Study-like endgame by Keres
Boleslavsky and Levenfish looking on while Paul Keres is thinking on his move (photo from the 1940 USSR championship bulletin)

Study-like endgame by Keres

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One of the most precious chess books in my collection is "20 games of the Twelfth USSR Championship" by Igor Bondarevsky. The cover of this pocket-size book looks like this:

However, my copy of this book is more battered and bruised. The inscription says "Leningrad, 17/V-1941", which is only five days before the invasion of the Nazi Germany into the Soviet Union. It seems that this book survived the Siege of Leningrad and it shows. 

The Twelfth USSR Championship took place in 1940 and Igor Bondarevsky was one of the winners, together with Andre Lilienthal. They were supposed to play a match to decide the winner but as you probably know, it never happened because Mikhail Botvinnik managed to engineer an alternative competition, the quadruple-robin 1941 Absolute Championship with six players.

However, before it came to pass, Bondarevsky managed to publish this little book about the 1940 Championship, one of only two books about this tournament that I am aware of. The other book was written by Sergey Belavenets and Mikhail Yudovich and published in Hungary in German language. Both of them were written in big haste. Bondarevsky mentions in the introduction that he was given only three weeks to write the annotations, and thus he only included 20 full games and 10 fragments. In my opinion, it is a huge loss for the chess world that a "proper" tournament book about the 1940 USSR Championship has never been published... but I digress.

Earlier this month I played through all games in Bondarevsky's book and found them to be really fascinating. Most were new to me, even though I studied that period and this particular championship quite closely.

I would like to share a "study in a practical game" that allowed Paul Keres to score a victory against another grandmaster, Grigory Levenfish. The annotations are by Igor Bondarevsky:

It is a pity that the most beautiful variation did not appear on the board and the game remained largely unknown. I hope you enjoyed this ingenious little endgame as much as I did!