Chess Literature

The history of Russian chess literature begins with A Description of Chinese Chess (1775) by A. Leontiev, Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Peking. This book reflected the interest shown by Russian players in chess in other countries, great China in particular.

What lends Leontiev's book added significance is the fact that it gives the Russian names of all the pieces. As Chigorin noted in the magazine Shakhmatny Listok this book "is the earliest monument of Russian chess terminology that has come down to us."

We find mention of chess in Russian poetry of the 18th century, for example, in Derzhavin's ode, Russian in Ismail and his On Happiness (1789), from which we learn that Derzhavin himself played chess.

The first article in the Russian periodical press on chess, its history and its popularity in Europe appeared in the almanac Russian Museum in 1815.

The year 1821 saw the publication of the first Russian manual, Ivan Butrimov's The Game of Chess. This book, however, contains few original ideas or opinions. It is for the most part a conscientious compilation of what was known about chess theory at the time.

"I shall not go into lengthy praise of this game which has been lauded by many in prose and verse," Ivan Butrimov said in his foreword, "but shall limit myself only to pointing out . . . that it is one of the few games in which luck does not play any part at all, and everything depends upon skill and foresight. . . ."

A pamphlet containing the rules of chess along with the rules of card games was published in Moscow in 1828.

A landmark in Russian chess literature and history was Pet-rov's manual, The Game of Chess, Systematized, with Philidor's Games and Notes to Same. Published in 1824, it was warmly welcomed by progressive Russians and exerted a strong influence on the formation of the Russian school.

This book was extremely popular and was considered a model chess guide. An interesting fact is that Alexander Pushkin's library contained two copies of it. One of them the great Russian poet had evidently bought himself, while the other had been presented to him by Petrov with the inscription: "To the Most Esteemed A. S. Pushkin. From the Author." Pushkin, it is known, was fond of chess and had a high opinion of the game. In a letter to his wife in 1832 he said, "I thank you, my love, for learning to play chess. This is absolutely necessary in every happy family, as I shall prove to you later."

We find references to chess in Pushkin's poetry, too. For instance, the following lines in Chapter IV of his novel in verse Yevgeni Onegin:

Or, from the world themselves secluding, The pair, above the chess-board bent, With elbows on the table leant, Are seated, and profoundly brooding. Lensky, his attention far withdrawn, Takes—his own castle, with a pawn.

Pushkin also mentions the game in an unfinished poem on a fairy-tale subject, written in 1833.

Lermontov, Chernishevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoi and Mendel-eyev all took an interest in chess.

Turgenev devoted a great deal of time to the game. In a letter to Aksakov dated June 29, 1853, he said, "Do you know what my main occupation is? I play chess with the neighbours or else sit by myself analyzing games from books. This exercise has given me a certain measure of proficiency."

Turgenev's library contained many books on chess, including Jaenisch's manuals.

During his life abroad Turgenev regularly visited the Café de la Régence in Paris, which was a sort of chess club. He took part in competitions and was one of the leaders of the International Chess Congress in Baden in 1870. His autobiographical story Unfortunate Woman shows how much he liked the game.

Chernishevsky was a great lover of chess. He was one of the organizers of the chess club in St. Petersburg in 1862.

Lev Tolstoi learned the game in his childhood. Among the people with whom he played at Yasnaya Polyana were the well-known Russian master Urusov, Repin and Geh, the artists, Taneyev, the composer, and Goldenweiser, the pianist.

Tolstoi had a deep understanding of chess. The following statement of his is characteristic: "Pascal has said that 'the cleverer a man is, the more characters of different types he sees.' It is the same in chess: the good player sees the great diversity of games, while the poor player thinks they are all the same."

"I love chess," Tolstoi said, "because it is good recreation. It makes your head work, but in a special way,"

But let us return to Petrov. He wrote quite a few short stories with chess as the theme, among them the popular fantasy Scene from the Life of Chess Players.

Petrov's reminiscences of how he began to play chess and of his meetings with Hoffman, the Warsaw player, are of considerable interest.

Petrov, incidentally, was the author of the first Russian manual on draughts.

A major role in the scientific elaboration of chess theory was played by A New Analysis of Chess Openings, the definitive work by K. Jaenisch, professor at the St. Petersburg Institute of Railway Engineers, which we discussed in detail in Chapter I.

This book was a prototype of the many opening manuals which appeared later.

Among other chess studies published in the first half of the 19th century was M. Gonyaev's The Origin of Chess and Its History in Russia. Without going into the historical conceptions which Gonyaev set forth, it should be noted that the appearance of a history of chess testified to the growing interest in the game in Russia.

