Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships Volume I (1920-1937) by Sergey Voronko Hardback

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Hardback, 534 pages, Elk and Ruby Publishing 2020

In his three-volume treatise, leading Russian chess historian SergeyVoronkov vividly brings to life the long-forgotten history of theSoviet championships held in 1920-1953. Volume I covers the first 10championships from 1920-1937, as well as the title match betweenBotvinnik and Levenfish. The key contestants also include worldchampion Alekhine and challenger Bogoljubov, lesser-known Sovietchampions Romanovsky, Bogatyrchuk, Verlinsky, and Rabinovich, andnames that today will be unfamiliar yet were big stars at the time:Riumin, Alatortsev, Makogonov, Rauzer, Ragozin, Chekhover, and manyothers.

This book can be read on many levels: a carefully selected collectionof 107 of the best games, commented on mostly by the playersthemselves, supported by computer analysis. A detailed and subtlyargued social history of the Soviet Chess School and of how chess cameto occupy such an important role in Soviet society. A discussion ofhow the chess community lost its independence and came to be managedby Party loyalists. A portrayal of how the governing body and itsleader, Nikolai Krylenko, strived to replace an entire generation offree-thinking chess masters with those loyal to the state. A study ofhow the authorities’ goals changed from wanting to use chess as ameans of raising the culture of the masses to wanting to use chess toprove the superiority of the Soviet way of life. Or a sometimeshumorous, often tragic history of talented, yet flawed human beingscaught up in seismic events beyond their control who just wanted toplay chess.

This book is illustrated with around 170 rarely seen photos andcartoons from the period, mostly taken from 1920s-1930s Russian chessmagazines.

As Garry Kasparov highlights in his foreword “this book virtuallyresembles a novel: with a mystery plot, protagonists and supportingcast, sudden denouements and even ‘author’s digressions’ – or, to beexact, introductions to the championships themselves, which constituteimportant parts of this book as well. These introductions, with wideand precise strokes, paint the portrait of the initialpost-revolutionary era, heroic and horrific at the same time. I’vealways said that chess is a microcosm of society. Showing chess in thecontext of time is what makes this book valuable even beyond thepurely analytical point of view.”

Sergey Voronkov was born in 1954 and lives in Moscow. He is a leadingRussian chess historian, journalist and author. Sergey has written tenbooks in Russian and numerous articles on Russian chess history.

He graduated in Journalism from Moscow State University and editedover 100 chess books for the Fizkultura i Sport publishing house in1978-1991. He was Deputy Chief Editor of the magazine Chess in Russia(the successor to Chess in the USSR) in 1992-1999 working under YuriAverbakh. As an editor of the Ripol Klassik publishing house in2002-2015 Sergey increased the total number of books edited by him toaround 150, including fourteen written by Garry Kasparov (the originalversions of the Modern Chess, Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov and MyGreat Predecessors series among others). He regularly contributesarticles to the leading Russian-language ChessPro website.For his first book on David Janowski (1987 in Russian, co-authoredwith Dmitry Plisetsky) Sergey won the prize for Best Chess Book fromthe USSR Sports Committee. His other books include David VersusGoliath (2002 in Russian, co-authored with David Bronstein, publishedin English as Secret Notes, 2007), Russians Versus Fischer (2004 inRussian, co-authored with Dmitry Plisetsky, English editions publishedin 1994 and 2005, Italian edition published in 2003), FyodorBogatyrchuk: the Dr. Zhivago of Soviet Chess (2013 in Russian, in twovolumes), Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships (2007and 2019 in Russian, in three volumes) and The Russian Sphynx.Alexander Alekhine (2020 in Russian).

Sergey’s father Boris Voronkov was a distinguished chess coach of theRSFSR, an International Master at correspondence chess, an author oftwo chess books, and a participant in the semi-final of the SovietChampionship in 1956.

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