Soviet Cheating in FIDE Competition: 1952 Stockholm Interzonal

BonTheCat
SmyslovFan wrote:

Yes, @BonTheCat. He made clear why he left competitive chess. But social media being what it is can create all sorts of competing arguments. 

Exactly, and it may also be that someone (not necessarily the man himself) years later invented an anecdote where Fine is supposed to have said that he didn't want to play against Soviets who were throwing games against each other.

BonTheCat
SchaakVoorAlles wrote:
SmyslovFan wrote:

And now we're using the tournament system again. I have a problem with the tournament system because it usually means that the winner is the one who does best against the lower half of the table.

I'd much rather see matches. Imagine a twelve game Kramnik-Carlsen Candidates final match! Of course such matches are financially infeasible, which is why we now have Candidates Tournaments again.

 

"Financially infeasible" ?

The sums involved are huge compared to typical household expenses. They are pitifully small compared to the money in football, tennis, cycling, athletics ... even  snooker.

Chess suffers because there is little of interest to anyone that does not play the game Even those of us that are pretty strong relative to the mass of chess players do not have much of a clue what is going on unless there is a GM explaining it to us.

With few exceptions sponsors do not support competitive events out of love of the game/sport, or the goodness of their hearts. They put up huge sums to get their names in front of as many potential customers as possible. Chess attracts a relatively small audience.

Money for such matches could easily be recouped from FIDE's membership federations. One very simple suggestion: Instead of letting hotels and resorts fleece chess players at the FIDE championships in the off-season by charging exorbitant rates, just increase the entry fee a tiny amount, and negotiate better deals with the hotels and resorts. The players will get a better deal, while FIDE uses the 'rake' to finance the Candidate matches.

My only problem with a return to matches have been amply illustrated by none other than World Champ himself. The matches are too short. Currently there are nearly 40 players E2700+ (for the first in well over a decade the number dipped below 40). It's hard to see that matches with fewer than 12 match games already at the QF stage would be anything but a complete lottery with most matches ending with all games drawn, having to resort to rapidplay and blitz tiebreaks. Would love to see a all-match cycle with QF 12, SF 16, CF 20 and WC 24, but I'm sure the players aren't interested.

GMArihant1

https://www.chess.com/blog/Arihant2016/shining-light-on-garry-kasparov

JamieDelarosa

There is a discussion in the Reuben Fine wikipedia entry concerning why he declined to participate in the 1948 FIDE Championship match-tournament.  He was, at the time, working on his doctorate at the University of Southern California (in Los Angeles).  However, in 1947 he played a training match with Herman Steiner of Hollywood (a strong master and US Champion, which Fine won 5-1.  My statements about his motivations echo the recollections of GM Larry Evans - a top young US player at the time.

 

Btw - Steiner wrote the chess column for the Los Angeles Times then, and stated that the match was intended as a "tune up" for Fine's participation in the 1948 event.

The watch results were 4 wins an 2 draws in favor of Fine.

BonTheCat

I'm sorry, but Larry Evans wasn't exactly known for being careful with facts or corrobating evidence. Furthermore, there was no evidence of Soviets throwing games against each other at the time. No qualification tournaments had yet been played at that stage. Just give it a rest, it's a big load of cobblers. A conspiracy theory without foundation. Reuben Fine had given up professional chess to pursue a career in academia at least a couple of years earlier, and for that reason he decided not to play in the 1948 World Championship Tournament. Kenneth Harkness wrote the following in Chess Review #12/1947 in an article entitled 'World Championship Forecast': 'Our own Reuben Fine could bring home the bacon. If he could work up the flaming enthusisam that swept him to victory, with Keres, at AVRO in 1938, Fine could finish on top. However, the No.2 player of the Uniled States has been out of master competition for a long time. It may be too much of a handicap.'

 

 

JamieDelarosa

Dr.Fine won the Dec 1948 "New York Invitational" against mostly international grandmaster competition with the fantastic score of 7 wins, 2 draws, and 0 losses.

He finished ahead of Najdorf, Euwe, and Pilnik.

During WW2 (1939 to 1945), international tournaments, outside of fascist regimes, virtually ceased.  Fine made some money by giving simuls and doing analysis of axis submarine operations forthe Navy..  Fine was still an active, top flight player though.  He won another tournament in 1951.

SmyslovFan
JamieDelarosa wrote:

Dr.Fine won the Dec 1948 "New York Invitational" against mostly international grandmaster competition with the fantastic score of 7 wins, 2 draws, and 0 losses.

