Russian legacy to chess

Historical knowledge and information regarding our great game.
George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Thu May 24, 2012 11:00 pm

John Foley wrote:
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.
And I will join Blackburne in spirit in downing a glass of whisky to that. Cheers to you for starting an interesting thread!

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Fri May 25, 2012 1:47 am

The name Bronstein appeared earlier but, as far as I can see, has not been mentioned in association with digital clocks. 'Bronstein' mode is inscribed on the base of most game timers.

(This may be an appropriate place to mention a certain blogger's review of V. Tukmakov's autobiography - Profession: Chessplayer - the book comes in for a tiny amount of criticism because the two translators did not have their translation polished by a native speaker. I think not doing so retains a certain Russian flavour.)
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 » Fri May 25, 2012 11:55 am

John McKenna wrote:The name Bronstein appeared earlier but, as far as I can see, has not been mentioned in association with digital clocks. 'Bronstein' mode is inscribed on the base of most game timers.
You might have the one there that John Foley was originally looking for: Bronstein clock. That's of Russian origin.

AustinElliott
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by AustinElliott » Fri May 25, 2012 12:01 pm

Talking of Bronstein, one might also credit him for a major influence on two other things:

(i) chess masters taking on chess-playing computers; and

(ii) masters playing 'serious' games at shorter-than-classical time limits.

You could perhaps also add 'players explaining their thinking to the spectators during or after the game' (see e.g. the format of something like TV's The Master Game, and compare Bronstein's match against Tal in the 60s for the Soviet paper Izvestia).

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Fri May 25, 2012 12:28 pm

George Szaszvari wrote:You might be showing off your own familiarity with Russian vocabulary and culture


I thought we were having a conversation about Russian vocabulary. My bad.
George Szaszvari wrote:KGB and Sputnik were very commonplace in talking about Soviet times, but still only refer to those Russian specific things
KGB is often used metaphorically in English. Sputnik has been used as a generic term for artificial satellite, although its usage seems to have diminished and may now be obsolescent in that usage, if not obsolete.
George Szaszvari wrote: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?
Kalashnikov and AK-47 are pretty universally understood for assault rifle generically as well as specifically. Like Uzi, for instance. Whether that is juvenile or bloodthirsty is for personal judgement. I thought in your adopted red neck persona, you were in favour of that sort of thing?
George Szaszvari wrote: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.
I thought we were originally dealing with the matter of Russian chess vocabulary potentially imported into English. I spot a rat hole.
George Szaszvari wrote:And I really don't understand dredging up obscure words like Oprichniki, Zek, Beluga as examples since they are hardly common usage.
Hmmm. I had to brush the dust of my Chambers, just an ordinary, everyday, single volume dictionary of the English language. Nothing fancy.
zek zek, n an inmate of a prison or labour camp in the former USSR. [Russ. slang, poss. from abbrev zk for zaklyuchënniy prisoner]
beluga bi-loo'ga, n the white whale, one of the dolphin family, closely allied to the narwahl, found in Arctic seas; the great Russian sturgeon, as source of caviare, Acipenser huso. [Russ. beliy white]
Neither zek, nor beluga are particularly obscure words. Anyone who has ever read Ivan Denisovich or Archipelago will have the word zek stamped on their soul. As for beluga, what else do you call the flipping white whale or the sturgeon or the caviare? Oprichniki is not in Chambers, so perhaps I might concede that point. I would not be surprised to find it in the Oxford two volume dictionary: it isn't that obscure a word. I had thought, by the way, an astute reader would have noticed the list within a list: oprichniki, cheka, KGB.

I note that you ignored the second list of words I provided "sable", "troika", "Kremlin", "agitprop", "intelligentsia", "balalaika", "duma" and "kopeck". Would you really class them as obscure?
George Szaszvari wrote: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
Oh, wibble.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Fri May 25, 2012 12:51 pm


Paul McKeown
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Fri May 25, 2012 1:42 pm

