Soviet Cheating in FIDE Competition: Keres-Botvinnik, 1948, Pt 2

JamieDelarosa

In Part I ( http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/examples-of-soviet-cheating-in-fide-competition-keres-botvinnik-1948 ) we saw that attempts were made to organize some sort of World Championship, following the death of A. Alekhine in March 1946.

Alekhine's apparent collaboration with the NAZIs during World War II had isolated him from much of the chess-playing world.  A specter hung over the heads of several other high profile players including Paul Keres, E. Bogoljubov, G. Stoltz, K. Opocensky, and J. Foltys.  Of important players residing in NAZI-occupied territory, former champion Max Euwe avoided playing in German tournaments.

The FIDE was a nearly dead organization, with just a few member nations.  Their last official nominee for a title match was Salo Flohr (in 1937); however, with war looming, and his country being torn apart by Germany, he was unable to raise the stakes under the London rules.

Alekhine's tarnished character had not stopped the Soviets from negotiating a match with him in behalf of their top player, Mikhail Botvinnik.  Indeed, an agreement had been made in principle.

The 1938 AVRO tournament was designed to provide a challenger for Alekhine, much like a candidates tournament.  That tournament was won by Keres of Estonia and Reuben Fine of the USA.  Botvinnik placed third.

The 1946 FIDE Congress in Winterthur, Switzerland.  A proposal was made to organize a championship tournament from the surviving participants of AVRO 1938, plus the winners of the upcoming Groningen and Prague international tournaments.  This proposal became the eventual basis for the 1948 Championship.

The Soviet Union took the opportunity in 1946 to replace the aging ex-pat Czech-Ukrainian-Jew S. Flohr (who had become a Soviet citizen in 1942) with the young rising Russian star, Vasily Smyslov, as one of their Federation nominees.

The event was planned for June of 1947, with the host Dutch Federation paying for the event.  However in late 1946, Botvinnik refused to play in the Netherlands because a Dutch newspaper, during the Groningen tournament, had speculated that "Russian participants might work together to put [Botvinnik] into first place" (Russian chess "sporting tactics" were recognized even then).  Botvinnik's resistance led the FIDE to withdraw its sponsorship of the June 1947 tournament.  Further negotiations revived the match-tournament idea, but scuttled the idea of including Najdorf, as either the winner of the Prague tournament, or as a replacement for Fine.  And half the tournament would be held in Moscow.

Keres was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to participate in Groningen in 1946.  It is widely reported that "... when the Red Army liberated his country, Soviet authorities planned to execute Keres. Mikhail Botvinnik interceded by talking to Stalin, and Keres was spared."  (As compared to the Latvian chess champion, Vladimirs Petrovs, who was sent to the gulag in 1942, from which he never returned.)

In early 1948, Fine officially withdrew from the Championship tournament (Larry Evans: "Fine told me he didn't want to waste three months of his life watching Russians throw games to each other.") - leaving Euwe, Reshevsky, Botvinnik, Smyslov, and Keres as the five participants.  The Soviets had achieved a coup within the chess world: 1) representaion in the FIDE, 2) part of the championship played in Moscow, 3) the inclusion of Smyslov for Flohr, 4) the exclusion of Najdorf, and 5) the withdrawal of Fine.

The table was set, but the games still had to be played.

The Games - More in Part 3.

(For a fuller treatement of the issues behind the 1948 Championship, I refer the readers to Edward Winter's notes on the subject: http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/interregnum.html )

RalphKane

That's how it was.

Marignon

You should read Walter Heuer's biography on Keres. All that you write is too superficial.

Marignon

Almost every sentence is flawed.

Alekhine was not "apparent collaborator"

Russians fought each other fiercely in Groningen.

Keres was not planned for execution (btw, there were no executions, only after trial). He was admired by Soviet Estonian leaders.

Botwinnik did not intervene (and he had no capacity to intervene in anyone's favor).

Fine simply did not play serious chess at this time, etc.

Btw, Larry Evans is very awkward as a chess writer.

JamieDelarosa

Alekhine's legacy during World War II is controversial.  I personally believe he did willingly collaborate with the Germans; however, his American-born wife was stranded in occupied France, and he may have been coerced.

Whether the Russians/Soviets "fought each other fiercely" at Groningen is up to debate.  Kotov was severely chastised for his defeat of Botvinnik.  Groningen was a "coming out" experience for the Soviet in international team play - a learning experience.  I grant you there was a much higher percentage of decisive games than in later international competitions, such as Curacao, 1962.

Petrovs, the Latvian champion, was tried under "Article 58" and sent to his death in a gulag at Kotlas - not a death sentence, per se - but the same result.

Marignon

Petrov's case was also deeply researched.

He had no problems when Latvia joined the USSR, participated in USSR championship.

At the outbreak of war  he left Riga and went somewhere in the Volga region. There he still worked as chess professional, giving sumultans, etc. 

Life conditions were poor, so they were for everyone. He started talking publicly that USSR is going to lose the war and how he disliked communism. Someone reported him. End of game. 

