How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:54 pm

Simon Spivack wrote:What a blithering glaikit numpty, a gallus chappie wha quotes frae Wikipedia and weens he's eiked oot something.
Ah, thanks. You've restored my faith in human nature. :D

(in case anyone is curious: http://www.scots-online.org/dictionary/)
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Alex Holowczak
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:55 pm

Simon Spivack wrote:What a blithering glaikit numpty, a gallus chappie wha quotes frae Wikipedia and weens he's eiked oot something.
What's that in Cyrillic? :lol:

Ola Winfridsson
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Ola Winfridsson » Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:54 pm

What I meant was that there was no general policy of mass evacuation of civilians from cities (the transfer of the workforce when moving industries beyond the Urals notwithstanding) and in many cases Soviet troops fought for cities when you'd perhaps would have expected a withdrawal. In any event, from what you say of Averbakh's memoirs, it seems pretty clear that he, if nothing else, would have been close enough to hear (and probably also feel) artillery bombardments and bombings. However, I'll say no more until I've read the book myself!

Simon Spivack
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Simon Spivack » Thu Nov 10, 2011 4:49 pm

Ola Winfridsson wrote:What I meant was that there was no general policy of mass evacuation of civilians from cities (the transfer of the workforce when moving industries beyond the Urals notwithstanding) ...
But how could there have been a general policy of mass evacuation of civilians? Barbarossa came as a tactical and strategic shock to the Soviets. We may know of Die Rote Kapelle, Richard Sorge and so on; but the Man of Steel chose to ignore the warnings. From memory, the first time credence was given to the intelligence reports in a way that made a significant difference was when Siberian troops were sent west, units such as the 32nd Rifle Division, which had been raised in Vladivostok, saw action near Lake Khasan and then fought a very sanguinary battle on the sacred soil of Borodino (as I recall, it was without its complement of artillery, such was the rush westwards). Even then, the Soviets replaced these veteran Far Eastern units with freshly raised formations, in anticipation of another Nomonhan War.

Anyone who has read the German accounts of Barbarossa will be aware of the hopeless state of the roads inside the USSR, they were not magically better for the Soviets. There were no Bentleys to hop into and drive off in to safety. Even carts, and particularly horses, could not appear by an act of will. The Soviets relied heavily upon the railways, however, there were only a finite number of engines, only so many trains could be used in a particular section of track. Priority had to be given to the military; notwithstanding this, as stated in a previous post, some civilians were evacuated by train. Infrastructure problems were not a uniquely Soviet difficulty, in May 1940 the tide of refugees clogging the French roads made it very difficult for the French command to coordinate its forces in a meaningful way.

Don't overlook, either, the hatred of many for the Soviets, why would such a person want to be evacuated? Large numbers of people were overjoyed at the Nazi victories, at least until they became more aware of the true nature of Hitler's rule.
Ola Winfridsson wrote:... in many cases Soviet troops fought for cities when you'd perhaps would have expected a withdrawal.
For instance Kirponos, who was in command in Kiev, wanted to withdraw his forces. However, the dictator thought otherwise, until it was too late. In his Open Letter of March 1943 Vlasov gives this disaster as one factor in his disillusionment:
... And then the war broke out. It found me in command of the 4th Mechanised Corps. As a soldier and a faithful son of the Motherland, I had to do my duty. My corps in Przemysl and Lvov withstood the blow, survived it and prepared to go onto the offensive, but my proposals were rejected. The front command - indecisive, chaotic and corrupted by commissar control - brought the Red Army a series of heavy defeats.

I withdrew my forces to Kiev. There I assumed command of the 37th Army and the difficult job of head of the city garrison. I could see that the war was being lost for two reasons: the unwillingness of the Russian people to defend Bolshevik power and the system of coercion it had developed; and the irresponsible leadership of the army, caused by the interference of commissars great and small.

