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Event: Great Britain vs USSR • 20 games • last updated Monday June 20, 2022 0:03 AM
Venue: London • Dates: 20-21 September 1947 • Download PGN

1947 Great Britain v Soviet Union, 21-22 September, Holborn Town Hall, London

Bd Great Britain Rd 1 Rd 2 Soviet Union
1 C Hugh O'D Alexander ½-½ 0-1 Paul Keres
2 Harry Golombek ½-½ 0-1 Vasily Smyslov
3 Sir George Alan Thomas 0-1 0-1 Isaac Boleslavsky
4 Gordon Thomas Crown 1-0 0-1 Alexander Kotov
5 William Winter 0-1 ½-½ Igor Bondarevsky
6 P Stuart Milner-Barry ½-½ 0-1 Andor Lilienthal
7 William Albert Fairhurst ½-½ ½-½ Salomon Flohr
8 Dr James Macrae Aitken 0-1 0-1 Viacheslav Ragozin
9 Gerald Abrahams 0-1 0-1 David Bronstein
10 Richard Hilary Newman 1-0 0-1 Alexander Tolush
  Round scores   4-6     1-9    
  Total scores 5-15  

n.b. Newman replaced Tylor who was ill. Note also that the match started on Sunday 21st rather than Saturday 20th as had been the original intention, as the Soviet team had experienced great difficulty in travelling to the event.

BCM, November 1947, ppn 360-364 (unattributed)

THE ANGLO-RUSSIAN MATCH [n.b. so-named in this BCM article but it is more correctly referred to as Great Britain vs USSR]

The long-awaited match against masters from the U.S.S.R. duly took place, and though decisively beaten, the British team was not disgraced, and it is to be hoped that the visit of those distinguished masters will have done much to raise the popularity as well as the standard of chess in this country.

Among the many lessons to be learnt is that chess of the highest class requires physical fitness. We had a pleasant shock when our men made an equal score—two each—at the end of the first day with six adjourned games, some of them in favourable positions. Indeed, the score of the first round was 6-4. But evidently our players were not equal to three consecutive days of this strenuous type of chess and there was a deplorable slump at 9-1 in the second round. Now we would not advocate that our team should have a physical instructor to train them as the Russians do (they even had one with them on this tour). But they should have a reasonable training course comprising open-air sports, walks, and plenty of sleep in the preceding weeks.

It will be said that such suggestions are impossible of accomplishment, because our players are in the main amateurs. But to that we would say that our amateur athletes, tennis players, footballers and boxers, would cut a poor figure if they failed to find time for getting and keeping fit long before the event. No doubt the chess players’ employers are less accommodating in the matter of holidays and time off for chess matters. But once our players have come to the fore and their deeds are talked about, that also will change.

The Mayor and Corporation of Holborn are to be praised for placing their fine Town Hall at the disposal of the Federation for this great match. The actual room where the players met was comparatively small, though there was ample room for the players themselves. But the public could only be admitted twenty at a time every twenty minutes. In a large hall on the second floor there were ten large demonstration boards showing each game move by move. There the public were freely admitted and the hall was full to overflowing. Mr. Ritson Morry deserves to be highly commended for commenting on the various positions as they arose, and these positions were mostly difficult enough to require expert explanations.

In the playing room the players were within a roped-off space. Mr. Zubarev from the first put in a strong veto, insisting that only the players, certain well-defined officials, and the tellers who attended to the demonstration boards were to be allowed within the hallowed enclosure. For the rest of the match he kept a lynx eye on anyone looking like a gate-crasher, and we must say that this is a veto of which we heartily approve.

Of the players who distinguished themselves, we must name C. H. O’D. Alexander, who played Keres, second to none to-day in International chess, and drew the first game in 66 moves and lost the second in 72, over twenty hours of the most intensive chess! Golombek, who drew in the first round against Smyslov and nearly drew in the second; Crown, who won a brilliant game against Kotov in the first round, losing the second; Winter, who drew in the second round against Bondarevsky, and lost in the first in a tremendously hard battle; Milner-Barry, who drew in the first round against Lilienthal, a game which he should have won; Fairhurst, whose performance was perhaps most meritorious of all, for he drew both his games with Flohr; and, finally, Newman, who in his first International won a hard game from Tolush.

In singling out these players we have no wish to belittle those British players who lost both their games. It would be no disgrace for any player to lose two games against any one of this great band of experts who constitute this transcendent team from the U.S.S.R.

The match was intended to take four days and to start on Saturday, September 20th, but at the request of the U.S.S.R. authorities this was reduced to three days and started on Sunday, September 21st.

The reason was travel difficulties. When the U.S.S.R. football team visited these isles they came all the way from Moscow to London in three Russian Government planes and went home the same way. The chess team—and that makes one think— was taken by official plane to Berlin only and their further travel was the responsibility of the British. Owing to the lack of planes, official planes not being made available, they could have been taken only two at a time each day, which made that mode of travel impossible. So they had to go by train over the still hopelessly shattered German railway system. They arrived on the Friday before the match, after spending three nights and three days in the train. The reasonable request for a postponement so that they could recuperate on the Saturday was, of course, granted. They had their rest as well as relaxation, for most of them visited the Chelsea football ground that afternoon.

Here is the score of the match. Great Britain lost the toss and had Black on the odd numbered boards in the first round and White on these boards in the second round.