George Szaszvari wrote:Well, I guess we can only rely on what we definitely know
That sounds hopeful...
George Szaszvari wrote:even though our history books are often shaped more by our ignorance
Not sure about that. Reliable history makes clear what is known to be true and what is known to be false, according to reliably documented evidence, and what is conjecture.
George Szaszvari wrote:so things like "chess was invented in India in 6th century AD" continue to stand
That's what the evidence suggests.
George Szaszvari wrote:even though there is evidence for board games existing before that in Greece, Egypt, etc.
Yes, many board games are known to have existed before chess, some in India, others in many other parts of the world. None of them were chess, though.
George Szaszvari wrote:we simply don't know enough about those precursors.
Oh, here we go.
George Szaszvari wrote: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
You could ask Carl to start a pseudo-science section on the forum. The rest of us will continue to rely on Murray and his predecessors, who carried out the hard slog of digging out and translating ancient Arab, Farsi and Sanskrit sources and making a coherent history from them, whilst weeding out all the bizarre fact-free false narratives about the invention of chess by Xerxes or the Greeks or Romans or by the Chinese, Russians or whoever.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by David Sedgwick » Fri May 25, 2012 2:03 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
John McKenna wrote:The name Bronstein appeared earlier but, as far as I can see, has not been mentioned in association with digital clocks. 'Bronstein' mode is inscribed on the base of most game timers.
You might have the one there that John Foley was originally looking for: Bronstein clock. That's of Russian origin.
Bronstein once told me that an electronic clock was available for his match with Botvinnik in 1951. He wanted to play with it, but Botvinnik refused.

I can't recall whether or not he had been involved with the design of the clock.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Fri May 25, 2012 9:25 pm

It strikes me that "candidate master", meaning a player with a demonstrated high standard of play, who, with motivation, work and aptitude, has the opportunity to become a master, might be a chess related term imported into English from Russian.

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Fri May 25, 2012 10:47 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
George Szaszvari wrote:You might be showing off your own familiarity with Russian vocabulary and culture

I thought we were having a conversation about Russian vocabulary. My bad.
The context here is your "showing off"... but I guess you don't really do that, do you...my bad.
George Szaszvari wrote:KGB and Sputnik were very commonplace in talking about Soviet times, but still only refer to those Russian specific things
Paul McKeown wrote:KGB is often used metaphorically in English. Sputnik has been used as a generic term for artificial satellite, although its usage seems to have diminished and may now be obsolescent in that usage, if not obsolete.
In my experience, "Gestapo" is used metaphorically in that role, although KGB could well be used, too. "Sputnik" might have had some currency around the time of its launch, but, if so, yes, is definitely obsolete.
Paul McKeown wrote:Kalashnikov and AK-47 are pretty universally understood for assault rifle generically as well as specifically. Like Uzi, for instance. Whether that is juvenile or bloodthirsty is for personal judgement. I thought in your adopted red neck persona, you were in favour of that sort of thing?
Using "Kalashnikov" for *any* assault rifle would sound really strange to people who have any familiarity with firearms (there are a lot of different assault rifles out there, even if the AK-47 is the most well known,) but I suppose it might have currency with those who have no familiarity with guns and ammo. Or just laziness, a bit like how any paper/tissue hanky used to be called a "Kleenex", and other typical misnomers, perhaps? BTW "Uzi" is a submachine gun. For the most part Wikipedia tends to explain guns, ammo and ballistics stuff pretty well for anyone wishing to clue up on the subject.
George Szaszvari wrote: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.
Paul McKeown wrote:I thought we were originally dealing with the matter of Russian chess vocabulary potentially imported into English. I spot a rat hole.
Yes, we were originally dealing with the matter of Russian chess vocabulary potentially imported into English. I'm only suggesting as an interesting aside that English is largely, if not mostly, made up of foreign loan words, and implying that every foreign word that any English speaker comes across and considers could well be loan word. But perhaps you don't realize that I'm not competing with anyone on this thread? It is just an interesting discussion where I'm learning a lot and being entertained at the same time, and if I like to inquire beyond the context and sometimes ramble, even up dead ends occasionally, so be it (wasn't all this clearly stated earlier on this thread?) When one uses an expression like "rat hole" one needs remember that people tend to judge others by their own standards.
Paul McKeown wrote:Hmmm. I had to brush the dust of my Chambers, just an ordinary, everyday, single volume dictionary of the English language. Nothing fancy.
Okay, so you had to dredge your dusty Chambers up, suggesting that the three examples didn't exactly roll off your tongue...
Paul McKeown wrote:
zek zek, n an inmate of a prison or labour camp in the former USSR. [Russ. slang, poss. from abbrev zk for zaklyuchënniy prisoner]
beluga bi-loo'ga, n the white whale, one of the dolphin family, closely allied to the narwahl, found in Arctic seas; the great Russian sturgeon, as source of caviare, Acipenser huso. [Russ. beliy white]
Neither zek, nor beluga are particularly obscure words. Anyone who has ever read Ivan Denisovich or Archipelago will have the word zek stamped on their soul. As for beluga, what else do you call the flipping white whale or the sturgeon or the caviare? Oprichniki is not in Chambers, so perhaps I might concede that point. I would not be surprised to find it in the Oxford two volume dictionary: it isn't that obscure a word. I had thought, by the way, an astute reader would have noticed the list within a list: oprichniki, cheka, KGB.
...but now there is nothing particularly obscure about them...except now Oprichniki? Hmmm. And I did not ignore your other examples, which were mostly pretty good...
BTW Apart from the ubiquitous types of fish roe, I've only knowingly eaten Russian "caviare" once, in Hungary in the 80s, courtesy of a friend, but I didn't see the packaging label, so although "beluga" kind of rang a bell (lots of words do that to me nowadays), it isn't part of my own vocabulary (which has admittedly diminished considerably in the last decade,) but, thanks to you, perhaps "beluga" now is! I've read some Solzhenitsyn (a long time ago, I don't even remember which titles any more) but evidently didn't retain any Russian terms that weren't already in common usage.

