are going to make a considerable difference, specifically: The first case was won back in September 2010 and it cost upwards of 750,000 euros. I don't know what the figures are for this second case. Is there a clue in Averbakh's memoirs where this money would otherwise have gone? There is, it's on page 235:

I can testify myself that, at the seminars for players from the developing countries, which I attended as a lecturer, most of those present were not players at all, but people whose support Campomanes needed.
The current FIDE president has introduced several rule changes that many consider inimical to the game, including a speeding up of time controls and zero default times (thus if a player is present at the venue on time but not properly seated he loses). He is dogged by allegations of corruption and murder. Sponsors, save for those with links to the Kremlin, are largely absent.

Given Ilyumzhinov's manifest unsuitability, it's not a great leap of imagination to ascertain what was behind the recent court actions orchestrated by Kasparov. Quite simply Ilyumzhinov no longer controls the subventions that Moscow sends to Kalmykia, they appear to be managed by Alexey Maratovich Orlov, Ilyumzhinov's successor as president of Kalmykia (there was a deal struck with Arkady Vladimirovich Dvorkovich, the then special advisor to the president of the Russian Federation in 2010. Ilyumzhinov agreed to step aside, in return he was promised a successful re-election as president of FIDE). Ilyumzhinov, rather than dipping into his personal fortune to get his way within FIDE, has sought recourse to various ad hoc schemes of money raising, including levying fees on arbiters, many of whom are not well off and are performing these services for at most expenses. The devouring of FIDE's money by lawyers ensures that, come the next FIDE presidential election, it may be more difficult for the incumbent to purchase victory. It is remarkable that some deluded sea-green incorruptibles are shocked at this tactic, these useful idiots of Ilyumzhinov seem to believe that this is a terrible crime and that there can actually be a clean election at FIDE! They protest that the English Chess Federation should not have supported Kasparov. They protest that the Federation was at risk, even though the directors had taken legal advice that the assurances were solid (would a major international law firm supply its services if its partners thought there was a meaningful possibility of not being paid? Note too that the Federation has direct control of very few assets, members, such as this one, have a maximum liability of one pound, those most at risk would be the directors authorising this action). It is unfortunate that the details of the Federation's involvement were not made public in a timely manner (these same sea-green incorruptibles, a veritable committee of general security, insinuate, without evidence, that certain officials of the ECF are dishonest, rather than guilty of an oversight) and that the erstwhile ECF president jumped the gun, but that has no bearing as to whether the decision was right or wrong. We are told of the "Development" meeting at FIDE:You can sense some real anger in the room. Well quite, some of these delegates could well feel the loss personally!

Sadly, the ECF's mishandling of the execution of the court case (i.e. not telling the Federation's Council), but not the substance, has led to a challenge for the position of ECF delegate to FIDE. A challenge born in malice and buttressed by loathing. The reality is that many within the UK chess scene have never forgiven Nigel Short, our current delegate, for, amongst other things, what he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph after the death of Tony Miles. Short is unquestionably abrasive, which is why I greatly prefer him to the challenger. We are dealing with a man in charge of FIDE who will stop at nothing, as any who trouble to read of the murder of Larissa Yudina can see for themselves. Certain sea-green incorruptibles effectively prefer Ilyumzhinov to Short!

Before his successful election three years ago, grandmaster Short canvassed his peer group, he provided a list of grandmasters who supported him on 9th October 2009. It's early days yet, nonetheless, I consider it noteworthy that Short's challenger Rupert Jones, a FIDE insider who is head secretary of its development commission, hasn't come up with the name of any English grandmaster in his camp; moreover, Jones was the ECF's International Director for three years! One has to wonder what kind of director he was. Certainly, he's the kind of International Director who doesn't know his ELO from his Elo (Arpad Elo invented the grading system), which is very basic indeed. Even his FIDE master title is misleading. Examining his ECF grading history, one sees that he is light years off the pace (to assist those unfamiliar with the ECF's grading system, a FIDE master would be expected to have an ECF grade in the range 205-215 to enjoy any credibility. His FIDE grading history, available here, tells the same story.).

A fortnight ago, after the conclusion of the Berezovsky-Abramovich court case in London, a Financial Times report (1st September, page 3) included in its final paragraph the words: What's most amazing is that the judge made a distinction between the two guys: that one was honest and the other dishonest," said a Russian investor. "I have no idea how she could come to this conclusion". It had me in stitches. Apparently, there are those in English chess who believe that Ilyumzhinov can be removed by boy scout methods. They want someone less waspish than Short and they don't want Ilyumzhinov at FIDE. But to go from defiance to complaisance; from a strong player, who even his detractors admit has been a good delegate, to someone who wears multiple hats (Papua New Guinea delegate, FIDE commission head secretary); from an opponent of Ilyumzhinov to the Kalmyck's useful idiot is extraordinary. I find it incredible that anybody sound of mind would even have nominated such an unsuitable challenger, but such is the nature of the ECF's ersatz timocracy.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Averbakh 11: A football chant.

With all the heavy going material, it is time to compensate with a football chant!

On page twenty-three of the English version, Averbakh relates that a childhood hero of his was the footballer Fyodor Ilyich Selin (1899-1960), who played for Moscow Dynamo for most of his playing career. This club was instituted by the Cheka.

Selin had ginger hair, which might have seemed incongruous on the football pitch (Moscow Dynamo's team colours were blue and white). The lyrics, absent from the English edition, translate as:

The football world is pure and green, Мир футбола чист и зелен.
The green of the meadow and forest green. Зелен луг и зелен лес.
And into that continuous green И вот в ту сплошную зелень
Redhead Selin somehow clambered.Рыжий Селин как-то влез.

Note that the rhyme scheme is something I have forsaken. The meaning, in addition to the obvious one of going onto the pitch, of the cry is that he forced himself into the first team. Observers had to concede his class as a footballer.

The translator was probably right to excise this. In the English version there is no je ne sais quoi.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Averbakh 10: The first Karpov - Kasparov match, part 2.

It's time now for a closer look at the entrails of the controversial termination of this match. Before proceeding, the reader is urged to refresh his memory by looking at Edward Winter's article on this topic, it is available here. There are differences of emphasis between Averbakh's and Winter's accounts.

Note that Winter quotes Hugh Myers, to wit:

In all the discussion of the controversy, hardly anybody seems to have pointed out that the statement of the West German FIDE official Alfred Kinzel makes it clear that the first request for, or even mention of, immediate termination of the match came from the Kasparov camp.

Earlier in the same article:

Firstly, it should be recalled that nobody appears to have suggested outright termination of the match until Kasparov himself did so to Kinzel at the very beginning of February 1985. (Kasparov and Kinzel subsequently gave conflicting accounts of the circumstances and context in which Kasparov proposed that the match should be terminated.)

Thus Kasparov's proposal came after game forty-seven, played on the 30th January, that is only one more game was to be played (on the 8th February). Furthermore, Kasparov had just won, pulling the match score back to 5:2. At that juncture, he was not to know he was going to win the very next game.

Winter adds (one shouldn't assume this is his present take on the matter):

In C.N. 1491 our own standpoint was summarized as follows:

'On Termination Day, however, few knew that all these discussions [involving the officials and players] had been going on for over two weeks. In particular, hardly anyone was aware of the Kinzel-Kasparov negotiations. This prompted the widespread impression that Campomanes' decision was "arbitrary", and the FIDE President did little to help quell suspicions. Neither the question of whether Campomanes was right or wrong to stop the match (our own agnosticism has never been firmer) nor the repeated falsehoods written by his opponents in their press monopoly outlets can alter the fact that Termination Day in Moscow was a shambles for which Campomanes must take full blame.'

Consider now what Averbakh has to say:

The match score became 5-1.

And now another factor began to enter the match, that of the World Champion's physical and nervous exhaustion. The story of his matches against Kortschnoi began to repeat itself. And then the people around Karpov started to look for artificial means to end the match, starting negotiations with the challenger behind the scenes. I found out about this afterwards, as I did about the fact that the talks involved the chief arbiter, …

Whilst not first hand testimony, it is very hard to believe that conversations behind the scenes did not happen for very much longer than two weeks, they were probably going on for months leading up to the beginning of February.

Note, too, that Winter also mentions a letter from Lim Kok Ann, it tells of discussions taking place in December.

Given that these conversations involved many more parties than Kinzel, Kasparov and his representatives, can any great significance be assigned to the request made at the beginning of February? From Kasparov's perspective, a termination with the score at 5-2, followed by a fresh match, was greatly to be preferred to allowing Karpov to recover, regardless of Kasparov's physical shape.

Consider the situation after Kasparov won what turned out to be the final game of the match, bringing the score to 5-3. There were four realistic possibilities:

  1. The match could continue as scheduled.
  2. There could be a prolonged time-out, permitting the players to revive, and the match resumed.
  3. A fresh match of finite length could be played with Karpov starting with a 2-0 lead.
  4. A fresh match of finite length could be played with the scores level.

A fifth, which doesn't seem to have been considered, is that the match could have been aborted and Karpov proclaimed the winner on the basis that he was leading. This won't be discussed here. Nor will an awarding of the contest to Kasparov.

It is a matter of some dispute just how exhausted Karpov was in February 1985. He denies it, as given by Winter. Some credence can be given to this because Karpov managed to come back at the death after a series of reverses at the Baguio world title contest in 1978. However, that being so, why didn't Karpov seek a medical opinion and make it public? That would have been in Karpov's interest should this version be correct. Note, as well, the rumours reported by Averbakh (page 216) that doctors had examined Karpov and found him to be in no shape to continue. In a match of such length, it would have been imprudent not to have been under medical supervision. One can add that Averbakh opined that FIDE should anyway have asked for Karpov to be examined by independent medical experts.

Averbakh doesn't directly discuss just how exhausted Kasparov was. The reader can infer from page 216 that Averbakh thought Kasparov was well able to continue. Thus, in contrast to Winter (Was Kasparov in good physical and mental shape at the end of the match?), Averbakh appears to consider this a non-issue.

The second and third of the four possibilities outlined above definitely were to the benefit of Karpov. Averbakh appears to hold the view that the first favoured Kasparov, whilst others demur. Also in dispute is who would benefit most from the fourth, largely because of the right of the champion to a rematch should he lose the title.

What seems to be unanswerable is that the match demonstrated that a contest in which draws do not count is fundamentally flawed. That being so, the first two possibilities had to be abandoned. One cannot fault Campomanes for doing that.

What was going on behind the scenes? This is where Averbakh's account is useful. Before proceeding, it is time to flesh out more of the powerful figures sketched in the book.

In Karpov's camp was the ideological secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Vasilyevich Zimyanin (the book spells his name Zimianin, he is mentioned on pages 205 and 218). He was born in Vitebsk Oblast (province) in 1914, passing away in 1995. There is a brief New York Times obituary available. More information can be found in the Russian language articles available here and here. I couldn't find an entry for him in my copy of A Biographical Dictionary. For completeness, there is also this link. Despite his powerful positions, he comes across as a nonentity, which would be consistent with Averbakh's account of Geidar Aliyev getting the better of him.

The timing of the match was fortunate for Kasparov, for, earlier, at the bottom of page 175, there is: Karpov's sharp rise to the top had brought him many supporters, especially amongst the party and governing elite. He was from the same area as senior Communist Party figure E. Tyazhelnikov, and the latter had given the talented youngster every support. As a native Russian, from the provinces, a Young Communist Party member, he had the perfect image of a young socialist.

From page 404 of The Soviet Union, a Biographical Dictionary:

Yevgeny Mikhailovich Tyazhelnikov (born 1928). A teacher and Party worker in Chelyabinsk, Tyazhelnikov was a surprising choice in 1968 as First Secretary of the All-Union Konsomol, and again, in 1977, as head of the Central Committee Department of Propaganda. (The latter position had been vacant for some years since the removal of V.I. Stepakov and A.N. Yakovlev.) Tyazhelnikov was himself removed from the department immediately after Brezhnev's death, and became Soviet ambassador to Romania.