As they developed and defended their views on chess, Russian players always took a big interest in achievements abroad. There were numerous favourable comments in the Russian press, for example, of Labourdonnais' book New Treatise on the Game of Chess, published in a Russian translation from the French. This book appeared in Russia in 1839 and a second edition was put out in 1853. A translation of The Game of Chess by G. Neu-man, a German master, appeared in 1869.

The first chess department in a Russian periodical was inaugurated by the newspaper Sankt Peterburgskie Vedomosti in 1856. There was a department in the magazine Illustratsia, which came out between 1858 and 1863. In 1863 a chess column was started in the /llustrirovannya Gazeta.

Extensive educational and organizational work was carried on by the chess department of the magazine Vsemirnaya [llustratsia. The department was run from 1869 to 1898 under the editorship of I. Shumov (1819-1881), a leading Russian master, and after his death by P. Shishkin. It regularly published games of Russian players.

A new stage in Russian chess literature began with the publication of Shakhmatny Listok, the country's first chess journal. Shakhmatny Listok started as a supplement to the monthly Russkoye Slovo (1859 to May 1862), and after Russkoe Slovo closed down it came out as a separate publication in 1862 and 1863.

The editor of Shakhmatny Listok was V. Mikhailov, a well-known Russian master. The magazine published numerous games by Russian and foreign players, chess problems and chess news.

Chess was not sufficiently widespread in Russia at that time to make the publication of a monthly journal a paying proposition, however. Mikhailov was forced to close it because there were not enough subscribers.

Beginning with September 1876 Mikhail Chigorin, that indefatigable organizer and popularizer of chess in Russia, put out a new magazine with the same title, Shakhmatny Listok. From the very first issue he carried games by Russian and foreign players and departments called "A Course in Openings," and "A Course in End-Games." He realized that educational guides of this type, summing up the experience of the international competitions being held at that time, would contribute significantly to the progress of Russian players.

The magazine conducted a vigorous campaign for the establishment of a Russian chess association.

Chigorin devoted himself to Shakhmatny Listok without sparing time or effort, but in the second half of 1878 he was compelled to close it down for half a year. When he resumed publication in 1879 he explained the interruption as follows: "The reason lies in a lack of funds and in such a small number of subscribers that the subscription sums do not even cover the printing and paper expenses. Other players and I have worked on it without pay. The maintenance of the journal requires at least 250 subscribers, whereas last year it had about 120."

Chigorin's Shakhmatny Listok was discontinued in 1881 owing to lack of funds.

After that many chess magazines were started in Russia, but they all experienced great difficulties and were short-lived.

In 1882, for example, A. Gelvig, of Moscow, put out only four issues of Shakhmatny Zhurnal. A publication called Shakhmatny Vestnik under the editorship of Mikhail Chigorin existed from 1885 to 1887. A. Makarov, of St. Petersburg, published the Shakhmatny Zhurnal from 1891 to 1903, with interruptions. This journal was edited for a time by Shiffers.

Shakhmatnoye Obozreniye, a magazine founded by two chess and draughts enthusiasts, P. Bobrov and D. Sargin, appeared, with big intervals, from 1891 to 1910. Alexander Alekhine published a magazine called Shakhmatny Vestnik in Moscow from 1913 to 1916.

Why were chess journals so short-lived in Russia? Because the chess movement did not enjoy extensive support either from governmental or public organizations and hence was unable to assure the existence of periodicals.

The very fact that various periodicals arose, however, and that chess departments won a firm place for themselves in the general press showed that interest in the game continued.

A fine department was conducted by Chigorin for many years in the newspaper Novoye Vremya. He turned the department into what was practically a small chess journal in itself.

Another prominent popularizer was Shiffers, one-time editor of the chess department in the magazine Niva.

Very few chess books were published in Russia before the Great October Socialist Revolution. One of the best was Chess Self-Taught by Shiffers, giving a comprehensive review of opening theory and an excellent exposition of the end-game.

The sixth edition of this book was put out in 1919 on special instructions from the People's Commissariat of Education. The seventh edition, published in 1926, was enlarged by Vladimir Nenarokov.

Chess Self-Taught, which was built on the correct educational principle of proceeding from the simple to the complicated, was instrumental in training several generations of Russian players.

Of the other Russian books, mention should be made of the textbook by A. Goncharov, a Moscow master. Here we find an interesting attempt to systematize certain typical strategical and tactical manoeuvres.

Collections of the games of several All-Russian tournaments as well as a book of the games played at the international and amateur Chigorin Memorial Tournaments in 1909, were also published.

Petrov's efforts to give the public chess fiction were continued in the almanacs published as supplements to the magazine Shakhmatnoye Obozreniye.