Keres-Alexander was a Ruy Lopez, in which Alexander played the Tarrasch Defence. It was a tremendous struggle, and although the position was at times strained to breaking point with Keres maintaining the advantage of the move, Alexander scored a meritorious draw after 66 moves. We shall give the game in full.

Alexander-Keres. Another epic Ruy Lopez lasting 72 moves, Black playing the Steinitz Deferred. Keres played magnificent chess and the game was a credit to both players. The ending was particularly difficult ...

Golombek-Smyslov. A very sound positional game; Golombek played his favourite English Opening, which Smyslov defended with a King's Fianchetto. The draw came after 35 moves.

Smyslov-Golombek. A Sicilian Defence in which again Golombek held his own against his great opponent. Towards the end of the day, with plenty of time in hand, Golombek, confident in the strength of his position, began between moves to busy himself with his journalistic duties. Whether or not this had a bearing on the result—he lost in 53 moves—this seems to us unwise from any point of view. ... A splendid piece of end-game play by Smyslov.

Boleslavsky-Thomas. A French Defence, lost by Thomas in 41 moves.

Thomas-Boleslavsky. A Sicilian (2 Kt—Q B 3, with 3 P—K Kt 3), lost in 34 moves. Sir George was obviously entirely out of form and showed none of his usual decision in attack or stubbornness in defence, and Boleslavsky was not extended.

Crown-Kotov. A Sicilian Defence won by Crown in 35 moves, by a really splendid sacrificial combination.

Kotov-Crown. A King’s Indian Defence, 37 moves, in which Kotov took his revenge by fine attacking play. There were a few aimless-looking moves on both sides, no doubt made in order to gain time on the clock. We give both these games in full.

Bondarevsky-Winter. King’s Indian, 57 moves, a highly interesting game played on positional lines. The ending in particular was very difficult and won by Bondarevsky by a highly ingenious manoeuvre.

Winter-Bondarevsky. Queen’s Gambit Declined, 26 moves. Winter scored a well-deserved half point, never giving his opponent the slightest chance. By a curious coincidence the first 17 moves of this game were repeated two weeks later in the game Winter-M. E. Goldstein of the radio match against Australia. The sequel, too, in both games was very similar.

Milner-Barry-Lilienthal. A Four Knights' Game with Rubinstein's Defence, 22 moves. A very enterprising game on both sides though highly speculative for such an important occasion. It is a pity that Milner-Barry overlooked a win two moves before the end. A win here would have given Great Britain the lead on the first day.

Lilienthal-Milner-Barry. A Nimzo-lndian, 28 moves, won by Lilienthal in grand combinative style. The game is given in full.

Flohr-Fairhurst. Queen’s Gambit Declined, 48 moves. Fairhurst defended very well and at one time had chances of an attack on the K R file; he wisely resisted the temptation and brought back his forces to the defence of his Queen’s side where Flohr was in a fair way to getting a passed pawn.

Fairhurst-Flohr. A King's Indian, drawn after 36 moves. Fairhurst played impeccable chess and was at no time in any sort of danger. We feel inclined to think that Fairhurst’s was the most impressive performance on the British side.

Aitken-Ragozin. Sicilian Defence, 77 moves.

Ragozin-Aitken. Queen’s Gambit Declined, 34 moves.

In both these games the Russian grandmaster carried too many guns, though Aitken put up a stubborn and prolonged resistance in the first game. In the second, Ragozin wound up the proceedings by a neat little combination.

Bronstein—Abrahams. Ruy Lopez, 56 moves. Abrahams allowed a Knight to be trapped either by an oversight or intentionally and the pawns he gained in return were insufficient against Bronstein’s skilful handling of the position.

Abrahams-Bronstein. Reti, 32 moves. Abrahams played an aggressive opening but Bronstein struck before he could get going. His play, after the position in Diagram 6 was reached, was powerful and attractive.

Newman-Tolush. Nimzo-lndian, 52 moves. Newman kept up his end precariously for the greater part of this sensational game. His stubbornness was rewarded when the position in Diagram 7 was reached. He deserves the greatest credit for the determined way in which he held on to and increased his advantage to the end.

Tolush-Newman. Catalan, 30 moves. Tolush took his revenge in a fine finish.

The proceedings were opened by the Rt. Hon. George Tomlinson, M.P., Minister of Education, which, we venture to hope, augurs well for the future of British chess. He was supported by Counsellor V. Pavlov, and Mr. Ukraintsov, of the U.S.S.R. Embassy, in the unavoidable absence of the Ambassador, and Mr. J. N. Derbyshire, President of the British Chess Federation.

The two teams were entertained at dinner at the Waldorf Hotel. Here, after the day’s serious business, our Russian guests divested themselves somewhat of their dignified bearing and proved themselves delightful companions. At the end, speeches were exchanged by members of the two teams alternately in Russian and English, speeches in which good humour and some deeper feelings were happily blended. A charming Russian lady, Mrs. Svirin, from the Embassy, gave an example of remarkable virtuosity in interpreting these speeches into Russian or English, sentence by sentence, as fluently and often more rapidly than they were spoken.

Each member or official of the visiting team was presented with a leather-bound volume of Shakespeare’s works, each one adorned with the recipient’s name in gilt letters. Shakespeare is greatly admired in the U.S.S.R., and the gift was evidently highly appreciated.

On the whole this visit—the forerunner, we hope, of many more—was a delightful experience. All visitors to Holborn Town Hall were struck by the striking and appealing personality of each one of our guests, which was only matched by their perfect chess manners.

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Date Notes
19 June 2022 First uploaded.