"Chess During War" - an exhibition in Moscow

by Eteri Kublashvili
5/21/2015 – Historians estimate that the Soviet Union lost about 27 million people during World War II. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II the Russian Chess Federation organised an exhibition in Moscow that displays documents and materials showing how chess was played during the hard times of the war. Press Release.

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Chess During War

The RCF Chess Museum presents a thematic exhibition celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Moscow, 19 May 2015 – On 19 May 2015 the Chess Museum of the Russian Chess Federation opened the exhibition “Chess during the War. 1941–1945” to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The thematic exposition includes unique documents and materials, most of which are displayed for the first time.

The new exhibition of the RCF Chess Museum, which tells the story of the game during the harsh years of the war, will become a moveable display enabling not only Muscovites and guests of the capital city, but also residents of St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Sochi, Chita and even French Normandy to admire the unique exhibits.

Among the items on display is the only chess book published during the war — the chess manual that went through the entire war with its owner; fragile crosstables of the Leningrad championships that miraculously survived the siege; and even the scoresheet of the deciding game of one of the championships; cardboard chess of besieged Leningrad; and chess-related documents of front-line Moscow.

Chess set from the besieged Leningrad


Tournament table

Items restored for the exhibition include the wall newspaper “Women chess players in hospitals” of 1944, which spend several decades in an inconspicuous roll; photos and documents of top chess players working in hospitals for wounded soldiers; a poster of the Kuibyshev tournament of 1942 that was organized during fierce defense battles in the vicinity of Stalingrad; a 1944 poster inviting pupils to the Leningrad Pioneer Palace and its chess section.

There is also a photo of the Soviet participants in the first post-war international tournament with the fallen Reichstag on the background, which fulfils Samuel Marshak’s promise “We gave a check on the Dnieper and will checkmate in Berlin!” (an excerpt from the poem written for the 13th USSR Chess Championship).

The black-and-white chronicle of the everyday life of chess in frontline dugouts and headquarters, ships and airfields, reports from tournament rooms, chess-related cartoons and caricatures dating from WWII provide clear evidence that even during the most sever tests chess remained an important part of the country’s life.

Playing chess during the war

Abram Khasin, born 1923, lost both legs in the battle of Stalingrad.
In 1964 he became an International Master in over-the-board chess,
in 1973 Grandmaster in correspondence chess.

“It seems unbelievable that people were playing chess in besieged Leningrad and in the course of fierce bloody battles near Stalingrad, and tournament scoresheets were drawn up,” says Andrey Filatov, President of the Russian Chess Federation. “Even during the horrible winter of 1941–1942, newspapers wrote about the results of tournaments, and qualification passes were issued. Each of the exhibits, each table or poster on display not only tells a story about the heroic pages in the history of chess — which in Russia is inseparable from the history of the country — but also presents evidence of the uncrushable spirit of the nation, which during the most tragic days of its history maintained its chess traditions and intellectual resource.”


RCF Chess Museum

Russia’s first Chess Museum was opened on 25 September 2014 in the renovated rooms of the historical manor of the Russian Chess Federation in Gogolevsky Boulevard. The unique collection of rare exhibits and chess artifacts includes more than 4,000 items. The collection of the unique museum, which includes rare chess pieces of various cultures and epochs, personal items of prominent grandmasters, old books, posters, paintings and many more, are the items of the legendary collection of the Leningrad chess collector Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, gifts by chess enthusiasts and distinguished guests, and trophies of Soviet and Russian champions. The Chess Museum is one of many projects by the Russian Chess Federation, which aims to popularize and promote chess in Russia. Along with its trademark project “Chess in Museums”, the Federation implements programs including the development of chess for children, chess for veterans, and creation of grandmaster schools and chess clubs in various regions of Russia.

The Russian Chess Federation (RCF) is a public non-profit organization that brings together individuals and chess federations of republics, regions, federal cities, autonomous regions and districts of the Russian Federation. The mission of the Russian Chess Federation is to promote and popularize chess in the Russian Federation. The RCF was founded on 15 February 1992. Its administrative bodies are the Congress and the Supervisory Board. The RCF Board of Trustees is a collegiate consultative and advisory body that operates on a voluntary basis.

The RCF organizes the annual children’s chess tournament White Rook, the Championship of Russia and other chess tournaments. In 2012, the RCF launched the “Chess in Museums” program.

The RCF develops and implements chess promotion programs, including children’s chess, and facilitate the expansion of the network of chess clubs in Russian regions. The Federation organizes individual and group tournaments in Russia and provides the participation of Russian chess players in international events. It promotes Russian chess internationally and fosters sports ties with national chess federations, national and international organizations, including FIDE.

Kirill Zangalis +7 (968) 732 0080; e-mail: zangalis@mail.ru

Eteri Kublashvili is a chessplayer and reports and photographs from all official tournaments for the Russian Chess Federation.


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