Nicolas Rossolimo in Moscow & Paris before World War II... evolving into international
Nicolas Rossolimo, from TFS 1951

Nicolas Rossolimo in Moscow & Paris before World War II... evolving into international

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Nicolas Rossolimo was born in Kiev on Feb 28, 1910, by a father of Greek origin and a Russian mother. His father, Spiridon, left Russia in 1913 and settled in the American continent; according to Bertola [in europe-echecs] cause of suspicions around the assassination of the prime minister of the Russian Empire, Pyotr Stolypin, in 1911. By the early '20s the rest of the family moved to Moscow. There, Rossolimo made his first more official appearance in the chess world, beginning participating in some tournaments and composing few endgame studies [some are displayed in arves]. He actually even earned an honorable mention for a study that he composed for a competition of the newspaper Izvestia [Известия], that started in 1927 [64.17-18/1929, 24 & Шахматы 9.1929, 182].

His name can be usually seen in team matches [in or inter-club], representing the Moscow Soviet Trade Employees union [=совторгслужащих]. He should have caused some impression, as only at the age of 17 two of his games were published in the Soviet chess magazine 64 [issues 7-8/1927, 15 & 16/1927, 8; the games are given in the multi-pgn below]. A couple of highlights of these Rossolimo's early chess steps, have attracted my attention. Firstly, in the team championship of the Moscow trade unions of 1927-28, Rossolimo's team came first with him mentioned as undefeated [64.15/1928, 2]. An other was from an event of Dec 1928; he participated successfully in a radio match between his Moscow team and one of Tver. Moscow won [64.3/1929, 10].

According to Pallier [EG 180, 120], towards the end of that decade, his mother Xenia started facing some pressure by Stalin's status quo; which was the reason of their immigration from USSR to Paris in 1929, via Czechoslovakia, using the greek citizenship of his father.

By the '30s Nicolas Rossolimo can be found in Paris working as a cab driver...


sources for Rossolimo's bio sketch & some games:


Nicolas Rossolimo, in De waarheid of 19-01-1953

The first Rossolimo's recorded appearances in the French press are mentioning him as belonging in the Cercle Russe of Paris [aka Potemkine; a photo with the members of this club including Rossolimo can be seen in / fig.04]. However, I've also tracked few following publications, where he seemed playing for the Cercle de Lutece. Can't be sure about his club journeys. Rossolimo's first bigger event was in the annual Paris chess championship, that was organized towards the end of each year. He participated there for the first time in 1931, where he finished 3rd. The following year took the 2nd place after Blum. Finally in 1933 won; success that was repeated in the years of 1935 & 1936. He didn't participate in the intermediate ones. His next will be after WW2.

All these years his name can't be seen in the tables of the national French chess championships. Possibly cause he gained the French nationality only in 1947, year that, according to Pallier [EG 180, 121], he "decided to study chess seriously in order to become a professional player".

Back to the '30s, I've tracked some activity regarding matches between clubs. Also, saw participations in blitz tournaments ["tournoi éclair"]. One won in Apr 1933, for the inauguration of the new place of the Cercle de Lutece [Excelsior of 09.04.1933]. An other was in March 1937, organized by club Potemkine, where he finished 2nd after Tartakower with 13½/17; I didn't find a score of their game [Ce soir of 21.03.1937]. He seems facing Tartakower over the chessboard since at least 1934 [WSZ 1934, 169; there's a mention of a 1934 game in an opening analysis]. But he won't surpass him until 1939.

Tartakower & Rossolimo during a later game, in Amsterdam 1950

The annual Paris chess championships were usually called international in the press, as non-French players were often participating. But they remain city championships. First participation I've seen in an event with some more international character, though not so strong, was on the occasion of the Paris Exposition of 1937. By the end of that September he won the tournament with 6/8.

Expo-tournament Paris 1937 results, from Excelsior of 26.09.1937. Two tracked games via press.

Shortly after, something bigger occurred. During Jan 5-15 of 1938 the Cercle Caissa [chez Tauber] organized a mini double-round tournament for six players. Rossolimo came 2nd with 7½/10; just half a point after Capablanca. One of their games was his only defeat.

Table of Paris international tournament 1938 [cercle Caissa] from WSZ 1938, 53. There're 3 games of this tournament. The two Capablanca's and one vs Cukierman, that is presented in Tartakower's 500 Master Games of Chess, p. 475 [#374]. Tartakower is giving 1937 as the year but the same does for Capablanca's win few pages before; the latter being nevertheless played on 07.01.1938 according to WSZ 1938, 43. Besides the score, generally I couldn't track some event where these two could have played in 1937, except one other interclub game of Apr 1937 [that I give in the multi pgn below]. Georges Bertola also agrees with the year of 1938 and the tournament identification []
Capablanca in De locomotief of 29-01-1938. Don't know if it's from the specific event but it was published on the occasion of it

These successes should have been considered remarkable enough, as towards the end of April of 1938 Rossolimo participated in the 1st reserve group of Margate 1938. He actually did well. He scored 6/9 and tied with Abrahams for 3rd-4th places, behind Klein & Najdorff.


Margate 1938 1st reserve group final results from Algemeen Handelsblad of 01-05-1938. No found games.

Between Mar 15 - Apr 02 of 1939 a 15-player international event took place in Paris. And Rossolimo won with 11½/14, ahead of Tartakower. According to the table of La Strategie [given by Bertola in europe-echecs ] their game was a draw.