Under difficult conditions my army defended Kiev, for two months we held successfully the capital of the Ukraine. However, the incurable weaknesses of the Red Army had their effect. The front was punctured in the operational area of our neighbouring armies. Kiev was surrounded. The Supreme Command ordered me to abandon our fortified area...
However, as stated previously, the Coastal Army was withdrawn from Odessa. It re-emerged to fight for Sevastopol. It may be very easy to blame Stalin for many unnecessary disasters, but that doesn't make this excuse any less valid.
Ola Winfridsson wrote:In any event, from what you say of Averbakh's memoirs, it seems pretty clear that he, if nothing else, would have been close enough to hear (and probably also feel) artillery bombardments and bombings. However, I'll say no more until I've read the book myself!
There appears to be the mistaken belief that Moscow was subjected to bombing from the air, rather like what happened to London during the Blitz, not so. Paul Carell, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called pro-Soviet, wrote that Moscow was virtually spared from the air. Earlier I mentioned the railways, note that the Soviets used a broad gauge. The Nazis had to convert this to a narrower gauge in order to use their locomotives, which obviously took time. The roads were useless. How could the Luftwaffe operate successfully so far forward? Its aircraft had not been designed for very cold weather. Improvised airstrips had to be pressed into use. In fact, the VVS, the Soviet air force, had more planes around Moscow at that time. It's true that the Luftwaffe had better pilots at that stage in the war than the VVS, however, it is likely that the better Soviet pilots were defending the Soviet capital, and they were operating from well prepared airstrips. Moreover, according to Carell, the Soviets had concentrated their flak batteries around Moscow.

Thus Averbakh might have experienced the occasional air raid, but not such as to make a vivid impression. I should add, too, that it is quite fanciful to imagine that he heard any Nazi artillery, at best it would have been a distant rumble.

I do not see what is difficult in coming to the conclusion that the ChessCafé reviewer knows next to nothing about the Great Patriotic War. His use of sieges being one example. That would hardly make him stand out from his compatriots.

Ola Winfridsson
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Ola Winfridsson » Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:59 pm

Simon Spivack wrote:
Ola Winfridsson wrote:What I meant was that there was no general policy of mass evacuation of civilians from cities (the transfer of the workforce when moving industries beyond the Urals notwithstanding) ...
But how could there have been a general policy of mass evacuation of civilians? Barbarossa came as a tactical and strategic shock to the Soviets.
My point exactly.
Simon Spivack wrote:
Ola Winfridsson wrote:... in many cases Soviet troops fought for cities when you'd perhaps would have expected a withdrawal.
For instance Kirponos, who was in command in Kiev, wanted to withdraw his forces. However, the dictator thought otherwise, until it was too late.
Yes, exactly.
Simon Spivack wrote:
Ola Winfridsson wrote:In any event, from what you say of Averbakh's memoirs, it seems pretty clear that he, if nothing else, would have been close enough to hear (and probably also feel) artillery bombardments and bombings. However, I'll say no more until I've read the book myself!
There appears to be the mistaken belief that Moscow was subjected to bombing from the air, rather like what happened to London during the Blitz, not so. Paul Carell, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called pro-Soviet, wrote that Moscow was virtually spared from the air.

Thus Averbakh might have experienced the occasional air raid, but not such as to make a vivid impression. I should add, too, that it is quite fanciful to imagine that he heard any Nazi artillery, at best it would have been a distant rumble.
I meant nothing of the sort, I was only making the observation that it was perhaps likely that he'd heard artillery bombardment (a distant rumble counts as well) and/or experienced the odd air raid, which in its turn led the reviewer to make his claims.
Simon Spivack wrote:I do not see what is difficult in coming to the conclusion that the ChessCafé reviewer knows next to nothing about the Great Patriotic War. His use of sieges being one example. That would hardly make him stand out from his compatriots.
I'm not sure you actually understand what I've been trying to say. Since I haven't read the book myself yet (and clearly pointed out that I had not yet done so), I was just advancing some theories as to why the reviewer would express himself in the sweeping ways he has. I'm not arguing against you in any way, and I apologize if I failed to make this sufficiently clear.

Simon Spivack
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Simon Spivack » Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:28 pm

Simon Spivack wrote:From memory, the first time credence was given to the intelligence reports in a way that made a significant difference was when Siberian troops were sent west, units such as the 32nd Rifle Division, which had been raised in Vladivostok, saw action near Lake Khasan and then fought a very sanguinary battle on the sacred soil of Borodino (as I recall, it was without its complement of artillery, such was the rush westwards).
A friend of mine has been in touch. I should have made it clearer that the 32nd was heavily reinforced upon arrival in western Russia. It was stronger, both in numbers and arms, than was usual for a Soviet rifle division of that time (1941).