This had nothing to do with chess. 

suhas_parmar

I like post 3 

JamieDelarosa
Marignon wrote:

Petrov's case was also deeply researched.

He had no problems when Latvia joined the USSR, participated in USSR championship.

At the outbreak of war  he left Riga and went somewhere in the Volga region. There he still worked as chess professional, giving sumultans, etc. 

Life conditions were poor, so they were for everyone. He started talking publicly that USSR is going to lose the war and how he disliked communism. Someone reported him. End of game. 

This had nothing to do with chess. 

It is estimated that 700,000+ German soldiers, soldiers of other Axis powers, and collaborators died in the POW camps and gulags from 1941 to 1953.

The estimated numbers of Soviet civilians who died in the gulags from 1934-1953 was over 1,000,000.

Vladimirs Petrovs was just an example of what happened to dissidents - collaborators were treated even worse.

Marignon

And it is estimated that ~3,000,000 millions of Soviet war prisoners have died in Nazi concentration camps. 

The mortality rate in Nazi camps was much higher.

 

Keres  might be afraid of Gulag, yes - as any Soviet citizen. But kept low profile, did not support Nazism publicly. Estonia was ruled by Estonian communists. They needed at least some world-famous people happily living in Estonia. 

There were tens of thousands of real collaborators and Estonian Waffen SS troupers and "Kaiselite" parizans. Nobody needed Keres's head. 


When people say that Botwinnik won because of political support, everyone forgets 1950, when he was removed from Soviet Olympic chess team and replaced by Keres on board 1.

Would that have happened if he had huge political influence?

RalphKane

As an aside, Pawn Sac was a very good movie. Toby nailed the role. It both captured the Spirit of the times and gave insight into the mind and life of a young Bobby. And it had good chess ☺

JamieDelarosa
Marignon wrote:

And it is estimated that ~3,000,000 millions of Soviet war prisoners have died in Nazi concentration camps. 

The mortality rate in Nazi camps was much higher.

 

Keres  might be afraid of Gulag, yes - as any Soviet citizen. But kept low profile, did not support Nazism publicly. Estonia was ruled by Estonian communists. They needed at least some world-famous people happily living in Estonia. 

There were tens of thousands of real collaborators and Estonian Waffen SS troupers and "Kaiselite" parizans. Nobody needed Keres's head. 


When people say that Botwinnik won because of political support, everyone forgets 1950, when he was removed from Soviet Olympic chess team and replaced by Keres on board 1.

Would that have happened if he had huge political influence?

Citing the poor record of the Nazis does nothing to bolster the poor record of the Soviets.  That is known as the "Tu quoque" fallacy.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but the 1950 Chess Olympiad was held in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia.  As I recall, the Soviets were miffed with Tito and sent no team; nor did any Eastern Bloc country.

Marignon

Please, don't guess, Chess_is_my_Heaven . Don't spread myths. Don't be ignorant. 

Just read Keres's biography written by Walter Heuer, a person close to him. 

 

Yes, Jamie. It was for Helsinki in 1952. 

JamieDelarosa
Marignon wrote:

Please, don't guess, Chess_is_my_Heaven . Don't spread myths. Don't be ignorant. 

Just read Keres's biography written by Walter Heuer, a person close to him. 

 

Yes, Jamie. It was for Helsinki in 1952. 

Botvinnik was not excluded from the 1952 Soviet Union Olympiad team.  He chose not to participate.  IM Dr Anthony Saidy interviewed GM David Bronstein about the issue in 2007:

Saidy: The Soviet olympic team for Helsinki was very curious - the world champion was omitted. Is it true your other players voted him off the team? How democratic!

Bronstein: No.  First we voted the team line-up, and we placed Botvinnik second after Keres.  Botvinnik protested and declined to take part.  Why didn't he protest I was placed fourth!

By way of background for this drama, lets recount some events from 1951-1952.  In March-May 1951, Botvinnik defended his title in a drawn (12-12) match with Bronstein.  In December 1951, Keres had won the championship of the Soviet Union  ahead of Petrosian and Geller (=2-3), Smyslov (4), Botvinnik (5), Averbakh, Bronstein, and Taimanov (=6-8).

Keres had also won the Maroczy Memorial at Budapest in March 1952, ahead of Geller (2), and Botvinnik, Smyslov, and Stahlberg (=3-5).  The Olympiad was played in August 1952.

Marignon

This was or the other, Botwinnik was outplayed burocratically and could not participate.

He did not have more power than any other chess player.

E.g that Bronstein was Dinamo sport club player supported by NKVD.

JamieDelarosa

Rest in peace, Victor Korchnoi - a REAL world champion!

ArgoNavis

You don't need to post that in ALL your threads about Soviet players...

JamieDelarosa
kingofshedinjas wrote:

You don't need to post that in ALL your threads about Soviet players...

Not exactly correct.  Just the topics "about Soviet cheating," given that Korchnoi suffered more than any other player by "fixed" results.

JamieDelarosa

Bump to the top

JamieDelarosa

Bump for santero