|The articles on
this page by USSR Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Soviet Grandmaster Isaac
Boleslavsky were written exclusively for
and were transmitted to this magazine by radio
Games with Fine
When it was decided that I
was to play in the radio match at the third board against Grandmaster
Reuben Fine, one of the strongest chessplayers in the world, I was
somewhat awed. It was more than I expected. At the same time I appreciated
the honor and set about preparing for the engagement.
I was acquainted with Grandmaster Fine's style and knew many
of is games. When I was preparing for the 13th USSR Championship
Tournament I decided to brush up on some openings, particularly the
Grunfeld Defense. I used Fine's article on this defense published in the
magazine Chess in the USSR in 1940 as one of my main sources/ In recent
years I examined Fine's games in important contests and made a particular
study of his games at the Amsterdam Match Tournament of 1938 (AVRO) where
he divided first and second prizes. I also studied the games he played in
Unlike Ragozin and Bronstein who knew nothing of their opponents
Seidman and Santasiere, I was fairly well acquainted with my opponent.
Nevertheless, I knew only his old games. To me he was the Fine of the
Amsterdam Tournament. I must add, however, that knowing your opponent is
of course an undecisive factor. The outcome of a game depends on what
takes place on the board.
In the first game, in which I played Black, I chose the King's
Indian Defense which I know well. At the very beginning I sought to
complicate the game. At one stage I failed to grasp all the implications
of the position and at the 25th move found myself in rather dire straits.
My attempt to attack on the Queen's side only aggravated the situation. At
the 32nd move I thought my position was almost hopeless. At this point
Fine, in my opinion, made the mistake of prematurely launching an attack
on my King's side. If he had continued his positional pressure Black could
hardly have escaped defeat. White's attack was very dangerous but I
managed each time to reply to the immediate threats. When the game was
adjourned Black was two pawns ahead but White's position was much
superior. When the game resumed Fine played exceptionally well, but he
only succeeded in regaining the sacrificed Pawns . The game was drawn on
the 51st move in a quite simplified position.
In the second game I managed to obtain a considerable advantage in
the opening stage. This was the result of a serious blunder made by Fine
on the ninth move of the Duras Variation which I used in that game. Fine
put up a strong defense, trying to relieve his position by exchanges, but
the configuration of Pawns on his Queen's side prejudiced his position
beyond repair. The Knights' end-game which developed after thirty moves
proved hopeless for Black.
I think that in both games I had a stroke of luck. There is no
doubt in my mind that in future contests Grandmaster Fine will
certainly manage to force a win in a position such as he had in the first
game and won't give me the opportunity to get the position I had in the
This was my first chance to play in an international contest. I am
naturally pleased with the result.
CHESS REVIEW, October, 1945
The Radio Match
It was with
interest and approval that Soviet chessplayers learned of the suggestion
made in the November 1943 issue of
CHESS REVIEW that a Radio Match be arranged between teams
representing the United States and the Soviet Union. It may be taken for
granted that not only American and Soviet chessplayers looked forward to
such a match but all true chess lovers throughout the free world.
At last the match has taken place. It coincided with the
termination of the second World War and the triumph of the United Nations.
It was thus the first international affair of the post-war period.
There was good reason for the general interest in this contest
between the United States and the Soviet Union. America gave us such
eminent masters as Morphy, Pillsbury and Marshall. Capablanca also was
associated with the United States as a chessplayer. Russian chess, on the
other hand, developed under the influence of Tchigorin's traditions and
Soviet masters have considerably improved on those fine traditions.
As to the result of the match, it seems to me that it can be at
least partly explained by the fact that our American friends underrated
the strength of our Soviet team.
Another reason is that in several games the Americans obviously had
bad luck. Take, for example, the first game between Smyslov and Reshevsky.
The first eighteen moves were identical with the moves in the game Duras-Maroczy
played at Ostend, 1906. Reshevsky, who of course knew this game and also
Tchigorin's subsequent analysis of it, followed Maroczy's example in
sacrificing the Knight. In the Moscow Championship Tournament of 1942,
however, Boleslavsky, playing White against Ragozin, found a continuation
which proved that Maroczy's idea was unsound. I later examined the
Boleslavsky-Ragozin game and spent several days and nights trying to find
a continuation which would prove better than Ragozin's. In 1943, at
Sverdlovsk, I applied my "improved continuation against Boleslavsky. This
time the game ended in a draw but my position was inferior. This game
definitely proved that Boleslavsky had the right idea. Obviously,
Reshevsky could not have studied these games. They were published in an
issue of the magazine Chess in the USSR (which resumed publication in May
1945) but this issue was not available in the United States at the time of
the match. Smyslov, who applied Boleslavsky's discovery, spent only nine
minutes on the first twenty-five moves and won the game.
In the second game between Arnold Denker and myself, Denker also
got into difficulties in the opening. But this should not have been the
case in our first game. It is possible, of course, that Denker did not
know my games with Master Mikenas and Grandmaster Lilienthal in the USSR
Championship of 1944. But those were not quite original. Games using the
variation I employed in my first contest with Denker were published in
1940 and 1941.
In general, I don't think it is quite right to say that the American team
was not sufficiently versed in the theory of the openings. We know, for
example, the excellent contribution of American masters to the theory of
the Two Knights' Defense. As a matter of fact, at a meeting of the Soviet
team before the match, it was decided to avoid that defense. Only one of
our team, Master Ragozin, violated that decision and as a result almost
lost his game with Master Seidman.
Mention should be made of the excellent playing of the American
Master Herman Steiner and the splendid defense made by the veteran Abraham
Kupchik in his second game with Makogonov.
Could the American team make a better showing? I think it could.
While giving my colleagues Smyslov and Boleslavsky their due, I think they
can hardly hope to score three and a half points in four games against
Fine and Reshevsky again. Denker and Kashdan also have every reason to
expect better results next time.
Where the American team is perhaps weaker is on the last three
boards, at which our Three Musketeers, Ragozin, Makogonov and Bronstein
represented the Soviet team.
Now a few words about the best game of the match. I think if
further analysis of the Horowitz-Flohr game shows that Black could not
have materially improved his defense, the prize for the best game, offered
by the magazine Chess in the USSR, should go to Master Horowitz.
As for the suggestion that Radio Matches between the USA and USSR
should be made an annual affair, I personally had doubts at first. Now,
however, I think my doubts were groundless as by the time the next match
comes around, all the Soviet participants will have made up for lost
sleep. We couldn't help admiring the fortitude of the American and English
referees in Moscow who unflinchingly shared the Soviet Masters' fate to
It is to be hoped that the process of transmitting the moves will
be simplified and that future radio matches will take less time. This does
not mean that the first match was not satisfactory in this respect. It
certainly redounds to the credit of the sponsors of the match that it was
possible to finish all games in four days.
The Moscow newspapers reported that Mr. Maurice Wertheim, chairman
of the Radio Match Committee, said in his speech at the closing ceremonies
that both sides were gainers in the end because the match helped to
strengthen friendship and cultural ties between the United States and the
Soviet Union. I fully share that opinion.
I should like to express, on behalf of the Soviet chess masters,
our sincere gratitude to the engineers and technicians who took care of
the technical end of the match and made the contest possible. We must also
express our sincere gratitude to the referees and sponsors of the match.
Soviet players were touched by the attention the Soviet team received from
U. S. Ambassador Harriman.
In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf
of the Soviet team, our American colleagues and their persons to salute
the great American nation.