|Full name||Vladimir Alexeyevich Alatortsev|
May 14, 1909|
Turki, Saratov oblast, Russian Empire
|Died||January 13, 1987
Moscow, Soviet Union
|Title||International Master (1950) Grandmaster (1983)|
Vladimir Alexeyevich Alatortsev (Russian: Влади́мир Алексе́евич Ала́торцев, pronounced "a LAH tart sev") (May 14, 1909 in Turki, Saratov oblast, Russian Empire – January 13, 1987 in Moscow, Soviet Union), was a Russian chess grandmaster, organizer, teacher, author, and administrator. During his career, he became champion of both Leningrad and Moscow, and played in the Soviet Chess Championship finals nine times, with his best competitive results in the 1930s. He placed clear second in the 1933 Soviet final. He retired from most competitive play in the early 1950s, moving into roles as a chess organizer, teacher, and coach. He served as Chairman of the All-Union chess section from 1954 to 1959 and as chairman of the USSR Chess Federation from 1959 to 1961. By profession, he was a hydraulics engineer.
Early years, peaks pre-war
Vladimir Alexeyevich Alatortsev was an early Leningrad chess rival of Mikhail Botvinnik, who later became World Champion. However, Botvinnik, who was two years younger, established complete dominance over Alatortsev right from the start, and wound up with a 9-0 lifetime won-loss score with two games drawn.
Alatortsev's first important high-level result was an excellent shared 3rd-6th place in the Soviet Championship, Moscow 1931 (URS-ch07), with 10/17; Botvinnik won. Alatortsev was again runner-up to Botvinnik in the 1932 Leningrad Championship with 7/11. Alatortsev made his best Soviet Championship result in 1933 at Leningrad (URS-ch08), when he placed clear second with 13/19, as Botvinnik won his second title. At Tbilisi 1933, he tied for 1st-2nd places with Viktor Goglidze at 10/14.
Alatortsev shared the Leningrad title in 1933–34 with Georgy Lisitsin on 11/15. But he had a disappointing result in the 1934 Leningrad International with 4.5/11, as Botvinnik won to continue his dominance. He scored 7/13 in the Leningrad National tournament in May 1934 for 8th place, as Ilya Rabinovich won. In the 1934 Soviet Championship at Leningrad (URS-ch09), he scored 10.5/19 for a tied 5th-8th place; Grigory Levenfish and Ilya Rabinovich won. He earned a place in the 1935 Moscow International tournament, the strongest Soviet event since 1925, and finished with a very good even score of 9.5/19, as Botvinnik and Salo Flohr won.
Alatortsev drew a 12-game match (+4 =4 −4) with the very strong Hungarian Andor Lilienthal in 1935. He was jointly champion of Moscow in both 1936 and 1937. Then in the 1937 Soviet Championship at Tbilisi (URS-ch10), Alatortsev made 9.5/19 to tie 10th-12th places.
Alatortsev posted his second best pre-war result when he tied for 1st-2nd places with Leonid Shamaev in a strong tournament at Leningrad 1938, with 14/21, ahead of Lilienthal and Viacheslav Ragozin. Chessmetrics.com ranks this as a 2684 performance. In the Leningrad-Moscow tournament of 1939, Alatortsev tied for 9th-10th places on 9/17, as Flohr won.
He had to qualify for the next Soviet final, and in the semi-final at Kiev 1940, he scored 9.5/16 to tie for 4th-7th places, but did not advance to the final, losing out on tiebreak. Chessmetrics ranks him as #21 in the world for August 1940, with a rating of 2626.
The Second World War came to the Soviet Union in June 1941, putting a stop to most organized chess for the next several years; but Alatortsev's solid pre-war results earned him an invitation to a strong event at Kuibyshev 1942. He made 6.5/11 for seventh place, as Isaac Boleslavsky won. He then scored 7/15 at the 1942 Moscow Championship.
