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         The History and The Culture of Chess

 The Great USA-USSR Radio Match of 1945

The articles on this page by USSR Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Soviet Grandmaster Isaac Boleslavsky were written exclusively for CHESS REVIEW and were transmitted to this magazine by radio

 My Games with Fine


   When it was decided that I was to play in the radio match at the third board against Grandmaster Reuben Fine, one of the strongest chessplayers in the world, I was somewhat awed. It was more than I expected. At the same time I appreciated the honor and set about preparing for the engagement.
   I was acquainted with Grandmaster Fine's style and knew  many of is games. When I was preparing for the 13th USSR Championship Tournament I decided to brush up on some openings, particularly the Grunfeld Defense. I used Fine's article on this defense published in the magazine Chess in the USSR in 1940 as one of my main sources/ In recent years I examined Fine's games in important contests and made a particular study of his games at the Amsterdam Match Tournament of 1938 (AVRO) where he divided first and second prizes. I also studied the games he played in the USSR.
   Unlike Ragozin and Bronstein who knew nothing of their opponents Seidman and Santasiere, I was fairly well acquainted with my opponent. Nevertheless, I knew only his old games. To me he was the Fine of the Amsterdam Tournament. I must add, however, that knowing your opponent is of course an undecisive factor. The outcome of a game depends on what takes place on the board.
   In the first game, in which I played Black, I chose the King's Indian Defense which I know well. At the very beginning I sought to complicate the game. At one stage I failed to grasp all the implications of the position and at the 25th move found myself in rather dire straits. My attempt to attack on the Queen's side only aggravated the situation. At the 32nd move I thought my position was almost hopeless. At this point Fine, in my opinion, made the mistake of prematurely launching an attack on my King's side. If he had continued his positional pressure Black could hardly have escaped defeat. White's attack was very dangerous but I managed each time to reply to the immediate threats. When the game was adjourned Black was two pawns ahead but White's position was much superior. When the game resumed Fine played exceptionally well, but he only succeeded in regaining the sacrificed Pawns . The game was drawn on the 51st move in a quite simplified position.
   In the second game I managed to obtain a considerable advantage in the opening stage. This was the result of a serious blunder made by Fine on the ninth move of the Duras Variation which I used in that game. Fine put up a strong defense, trying to relieve his position by exchanges, but the configuration of Pawns on his Queen's side prejudiced his position beyond repair. The Knights' end-game which developed after thirty moves proved hopeless for Black.
   I think that in both games I had a stroke of luck. There is no doubt in my mind that in future contests Grandmaster Fine will certainly manage to force a win in a position such as he had in the first game and won't give me the opportunity to get the position I had in the second game.
   This was my first chance to play in an international contest. I am naturally pleased with the result.

CHESS REVIEW, October, 1945

The Radio Match


   It was with interest and approval that Soviet chessplayers learned of the suggestion made in the November 1943 issue of CHESS REVIEW that a Radio Match be arranged between teams representing the United States and the Soviet Union. It may be taken for granted that not only American and Soviet chessplayers looked forward to such a match but all true chess lovers throughout the free world.
   At last the match has taken place. It coincided with the termination of the second World War and the triumph of the United Nations. It was thus the first international affair of the post-war period.
   There was good reason for the general interest in this contest between the United States and the Soviet Union. America gave us such eminent masters as Morphy, Pillsbury and Marshall. Capablanca also was associated with the United States as a chessplayer. Russian chess, on the other hand, developed under the influence of Tchigorin's traditions and Soviet masters have considerably improved on those fine traditions.
   As to the result of the match, it seems to me that it can be at least partly explained by the fact that our American friends underrated the strength of our Soviet team.
   Another reason is that in several games the Americans obviously had bad luck. Take, for example, the first game between Smyslov and Reshevsky. The first eighteen moves were identical with the moves in the game Duras-Maroczy played at Ostend, 1906. Reshevsky, who of course knew this game and also Tchigorin's subsequent analysis of it, followed Maroczy's example in sacrificing the Knight. In the Moscow Championship Tournament of 1942, however, Boleslavsky, playing White against Ragozin, found a continuation which proved that Maroczy's idea was unsound. I later examined the Boleslavsky-Ragozin game and spent several days and nights trying to find a continuation which would prove better than Ragozin's. In 1943, at Sverdlovsk, I applied my "improved  continuation against Boleslavsky. This time the game ended in a draw but my position was inferior. This game definitely proved that Boleslavsky had the right idea. Obviously, Reshevsky could not have studied these games. They were published in an issue of the magazine Chess in the USSR (which resumed publication in May 1945) but this issue was not available in the United States at the time of the match. Smyslov, who applied Boleslavsky's discovery, spent only nine minutes on the first twenty-five moves and won the game.
   In the second game between Arnold Denker and myself, Denker also got into difficulties in the opening. But this should not have been the case in our first game. It is possible, of course, that Denker did not know my games with Master Mikenas and Grandmaster Lilienthal in the USSR Championship of 1944. But those were not quite original. Games using the variation I employed in my first contest with Denker were published in 1940 and 1941.

   In general, I don't think it is quite right to say that the American team was not sufficiently versed in the theory of the openings. We know, for example, the excellent contribution of American masters to the theory of the Two Knights' Defense. As a matter of fact, at a meeting of the Soviet team before the match, it was decided to avoid that defense. Only one of our team, Master Ragozin, violated that decision and as a result almost lost his game with Master Seidman.
   Mention should be made of the excellent playing of the American Master Herman Steiner and the splendid defense made by the veteran Abraham Kupchik in his second game with Makogonov.
   Could the American team make a better showing? I think it could. While giving my colleagues Smyslov and Boleslavsky their due, I think they can hardly hope to score three and a half points in four games against Fine and Reshevsky again. Denker and Kashdan also have every reason to expect better results next time.
   Where the American team is perhaps weaker is on the last three boards, at which our Three Musketeers, Ragozin, Makogonov and Bronstein represented the Soviet team.
   Now a few words about the best game of the match. I think if further analysis of the Horowitz-Flohr game shows that Black could not have materially improved his defense, the prize for the best game, offered by the magazine Chess in the USSR, should go to Master Horowitz.
   As for the suggestion that Radio Matches between the USA and USSR should be made an annual affair, I personally had doubts at first. Now, however, I think my doubts were groundless as by the time the next match comes around, all the Soviet participants will have made up for lost sleep. We couldn't help admiring the fortitude of the American and English referees in Moscow who unflinchingly shared the Soviet Masters' fate to the end.
   It is to be hoped that the process of transmitting the moves will be simplified and that future radio matches will take less time. This does not mean that the first match was not satisfactory in this respect. It certainly redounds to the credit of the sponsors of the match that it was possible to finish all games in four days.
   The Moscow newspapers reported that Mr. Maurice Wertheim, chairman of the Radio Match Committee, said in his speech at the closing ceremonies that both sides were gainers in the end because the match helped to strengthen friendship and cultural ties between the United States and the Soviet Union. I fully share that opinion.
   I should like to express, on behalf of the Soviet chess masters, our sincere gratitude to the engineers and technicians who took care of the technical end of the match and made the contest possible. We must also express our sincere gratitude to the referees and sponsors of the match. Soviet players were touched by the attention the Soviet team received from U. S. Ambassador Harriman.
   In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf  of the Soviet team, our American colleagues and their persons to salute the great American nation.