URS-USA Radio Match (1945) – Slight Return

First of all,  what is the correct order of the participants?  URS –> Union vs USA -> United, so if strictly alphabetical then URS-USA is correct. On the other hand, Tal-Polugaevsky seems more “balanced” than Polugaevsky-Tal, probably a psychological effect of some kind connected with number of syllables.

Ahem, well, moving on…


I’m glad <WCC> made a comment about the 1945 Radio Match, it turns out that it has the significance of announcing the beginning of a new era in chess. As stated in “The Oxford Companion to Chess” (1984):

In September 1945 the USSR defeated the USA (15.5-4.5), the first important sporting event to follow the Second World War and one that marked the beginning of Soviet chess supremacy.


And from Soltis’ “Soviet Chess 1917-1991” (2000), Chapter 10 – Joining the World:

Until Spetember, 1945, the true strength of the Soviet players was one of the best-kept secrets of the chess world. Only a few masters had competed in foreign tournaments for individuals and the All-Union Chess Section virtually ignored the biennial Olympiad tournaments and the world chess federation (FIDE), which had been formed in 1924, the same year as the section. Western publications occasionally took notice of some massive Soviet event, usually won by an obscure master with a seemingly unpronounceable name. But a 1932 poll of 5,000 fans, conducted by Wiener Schachzeitung, to determine the worldn’s top players, found no Soviets named in the top 12. By the 1940s very few games had been published the Soviet Union of, for example, Alexander Kotov or Isaac Boleslavsky – although they were already among the top 10 players in the world.

This isolation changed radically within days of the end of World War II with the shocking result of the “match of the century”, as the United States-USSR radio match was called. […]


Soltis gives a little information about the mechanics of the match:

The games began at 5 P.M. in Moscow but 10 A.M. in New York – and dragged on because of transmission errors in virtually every game as well as other delays. Igor Bondarevsky said it took 10 minutes for a full move to be sent back and forth, adding more than six hours to the length of a 40-move game. With a time control at move 32, eight of the games from the second round had to be adjourned.


And from “Golombek’s Encyclopedia of Chess”:

An onlooker at the New York end of the match, in a letter to the British Chess Magazine (October 1945) ascribed the American’s team’s heavy defeat to poor or non-existent preliminary training for the event. He also pointed out that it was wrong to put Denker on top board, solely because he had won a rather weak US championship a couple of years earlier and that, had Fine been on top board, he would certainly not have lost so heavily, if at all, to Botvinnik, against whom he had an unbeaten record.

Golombek goes on to note that in a subsequent match (in person this time) Denker was again on board one, and once more lose both games to Botvinnik.


Soltis adds this comment by Botvinnik, after the match was over:

The match ended in a rout, 15.5-4.5, and the Kremlin was pleased: “Unofficially we had passed on to us Stalin’s words,” Botvinnik wrote: “Well done, boys.”


Now, I have all these games in my MillBase collection as well, all of which are marked with round 1. The RUSbase collection gives enough round information that all round numbers can be reconstructed, save for those between Kashdan-Kotov. For example, if you know Denker-Botvinnik is round 1, then Botvinnk-Denker must be round 2. But neither of the  Kashdan-Kotov games have round numbers in RUSbase. Ah, but there is only one such pair unknown, and using “chess common sense” one can deduce the colors by the constraint that USA and USSR must both have the same numbers. That allows Kashdan-Kotov to be determined.

I noticed that the <CG> game collection by <TheFocus>, which is the sole reference given by the <CG> historical page on this match, has all the round numbers. Since <TheFocus> provides no reference notes, I wonder if he did the same exercise as I did above.

Now, with the round numbers all correct, and being careful to correctly normalize the player names (e.g. “Kotov, Alexander” would have age -14, suggesting “Kotov, Alexander A” is the “correct” Kotov  for SCID):

