Boris Markovich Verlinsky. First Grand Master of The U.S.S.R.

Boris Markovich Verlinsky. First Grand Master of The U.S.S.R.


A couple of weeks ago, there was a fascinating post from Spektrowski that you can find here

In the comments, the name of Verlinsky came up, so I decided to spend the morning putting together something about him.

Most of you will only know of the name for one of three reasons.

1. He played a number of games with Alekhine, mostly in Odessa back in 1918, some of which - his brilliant wins!! - Alekhine published.

 2. He is one of that select group of players with a win against Capablanca in a tournament game.

3. He was the first  player to be awarded the title of 'Grandmaster of the U.S.S.R,, and then had the title taken away from him, with Botvinnik later becoming the first official holder of the title.

The last point is one on which various theories have been forthcoming - you can read Spektrowski's opinion - much better informed than most, as he studies Russian language material - in the above post, together with a good analysis of the title system as it involved Soviet players.

I doubt that we will find out the true facts of what happened at this late stage - a view supported by the Averbakh quote that follows shortly.

It appears to be one of those stories that got rather 'covered up' by the authorities.  For example, it is not mentioned by Kotov and Yudovich, in 'The Soviet School of Chess', which gives him just one page and a single game. 

Dvorkovich in that encyclopedia of all important information on U.S.S.R titles - Spravochnik Schachmatista, does not credit him with the title. It does, however, have him listed as being granted the title of 'Master of Sport', in 1924, which, outside of a few tournament placings, is the only mention of him.

In fact, apart from a few bits of oft repeated biography, ( check out wikipedia - particularly the Russian page - for those; I won't repeat it again here!!) you can find virtually no mention of him, or any photographs,  anywhere!!

I quote the following from Averbakh's fascinating book 'Centre - Stage and Behind the Scenes.' pgs 67-68.

'In his youth he lived in Odessa, home town of the famous musicians Yasha Heifetz, Misha Elman, Emil Gilels and David Oistrakh. he had a perfect ear, and at first his parents wanted to make a conductor out of him. However, it all ended badly, as he caught meningitis and finished up deaf and dumb. as a chess player, he was sharp and uncompromising. .....

At the end of the 1940's I played on the Zenit team with Verlinsky, in Profsoyuz tournaments. By then he could not withstand the tension of a long game, and complained about his declining strength. '' I can still swing a sword, but now, instead of striking the enemy, the sword comes out of my hands and hits me on the head!!''

He often visited my home, because he lived nearby. Once he sat down and played the piano, notwithstanding his deafness. We got along very well, despite his handicaps, and I found him easy to understand.

In 1929 Verlinsky won the Soviet Championship, and for this success he was awarded the title of USSR Grandmaster.. However, later this was taken was away from him, although, as far as I know, no official documents to this effect were ever published. Naturally he took this loss very badly, for some reason blaming it on Zubarev .....'

He is credited with playing in very few events. Gaige gives the following,  for example.

O.K. Quickly on to my selection from his games. Most are unannotated - lack of time!

I hope you enjoy them, and that they give you an idea of his chess.

Verlinsky is on the right of the three players standing at the back. You can find more on the  tournament here

Notes to the next game are by Taimanov, ( abridged) from the Book 'The Soviet Championships.

In some ways Verlinsky was almost  the 'moral victor' of this event, despite the final result! Having beaten his three main rivals, and scored 7 1/2 - 9 against the rest of the top 10,  he managed less than 50%  against the bottom half of the table.!

Verlinsky's most famous game, which has a story behind it, which I found on ''.
Apparently the game was played the day after Capablanca had given the simultaneous exhibition in which he famously lost to the young Botvinnik, and then had to travel back to Moscow to the tournament. Perhaps that explains his poor play, but Verlinsky played the whole game beautifully.

Notes - abridged - by Bogolyubov in the tournament book with my own translation.

If you can make any sense of that one, you are better than me!!

The usual photo of Verlinsky, found here, amongst other places.

So, to the tournament which gained Verlinsky his short-lived USSR GM title. Full details via the wonderful Rusbase.

It was a strong Tournament!  Verlinsky had to work hard to make it through to the final - which he dominated!

The following game was later recalled by Bronstein in one of his books, but I don't have time to look it up - offers of help accepted with thanks!!

The last event I can find in which Verlinsky played is not given in any of the lists of his tournaments. Just a year before he died he played as a guest in the following tournament, and won the Brilliancy prize.

Verlinsky in 1925.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the games of another of 'the forgotten'. It has been a pleasure for me  to go through his games again.