London 1946 and the Soviet no-show: A Small Mystery
Arturo Pomar. Source: Wikipedia

London 1946 and the Soviet no-show: A Small Mystery

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Digging through the London Times digital archive, I came across the letter from Conel Alexander concerning the 1951 Staunton Memorial. It was printed on 15th May 1951.

Of course, I also searched for the Sunday Chronicle 1946 tournament. Indeed, the Soviet chess organization promised to send five players, and the Times reported that as well (in the 31st December 1945 issue):

This looked quite mysterious to me. I asked around a bit, and was pointed to one of Yuri Averbakh's memoirs, O chem molchat figury (What the Pieces Don't Speak About). The mystery was solved. The "culprit" was... the boy in the header image!

"In late December, the London tournament organizers received a telegram signed by the Sports Committee chairman N. Romanov, confirming the participation of the Soviet players. Then, TASS officially reported that Smyslov, Boleslavsky, Kotov, Flohr and Ragozin were going to London.

And then - silence. There was no information on the arrival day of the Soviet participants. On the day of the first round, when the games were already in progress - except, of course, for the five that were adjourned - the USSR embassy sent a letter, signed by the first secretary, that said that the Soviet players would be unable to take part. The English magazine Chess said that the English chess fans were disappointed by the no-show of the Soviet players. More than that, they were insulted and offended. "We can only guess as to the reasons that stopped the Russians from coming", the magazine said. "The country was ravaged by the war, and the transport is stretched thin."

I should add that our chess players were issued visas and the necessary equipment received by everyone who went abroad. 

What actually happened?

The reason was purely political. At the very last moment, it turned out that there was a Spaniard along the participants - the 14 years-old Arturo Pomar, and USSR had no relations with Franco's Spain. As a result, the powers that be decided against sending our players to London."

Such a pity. We can only guess how the five Soviet players would perform in the Victory tournament.