There is a brief Russian language article devoted to him available here.

Note that Brezhnev died in 1982.

Erstwhile KGB thug, Kasparov supporter and later ruler of an independent Azerbaijan Geidar Aliyevich Aliyev (1923 - 2003) is sufficiently well known that a brief account is not needed here. Save to observe that he was forced out by Gorbachov in 1987.

Alexander Nikolayevich Yakovlev (1923 - 2005), who is mentioned on page 218 as probably pro-Kasparov, was head of the propaganda department. There is a useful article devoted to him here. Note that Yakovlev in his memoirs stated that the Kremlin was neutral. I should like to express my gratitude to Bernard Cafferty for looking up the passage. It can be found on page 388 of Sumerki (Twilight), which was published in 2003. Bernard has furnished the following translation:

Another very strange story comes from this period. When I had been in the Institute I had been a witness of a conversation between Gorbachov and Chernenko about the course of the K-K match. Karpov was losing the contest. Chernenko's retinue were insisting that we mustn't allow Kasparov to win.

Conversations began about the 'fatigue' of both players and that Kasparov, in the event of his victory, would leave the USSR etc. At that time I stated to Gorbachov that we should not mix sport with politics. In the summer of 1985 this question once again became acute. I wrote a short note to the Central Committee in which I repeated my point of view, that, in sport, the sporting principle had to be strictly observed. If you lost, then this meant that you had lost.

In the Secretariat of the Central Committee people agreed.

As Bernard mentions, the Institute is the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. Strictly speaking, as Bernard also points out, Kasparov was not winning, although that was a common perception, as he had won two games in a row.

Yakovlev's account is consistent with the instruction, as given on page 220, to all press outlets controlled by the Soviets to be objective and neutral.

One has to bear in mind that the coming man was perceived by many to be Gorbachov, who, although interested in chess, did not express a preference. Recall the political backdrop to the events of 15th February 1985. Following Brezhnev's death in 1982, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, who in turn died in 1984. Konstantin Chernenko, a Brezhnev protégé, succeeded as General Secretary of the CPSU, he died on 10th March 1985. Chernenko was seriously ill, in effect powerless, throughout his tenure. Thus it is easy to understand how Aliyev and Yakovlev could get the better of Zimyanin. The power of the KGB had increased further under Andropov, which worked to the advantage of Aliyev. It is a myth that Karpov then had greater blat (i.e. pull) in the higher echelons of Soviet power than Kasparov. Even though Kasparov had shown a greater willingness to rock the boat.

On page 217, Averbakh recalls Karpov telling him on the day that Campomanes stopped the match: Yuri Lvovich! Yuri Lvovich! What is he talking about? We agreed something quite different! Taken at face value, Campomanes double-crossed them all! Campomanes had worked out how to handle the Kremlin: and when he could do what he wanted. There are other examples in the book of his manipulations. As for the decision he reached, arguably it was the least bad of the choices available. It is a pity that he couldn't have taken away the champion's right to a revanche in the event of a reverse. In the final analysis, the decision may not have been arbitrary, but it possibly was last minute, as given in this interview.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Averbakh 9: The first Karpov - Kasparov match, part one.

Some of the personages discussed in the book held notable positions in Soviet history, situations that would be unknown to the casual reader. Page 214 reveals that the Praesidium member E. Pitovranov was a member of the Appeals Committee for the first world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov. In a match held under the aegis of FIDE, rulings and their enforcement are the responsibility of the arbiter, here the late Svetozar Gligoric, and his assistants, Averbakh and international master Vladas Mikenas (1910-1992), all well qualified. However, should a principal wish to challenge a decision, then the Appeals Committee would conventionally be called upon. Although, as those who have followed the history of world title bouts in chess understand,the competences of such committees are not always respected, with the president of FIDE sometimes supervening.

