Sarah's Chess Journal

         my journal, blog, web log, blog.....about

         The History and The Culture of Chess

Iron Curtain
February 22, 2004


Russian problemists and composers met  with particularly rough times during the Stalin regime and WWII.


Mikhail Platov ( 1883-193 )  jointly composed problems with his slightly more famous brother, Vasily Nikolayevich Platov ( 1881-1952 ) . These two pioneers of chess composition were originally from Latvia but moved to Russia. Mikhail was and engineer by trade. In 1937, during a meeting at work, he made a somewhat derogatory remark about Stalin. This remark was reported and he was arrested and shipped off to a Gulag in the North where he died within a year.


Alexei Alexeyevich Troizky ( 1866-1942 ) as one of the most famous of Russian composition pioneers. In Lenningrad, he met Chigorin who encouraged his desire to compose and published some of his work. His detailed study of the N+N v. P endgame, years afterwards, formed the basis of changes in the 50 move rule. He became a leading proponent of retrograde analysis. In 1928 the Russian government bestowed on Troizky the title of Honored Art Worker which, by extension, raised chess composition officially to the level of an art form. Troizky died of starvation during the German seige of Lenningrad.


There were three brothers named Kubbel and each was a chess composer. Avrid Kubbel ( 1889-1938 )  was the oldest. An excellent player as well as composer. He once sent some of his composition to a foreign press for publication and for that he was exected by the secret police.
Karl Artur Leonid Kubbel ( 1892-1942 ) was the middle and most renowned of the brothers. Along with Troizky and Platov, he was considered one of the pioneers of Russian composition.
Yevgeny Kubbel was the youngest of the three. Karl and Yevgeny died, like Troizky, during the seige of Lenningrad.


Sergey Mikhailovich Kaminer ( 1908-1938 ) was a chess study composer. His compositions won many first place awards. A few months before he disappeared, he gave his notebook to Botvinnik for safe-keeping. He was apparently executed for reasons unknown.


Petr Moussoury ( 1911-1937 ), an expert problemist, along with his mother, was executed in 1937.


Lazard Borisovich Salkind ( 1886-1945 ), a great Russian problemist, accused of being a Menshevik was convicted and sent to the Gulag for 8 years.

Mikhail Barulin ( 1897-1943 ) was arrested and died in the Gulag.
He had written as a defense of compostions that they should be an art in themselves and not dependant upon practical play.

Botvinnik wrote a repsonse from the official stance, complete with the requisite veiled threat:

"If comrade Barulin thinks that his problem activity is absolutely autonomous and self-sufficing that's bad not for the mass chess movement and not for composition which will develop jointly with actual play; so much the worse for comrade Barulin and for similar composers, who are good for nothing. Theory of art for art's sake is resolutely condemned in the USSR, and our composers are well aware of it."


Nikolai Krylenko ( 1885-1938 ) was the Father of Modern Russian Chess and did more than anyone else to promote the cause of chess in Russia. On the darker side, he was culpable in also promoting Stalin's purges.

Ironically, he himself was condemned in one of these purges and executed in 1938.

(Much of this came from a lecture by Yuri Averbakh  )

Archives by Title



Sarah's Serendipitous Chess Page
The Life and Chess of Paul Morphy
Sarah's Chess History Forum

chess - general

Chesslinks Worldwide

chess - history

Mark Week's History on the Web
Chess Journalists of America
Chess History Newsgroup
Hebrew Chess
Chess Tourn. & Match History
Super Tournaments of the Past
La grande storia degli scacchi
Bobby Fischer
Bil Wall's Chess Pages