A Probable Russian Cause Célèbre

Feb 12, 2012, 2:04 PM |

     Some people like to parrot the fact about Prince Dadian of Mingrelia  that he often arranged games, fabricated games or used other methods to aggrandize himself and exaggerate his chess skills.  Although these ideas have been around for a long time, the truth is that there seems to be absolutely no solid basis for any such accusations.

     Ironically enough, such shenanigans weren't unknown at that time and, though Prince Dadian wasn't an instigator, a couple of his acquaintances seemingly were.   Below is an article from the Nov. 1904 issue of the British Chess Magazine:




JUDGING from reports which have reached us recently from Russian sources, the last National Tournament contested at Kieff, seems likely to provide work for Russian lawyers. The raison d'etre is the following game, which we extract with M. Tchigorin's notes from Novoe Vremya. It appears that a prize of 100 roubles was offered by M. M. N. Bostansholgo, of Moscow, to the winner of the most brilliant Ruy Lopez won by White, and it is stated that M.M. V. R. Yurevitch and Lebedieff concocted the appended game for the purpose of securing the prize.


     This game you see, has been finished by unskilful hands. Nevertheless M. Yurevitch had the audacity to claim in print, in a letter to the publisher of the Moscow Journal, that he "considered it worthy of a special prize." Apparently, he was not aware that his friend had given him and himself away. It was announced in the St Petersburger Zeitung that M. Lebedieff had been simple enough, or had been so brazen (to say the least of it) as to publicly boast in St. Petersburg of the affair.

     After the appearance of this game, M. Yurevitch addressed the following communication to the editor of Novoe Vremya :—
     "In the chess section of Novoe Vremya of November 24th [i.e. , 7th December, N.S], M Tchigorin accuses me of having composed my game with M. Lebedieff in the recent Kieff Tournament, and asserts that the inception of the future brilliant combination was shown to him some days earlier. As circumstances over which I have no control compel me to remain for an indefinite time at Kieff, I am debarred from taking immediate steps to teach M. Tchigorin in a legal way the practical inconvenience of libelling in print. The lesson would be all the easier to convey from the fact that if my game, as M. Tchigorin asserts, was put together ' by incapable hands,' his libel has been concocted by a most incapable head. A court of law will ultimately decide the facts of the case; but, meanwhile, in view of the circulation of the N. V., allow me to remind the Kieff players, through the medium of your valuable paper, that this question was gone into by a Kieff Tourney committee, consisting of seven totally disinterested persons, and decided in my favour. The immediate cause of this discreditable move appears to have been the game I won against M. Tchigorin in the tourney, and my flatly scornful rejection of a certain arrangement proposed to me by him during an interval of the game, when my victory was completely assured. In regard to M. Tchigorin's statement that M. Lebedieff affirmed the fact of an agreement, I can only say, if this is not another libel, that I envy M. Lebedieff's frolicsome disposition. The same M. Lebedieff constantly asserted here in Kieff that he 'sold very profitably' his tourney game with M. Tchigorin—a statement that seems to gain in credibility from the fact that he has beaten M. Tchigorin in every tournament game they have played up to now."


Yurevitch is Vladimir Nikolaevich Yurevich.
Lebedieff is Sergey Fedorovich Lebedev.

Here is a game between Prince Dadian & Schiffers vs Yurevitch & Lebedieff in 1903 (Probably at the estate of Prince Dadian).