Yevgeny Petrovich Pitovranov (1915-1999) was rather a scary character, having previously been an important NKVD general. He joined the Soviet Communist Party in 1937 during the Yezhovschina (the Great Purge). Having progressed steadily through the ranks, he was arrested on the 29th October, 1951 for inaction over the soon to be revealed Doctors' Plot, tortured, exonerated and then promoted! When in custody he had managed to pass on to Stalin a plan for the reorganisation of the MVD, as this particular security organ was then known. Sidelined after the death of the dictator; his intelligence career came to an end in the mid-sixties when he was made deputy chairman of the USSR Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps his most important post was when he was head of counter intelligence (the Second Main directorate of the MGB).

Amongst other things, Pitovranov was accused of complicity in the murder in 1948 of Solomon Mikhoels the artistic director of Moscow's Yiddish Theatre. He won a court action for libel over this allegation. More substantive is the assertion that he personally arrested victims of the Leningrad Affair. In his favour, it should be recorded that he enabled the prima ballerina assoluta (a ballerina recognised to be not merely a principal dancer, but one of the all time greats) Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya to travel abroad. Indeed, this article took longer than it should have done because I devoted time to watching the videos available on youtube and elsewhere. As an aside, readers of Averbakh (page 103) will recall that the late Mikahil Botvinnik considered himself a better dancer than Galina Ulyanova, Plisetskaya's predecessor at the Bolshoi Ballet!

There are quite a few Russian language articles devoted to Pitovranov, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. A photograph of his grave is available here. There is a downloadable CIA document here.

Amongst the spectators, Averbakh reveals (page 218) that their number included Petro Yukhymovych Shelest (1908-96), the former First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. According to The Soviet Union, a Biographical Dictionary Shelest was a Khruschchev protégé. He occupied a number of posts, spending many years in Chelyabinsk, which is in the Urals, returning to his native Ukraine in 1954. He became First Secretary of the Kiev Communist Party in 1957, rising to First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party in 1963. He became a candidate member of the Praesidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in December 1963, a position he retained after the fall of Khrushchev. Brezhnev kept him in situ until 1972, when he ceased to be head of the Ukrainian Communist Party, a year later he was dropped from the Politburo.

Another guest retiree, to borrow a word from American English, was Kirill Trofimovich Mazurov (1914-89). The  Biographical Dictionary reveals that he was a partisan in Belorussia during the Great Patriotic War, which required considerable courage. After the war he occupied a number of Party posts, rising to First Secretary of the Belarusian Communist Party in 1956, which title he kept until 1965. Brezhnev promoted him to First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers (not Soviets, the English translation of или бывший Первый зампред Совмина СССР К. Мазуров as given in the book is imprecise, not ... or the  former First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Ministry of Soviets, Mazurov. Instead, Council of Ministers should have been preferred to Ministry of Soviets {Soviet means Council}) and a full member of the Politburo. In 1978 Brezhnev removed him. After the death of Brezhnev, he became head of the Council of Veterans of War and Labour. Unsurprisingly, he was known for his antipathy towards Brezhnev, which gives me a good excuse to lighten the material somewhat with a Soviet era joke about Brezhnev. It contains a sly dig that the erstwhile ruler was gaga. One Easter Brezhnev rose from bed and goes on his shambling walk through the Kremlin corridors. Christ is risen! remarked a cheeky retainer, giving the traditional Orthodox greeting. Leonid Ilyich nodded and walked on to be greeted identically by another flunky, who also had to be close by should the ageing leader stumble. I know, it has already been reported to me, responded the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

It is often rather difficult to find out much about many Soviet bureaucrats. For instance, on page 217 Averbakh reveals the presence of the two Sports Committee Deputy Chairmen Gavrilin and Rusak, and another government representative, V. Kamenev ... According to this page Gavrilin was previously an editor of Red Star. Of the others, Nikolai Ivanovich Rusak, who was born in 1934, was made a deputy chairman of the Sports Committee in 1983. The US Department of Commerce released a file. Note, additionally, that the Russian source also mentioned that V. Kamenev was a foreign ministry spokesman ( представитель МИДа В.Каменев). I haven't been able to satisfy myself that this was Vladimir Mikhailovich Kamenev, a deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and chairman of the State External Economic Affairs Committee under the USSR Council of Ministers.