Paul McKeown wrote:Oh, wibble.
oh, wobble.

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Fri May 25, 2012 11:21 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
George Szaszvari wrote:even though our history books are often shaped more by our ignorance
Not sure about that. Reliable history makes clear what is known to be true and what is known to be false, according to reliably documented evidence, and what is conjecture.
Reliable history? :P

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by Paul McKeown » Sat May 26, 2012 12:59 am

George Szaszvari wrote:
Paul McKeown wrote:
George Szaszvari wrote:You might be showing off your own familiarity with Russian vocabulary and culture

I thought we were having a conversation about Russian vocabulary. My bad.
The context here is your "showing off"... but I guess you don't really do that, do you...my bad.
Let me quote from John Foley's original post:
We have chess expressions in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Arabic, Yiddish, Persian etc. However, as far as I am aware there appears to be very little which we have inherited from historically the greatest chess playing nation of them all - Russia. Of course, they have provided plenty of theory and names of openings which stem from Russia, but not basic concepts. Is this because the language of chess had already been established by the time the Soviet Union geared up its efforts? Or did the Soviets keep their thoughts to themselves? Does anybody know?
So, it is clear that this thread concerned Russian vocabulary. You accuse others wishing to deal with an interesting subject of showing off, because they happen to know a few Russian words, which you happen not to? Especially in the context of your having promoted a cockamamie theory that the Russian language does not lend itself to having words adopted by other languages, a theory which the briefest reflection is able to refute?
George Szaszvari wrote:Using "Kalashnikov" for *any* assault rifle would sound really strange to people who have any familiarity with firearms (there are a lot of different assault rifles out there, even if the AK-47 is the most well known,) but I suppose it might have currency with those who have no familiarity with guns and ammo. Or just laziness, a bit like how any paper/tissue hanky used to be called a "Kleenex", and other typical misnomers, perhaps? BTW "Uzi" is a submachine gun. For the most part Wikipedia tends to explain guns, ammo and ballistics stuff pretty well for anyone wishing to clue up on the subject.
It is irrelevant whether you think it lazy or not. The question was whether the word had been adopted into English language use. Plainly it has.
George Szaszvari wrote:
Paul McKeown wrote:Hmmm. I had to brush the dust of my Chambers, just an ordinary, everyday, single volume dictionary of the English language. Nothing fancy.
Okay, so you had to dredge your dusty Chambers up, suggesting that the three examples didn't exactly roll off your tongue...
That is a comical example of argumentative nonsense. I suggest some words in an illustrative post taking all of a minute to write, you say, "I don't know these words, these aren't words, show off, na na na na." So, I do a sanity check, ask myself whether they are in a modest dictionary that is no doubt familiar to many forum members and now, with lunatic illogic, you come back saying that that proves the words weren't already familiar to me? That is rather pathetic.

The point is surely clear, that Russian has contributed a great deal to the English language and to the culture of English speaking peoples. To propose that the reason that words of Russian language are not used in speaking about chess in English is as a result of some unique difficulty absorbing Russian words is thus readily disproved.

This correspondence about the uptake of Russian words in a general sense into English has, sadly, dominated this thread. For my part, I consider further discussion of the point unlikely to shine light on the actual topic of the thread. Whether you choose to belabour the point further is for you to decide.