All these books came out in very small editions. The difficulties connected with the publication of chess literature may be judged if only from the fact that the games of the famous St. Petersburg grandmasters tournament of 1914, in which young. Alekhine scored an outstanding success, were published in Germany but not in Russia.

After the Revolution the Soviet chess organizations set out to raise the standard of play by making chess a nationally popular game. The press was called upon to play a big organizational and educational part in this effort.

The publication of a small journal called Shakhmatny Listok Petrogubkommuny was begun in Petrograd in 1921. Two years later this became the fortnightly Shakhmatny Listok. In 1922 N. Grekov founded a monthly magazine, Shakhmaty, in Moscow. The magazine 64 made its appearance in Moscow in 1924.

With the exception of the magazine Shakhmaty, which stopped coming out in 1930, the chess periodicals were, for the first time in the history of the game in our country, organs of governmental and public organizations—Physical Culture and Sports Committees and the Central Council of, Trade Unions.

Shakhmatny Listok and 64 grew bigger and better from year to year, for they based their activities on new principles; they awakened and developed an interest in chess theory among broad circles of amateurs, encouraging factory workers and peasants to contribute items and articles. These magazines had circulations which would have seemed fantastic in pre-revolu-tionary Russia.

The publication of chess books, both for skilled players and for beginners, took on tremendous scope. The constantly rising cultural level of the people created a demand for books dealing with the theory and history of chess, as well as with organizational aspects of thelarge-scale chess movement. Publishing houses began to put out books on chess composition, collections of tournament games, dictionaries and reference books.

Soviet players took a keen interest in books published abroad, for they were eager to learn from the vast store of knowledge accumulated in other countries. Books by Lasker, Capablanca, Nimzovich, Euwe, Tarrasch, Tartakower, Reti, Spielmann, Gruenfeld and others were translated into Russian.

The first significant original works by Soviet authors were books by Levenfish, Nenarokov, Romanovsky, Smirnov, Sozin, Rokhlin, Ilyin-Zhenevsky and I. Rabinovich.

A game combining the beauty and tension of competitive struggle with precision, far-reaching calculation and daring, chess has become a factor in character training in the Soviet Union. Important social tasks therefore devolve upon the chess books and periodicals.

A new type of chess journal—which organizes large-scale activities, constantly stimulates the development of theory and sums up the practical achievements of players—has gradually come into being in the U.S.S.R.

To avoid parallelism, the chess journals were amalgamated in 1935 into one publication, entitled Shakhmaiy v SSSR. This magazine now comes out monthly in 40,000 copies and is read all over the world.

Soviet bulletins dealing with major competitions, and a chess newspaper, 64, which came out between 1936 and 1941, were totally new features in Ihe world's chess literature. A Ukrainian newspaper of the same type as 64, called Shakhist, was published in Kiev for three years.

Publishing houses in the Soviet Union have issued a tremendous number of books for chessists. Among the studies of openings, mention should be made of The Modern Opening, a book written by a big group of masters under the direction of Levenfish. Keres' books on opening theory are excellent. Players will find much that is useful inSokolsky's The Modern Chess Opening. Studies of such important openings as the Sicilian Defence, Nimzovich's Defence and the Meran Variation have been published.

Romanovsky's Middle Game is a definitive work which has played a great part in improving the standard of Soviet play; it has been translated into many languages. The theory of the middle game is also dealt with in books by Lisitsyn, Koblents, Panov and Blumenfeld.

Outstanding among theoretical works on the end-game are the major investigation by I. Rabinovich, the magnificent analytical studies by Grigoriev, and the contributions by Blu-menfeld and Sozin.

The first books about Chigorin's playing have appeared. N. Grekov, holder of a Candidate's degree in education, devoted many years to the study of Chigorin's activity. His writings on the history of the Russian school and on Chigorin are highly instructive.

Alekhine's chess legacy has been collected in books by Kotov and Panov.

Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres, Isaac Bo-leslavsky and many other leading Soviet players do quite a lot of writing. For instance, Smyslov has written Selected Games, which has become a popular handbook. His pamphlet The 1953 International Tournament in Switzerland was published in an edition of 180,000 copies. Students of the.end-game will find the book Theory of Rook Endings, written jointly by Smyslov and Levenfish, of great interest. Botvinnik is the author of a number of collections of games and a pamphlet about the Soviet school. Bronstein too has written a book on the Grandmasters' Tournament in Switzerland.

For the first time in the long history of chess, a book about women players has appeared. It is by world champion Elizaveta Bykova, and describes the development of women's chess in the U.S.S.R. and contains interesting tournament material.

