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MatPlus.Net Forum General Composition in the USSR
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(1) Posted by Michael McDowell [Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010 16:59]

Composition in the USSR

Preparing a lecture for the BCPS on Soviet compositions from the 1930s I have been struck by the scarcity of top class helpmates, selfmates and fairies in contrast to the numerous excellent directmates and studies.

Was it official policy in the USSR in the inter-war years to discourage the composition of unorthodox problems?
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(2) Posted by Vladimir Tyapkin [Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010 18:27]

All non-orthodox problems(h#, s#, fairies) were officially banned after the publication of famous article by Botvinnik in "Chess in USSR" in 1937(?). The article (and a very thoughtful response by Michail Barulin) was reprinted in Shachmatnaya Komposizia magazine a couple of years ago.

I'll get the exact dates, sources and some citations later tonight.
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(3) Posted by Vladimir Tyapkin [Thursday, Jan 21, 2010 03:22]; edited by Vladimir Tyapkin [10-01-22]

The article by M.Botvinnik and L.Spokoiny 'Chaos in chess composition'(Сумбур в композиции) published in Chess in USSR №3, 1936
Authors argued that composition plays a dependent role toward practical chess. They criticized in length modern two-movers (white combinations, line themes) as formalistic, far-fetched, and not related to the practical game.

From the article:
"Our conclusion is .... that chess composition must do a U-turn towards the practical chess".
"Only close to the chess game it will be moving in the right direction according to our goals".
"It's time to declare a merciless war to the formalism in chess problem, as it was done on the front of art".

The reference to art(as well as the title) in the last citation is a hint to 'Chaos instead of music'(Сумбур вместо музыки) article from Pravda newspaper criticizing Dmitri Shostakovich for his "Lady Macbeth" opera.

In particular, they cited the following problem by M.Barulin as an example of "artificial ideas":
(= 13+10 )

#2 1.Qc8

The response by M.Barulin titled 'Chaos in thinking'(Сумбур в мыслях) was published in Chess in USSR №7, 1936
He pretty convincingly answered all the accusations but the forces were too unequal and eventually all non-orthodox problems were banned for years. It started to ease only in mid-fifties.
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(4) Posted by Vladimir Tyapkin [Friday, Jan 22, 2010 03:48]

Update: full scans are now available

Chaos in chess composition

Chaos in thinking
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(5) Posted by Juraj Lörinc [Friday, Jan 22, 2010 11:04]

Thank you very much Vladimir, interesting reading.

It reminded me of some other events (movements, ideas, approaches...) about 20-30 years when I just started to understand the world and Czechoslovakia was still part of the Eastern Block. Fortunately I was still compulsorily learning Russian (thus able to read articles), yet in my 16 years the socialism in Czechoslovakia has fallen and I still had enough time to start learning English seriously at least to some degree (thus able to write this).

Older chess composers in Slovakia indeed remember fights with practical players and especially chess union officials in the tone of Botvinnik article. I was spared of that and I even could start to pursue fairy chess composition totally freely.
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(6) Posted by Sarah Hornecker [Friday, Jan 22, 2010 11:26]; edited by Sarah Hornecker [10-01-22]

We should however not forget that Botvinnik, while having wrong opinions on this, also was not a Stalin-follower, but rather risked his life on saving the studies of Sergey Mikhailovich Kaminer (Сергей Михайлович Каминер) when he was murdered in the "Great Purge" (Chistka) by Stalin's regime on 2nd November 1938. Shortly before this happened, in 1937, Kaminer was aware about the threat to his life and trustfully gave his studies to Botvinnik who saved it until the 1950s to have it published then (or maybe only in 1982?).

In the Russian book Selected studies of Kaminer and Liburkin (Кофман, Р. М.: Избранные этюды С. Каминера и М. Либуркина) Botvinnik is cited on that topic. The issue is recited in German on (permalink: and I think an online translator should be able to give good results.

A bit offtopic maybe, but important to know when talking about Botvinnik.
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(7) Posted by Valery Liskovets [Tuesday, Dec 28, 2010 14:04]; edited by Valery Liskovets [10-12-28]

Rules of Chess Composition, 1992 (in Russian; adapted from 12th ed., USSR, 1990), as if acting currently in Russia:

"Art.4. Non-orthodox composition.... 1. Self... 2. Help..."

"Art.5. `Fairy' composition... (at us is not cultivated)." [formerly: "in the USSR"]

IS NOT CULTIVATED! I remember well this wording from the Soviet times.

See a discussion of the Rules at the Russian-language site .
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Composition in the USSR