A small "Famous people playing chess" anecdote

Dec 12, 2011, 12:42 PM |

Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky is not a name you'd find in chess books. The famous Marshal of the Soviet Union won his "games" on real battlefields of World War II, controlling much more than 16 pieces on the board.

Nevertheless, chess was his hobby; he composed chess problems himself (perhaps they are somewhere in the obscure Soviet newspapers, waiting to be discovered by some tireless archivist) and sometimes took part in the problem-solving contests. This anecdote is about one such contest.


The newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda ("Red Star") together with the Central House of the Soviet Army held chess problem solving contests.

After each round of publications, the newspaper received lots and lots of letters and sifted through them in search for right solutions. After each round, there were less and less people who had done all the puzzles right.

When the contest ended, someone R.Ya. Malinovsky emerged as winner. The editorial staff wondered if it was the Minister of Defence himself, or his namesake. Or was it just someone's pseudonym?

The chief editor Nikolay Makeev called the Minister.

"Rodion Yakovlevich, I hope my question doesn't confuse you. Someone R.Ya. Malinovsky took part in our chess problem contest, were that you or not?"

"It was me", the Marshal replied and explained, "I like chess problems, but have too little time for them, so I prefer to solve the ones from contests."

"You solved them well", Makeev said. "Congratulations, you've won the contest."

"Thank you, Nikolay Ivanovich, very glad to hear that. But please don't print that in the paper."

And so, nobody knew until recently that the Krasnaya Zvezda's contest was won by the Minister of Defence, Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky.