Russian legacy to chess

Historical knowledge and information regarding our great game.
Paul McKeown
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Thu May 24, 2012 1:28 pm

John McKenna wrote:Bulletin is French in origin and may have passed directly into Russian since the Russian 'intelligentsia' (itself a Russian import into English) were Francophiles/phones until Napoleon's invasion in the 19th.
Okay - so бюллетень is of French origin. I'm not convinced that it originally entered the Russian language as a chess term.
John McKenna wrote:'Flank' & 'match' are English. The other expressions could be from the French but it's unclear (neyasnaya).
фланг exists in Russian dictionaries as a non-chess - often military - related term. Perhaps you are correct to say that its current usage in chess is an import, though. I suppose that there are other Russian words that could be used to indicate side rather centre. Is flanc used in French chess literature?

матч could be. Could be. What word do Russians use in connection with football? Even then, Russians probably spoke about chess before they spoke about football. You might have one there.
John McKenna wrote:'tourney of pretenders' is undoubtedly from the English as a 'Candidates' tournament' is modern - (though English itself is, of course, full of words of French origin, e.g. tournament).
Not sure. They could have used турнир кандидатов for instance. You might be right, though. I suppose "candidatov" would have had the potential to cause confusion with qualification for the title of candidate master or qualification as a candidate master to the master title itself. The word "pretendent" is probably an import, although in a political/historical context.

It's a difficult subject. Easy to dismiss some words, but hard to prove others.
Last edited by Paul McKeown on Thu May 24, 2012 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Geoff Chandler
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Geoff Chandler » Thu May 24, 2012 1:42 pm

Interesting debate.

I had no idea Mammoth was a Russian word.
So the Mammoth Book of Chess must qualify. :)

A 'Tal like sacrifice' often appears as does 'a Karpovian type move'
and we can understand what the writer means.

But off hand I can think of no Russian word that has crept into regular use.

Edit: I see some lad in the Anand - Gelfand thread has used:
"A Petrosianic 'No RIsk' decision."
Using Russian players who had a particuliar style appears to be the only examples.

Paul Cooksey

Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul Cooksey » Thu May 24, 2012 1:52 pm

Calling Tal and Petrosian Russian players is a bit controversial in itself :)

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Roger de Coverly » Thu May 24, 2012 1:57 pm

Paul McKeown wrote: фланг exists in Russian dictionaries as a non-chess - often military - related term. Perhaps you are correct to say that its current usage in chess is an import, though. I suppose that there are other Russian words that could be used to indicate side rather centre. Is flanc used in French chess literature?
Averbakh translates the Russian word as side in English, Seite in German and flanc or aile in French. We would probably use king side in preference to king's flank, but a book entitled Side Openings would be expected to be about sidelines rather than the 1 Nf3 / 1 c4 complex.

John McKenna
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Thu May 24, 2012 1:59 pm

Yes, the etymology is difficult - take a word we both mentioned in the wider context - intelligentsia - its root is Latin and it probably entered Russian via French then was exported to the West.
Three great upheavals may have influenced the use of loan words in Russian - the Napoleonic invasion may have resulted in the loss of French loan words. The 1917 revolution may have increased German loan words due to Marxism. That may have been undermined by Hitler's invasion (but they still use 'tsoog tsvang').
To find a for(u)m that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. (Samuel Beckett)

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Thu May 24, 2012 2:00 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:We would probably use king side in preference to king's flank, but a book entitled Side Openings would be expected to be about sidelines rather than the 1 Nf3 / 1 c4 complex.
Yes, indeed. King's side, queen's side, but flank openings, flank attack. In flank attack the military connotation of avoiding the main central fortifications is clear.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Thu May 24, 2012 2:04 pm

John McKenna wrote:intelligentsia
I remember Melanie Phillips railing against the liberal intelligentsia once on some dreary conservative leaning blog. I suggested that she was an example of the illiberal unintelligentsia! :D

John McKenna
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Thu May 24, 2012 2:06 pm

RdC >... a book entitled Side Openings...<
Is that a way of avoiding mentioning Flank Openings by RDK!?
To find a for(u)m that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. (Samuel Beckett)

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Thu May 24, 2012 2:09 pm

And, I take it that as Paul is not a Melanie P. fan he avoids R4's Moral Maze.
To find a for(u)m that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. (Samuel Beckett)

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Roger de Coverly » Thu May 24, 2012 2:11 pm

John McKenna wrote:RdC >... a book entitled Side Openings...<
Is that a way of avoiding mentioning Flank Openings by RDK!?
Just suggesting that it wouldn't sound right if it had been called Side Openings. It's possible RDK coined the term to get a generic title for the English, Reti, Catalan and Kings Indian Attack.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Thu May 24, 2012 2:14 pm

It's funny with all this use of the word flank that no mention is made of the Italian import fianchetto, which is a cognate. One word can be imported several times into a language in the same or different form and with different, or subtly different meanings.