Simon Spivack
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Simon Spivack » Sun Nov 20, 2011 5:26 pm

When is a finesse boring? When it is not understood. Most who have read of Soviet chess history will know of the Sports Committee. Its composition, size and name was subject to change; however, for the purposes of this post, this will be ignored.

On page 129 of the English edition there is an account of how Averbakh replaced Kotov and Abramov as coach and head of the Soviet delegation which was sent to contest the Candidates Tournament on the island of Curaçao in 1962. Alexander Alexandrovich Kotov, the author of Think Like a Grandmaster, will be known to most Western chess players, so I shall just give a sketch of International Correspondence Chess Master Lev Yakovlevich Abramov (1911, Warsaw – 2004, Moscow), the one time head of the Chess Section of the Sports Committee. Actually, some readers may recognise Abramov as the author of several chess books, one of which was translated into English by Bernard Cafferty under the title Chess – Move by Move. There are two Russian language tributes to Abramov available at http://www.64.ru/old/2004/3/mar10.html and http://www.64.ru/old/2001/6/jun18.html . They are by Alexander Roshal and Vladimir Dvorkovich, the father of presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich. There also appears to be published a Russian language biography of Abramov. Apparently he won two awards whilst working for the Defence Committee during the Great Patriotic War. Bernard Cafferty wrote to me:
Bernard Cafferty wrote:I spoke briefly to Lev Abramov at the Malta Olympiad 1980, when we discussed the flaking off of whitewash from the walls of the venue. He had been trained as an engineer like many Russians of the 1930s, and was fine upstanding figure of a man. A civil engineer, I now see. He was reputed to be an authority on the rules and on controlling competitions. I read somewhere that he was trusted by the players since he did not absent himself in the bar like soma arbiters, but was hands-on and walked round the stage of the venue, checking the sum total of time shown by the mechanical clocks every hour or so. Presumably some clocks had a habit of malfunctioning. It is always good when an arbiter is an eye witness of what has happened rather than having to be told by complainants of what has created an incident, since accounts sometimes vary, as we all know.

I recall that Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik said that Abramov phoned him nearly every day, so I assume that Abramov was a supporter of Botvinnik, but there may have been others, higher in the administration who saw Petrosyan as the coming man.
Averbakh in his memoirs writes that the organisers at Curaçao invited the wives of the players and organisers to come to the Caribbean island. The players' wives were allowed by the Sports Committee to come, however, it baulked when it came to the rest of the delegation. Averbakh's wife worked in a defence factory, she could not come for reasons of national security, hence Averbakh was the ideal replacement.

Perhaps I am being true to my east European forbears when I say I find this explanation incomplete, even if it was the official one. Intriguingly, in the Russian, but not the English, edition Averbakh's account of his appointment ends with the folk saying:
Поистине, не знаешь, где найдешь, где потеряешь!
that is
Truly, you never know where you will find (something) and where you will lose (it).
or, in idiomatic English,
What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts.
What is that sentence doing there? As indicated by Bernard Cafferty above, it is possible that others in the Sports Committee supported the players, such as Petrosyan or Geller; Averbakh would have been perceived of as more neutral, rather than a supporter of Botvinnik the Patriarch of Soviet chess (yes, of course, Averbakh played training games with Botvinnik, as mentioned earlier in the book, however, his account of the champion, whilst respectful, is far from being blind to his faults). Blat (pull, i.e. the unofficial use of contacts) could have been a consideration. Note that in 1962 a lot of sports officials who did not live up to their responsibilities or were immature were recalled by Nikolay Romanov, the then head of the Sports Committee. The handover from Romanov to Mashin in 1962 may have had something to do with Averbakh being preferred. Note, too, that Soviet citizens sometimes took cheap items produced in the Soviet Union for sale overseas. In turn they brought back items not easily obtainable inside the USSR for private sale (as given by Averbakh in his book, a chess player could use the prize money he had won, instead of the proceeds from any sales). An embarrassment the Soviets definitely did not want a repeat of was the 1956 arrest in London of discus thrower Nina five hats Ponomaryova for shoplifting. There is a British Pathé film of crowds awaiting her appearance at Bow Street Magistrates court available at http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=66111 .

