Battle of Moscow defense celebrated

by Albert Silver
12/18/2013 – A small tribute to the defense of the famous Battle of Moscow was held with chess at its center. A small tournament with a rather prestigious clique of players was organized at the Prechistenke Peace Foundation regarding a historic battle with millions of soldiers on both sides. The opening was attended by two world champions, Boris Spassky and Anatoly Karpov. A pictorial and small history lesson.

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Vasily Ovchinnikov, Boris Spassky, a veteran from the Battle of Moscow - Anatoly
Golikov, Eugene Vasiukov, Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Zhukov and war veteran
Ivan Slyusarenko

A small tribute to the famous Battle of Moscow was held with chess at its center. A small tournament with a rather prestigious clique of players was organized at the Prechistenke Peace Foundation to celebrate the heroism of the Red Army in the bloody Battle of Moscow in December 1941. The opening was attended by two world champions, Boris Spassky and Anatoly Karpov, as well as the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, who also took part in the tournament.

Maria Manakova and Alexander Zhukov

Valentina Gunina and Mark Glukhovsky

Mikhail Kobalia and Vasily Papin

Honored trainer of the USSR Alexander Nikitin, also former trainer of Garry Kasparov

Alexander Morozevich and Natalia Zhukova

It was organized by the Russian Chess Federation Commission of Veterans, whose chairman is grandmaster Evgeny Vasiukov and the Association of Chess Federations, presided by Executive Director A. Bach. The well-known chess patron and philanthropist Oleg Skvortsov established a special "surprise prize", which he decided to present the honorary referee of the tournament, tenth world champion Boris Spassky. The prize was for 150 thousand rubles, or roughly 4500 dollars. As per tradition, all participants received Christmas gifts, books, and boxes of premium tea and chocolates.

Natalia attracted her fans Alexander Grischuk and his daughter Masha

Eteri Kublashvili, Natalia Zhukova and Masha Grischuk

Participants choose a book from the bookstore "Biblio-Globus"

Best among veterans was Eugene A. Vasiukov

Winner of the Women prize is Valentina Gunina

Winner of the overall standings is Alexander Morozevich

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky

A short history of the Battle of Moscow

The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (370 mi) sector of the Eastern Front during World War II as the culmination of the German campaign “Operation Barbarossa”. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942 and had a decisive effect on the outcome of the war, in more ways than one.

Fresh forces going to the front

The Axis forces had resolved to put an end to Soviet resistance, by invading their homeland, and the back breaker would be the capture of Moscow, the ultimate objective. The size of the forces for both sides was nothing short of staggering and comprised one of the largest military confrontations ever. At the German disposal were more than one million men, along with 1,700 tanks and 14,000 guns. Facing them were three Soviet fronts formed from exhausted armies that had already been involved in heavy fighting for several months. The forces committed to the city's defense totaled 1,250,000 men, 1,000 tanks, 7,600 guns.

For reasons whose correctness is still debated by scholars and armchair generals today, Hitler had the opportunity to press the attack Moscow in August, in pleasant weather and against an unprepared opponent, but instead diverted the German forces, against the advice of his generals and advisors. As a result the Wehrmacht was only ready for the assault of Moscow in October. History of that battle and the war may have been determined by this.

With all the men at the Front, Moscow women dig anti-tank trenches around
Moscow in 1941

Right from the onset the German army was struck by the first climate issue: not the snow, but the Russian rasputitsa. The rasputitsa, or quagmire season, is a semiannual mud season that affects the plains and unpaved roads due to rains (or snow melt in spring) causing enormous slowdowns for travel. This brought the German progress to a near standstill, and as time passed, the Soviets were able to better prepare for the upcoming assault.

This picture from the end of October 1941 shows the 2nd Panzer Group getting
a taste of Russian mud season as it tries to cross this water obstacle

By November 15, the cold had solidified the ground and the Wehrmacht was able to resume their advance, but progress was slow as the Soviets fought tooth and nail every step of the way. Also, the drop in temperature saw no end, and by December, the temperatures were reported at –36 to –38 °C (–32 to –36 °F). German troops were freezing with no winter clothing, frozen grease had to be removed from every loaded shell and vehicles had to be heated for hours before use. The same cold weather, typical for the season, hit the Soviet troops, but they were better prepared.

A poster rallying the citizenry: "Let's defend Moscow!"

It was too much and on December 5, 1941, the Axis offensive on Moscow was stopped, and the Soviet counteroffensive began. It lasted until January 7, 1942, and though the Soviet forces were unable to finish off the enemy due to exhaustion, the Battle of Moscow was effectively over. The total casualties varies according to sources, but the lowest estimate is one million soldiers, and with some counts as high as 1.5 million. It is widely considered one of the most lethal battles in history, not including civilian casualties.

Short video about the Battle of Moscow with color footage 

The defense of Moscow became a symbol of Soviet resistance against the invading Axis forces, and to commemorate the battle, Moscow was awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1965, on the 20th anniversary of Victory Day. A Museum of the Defense of Moscow was created in 1995.

(Reference: Wikipedia)



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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