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
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
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
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
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.