No reader will be surprised by Averbakh's hint that his assistant was from the state's security organs, nor that the only recorded input from the assistant was to instruct Averbakh to tell Kortschnoj to keep away from the casino, which Averbakh did indirectly, to no avail, by speaking to Kortschnoj's wife. Averbakh later relates how Kortschnoj was punished when the assistant, despite being bribed, made his report.

As an aside, there should have been a note about Yuri Dmitrievich Mashin (1932 – 2006) on page 133, or possibly earlier in the book (he is first mentioned on page 51 of the English edition). He was a relatively young party official who was seconded to the position of head of the Sports Committee (1962 - 68) (The book's use of union sports society, whilst not wrong, is misleading to a Westerner, it was the Sports Committee). He managed to survive the fall of Khrushchev. He was removed just before the Mexico City Olympics, in the vain hope that the Soviet Union would not come second to the United States. There is a brief Russian language obituary available at http://www.sovsport.ru/news/text-item/217165 , also http://www.gazeta.ru/sport/2006/03/14_n_562298.shtml . Note that Averbakh personally spoke on the telephone to this powerful figure, such was the prestige of chess inside the former Soviet Union.

Ola Winfridsson
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Ola Winfridsson » Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:13 am

I've now started reading the book (which I find very interesting) and, leaving the reviewer's knowledge (or lack thereof) of the Great Patriotic War aside, it seems to me more or less unavoidable to put any other interpretation on the last two paragraphs on page 43 of Averbakh's memoirs than that air raids on Moscow, in the earlier phases of the war, were frequent rather than just occasional. That historical facts prove Averbakh wrong is perhaps a matter which a more knowledgeable reviewer could have picked up on.

Simon Spivack
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Re: How often does a reviewer read the book under scrutiny?

Post by Simon Spivack » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:24 am

I am in the middle of playing in the London Chess Classic, this post will be brief.

It should be obvious to any competent reader of the ChessCafé review that its author is literate, thus when he wrote devastating sieges plural, that is exactly what he meant. He was wrong.

There were a few raids on Moscow, which didn't amount to much. If a reader is reckless enough to infer that an air raid is proof that a city is subject to a devastating siege then the London of the Blitz suffered a pulverising siege! A ludicrous conclusion.
Ola Winfridsson wrote:I've now started reading the book (which I find very interesting) and, leaving the reviewer's knowledge (or lack thereof) of the Great Patriotic War aside, it seems to me more or less unavoidable to put any other interpretation on the last two paragraphs on page 43 of Averbakh's memoirs than that air raids on Moscow, in the earlier phases of the war, were frequent rather than just occasional.
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Cromwell.

I presume the sentence Once the bombing started at the end of July, the capital became a front line city in the English language version is being interpreted to mean that the bombing was frequent and heavy. This doesn't follow at all. To me all this suggests is that there were at least two raids, which is true, indeed there were more than two raids. In July, of course, the Nazis reached Smolensk, i.e roughly two hundred miles from Moscow. In August the Wehrmacht changed priority away from Moscow, towards Kiev.

Averbakh mentions that incendiaries were dropped. Naturally there were fires. I quite fail to see how this proves the bombing was frequent. Averbakh also states that more than once, i.e. at least twice, he spent the night in the attic and helped to put out the flames. It is a stretch to extrapolate from Averbakh's experience and conclude the attacks were frequent and heavy.
Ola Winfridsson wrote:That historical facts prove Averbakh wrong is perhaps a matter which a more knowledgeable reviewer could have picked up on.
Alternatively, by Ockham's Razor, Averbakh is being misinterpreted. I have quickly checked the Russian text, I should caution that I am nearly asleep, but I haven't spotted any major differences in meaning between the two versions at this point in time (after the tournament, I may correct myself).

What I do not understand is why is it necessary to guess how the reviewer jumped to the conclusions he did. Ockham's Razor, again, suggests he knows next to nothing about Barbarossa, why do we have to deduce in what way he is ignorant? It strikes me as an exercise in futility and, indeed, casuistry. Reading the mind of another human being is fraught with difficulty. He was the wrong reviewer, but otherwise I have nothing against him and don't care to keep battling so pointlessly. Is it not better to consider the book?

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