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John Saunders


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Event: Great Britain vs USSR Radio Match • 24 games (USSR won by 18-6) • last updated Thursday May 23, 2024 7:27 PM
Venue: (GBR) The Gambit Chess Rooms, London • Dates: 19 and 21 June 1946 • Download PGN

1946 GB v USSR Radio Match, 19 and 21 June

Bd Great Britain Rd 1 Rd 2 USSR
1 C Hugh O'D Alexander 0-1 1-0 Mikhail Botvinnik
2 Ernst Ludwig Klein ½-½ 0-1 Paul Keres
3 Imre König 0-1 0-1 Vasily Smyslov
4 Harry Golombek ½-½ ½-½ Isaak Boleslavsky
5 William Albert Fairhurst 0-1 ½-½ Salo Flohr
6 Paul M List 0-1 0-1 Alexander Kotov
7 William Winter 1-0 0-1 David Bronstein
8 James Macrae Aitken 0-1 0-1 Igor Bondarevsky
9 Baruch Harold Wood 0-1 ½-½ Andor Lilienthal
10 Gerald Abrahams ½-½ 1-0 Viacheslav Ragozin
11 Eileen Betsy Tranmer 0-1 0-1 Valentina Borisenko Belova
 12  Rowena Mary Bruce 0-1 0-1 Lyudmila Rudenko
    2½-9½ 3½-8½  

[BCM, July 1946, p214-215] "RADIO MATCH v. U.S.S.R — The Gambit, on the morning of June 19th, presented an unusual picture, the walls gaily decorated with the Soviet and British flags and with 12 large demonstration boards on which enthusiasts could follow the moves of each game.

"The Lord Mayor of London, the Minister of Town and Country Planning (the Rt. Hon. Lewis Silkin), Alderman Derbyshire, Sir George Thomas were present and Mr. Silkin welcomed the players in a speech which we would gladly have given in full had this been possible. It was quite the best speech we have heard from a public man at such a gathering.

"We were glad to hear that he has noticed that love of chess in this country is growing rapidly, to use his own words: "perhaps more rapidly as yet than its skill."

"He stated that more people are playing chess in the House of Commons "since the last election" than ever before in his lifetime.

"He wished there would be a chess match between the two governments and if Mr. Bevin and Mr. Molotov were to play a King’s Gambit Declined, they Would have the opportunity of exerting both their aggressiveness and dour resistance, they might even discover the value of the timely sacrifice.

"Mr. Derbyshire in an impassioned speech said that if this match brought the time nearer when Russia would join the other nations in order to control international chess, including the World Championship, it would be the finest possible achievement. He also would have liked the players to meet in the flesh and to experience the thrill of seeing their opponents across the board. A world chess association without Russia was unthinkable, and the speaker expressed the hope that Moscow would accept the invitation to send a delegate to Switzerland this summer.

"After Sir George Thomas and the Lord Mayor had said a few words, the Lord Mayor made the first move in the match 1 P—K 4, on board 2.

"The first round played on the 19th and 20th allayed our fears that our team would be swamped. They were, indeed, badly beaten (7½-2½ and the women 2-0), but there was not one single walk-over. All the games were hard-fought and in many cases the Russian masters were very short of time. At one time Botvinnik had 11 moves to make in 6 minutes.

"Moreover, both Klein and Golombek came very near winning and when the draw was agreed, they were both a pawn up. Fairhurst must be given credit for a very plucky stand when at a disadvantage. The game lasted over 10 hours and 83 moves.

"The Botvinnik-Alexander game was quite sensational as the score below shows. Not often have the champions in an important match played such utterly aggressive chess.

"W. Winter created a sensation by beating Russia’s wonder player Bronstein on his merits.

"None of the other players, though losing, was disgraced. In the second round the British players improved on their performance in the first.

"This time Alexander won; again it was a game of the utmost ferocity—high-class chess at its best. Again Golombek held his great opponent to a draw. Fairhurst, who held out for 83 moves in the first round against Flohr, drew his second game. B. H. Wood had a passed [b-pawn] in an ending against Lilienthal, a precarious asset which he skilfully maintained. A most meritorious draw. Last, but not least, G. Abrahams earned the thanks of his side by turning an apparent loss into quite a brilliant win."

