Photos of the 1935 Second Moscow International Tournament

Our friend Sergey Dubodel, from Belarus, recently forwarded photos of the 1935 and 1936 Moscow International Tournaments. Both tournaments were held in furtherance of the Soviets’ program of Political Chess. In this context, the tournaments were intended to provide forums where top Soviet players could compete against leading Western players, both to gauge the progress of Soviet player development, and with good results, to demonstrate the superiority of socialism in an important arena of cultural competition. In this post, we’ll look at photos from the 1935 event.

Leading the 1935 Soviet contingent was Mikhail Botvinnik, whom Soviet chess tsar Nikolay Krylenko and others saw as the Soviets’ best hope to become world champion. Among the Western players were former world champions Emmanuel Lasker and Jose Raul Capablanca, and Salo Flohr, then viewed as a leading contender for the world crown. Flohr and Botvinnik drew their game and shared first place.

1935 Second Moscow International Tournament participants, with Nikolay Krylenko. Krylenko is in the middle right foreground, with the oversized head and jackboots. To his right (our left) is Emmanuel Lasker. To his left (our right) is Salo Flohr. Second from our left in the front row is Jose Raul Capablanca. Botvinnik is in the rear row to our far left. Photographer unknown.

The tournament is significant for collectors of Soviet chess sets for three reasons. First, it is an important manifestation of Political Chess, the engine driving the train for the growing production of Soviet chess sets and the evolution of their design towards simpler, more easily mass-produced pieces. We have explored these relationships here. Second, it showcased the pieces used, a design that became a workhorse for Soviet chess at its highest levels through decades in its evolving forms, as we have reviewed here. Finally, it is the event whose joint winners’ names have come to describe the pieces used for reasons we have discussed here , here, and here.

Botvinnik Flohr II chess pieces, c. 1935. Steven Kong photo.
Flohr and Botvinnik. Source: 1935 Tournament Book.

The Botvinnik-Flohr game can be found here.

Capablanca and Lasker. Photographer unknown.

Lasker beat Capablanca to edge him by half a point for third place. Their game can be found here. Capablanca finished in fourth place. Lasker finished half a point behind Botvinnik and Flohr.

Capablanca and Botvinnik drew. Their game can be found here.

Spielman and Alatortsev. Photographer unknown.

Austrian Rudolph Spielman beat Vladimir Alatortsev in this game and finished in fifth place, one point behind Capablanca.

Flohr and Alatortsev. Photographer unknown.

Flohr and Alatortsev drew this game. Alatortsev finished in 11th place.

Vera Menchik was the only woman participant. She finished in last place, scoring three draws, including this game with the White pieces against Flohr.

Many thanks to Sergey Dubodel for sharing these photos with us.

Author: Chuck Grau

I'm a chess collector, chess player, and retired attorney. I've been collecting Soviet and Russian chess sets since 2014. I'm interested in their history, design, and the people who made and played with them.

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