Post-war form drops
With the Nazi invaders in full retreat by 1944, organized chess slowly got going again in the Soviet Union. Alatortsev struggled in the 1944 Soviet Championship at Moscow (URS-ch13) with just 5.5/16 for 16th place, as Botvinnik won. He had to return to qualifying for the next Soviet final, and made it through at Moscow in the semi-final with 10.5/15 to tie for 2nd-4th places, as David Bronstein won. In the final that same year in Moscow (URS-ch14), he scored just 7.5/17, as Botvinnik dominated the field.
Alatortsev played 'hors concours' in the 1945 Latvian Championship at Riga, and won the tournament (but not the title). He scored 8.5/15 in the 1946 Moscow Championship to tie 4th-5th places, as Bronstein won again. He was below 50 per cent for the next two Soviet finals as well; in URS-ch15 at Leningrad 1947, he made 7.5/19, as Paul Keres won, and then in URS-ch16 at Moscow 1948, he finished well down with 7.5/18, as Bronstein and Alexander Kotov won. Alatortsev qualified successfully through the semi-final at Moscow 1949 with 9.5/16, and then he played his last Soviet Championship final, URS-ch18 at Moscow 1950, scoring a good 9/17 to tie for 7th-10th places, as Keres won.
It was clear that the new generation of Soviet players was taking over the top places in tournaments. Players such as Alexander Kotov, Isaac Boleslavsky, David Bronstein, Efim Geller, Yuri Averbakh, Tigran Petrosian, and Mark Taimanov were all younger and had the benefits of organized Soviet training, so they surpassed the older generation in their achievements. Alatortsev moved into a training role in the late 1940s, assisting the rising star Vasily Smyslov. He also became involved in tournament organization and administration. Alatortsev was awarded the title of International Master by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, in 1950, when this title was introduced officially.
Alatortsev stopped playing major tournaments in the early 1950s, but occasionally took part in lesser events. He served as head of the Soviet Chess Federation from 1954 to 1961, during a time when there were about three million registered Soviet players. From 1943 to 1974, he was the editor of a chess column in the newspaper Vechernaya Moskva. In 1960, he published the book Modern Chess Theory. His final strong tournament was Tbilisi 1965, where at age 56 he made a respectable 8/17.
Alatortsev never got the opportunity to compete outside the Soviet Union. He was awarded an Honorary Emeritus Grandmaster title by FIDE in 1983. This was clearly well deserved, since his win at Leningrad 1938 and his second place in the Soviet Championship 1933 were definitely strong Grandmaster results. Alatortsev died at age 77, on January 13, 1987. There is a photo of him at chessgames.com, which also has a selection of 231 of his games. Alatortsev favoured the Closed Openings with White, and his style could be characterized as solid and positional, resorting to tactics only when necessary.
Notable chess games
- Vladimir Alatortsev vs Viktor Goglidze, USSR Championship, Moscow 1931, Queen's Gambit Declined, Barmen Variation (D37), 1-0 Black sacrifices a piece for a dangerous attack, but perfect defence by White proves it to be unsound.
- Vasily Panov vs Vladimir Alatortsev, USSR Championship, Leningrad 1934, French Defence, Winawer Variation (C18), 0-1 This sharp line was becoming fashionable, and this was one of the key early games showing that it was viable for Black.
- Vladimir Alatortsev vs Grigory Levenfish, Leningrad 1934, Queen's Gambit Declined, Slav Defence (D11), 1-0 Patient strategical triumph over a very strong player, keyed by queenside passed pawns.
- Vladimir Alatortsev vs Andor Lilienthal, Leningrad Championship 1938, Grunfeld Defence, Exchange Variation (D85), 1-0 A bit of an offbeat line seems to catch Black off-guard.
- Paul Keres vs Vladimir Alatortsev, Leningrad-Moscow 1939, Queen's Gambit Declined, Slav Defence (D30), 0-1 Keres had tied for first in the super-strong AVRO event a few months earlier.
- David Bronstein vs Vladimir Alatortsev, USSR Championship, Moscow 1944, Ruy Lopez, Closed (C92), 0-1 Bronstein was one of the most promising of the new wave of Soviet players which would dominate chess after the war.
- In the ECO database, the D31 line of the Queens Gambit Declined is named for Alatortsev.
- D31 QGD: Alatortsev, 5.Bf4