[The Times, 11 June 1946] "CHESS BY RADIO — FIRST MATCH BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND U.S.S.R. — FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT — The first chess match between Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. will be played from June 19 to June 22. The teams are as follows:— [as above plus...] Reserves. [GB] G. Wood, F. Parr, B. Reilly. [USSR] A. Tolush, G. Lowenfisch, V. Makogonov, A. Konstantinopolsky, V. Alatorsev.

"Play in London will take place at the Gambit Chess Rooms, and the proceedings will be opened by Mr. Silkin, Minister of Town and Country Planning, who is a keen chess player. The use of radiotelegraphy will make the match a much speedier affair than the old cable match series between London and various cities in the United States.

"There will also be a match between women players, Miss Eileen Tranmer playing Valentina Byelova, the woman champion of the U.S.S.R., and Mrs. R. M. Bruce playing Ludmilla Rudenko. It is a pity that Miss Elaine Saunders, who played so well at the recent Hastings tournament, is unable to take part. Her university examinations coincide with the date of the match.

"The 10 Russian players constitute a formidable team that is even stronger than the side that crushed the U.S.A. in the first radio match, for it includes one of the contestants for the world championship in the Estonian Paul Keres. It is doubtful, indeed, whether a team could be formed from the rest of Europe that could hold the Russians, and the British players are clearly outclassed."

[The Times, leader article, 28 June 1946, p5] "Wireless Chess — The Anglo-Soviet chess match which recently raged over the ether and between London and Moscow was at one and the same time romantic and a blow to the romantics who regard speed as their deadly and perpetual enemy. There is something satisfying to the childish imagination in the idea of the quiet move of a pawn across a few inches of board setting up immediate agitations many hundreds of miles away, but a sigh for the old days when long-distance chess was carried out by the leisurely medium of the postcard will not be stilled. The charm of Q—Q Kt 4 when delivered by the postman lay in the fact that the challenge was not one which had immediately to be met, and the evening was the sweeter for the prospect of the lengthy process of thought which would go to the checking of the move. The trouble with the wireless match was that it was over too soon. Every excess carries its own reaction with it, and even those who most worship the idea of speed for its own sake would find little to entertain them in a contest between two rocket-propelled machines travelling faster than ear or eye could follow. No one in his right mind prefers the Hundred Yards as a contest to the Mile. In the former the field travels faster, it is true but there is none of the generalship, the timing, and the courage which make the Mile the greatest race there is. Enthusiasts for football claim that, in direct contrast to cricket, their matches at least are finished m ninety minutes and do not realize the enormous compliment they are paying the summer game.

"The unscientific mind can allow itself to run riot when incomprehensible marvels are commonplaces, and, if a man can take an active part in a sedentary game through the medium of wireless, it does not need any great leap of the imagination to visualize him, through television, playing in one which calls for physical activity. Respect for the invention of Jules Verne and the early Mr. H. G. Wells grows with the realization that they were projecting their fantasies into a world which still largely relied for its transport on the prosaic simplicity of the horse. It took nerve then to write of under-water wonders and of time machines, but now even the timid can ask whether one day a bowler might not be able to bowl a televised ball from Australia to be played by a televised batsman in England and for Test Matches to be lost and won without the teams ever leaving the studios. The prospect is appalling, but then so is the whole paradoxical trend of the time which insists that the more we move about the more we shall be sitting still. Great as the exploit was, the first flight over Everest, which had defied all the fortitude and bravery of man on his own feet, played a dubious trick on majesty, and the ideal businessman of the advertisements of the near future may well be shown sailing over that unconquerable peak and, in the intervals of telephoning to his office, dictating to his secretary. Perhaps it is right that the world should accomplish its work at a faster and faster tempo and through the cunning of scientific invention, but at least its games should be spared to work themselves out in the old familiar ways. The broadcast chess match was the success it deserved to be, but the postcards keep their attraction, and the best way of playing is, after all, for the players to meet, man to man, comrade to comrade, across the board."

File Updated

Date Notes
29 April 2018 First uploaded. My thanks to Eduardo Bauza for adding dates and round numbers.