He finished ahead of Najdorf, Euwe, and Pilnik.

Fine was still an active, top flight player.  He won another tournament in 1951.

Fine didn't win the Wertheim Memorial in 1951, the only tournament he played that year. He played in it as a tribute to the former president of the Manhattan Chess Club who had passed away. Fine finished fourth, behind Reshevsky, Najdorf and Euwe. 

Fine did an amazing job to finish fourth! He had a full time practice that he continued during the tournament. Hans Kmoch marveled at his performance considering he was exhausted for the entire event. This was his last professional tournament. 

There's a nice review of the tournament at chessgames.com:

https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chess.pl?tid=81227

JamieDelarosa

That's right.  Fine lost to the top two finishers (Reshevsky and Nadjorf), and won or drew the rest.  My mistake.

BonTheCat

JamieDelarosa: The point isn't whether Fine had successes beyond the mid-1940s, he obviously did. The point is that he retired as a chess professional to pursue a career as a psycholoanalyst. His results on his few outings after retirement from professional chess is a clear indication of an outstanding talent.

JamieDelarosa

I think the reason Fine did not play in 1948 was closer to what Evans maintained.  Fine did not want to spend the time to prepare when the odds were stacked in favor of the Soviets.

infestationPit
JamieDelarosa wrote:

 

However, it was readily apparent the five Soviet players (Alexander Kotov, Mark Taimanov, Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, and Yuri Averbakh) in the Interzonal had colluded to draw all of games amongst themselves.  This meant, rather than having to seriously play 20 games in the tournament, the Soviets only had to prepare for 16 games. Their games versus other Soviets were, essentially, "rest days."

A Soviet would have won regardless of whether they had prearranged draws or not, the other players in the tournament were obviously much weaker than the Soviets. 

infestationPit
JamieDelarosa wrote:

Soviet chess was defined by directed collusion

You sir, are prejudiced. 

JamieDelarosa
infestationPit wrote:
JamieDelarosa wrote:

Soviet chess was defined by directed collusion

You sir, are prejudiced. 

I am not a "sir."

I just go where the evidence takes me

SmyslovFan

Does the evidence take you to the realization that the best players in the world in 1952 were Soviets? If you aren’t there, you’re not following the evidence.

BonTheCat
JamieDelarosa wrote:

I think the reason Fine did not play in 1948 was closer to what Evans maintained.  Fine did not want to spend the time to prepare when the odds were stacked in favor of the Soviets.

Evans was quite simply wrong on the subject, as can be seen from Fine's chess activity in 1946 and 1947. He hardly played at all.

 

JamieDelarosa

The evidence points to, of course, that Fine began preparation for the World Championship match-tournament with a training match match versus Herman Steiner in Los Angeles (where both lived/studied).

Evans avers that Fine told him why he soured on the proposed competition - Soviet chicanery.  I think history has shown that Fine's instincts were correct.

BonTheCat

Yes, Fine began preparations for the match tournament, but he didn't abandon it because he had a hunch that the Soviets would cheat. He declined to participate because he had already decided to focus on his career. He sent the following telegram withdrawing from the WC 1948 event within weeks of it scheduled start: 'Professional duties make it impossible for me to get away in time to play in the tournament'. Those are not the words of someone who had faith in his own preparation and chess powers anymore.


Let's cut the crap here. From the end of World War II and until Bobby Fischer came of age, the Soviets were completely dominant. Yes, there were players like Reshevsky, Najdorf, Ståhlberg, and then Gligoric, Larsen etc., but they were never quite good enough (although I personally think that Fine would have stood a better chance than Reshevsky, had he not retired from pro chess). They didn't lose out because of Soviet cheating and prearranged draws, they lost out because the Soviets were better chess players. They were better prepared in the openings, had a better understanding of middlegame structures, and played the endgame better, a finer perception of dynamics and tactics, greater positional understanding - simply put, they worked harder on their chess. Fischer ate, slept and lived chess, imbibed all the Soviet chess knowledge, and then beat them because he became the best player in the world by virtue of his own talent and tenacity - but he did it with the knowledge of the Soviets as a rock-solid foundation. When he failed at the Candidates at Curação in 1962, he did so less because of the drawing pact between Petrosian, Geller, and Keres, and more due to his own immaturity. He was obviously already one of the world's best that point, but he simply didn't understand the importance of a proper tournament strategy for such a long and evenly matched event. At that point he was not yet strong enough to go all out in every game.

SmyslovFan

Sometimes I wish this site had a like button. Well said, @bonthecat!

BonTheCat

Thanks, SmyslovFan!