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 CuraƧao 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.

1 comment:

Bernard Cafferty said...

Fizkutura could be given the alternative transliteration Physkultura to indicate its calling. I would say it produced over 90% of Russian-language chess books in the post-war years.

For a regional example, there was the famous Lipnitsky book “Questions of Modern Chess Theory” (Kiev 1956) which appeared on the initiative of a high Ukrainian CP functionary in the publishing house Gosudartstvennoye Meditsinskoye Izdatel’stvo USSR.

The Moscow 1935 tournament book had appeared under the aegis of the publishing house that was then called OGIZ Fizkul’tura i Turizm.

The large book by Lisitsyn on the Strategy and Tactics of Chess first came out in 1952 in a Leningrad publishing house, running to a massive 588 pages. It was subject to some criticism and came out in a version revised by L Abramov in 1958 in the Fizkul’tura i Sport house and slimmed down to ‘only’ 542 pages!