Introduction – What Made Soviet Chess? - 1
1. Up from a Basement - 3
2. Chess to the Workers - 15
3. Big Chess - 26
4. Tough Examiners - 45
5. The New Soviet Man - 63
6. International Moscow - 82
7. The Terror - 102
8. Palaces, Twins and Absolute Champions - 115
9. Barbarossa -137
10. Joining the World - 157
Between pages 194 and 195 there are 16 pages of plates containing 23 photographs
11. Golden Age - 195
12. Invisible Crisis - 245
13. Fischer Fear - 278
14. After Reykjavik - 310
15. Target: Korchnoi - 339
16. Scandals - 370
17. Endgame - 391
Notes on Sources - 421
Bibliography - 425
A Guide to the Pronunciation of Players´ Names - 429
Soviet Dominance of FIDE, July1, 1991 - 431
Soviet Championship Summaries - 433
Index of Openings (ECO) - 435
Index of Players and Opponents - 436
Subject Index - 438-450
What you get in this book is a combination of two stories, one at a national, even world level and the other a saga of the lives and relations of chess greatest players. What I like the most is how Soltis moves back and forth from the “big” story into the small everyday stories of rivalries, partnerships and competitions. On the large scale you see how Soviet chess grew stronger side by side with the growing influence of the Soviet Union in the world. From a humble beginning through the difficulties of the civil war, the party ambitions of the mid 20’s, the Stalinist terror of the late 1930's, Soviet chess arrives to the Second World War, Soviet chess’ worst time and best time. Then come the glorious 1950’s and later the deterioration of Soviet chess marked by the loss of the world title to Fischer and the embarrassments of the Korchnoi – Karpov - Kasparov encounters.
On the personal level you get, not only the life stories of all Soviet world champions but also of other fascinating chess players, opening theorists and chess politicians such as Geller, Stein, Averbakh, Bohatyrchuk, Keres, Zubarev, Udovich, Taimanov, Kotov, Flohr, Lilienthal, Ilyn-Genevsky, Bronstein, Bolselavsky, Veinstein, Panov, Rabinovich, Romanovsky, Kubbel, Petrov and others. Many of these names may be unknown to you but you will find the stories of their lives fascinating and of importance to the subject of chess history.
The book is also packed with games, endgames, tournament tables and match results but in my opinion these only play second and third fiddles to the skillful storytelling of Soltis. I never read another book by Soltis but I know he is considered to be a writer who has great efforts contrasted with real flops. This work definitely belongs to the first group, his wonderful books. The level of production, as with other Mcfarland chess books, is well above anything you expect from a chess book. The book has a hard black cover with the title in classic golden letters. The binding holds firm, no matter how many times you open and close the book (and I used it a lot). I could go on and on endlessly. If only it had cost like the usual chess book it would be ideal but I guess that would really be asking too much.
The Good Things:
The Bad Things:
Quote: “By beating Keres with Black, Botvinnik broke his spirit, Malkin concluded. Botvinnik indicated he agreed when he wrote, ‘This game had not only sporting but also psychological significance.’ Lev Polugaevsky who was 12 when this game was played concluded that Keres was scarred for life by another loss against Botvinnik’s prepared Nimzo-Indian Defense at the 1941 Absolute Championship.”
The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a present to a chess fan you really love then this book is it. I bought it as a special present to… well to myself, and I have been thankful to me for that ever since.
Review written by Chessbug.
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