URS-USA 1945 Radio Match
URS-USA, 1945
                             Ti Age Nat    Score       1    2 
 1: Botvinnik, Mikhail URS   GM  33 URS   2.0 /  2   17b+ 17w+  (+2 -0 =0)
 2: Smyslov, Vasily          GM  23 URS   2.0 /  2   18w+ 18b+  (+2 -0 =0)
 3: Kotov, Alexander A       GM  31 URS   2.0 /  2   19b+ 19w+  (+2 -0 =0)
 4: Ragozin, Viacheslav      GM  36 URS   2.0 /  2   16w+ 16b+  (+2 -0 =0)
 5: Bronstein, David I       GM  20 URS   2.0 /  2   20w+ 20b+  (+2 -0 =0)
 6: Boleslavsky, Isaac       GM  25 URS   1.5 /  2   14b= 14w+  (+1 -0 =1)
 7: Makogonov, Vladimir      IM  40 URS   1.5 /  2   13b+ 13w=  (+1 -0 =1)
 8: Steiner, Herman          IM  39 USA   1.5 /  2   15b+ 15w=  (+1 -0 =1)
 9: Lilienthal, Andor        GM  33 URS   1.0 /  2   12b= 12w=  (+0 -0 =2)
10: Flohr, Salo              GM  36 URS   1.0 /  2   11w+ 11b-  (+1 -1 =0)
11: Horowitz, Albert Israel  IM  37 USA   1.0 /  2   10b- 10w+  (+1 -1 =0)
12: Pinkus, Albert               41 USA   1.0 /  2    9w=  9b=  (+0 -0 =2)
13: Kupchik, Abraham             52 USA   0.5 /  2    7w-  7b=  (+0 -1 =1)
14: Fine, Reuben             GM  30 USA   0.5 /  2    6w=  6b-  (+0 -1 =1)
15: Bondarevsky, Igor        GM  31 URS   0.5 /  2    8w-  8b=  (+0 -1 =1)
16: Seidman, Herbert             24 USA   0.0 /  2    4b-  4w-  (+0 -2 =0)
17: Denker, Arnold S         GM  30 USA   0.0 /  2    1w-  1b-  (+0 -2 =0)
18: Reshevsky, Samuel        GM  33 USA   0.0 /  2    2b-  2w-  (+0 -2 =0)
19: Kashdan, Isaac           GM  39 USA   0.0 /  2    3w-  3b-  (+0 -2 =0)
20: Santasiere, Anthony          40 USA   0.0 /  2    5b-  5w-  (+0 -2 =0)
20 games: +8 =5 -7

I had to edit some of the nationalities (SCID doesn’t backtrack in time there, unlike for age), and decided to keep the titles since all players presumably lived to 1950 (and beyond). It should be noted that the FIDE titles SCID uses were only introduced in 1950 (and that SCID doesn’t backtrack the titles in time either).

And finally, before I leave the topic, here is some additional interesting information from “The Oxford Companion”:

Radio Chess, games for which the moves are transmitted by radio. All early games were played at sea, a circumstance that suited the primitive equipment then available. In June 1902 games were played between SS Campania and SS Philidelphia over distances up to 160 miles on the Atlantic Ocean, the first of many such encounters. The first radio match of any consequence was played in March 1941 between clubs in Moscow and Leningrad.

Some erroneously claim the URS-USA Radio Match was the first radio match, which is incorrect – as noted above, it was the Moscow-Leningrad 1941 Radio Match.


Another treatment of the 1945 match, by Bill Wall, can be found here: http://web.archive.org/web/20091028082845/http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Lab/7378/radio.htm

He notes that the match coincided with V-J day.



Here is an informative post <crawfb5> made on <CG> about the match. It turns out that it was extensively covered at the time by Chess Review:

Premium Chessgames Member
crawfb5: <zanzibar> You are never safe from puns anywhere.

The US players mostly confined themselves to comments on the games themselves. Botvinnik did have a short article published on the match, and he thought several factors were responsible:

1) The US players underestimated the Soviets. Everybody seems to agree on this. Little news on what was happening in the USSR chess scene made it to the west, and some of their players were virtual unknowns.

2) The Soviet team was stronger on the bottom three boards.

3) The Soviets were better prepared in the opening. Some of this analysis was not readily available outside the USSR.

4) The US also had bad luck. Botvinnik thought that were the match to be replayed, they could hardly expect to score 3.5-.5 against Fine and Reshevsky again. Also Denker and Kashdan should score better in a rematch.

Barring improvements that might be found in analysis, Botvinnik thought the best game of the match was Horowitz-Flohr.

I then posted some analysis about the Horowitz-Flohr game (let’s see if I can copy/paste that in here):

Premium Chessgames Member
zanzibar: <You are never safe from puns anywhere.> Oh, the horror, the horror!

<crawfb5> Thanks for that interesting info. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m quoting it on my blog page about the match. Thx again.PS- Playing the <Horowitz-Flohr> game over I really didn’t realize how big an advantage White had until this beautiful move:<After 25…e4? (now, sharp for White)>

26.Bb6! <with mate threat, look at coordination of White’s pieces>

Playing back with an engine, it turns out that Black got into a lot of trouble with the e-pawn (should have played 16…O-O-O, 16…Rg8 or 16…f5). Another game where leaving the king in the center gets penalized.

(Also game looks like it was adjourned and Flohr resigned before resuming?)




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