Results of Paris INT 1939 in L'Action française of 03.04.1939. I've found 3 games; and one draw vs Chantal Chaude de Silans in , that accords with the result and the year.
Chantal Chaude de Silans in Moscow 1950, from Femmes françaises of 04.05.1950, 15

This was the last event before the breakout of world war II. After the French defeat, Rossolimo, already being a father since 1939, seems living in Paris during the nazi occupation; though as it would be expected with no such a great activity. There's just an announcement in Feb 1941 around a match between him and Monosson; nothing more on this [L'Œuvre of 19.02.1941]. Leon Monosson, Paris Champion of 1935 and one of the most frequent Rossolimo's opponents during these years, seems not to be mentioned afterwards in the press. According to wikipedia he was one of the Auschwitz victims in 1943.

Alekhine and Leon Monosson during some consultation games in 1931, from Eclaireur of 14.04.1931

Another of the common opponents of Rossolimo was Joseph Cukierman, a French-Polish player & Paris champion of 1930. I've found at least 3 games between them and mentions for some more. He seems dying tragically in Nov 1940 in Castres [info via wikipedia & Combat of 26.12.1946]. Alekhine, in an famous for other matters interview of 1941, mentioned suicide [Winter's article Two Alekhine Interviews].

Back to Rossolimo, during Aug 1943 a 10-player tournament took place in Paris, under the supervision of Mme Le Bey Taillis, president of the Caissa cercle. The names I've seen were these of Rossolimo, Matveef, Crépeaux, Boutteville [Le Matin of 21.08.1943 & Paris-midi of 27.08.1943]. And during the following Christmas of the same year, the cercle Caissa organized an other event for 10 players, where Rossolimo won ahead of Chantal Chaude de Silans [brochure given by Bertola in europe-echecs  and two games from Caissa review in europe-echecs ].

Next verified games possibly will be after 1945. Both heritageechecsfra & Bertola in europe-echecs are writing that Rossolimo joined the US army and returned after the end of the war, when he obtained the French citizenship [=Rossolimo s’engage dans l’armée américaine, revient à Paris après la guerre et obtient la citoyenneté française]. Bertola gives this information right after the aforementioned Caissa Christmas tournament of 1943 [while he adds some Thimognier's specifications that the above were said by Pierre Biscay to a Belgian journalist on the occasion of the French chess championship of 1945]. The liberation of Paris occurred in Aug 1944, after the Battle of Normandy, and probably this gave the opportunity to Rossolimo to join the war till 1945.

There're some publications afterwards presenting positions played by him against some amateur in Paris in 1944. I've tracked at least two different; since 1956 & 1967 respectively. Of which the most famous is given below. According to what it's written above they are probably played before Aug 1944.

*for the record. The most famous is one I saw in Chess Life 5.1967, 128; while I haven't tracked it anywhere else earlier. It has been reproduced in some newspapers, but also among others in Artur Yusupov's Boost your chess 1, 2010, p. 136 #13.10, in Irving Chernev's Combinations: The Heart of Chess, 2012, p. 45 #92 & in Victor Henkin's 1000 Checkmate Combinations, 2011, p. 423, where it's written that it was from a simul. A different position is given in Fred Reinfeld's Why You Lose at Chess, 1956-2016, #142.


Rossolimo from Skakbladet 2/1950, 28


Some games in puzzle form

Vlastimil Hort wrote on Rossolimo [in chessbase]: "His style could be called late Romantic. He won a lot of 'Brilliancy Prices', and should FIDE ever publish a world book of fine miniatures his name should be in it."

In the following games that I've found, though earlier, there're some beautiful patterns.

vs Leyzerman. Black is in defense and has just taken a rook with 21...gxf6. But there's a mating net. 4-move puzzle.


The following two are both from Paris INT 1939. And in both Rossolimo seems luring the opponent into a trap...

vs Monosson. Black has just played 39...f2, threatening 40...Rg1+ and queening. 2 move puzzle


vs Cukierman. White has just played 23.c3, threatening to take one of the two Bs on the 4th rank. Rossolimo has seen it and started a winning sequence. 8-move puzzle.


vs Capablanca occurred somehow the opposite. Rossolimo tried to attack with initiative, but missed a possible winning defense. Don't know if Capablanca had foreseen it but in the end found a brilliant move, the only one against Rossolimo's maneuvers. Black with 25...e5 threatens to open the position. 4-move puzzle...


vs Cukierman again. Last move 17...f6, counter attacking N to equalize the hanging N@h5. 2 move puzzle


vs an amateur. A fantastic combination and a position that can't be easily seen by the engine. Played in Paris in 1944. 5-move puzzle [found in Chess Life 5.1967, 128 - Victor Henkin writes that it was from a simul, in 1000 Checkmate Combinations, 2011, p. 423].


I've tracked totally 18 games of Rossolimo during these years, for browsing and downloading. Check them. Besides the above I surely found interesting the #9, #10 & #11. The #9 was commented by Marcel Duchamp; his annotations can be seen in the excerpt below.

*the multi pgn updated with one game I forgot,  check here in comments


And the excerpts of the 10 games & 1 position that were found in the press....


from 64.7-8.1927, 15


from 64.16-1927, 8


from De courant Het nieuws van den dag of 24-03-1934


from Freie Presse of 08.02.1936


from Ce soir of 01.05.1937, with comments by Duchamp


from Marianne of 06.10.1937


from L'Action française of 21.02.1938


from Le Temps of 30.04.1939


from Le Temps of 16.04.1939


from Innsbrucker Nachrichten of 13.05.1939


from Chess Life, 5.1967, 128



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