Remembering Ragozin

by André Schulz
10/9/2018 – Many will know the name of Viacheslav Ragozin above all as the eponym of the Ragozin variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Ragozin was a successful tournament player in the 1930s to 1950s, becoming the second correspondence chess World Champion in 1958 and was active as a journalist, arbiter and official. Yesterday was the 110th anniversary of his birth. | Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Ragozin Defense The Ragozin Defense

The Ragozin is being played by every top grandmaster in the world - it is time you also add it to your repertoire to get interesting and dynamic positions against 1. d4!
GM Alejandro Ramirez analyses every single move that White can play once the Ragozin is reached, but due to several transpositional possibilities he always emphasises strategic goals to keep in mind.


110th Anniversary

The name of Viacheslav Ragozin is known to most chess players today only in connection with variation of the Queen's Gambit the named after him. He linked the ideas of Nimzowitsch and the bishop foray to b4 with the structure of the Queen's Gambit, typically leading to dynamic middlegame positions.

Ragozin was born on October 8th, 1908 in St. Petersburg. After his school years, he completed an engineering degree, and in the early 1930s, when Ragozin was in his early twenties, he made a mark for himself through successes in chess — among other things, he won a match against Alexander Ilyen-Zhenevsky, in the 9th USSR championship of 1934, where he tied for 4th to 8th places. Afterwards, he was invited to the big international Moscow tournament of 1935 where he split 8th to 10th place — a good performance for the young master in the heavily occupied field of 20 players.

A year later, in the next edition of Moscow Tournament in 1936 — this time a double-round-robin with ten participants — Ragozin again finished in the middle of the field. His fifth place score included a win over Emanuel Lasker, who lived in exile in Moscow for a while after his escape from Germany in 1933.


In 1937, he won the Young Masters Championship in Leningrad and was shared second at the 10th USSR Championship in Tbilisi. (Between 1934 and 1956 he participated eleven times in the USSR championships with varying degrees of success.) Also in 1937, he was invited to a major international tournament Semmering / Baden (Austria), but only took the shared 6th-7th, 3 points behind the winner, Paul Keres.

In 1939 at the tournament of Leningrad and Moscow Ragozin shared 3rd-6th but his result stands out for including just four draws in a field of 18 participants. Keres took 13th place there. Ragozin's greatest success in tournament chess came after the Second World War, at the Chigorin Memorial 1947, when he was second, just a half point behind the winner Mikhail Botvinnik.

From the 1930s to the 1950s Ragozin worked closely with Botvinnik and played several training matches in preparation for World Championships, some of which remained secret for a long time. 

Excerpt from a training match with Botvinnik

Ragozin was also active in other areas of chess life. From 1946 to 1955 he was editor of the chess magazine of the USSR Shakhmaty v SSSR (formerly Shakhmatny listok). Circulation: 55,000 copies (!). In 1950, Ragozin was awarded the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE and in 1951 he also became an International Arbiter. From 1950 to 1961 Ragozin represented the USSR as Vice President of FIDE.

In correspondence chess, Ragozin was even more successful than in tournament chess. He took clear first at the Second Correspondence World Championships, which lasted from 1955-1958, becoming Correspondence Chess World Champion.

Viacheslav Ragozin died on March 11, 1962 while working on his autobiography "Izbrannyie partii Ragozina". He was only 53 years old.

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson 

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

Avoid Knightmares Avoid Knightmares 10/10/2018 12:09
It is remarkable he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1937. I imagine was terrified of being called a "spy" when he came back home.
ChessSpawn49 ChessSpawn49 10/9/2018 09:00
Looks very much like a staged filming. You should put thought bubbles over the two.........