Textbooks of a new type have been evolved in our country. Written in a popular style and based on sound educational principles, they bring out the wealth and originality of chess ideas. Prominence is given to methods of independent study.

Books for beginners describe club activities and the Soviet code of sportsmanship.

Many Soviet chess manuals—by Romanovsky, Levenfish, Rokhlin, Nenarokov, Zubarev, Maizelis, Panov and others— have won wide recognition.

The scale of educational work may be judged from the fact that the textbooks for beginners written in recent years by Panov, Maizelis and Yudovich have been published in a total of more than one million copies.

These large editions have not fully satisfied the demand for beginners' manuals, however, and many local publishing houses have entered the field. A series of textbooks compiled by Levenfish, Lisitsyn and Chekhover has been put out in Lenin grad. The Sverdlovsk Regional Publishing House has issued a book for beginners, written by a group of leading Sverdlovsk players, in an edition of 15,000 copies. Chess pamphlets have been published in Kaluga, Arkhangelsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tula and many other regional centres.

The Soviet methods of chess instruction have won recognition abroad as being the most advanced and scientific. This is illustrated by the numerous editions of Soviet chess manuals put out in other countries. Panov's Chess for Beginners, for example, has been published in Poland and Bulgaria, and Textbook of Chess by Maizelis and Yudovich in Rumania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic and the Mongolian People's Republic.

The world's cultural treasures accumulated through the centuries have been brought within the reach of all members of the fraternal family of Soviet nations. Books, newspapers and magazines are published in dozens of languages. This includes books on chess, for it has become truly a people's game in the U.S.S.R.

Translations of the best books on chess published in the Russian language are put out in Uzbekistan, Georgia, Turkmenia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and other Union Republics. Chess books have appeared in the Yakut language.

Many original works in languages of peoples of the U.S.S.R. have also appeared. No books on chess had ever been published in the Tatar language, for instance, but now players in the towns and villages of Tataria can study chess theory from the manual written by Master Rashid Nezhmetdinov, the Tatar Republic's No. 1 player.

A popular manual by Master Khavin was published in the Ukrainian language a few years ago. A collection of games by Ukrainian players has also been put out. A book by Master Mike-nas has been issued in the Lithuanian Republic, several works by Grandmaster Keres have appeared in Estonia, and books by Master Koblents have been put out in Latvia.

To meet the varied demands of rank-and-file players, Soviet chess organizations are also publishing special books and pamphlets on chess problems. Works by such masters of composition as Troitsky, Kubbel and Platov have become classics. Noteworthy books by Gulyayev, Gerbtsman, Umnov and Kofman, those connoisseurs of chess composition, as well as collections of problems and end-game studies, have been published.

Soviet chess books have won wide popularity abroad as well. Here are a few illustrations.

Mikhail Botvinnik's Selected Games has been published in Britain, Austria, Rumania and other countries. His pamphlet about the Soviet school has appeared in Holland.

A British publishing house has put out Grekov's Soviet Chess, a book describing the history of the Soviet school and containing many brilliant games played in competitions in the Soviet Union.

Chess in the U S.S.R., a book compiled by a group of leading Soviet masters and grandmasters, has also been published in Britain.

Gerbtsman's Soviet Chess Problems is very popular in Holland; a foreword to the Dutch edition was written by Alekhine. A collection of problems by Soviet authors recently appeared in Holland.

Many collections of Soviet tournament games are put out abroad. Examples are the German edition of the games of the 12th U.S.S.R. Championship and the match-tournament for the U.S.S.R. chess crown, and the Dutch editions of the games of the 13th U.S.S.R. Championship and the International Chigorin Memorial Tournament of 1947. The U.S.S.R. championship games are regularly issued in Hungary and Argentina. A book about the U.S.S.R. v. U.S.A. radio match of 1945 came out in Argentina.

Books on the matches for the world title between Botvinnik and Bronstein, and Botvinnik and Smyslov have been published in many countries. The battle between Botvinnik and Smyslov for the world title in 1954 is described in a book written by Golombek and put out in Britain.

The present book has been put out in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Many books about Soviet chess players are written abroad. Muller, an Austrian master, for example, wrote a book called Botvinnik Teaches Chess. Books entitled Botvinnik the Invincible, by Reinfeld, and The Russians Play Chess, by Chernev, have been published in the United States.

Collections of games by Keres have appeared in a number of countries. The best games of Smyslov have been put out in the German Democratic Republic, and a collection of Bronstein's games has come out in the United States.

The flowering of Soviet chess literature and its growing prestige among players the world over is yet another illustration of the achievements of the Soviet school.

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