The Founding Father of Soviet Chess

The Founding Father of Soviet Chess‎

GM Julio_Becerra
26 | Chess Players

Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky (or Ilyin-Genevsky) born in St Petersburg on the 28th of November 1894 is considered the founding father of the Soviet Chess School! From the enthusiasm of Ilyin-Zhenevsky, the official attitude to the game was brought. He pointed out: “Chess develops in man boldness, presence of mind, composure, a strong will and something which sport cannot, a sense of strategy."

He learnt the game at an early age but when fighting in World War I he suffered from shell-shock, and had to learn how to play chess all over again from scratch! Quite well as it turned out:


He took part in the St Petersburg tournament of 1910 when still a teenager and was three times chess champion of Leningrad in 1925, 1926, and 1929. At the Moscow International Tournament of 1925 he gained world-wide fame by beating the reigning World Champion Capablanca and almost beating Lasker the next round, but… I recommend an excellent work done by Ilyin-Zhenevsky about “Psychology of Chess Mistakes” also published on where he explained the causes of chess mistakes.

Ilyin-Zhenevsky, appointed commissar of the General Reservists Organization in 1920, organized the first Soviet Championship, won by Alexander Alekhine in 1920. He also was responsible for organizing the Botvinnik-Flohr match in 1933. Mainly through his efforts, the Soviet chess world became aware of the West; and with government support brought to light the international tournaments Moscow 1935 and 1936. A whole new generation of young Soviets could meet and produce a high quality of chess against the best. The legend of the Soviet School began to walk for many years with only a few broken links: Bobby Fischer in 1972 and the Hungarian team in the Chess Olympiad of 1978…

He was in charge of various newspapers from 1917 onwards and also for many years was editor of the chess magazine 'Shakhmaty Listok' writing many articles on chess theory and organization. In opening theory he contributed to the Ruy Lopez and the Dutch Defense.

Ilyin-Zhenevsky died on the 3rd of September 1941, from a Nazi bombing raid during the siege of Leningrad.

Try to solve a few more of his best combinations:


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