A blog post featuring translations of the annotations (by Capablanca and others) of some of the games of the ex-World Champion from the 2nd great international tournament in Moscow (1935), plus some background to the event.
Capablanca and Botvinnik in play during the 2nd round of the 2nd Moscow International, 1935 (Photo source: http://mamm-mdf.ru.)
By 1934 the energetic leader of the All-Union Chess Section, N. V. Krylenko, considered that the time had come to test the new generation of Soviet masters in international competition. In 1934, a tournament in Leningrad was organised with the participation of leading Western masters, Max Euwe and Hans Kmoch. The Soviet players passed this examination with flying colours; 1st place was taken by Botvinnik, with Romanovsky and Riumin in 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Euwe and Kmoch finished mid-table.
It was decided that 1935 would see the organisation of a second great international event in the Soviet capital, a decade after the ‘First Moscow International’ of 1925. The top eight players in the forthcoming USSR Championship (the 9th, held in Leningrad during December 1934 and January 1935) would gain the right to participate in this tournament.
In the event, 1st-2nd place in Leningrad was shared by two representatives of the ‘old guard’, who had gained their Master titles before the Revolution – Grigory Levenfish and Ilya Rabinovich. The next six places were taken by the Fyodor Bogatyrchuk and Nikolai Riumin (3rd-4th), Vitaly Chekhover, Grigory Lisitsyn, Viacheslav Ragozin and Vladimir Alatortsev (5th-8th). Bogatyrchuk, like Levenfish and Rabinovich, was of pre-revolutionary vintage, but the others had all been born in the years 1908-1909, and were very much products of the nascent Soviet chess school. They would be joined in Moscow by the undoubted leader of that school, Mikhail Botvinnik, who had been on international duty at the tournament in Hastings, and by Honoured Master of Sport, Peter Romanovsky (biographical details of whom can be found here), who had been indisposed during the ‘qualifying’ event in Leningrad. Also invited was the Trans-Caucasian champion, Viktor Goglidze (who had additionally won a small Masters’ tournament in Tbilisi, in which Kmoch had participated). In view of the fact that only one of the qualifiers (Riumin) was a Muscovite, an additional place was found for the local master Ilya Kan (b. 1909).
The 2nd and 3rd World Champions, Emanuel Lasker (then resident in London) and José Raúl Capablanca (Cuba) were among the first foreign masters to accept invitations to the event in Moscow. They were soon joined by Salo Flohr (Czechoslovakia), Andor Lilienthal (Hungary), Vasja Pirc (Yugoslavia), Rudolf Spielmann (Austria) and Gideon Ståhlberg (Sweden). The tournament line-up was completed by the Women’s World Champion, Vera Menchik (Czechoslovakia, also then resident in London).
The tournament lasted a month, from 15th February until 14th March. The venue was the prestigious Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts on ulitsa Volkhonka. This required the personal intervention of Krylenko, who, as many ultimately found to their cost, was in those days not someone to be argued with. As Grigory Levenfish later recalled, somewhat ironically:
…Finally the organising committee settled on the Museum of Fine Arts. This did not pass without incident. The director of the museum could not agree to such a ‘desecration’ of the temple of art, and indicated that only over his dead body would chess get into the building. But the chief of the organising committee, Krylenko, soon convinced him of the benefits of the game of chess, and the director soon became an ardent chess fan.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, photographed in February 2019.
Naturally, much attention focused on Capablanca and Lasker. Ultimately, the event would proved to be the last great success in the long career of the 2nd World Champion. At the age of 66 he finished in 3rd place in the gruelling, 19-round event, behind the winners, Flohr and Botvinnik. Capablanca finished in 4th spot, losing to Lasker in their individual encounter.
The 9th-round encounter between Lasker (White) and Capablanca. Lasker won this game in 64 moves. (Photo source: http://mamm-mdf.ru.)
The tournament began in sensational fashion, with the defeat of Capablanca by Nikolai Riumin; the ex-World Champion lost on time in a hopeless position on the 29th move. A draw with Botvinnik followed, and then the Cuban began to get into his stride with an effortless win v. Alatortsev. Further wins followed over Lisitsin, Ragozin and Kan before his 9th-round loss against his old rival, Lasker. He went through the remainder of the event without loss, winning further games against Chekhover, Menchik and Levenfish.
Capablanca later annotated two of his games for the magazine Chess in the USSR. A translation of these annotations, as well as the notes to several of his other games from this event, can be downloaded at the following links:
Capablanca in play in the 2nd Moscow International (Photo source: http://mamm-mdf.ru.)
Background to the event is provided in the tournament book, Vtoroi Mezhdunarodnyi Shakhmatnyi Turnir, Moskva 1935 (Fizkultura i Turizm, 1936).
Levenfish writes about the event in his memoir Izbrannye Partii i Vospominanie (Fizkultura i Sport, 1967).
The annotations to the games are from the tournament book, and from Botvinnik’s Izbrannye Partii 1926-36 (Fizkultura i Sport, 1938) and from Shakhmaty v SSSR (№ 3, 1935).