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Alatortsev, Vladimir

Vladimir Alexeyevich Alatortsev (Alatorcev) (1909-1987), pronounced "a LAH tart sev", was a Russian International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1953),  and Honorary Emeritus Grandmaster (1983). 

He was born in Turki, Saratov oblast, Russia (other sources say St. Petersburg) on May 14, 1909.  His father was a Petrograd (formerly St Petersburg, named Petrograd from 1914 to 1924, Leningrad from 1924 to 1991) veterinarian who joined the Red Army after the Revolution.  His mother died of typhus in 1921.

Alatortsev was champion of his school in St. Petersburg and took chess lessons from Pyotr Romanovsky.  He earned his master title in 1931 at the age of 22.  He was trained as a hydraulic engineer.

He tied for 1st in the city champion of Leningrad (1933-34, tied with Grigory Lisitsin) and Moscow (1936 with Kan, 1937 with Belavenets). In the 1933-34 Leningrad championship, Alatortsev and Lisitsin played a "living chess" game on May 1, 1934 in front of 3,000 spectators on the square outside St. Isaac's Cathedral.  The pieces were played by young girls.  Alatortsev said that the "intoxicating smell of the first petals interfered with concentration."  The game ended in a draw.

He moved to Moscow in 1935 and became director of the Moscow Chess Club.

In 1931, he took 3rd-6th place in the 7th USSR Championship, held in Moscow (won by Botvinnik).  In 1932, he took 2nd in the Leningrad championship, behind Botvinnik.  He took 2nd place in the 8th USSR championship held in Leningrad in 1933, behind Botvinnik (Alatortsev was invited at the last minute).  In 1935, he drew a match with Lilienthal (+4=4-4).  In 1938 he won the last Soviet Trade Union Championship.  From 1931 to 1950, he played in nine Soviet championships.  In 1938, he had his best performance rating of 2684 after playing in Leningrad, scoring 6/7.  He was ranked #21 in the world in 1940 with a rating of 2626, according to Chessmetrics.  He won the Latvian championship at Riga in 1945 (but not the title). 

Alatortsev was two years older than Mikhail Botvinnik, and Botvinnik's chief rival in Leningrad.  However, Botvinnik defeated him 9 times, with two draws and no losses during their careers.  When the 1936 Moscow International was organized, Botvinnik refused to take part if Alatortsev played.  So the organizers dropped Alatortsev after he had been invited and replaced him with a weaker player.  The event was won by Capablanca and Botvinnik took 2nd place.

He participated in the following USSR chess champaionships:
1931, 7th USSR Ch, Moscow - 3rd-6th (10-7)
1933, 8th USSR Ch, Leningrad - 2nd (13-6)
1935, 9th USSR Ch, Moscow - 5th-8th
1937, 10th USSR Ch, Tbilisi - 10th-12th (9.5-9.5)
1944, 13th USSR Ch, Moscow - 16th (5.5-10.5)
1945, 14th USSR Ch - 12th-13th
1947, 15th USSR Ch, Leningrad - 16th (7.5-11.5)
1948, 16th USSR Ch - 16th-17th
1950, 18th USSR Ch, Moscow - 7th-10th

In 1941, Alatortsev was the director of the Moscow Chess Club.  Despite the war, he organized a Moscow championship, which was held in various locations from Movember 1941 through January 1942.  It was the first major chess tournament to be played during a war.  The players had to endure air raid sirens, the roar of antiaircraft guns, and sudden blackouts.

During World War II, Alatortsev helped evacuate several chess players to safety and organized a group of strong chess masters to give chess simuls and lectures in hospitals, military bases, and schools.

He coached Vasily Smyslov from 1946 through 1953.  In 1953, the USSR Sports Committee ordered Simagin to replace Alatortsev as coach and trainer.   By the early 1950s, he stopped playing in major tournaments.

From 1954 to 1959, he was Chairman of the All-Union Chess Section (formerly created and run by Krylenko), attached to the Supreme Council for Physical Culture of the Russian federation.  From 1959 to 1961, he was Chairman of the USSR Chess Federation which had 3 million registered chess players.  He was in charge of the Central Research Institute for Physical Culture, which began in Moscow in 1958.  It was dedicated to full-time chess research.  Alatortsev was appointed to work on theoretical investigations designed to raise the level of chess play in the USSR.

From 1943 to 1964, he was the editor of a chess column of the newspaper Vechernaya Moskva (Evening Moscow).

In 1958, he lost 3 blitz games to 15-year old Bobby Fischer at the Central Chess Club in Moscow.  He later wrote that Fischer would some day be world chess champion.

In 1960, he published Problemy sovremennoi teorri shakmat (Problems of Modern Chess Theory).

In 1964, Alatortsev, as head of the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Physical Training (VNIIFK), sent a letter out to a number of leading Soviet grandmasters to secretly evaluate Bobby Fischer's strengths and weaknesses.  Replies came from Korchnoi, Geller, Polugaevsky, and Boleslavsky.  Alatortsev was among the first to realize how big a threat Fischer was.

In 1965, he played in his last strong tournament in Tbilisi, scoring 8/17 at the age of 56.

In the 1970s, he was a member of the USSR Chess Federation Trainers' Council.  He was one of the few that blamed the USSR Chess Federataion rather than Mark Taimanov when Fischer defeated Taimanov 6-0.  However, he did blame Spassky for his defeat.

After the defeat of Spassky by Fischer in 1972, Alatortsev and his VNIIFK chess lab took Karpov under his supervision, giving him recommendations and analyzing the play of his possible opponents.  He was actively preparing Karpov to play Fischer for the 1975 world championship.

In February 1975, Alatortsev prepared the following report, 'A psychological training method for the monitoring and seld-monitoring of a chess player's competitive activity (based on the games of A. Karpov, R. Fischer and other grandmasters'. 

He died in Moscow on January 13, 1987 at the age of 77.  His historical Elo rating is 2480.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 is called the Alatortsev Variation.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 Nd5 is the Alatortsev system in the Semi Slav.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 a6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.d5 is the Alatortsev variation in the Queen's Gambit Accepted.
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nge2 dxe4 5.a3 Be7 6.Nxe4 Nf6 7.N2g3 O-O 8.Be2 Nc6 is the Alatortsev variation in the Winawer, French
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.O-O O-O 6.d3 Qe7 7.Ne2 d5 is the Alatsortsev variation in the Four Knights

In 1994, V. and I. Linder published Dve zhizni Grossmeistera Alatortseva (The Two Lives of Grandmaster Alatortsev).



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