Saturday, August 12, 2023

More on Walter Tevis and Chess

Credit: see below

Before The Queen's Gambit (1983) Walter Tevis had published a collection of short stories, Far from Home (Doubleday, 1981). It is - presumably due to The Queen's Gambit - now sold second hand in amazon at absurd prices. One copy in "new" condition is priced at over $1000!

It is noteworthy that Tevis was interested in chess in other stories he wrote. In this collection, the short story "Echo" has an interesting chess connection. The hero used to play chess in school; the fact that another character also recognizes the "Morphy attack in the King's Gambit" is a key point for discovering the other character's identity. 

It is not clear which variation Tevis has in mind. There is a Morphy variation in the King's Gambit (C33) but Morphy often played the King's Gambit in many other variations, too, with excellent results. Like in The Queen's Gambit, then, the chess description in "Echo" is, therefore, somewhat vague and not fully accurate. Edward Winter points out the same is true about The Queen's Gambit, as previously noted on this blog. But in both cases, the description of chess play makes sense in a general way. 

Tevis was a mediocre player and never claimed any special chess, or chess history, expertise. But at least was not an ignoramus about chess or its history. His use of chess in fiction, while not fully accurate, is at least much better than the low standards so often seen. He never described chess as, on the one hand, an incredibly difficult mind challenge only geniuses can play well, and, at the same time, as a trivial game that always ends in a few moves, with one side threatening check and the other replying with a cross-checkmate.  

A New Translation of a Classic Rubinstein Book


Credit: see below

The above book, Akiba Rubinstein, by Yuri Razuvaev and Valery Murakhveri, originally published in 1980, has just (2023) been translated into English and published by Verendel PublishingPhilip Jurgens, who was involved in the translation project, had generously sent me a complimentary copy. The book is a classic of chess history and it is good to finally have an English version. 

Alekhine and Opportunism - II


Credit: see above

By chance, reading an old copy of the Salisbury Review, I found the above article (pp. 34-38, September 1988) with the quote above on p. 36-37. It is a review of Victor Farias (au.), Myriam Benarroch and J. B. Granet (trans). Heidegger et le nazisme (Paris: Verdier, 1987). 

I suggest that what is said in the review of Heidegger is equally true for Alekhine. He wasn't a hard-core Nazi, but he ingratiated himself with the powers that be and refused to own up to his behavior after the war. Then again, that was true for most Germans during the time. This doesn't make either of them blameless, but being guilty of opportunism is not the same thing as being a believer in Nazism. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Alekhine and Opportunism


Credit: see below

A frequent correspondent notes that Alekhine's attempt to ingratiate himself with the new Soviet government after leaving the USSR had not been successful. In the above, Nikolai Krylenko writes to  Stalin and Molotov in that Alekhine sending a congratulatory telegram to the USSR was not sufficient to clear him of his support of the "Whites" (the anti-Bolshevik republicans) during the Russian civil war. On the other hand, adds our correspondent, sending the telegram caused a rift between him and the exiled "Whites" in Europe, which previously supported him as one of them. 

The letter was published in the June 1997 bulletin, p. 141, of Russian chess researcher Sergey Voronkov and is also included in his book based on his Alekhine research project, in Russian, The Russian Sphynx. More details can be found here (in Russian). 

P. S.

For some reasoning the blogger web site misformats the first paragraph in this post. Sorry!