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International Socialism, Spring 1966


Chris Davison

Check, Comrade Mate


From International Socialism, No.24, Spring 1966, p.37.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Soviet Chess; Chess and Communism in the USSR
D.I. Richards
Oxford, 25s

This account of the development of chess in Russia since the revolution gives a fascinating insight into the social changes taking place at the time. Many of the Bolshevik leaders were chess players; Stalin and Khruschev were not. By the end of the civil war chess had taken hold as a major recreational activity among the trade unions.

With the consolidation of Stalin’s rule and the introduction of the first five-year plan chess became subject to strict state control. No longer was it merely to be enjoyed but must play its part in girding the workers for socialist construction. Those who wanted to be left in peace and just play chess were denounced as class enemies. Krylenko the political boss of chess copped his lot in the 1938 purge, which must have given the secret chess enjoyers some morbid satisfaction. Mr Richards documents the twists and turns of Russian foreign policy in term of the relations with the international organisations; in 1926 they joined the Workers’ Chess International; in 1929 they denounced the reformist chess movement and set up a chess section of the Red Sport International. He shows the vacillating attitude to the early experts such as Alekhine who left Russia to join the counter revolutionary émigrés in Europe.

I cannot resist requoting Liebknecht’s reminiscence; ‘When Marx got into a difficult position he would get angry and losing a game would cause him to fly into a rage.’

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