John McKenna
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Thu May 24, 2012 3:01 pm

Yes, "Side Openings' sounds terribly American - like a 'side order' of fries. RDK is too much of a gourmet culture vulture to lapse into neologisms for his titles.
(Flank Openings is one of his better prepared oeuvres.)
To find a for(u)m that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. (Samuel Beckett)

John Foley
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John Foley » Thu May 24, 2012 5:32 pm

Paul McKeown wrote: Vodka is one that springs to mind immediately.
It seems that chess and vodka were closely related in the Soviet Empire times. As a Soviet official remarked to Salo Flohr “Under the communists, you either drank vodka or played chess. I don’t know which was worse – but no man could manage both!” Tal restricted himself to vodka rather than beer and responded to the Soviet alcohol awareness program, known as "State vs. Vodka", with the contrarian "I'll play on the Vodka team." Boris Spassky recounted how during the siege of Leningrad his mother found out that his soldier father was dying in the hospital. She sold everything she had to buy a bottle of vodka which she took into the ward. She didn’t recognise him at first due to his being starved. He drank the whole bottle and got up. Lubomir Kavalek escaped from communist Czechoslovakia by bribing the border guards with several crates of vodka he had bought with his winnings at the Akiba Rubinstein Memorial in 1968 in Poland. This brings us full circle for even vodka may be of Polish origin.

I did not anticipate that my initial enquiry would prompt a veritable borscht of erudite responses. Although we have drawn a blank on Russian words in chess, we will always have the Russian spirit in chess.

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Thu May 24, 2012 10:31 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
George Szaszvari wrote:Perhaps Russian doesn't lend itself to having loan words so readily accepted into English as happens with other European languages.
That can't be right. Vodka is one that springs to mind immediately. Never mind bliny, apparatchik, zek, Bolshevik, Menshevik, Kolkhoz, babushka, Gulag, mammoth, pogrom, ruble, kulak, tsar, Kalashnikov, tokomak, beluga, dacha, raskol, ukase, stakhanovite, oprichniki, cheka, KGB, Sputnik, tundra, banya.

I'm sure others could expand this list without trying hard at all....
While you quote some good examples like: tundra=desolate, mammoth=massive, tsar=non-elected presiding officials, I'm not sure about some of the rest. You might be showing off your own familiarity with Russian vocabulary and culture, but it also raises interesting questions about loan words, defining "loan word" itself being a whole different can of worms:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loan_word

So perhaps I was really thinking of "general currency" when I used "loan word". One question is whether all the names used qualify. Take "Vodka". National drinks, dishes, etc, are usually known by the name of their country of origin, as with Greek ouzo, Hungarian palinka and gulyas, Italian grappa and lasagna, etc, so if they are loan words then just about any drink or dish in any language becomes a loan word in every other language. Okay, vodka is more commercially widespread/ popular than most examples, and is made everywhere nowadays, and certainly has general currency.

However, names like Menshevik, KGB, Cheka, ruble, sputnik, are trickier. KGB and Sputnik were very commonplace in talking about Soviet times, but still only refer to those Russian specific things, just as drachma, Parthenon, Soyuz, or the Iraqi Baath Party, which are just names. Are they also loan words? I guess they are.

On our chess related loan word theme, is Comrade Kalashnikov's rifle a chess loan word, as in Kalshnikov Sicilian, or is it just silly British schoolboy humor (mis)appropriating the name of something perceived as dispensing violence? Just like the nonsensical, if humorous, "Frankenstein-Dracula" variation of the Vienna. Come to think of it, aren't Frankenstein and Dracula also loan words? It might be simpler to ask what is NOT a loan word in English.

And I really don't understand dredging up obscure words like Oprichniki, Zek, Beluga as examples since they are hardly common usage.

And I wouldn't be too sure about "banya" since banyo is basic Greek μπάνιο, and doesn't it also have a Latin connection? Hmm, someone else can explore that...

You are always a lively contributor to this forum, Paul, so keep on truckin'. I can see some advantage in trying to close discussions with categorical black and white conclusions, as you seem to prefer, a kind of adversarial approach seeking checkmate, but I have, unfortunately, always had a predilection for looking into as many sides of an issue as possible, soliciting other views, and exploring beyond the routine, a more inquisitorial attitude, but it can tend to start things which are hard to finish, and in today's summer heat (oh yeah, it ain't even summer yet, oh well...) gives me a great big freaking headache... now I need to go finish gathering the ripe fruit in the garden, and then file the hammer on that revolver...and where did that whisky bottle get to :wink:

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Thu May 24, 2012 10:55 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:...
Chess arrived in Russia by 1150 according to Murray, iirc, and quoting Eales, "while Russian historians have claimed very early dates for the introduction of the game there (Savenkov in 1905 tried to push this back to the fifth or sixth century), confirmatory evidence is lacking before the twelfth or thirteenth centuries." Chess was certainly present during western Europe's mediaeval period, but there was little cultural contact between Russia and the west until much later. My impression is, for example, that Ivan the Terrible's famous correspondence with England's Elizabeth, was the first notable official contact between the two countries. Although I may be wrong in that detail, I don't think it wildly inaccurate to say that contacts between Russia and the western world were minimal until the Renaissance period, and even beyond. Peter the Great even moved the country's capital to the shores of the Baltic in order to strengthen contacts with the west.
Well, I guess we can only rely on what we definitely know, even though our history books are often shaped more by our ignorance, so things like "chess was invented in India in 6th century AD" continue to stand even though there is evidence for board games existing before that in Greece, Egypt, etc.. we simply don't know enough about those precursors. In the meantime I'll continue to speculate and will NOT be surprised when an archaeological discovery turns all today's "proof" on its head :wink:
Paul McKeown wrote:...
By the way, yet another Russian import into English: bolshy!
Yeah, that's a good one I haven't heard for a while.

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