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The Contender
June 16, 2004

Alexander Kazimirovich Tolush (born on January 5,1910 - died on February 3, 1969  ) was a follower of the famous chess patriarch Pyotr Romanovsky, a man who raised his family of daughters while working as a state bank inspector and still made time to to play in 18 tournaments and have 250+ additional serious games between 1924 and 1929 and whose home on Vasilievsky Island became a mecca for future chess hopefuls (Romanovsky was also a talented amateur poet and musician, fond of the romantic chess era but equally comfortable playing in the new hyper-modern style being promoted by Richard Reti whom he met at Mannheim in 1914)

Tolush's contemporaries included Botvinnik, Smyslov, Kotov, Keres, Rauzer, Flohr, Boleslavshy, Liliental and Bronstein, just to name a few.

Tolush was Boris Spassky's mentor, infusing him with the same love of combinational chess that Romanovky inspired in himself.

Here Tolush mates Botvinnik while employing the 19th century Center Game (eventually, Botvinnik finished 1st, Tolush 7th):

[Event "13th Soviet Championship"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1944.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Tolush Alexander"]
[Black "Botvinnik Mikhail"]
[ECO "C22"]

{Center game}
1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 Bb4+
5.Nc3 Nge7 6.Bd2 O-O 7.O-O-O d6 8.Qg3 Kh8
9.f4 f5 10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Qe8 12.Nf3 f4
13.Qf2 Bg4 14.Re1 Rd8 15.Bd3 Qh5 16.Be4 Ba5
17.h3 Bf5 18.Rhf1 Bb6 19.Qe2 Be6 20.a3 a6
21.Bd3 Ba7 22.Ne4 Nd5 23.g4 Qe8 24.Neg5 Bg8
25.Qe4 Ne3 26.e6 Rxd3 27.Qxd3 h6 28.Nf7+ Bxf7
29.exf7 Qxf7 30.Bxe3 Bxe3+ 31.Kb1 Rd8 32.Qc3 Qd5
33.h4 Qe4 34.h5 Rd5 35.g5 hxg5 36.h6 Qg6
37.hxg7 Qxg7 38.Rh1+ Kg8 39.Qc4 Qf7 40.Qb3 Nd8
41.Rh5 Qxh5 42.Qxd5+ Nf7 43.Qe4 Kf8 44.Rd1 g4
45.Ne1 Nd6 46.Qe6 g3 47.Rd5 Qf7 48.Qh6+ Qg7
49.Qh4 Nf7 50.Ng2 Qg6 51.Rd7 Kg8 52.Qe7 b6
53.Nh4 Qh5 54.Qf6 Bc5 55.Ng6 g2
{you're mated, Mikhail Moiseyevich!}


the story...


Tolush was never quite good enough to ever become World Champion. This he accepted. But he had a burning desire to reach a difficult, yet attainable goal - that of Soviet Champion. He was in the running through most of the Soviet Championships in which he played, but it the 24th Soviet Championship of 1957 where his goal was in the palm of his hand.

In this tournament he and Bronstein were tied 13-7 going into the last day. Bronstein was to play Ratmir Kholomov, a pre-war prodigy, while Tolush was to play Mikhail Tal, a rising star.

Tolush was the favorite and was being congratulated by his supporters even before his last game. Tolush was optimistic, yet quite aware the championship wasn't his yet. This was his last realistic chance to achieve his dream and he didn't want to jinx it.

Bronstein drew with Kholomov.

[Event "24th Soviet championship"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1957.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "M Tal"]
[Black "A Tolush"]
[ECO "E81"]

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7
5.f3 e5 6.Nge2 Nbd7 7.Bg5 c6 8.Qd2 O-O
9.d5 c5 10.g4 a6 11.Ng3 Re8 12.h4 Qa5
13.Bh6 Nf8 14.h5 Qc7 15.Bd3 b5 16.O-O-O bxc4
17.Bb1 Bh8 18.Rdg1 Rb8 19.Nf5 N6d7 20.Bg5 Bg7
21.Nxg7 Kxg7 22.Bh6+ Kg8 23.f4 exf4 24.Qxf4 Qd8
25.hxg6 Nxg6 26.Qh2 Nde5 27.Bf4 Nf8
{Tal said his oponent's expression never changed during the entire game, but here Tal could almost feel his opponent's heart skip since: 27...Nxf4! 28.Qxf7+ Kf8 29.Qh6+ Ke7 30.Qxf4 Kd7 gives chances to both sides}
28.Qh6 Neg6
29.Bg5 f6 30.e5 Rxe5 31.Bxg6 Rb7 32.Ne4 fxg5
33.Rf1 Rxe4 34.Bxe4 Rg7 35.Rf6 Bxg4 36.Rhf1 Nd7
37.Rxd6 Qe7 38.Rxa6 Kh8 39.Bxh7 Nb8 40.Bf5 Kg8
41.Be6+ Bxe6 42.Rxe6 {black resigns}

"With olympian calmness Alexander Kazimirovich [Tolush] stopped the clocks and congratulated me on the championship title," Tal wrote. Keres and Bronstein were among the first to add their congratulations to Tal, who had become not only national champion but the 19th  Soviet grandmaster. Only after an hour of animated interviews with reporters did Tal notice Tolush, who had fallen to fifth place, slowly walking to the exit, deep in thought."

adapted from "Soviet Chess 1917-1991"  by Andy Soltis


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