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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by John McKenna » Sat May 26, 2012 1:44 am

Hi George & Paul, John here - all we need is Ringo and we can form a quartet!?
Paul emphasises the 'known knowns' and George warns of 'known (and unknown) unknowns'.
John Foley asked an interesting question about a Russian chess legacy. Apart from a 'nomenklatura' (e.g. Alekhine, Bronstein... Leningrad, Moscow... Zaitsev) of openings, all we have is 'candidate master' from Paul. There are thriving US chess communities with many Russians, hasn't any Russian legacy emerged there, George? (How about 'priem'?)
To find a for(u)m that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now. (Samuel Beckett)

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Sat May 26, 2012 6:47 am

Paul McKeown wrote: So, it is clear that this thread concerned Russian vocabulary. You accuse others wishing to deal with an interesting subject of showing off, because they happen to know a few Russian words, which you happen not to? Especially in the context of your having promoted a cockamamie theory that the Russian language does not lend itself to having words adopted by other languages, a theory which the briefest reflection is able to refute?
I'm glad you "refuted" it, Paul, but there was really nothing to "refute", was there? You are taking this far too personally and getting a tad over emotional about the whole thing. In a conversational spirit I suggested an offhand possibility, prefaced by a "perhaps", with the sole intention of keeping the ball rolling in an interesting thread and soliciting informed replies. True, I didn't really think about it enough at the time since it was a bit late and I had other stuff on my mind. So you need to lighten up and understand that such things happen to the best of us. Personally, it doesn't bother me at all. Overreacting and name calling doesn't further anything for anybody here. I have to assume you're highly strung right now for some reason, and it's all been seen a zillion times before here and elsewhere, so I'm NOT taking anything here personally.
George Szaszvari wrote:Using "Kalashnikov" for *any* assault rifle would sound really strange to people who have any familiarity with firearms (there are a lot of different assault rifles out there, even if the AK-47 is the most well known,) but I suppose it might have currency with those who have no familiarity with guns and ammo. Or just laziness, a bit like how any paper/tissue hanky used to be called a "Kleenex", and other typical misnomers, perhaps? BTW "Uzi" is a submachine gun. For the most part Wikipedia tends to explain guns, ammo and ballistics stuff pretty well for anyone wishing to clue up on the subject.
Paul McKeown wrote:It is irrelevant whether you think it lazy or not. The question was whether the word had been adopted into English language use. Plainly it has.
You might have it used or heard it like that, Paul, but I don't recall anyone use Kalashnikov or AK-47 in the manner you mean, even in previous decades back in the UK when I knew absolutely nothing about firearms. Over here it would be regarded as simply ignorant. I grant it might be possible among people unfamiliar with such things, like someone growing up on a desert island, then coming into contact with the outside world to some extent and hearing about "Ford" cars, and subsequently calling every kind of similarly sized automobile a Ford, whether it was a Toyota, or BMW, or whatever.

It might be said that your "irrelevant" comment on my aside about laziness contributing to usage is somewhat worse than irrelevant. I find it a big contributor to how language is (ab)used, including foreign loan words.
George Szaszvari wrote:
Paul McKeown wrote:Hmmm. I had to brush the dust of my Chambers, just an ordinary, everyday, single volume dictionary of the English language. Nothing fancy.
Okay, so you had to dredge your dusty Chambers up, suggesting that the three examples didn't exactly roll off your tongue...
Paul McKeown wrote: That is a comical example of argumentative nonsense. I suggest some words in an illustrative post taking all of a minute to write, you say, "I don't know these words, these aren't words, show off, na na na na." So, I do a sanity check, ask myself whether they are in a modest dictionary that is no doubt familiar to many forum members and now, with lunatic illogic, you come back saying that that proves the words weren't already familiar to me? That is rather pathetic.


Paul, all you had to do was say it was simply a "sanity check" without the tantrum and name calling. I actually suspected as much, added the thoughtful "hmm" in the continuation of that sentence further down, which admittedly had an element of teasing, and awaited your clarification, so it's a bit rich to claim I was trying to "prove" anything. I also admitted it was "my bad" at the beginning, and if that seemed a mite sarcastic to you, I was simply returning your own choice of tone back to you.

I could have taken issue with other examples, like "Kremlin" (=fortress) having never heard that used in any English reference apart of the unique building in Moscow. But I could be wrong. On the whole your original response was pretty good, with some qualifications, but you got too intense and carried away. I've been there and done that myself, so all the rest is overkill. I wish you the very best Paul and thanks for generally excellent input.

George Szaszvari
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Re: Russian legacy to chess

Post by George Szaszvari » Sat May 26, 2012 7:27 am

John McKenna wrote:Hi George & Paul, John here - all we need is Ringo and we can form a quartet!?
Paul emphasises the 'known knowns' and George warns of 'known (and unknown) unknowns'.
John Foley asked an interesting question about a Russian chess legacy. Apart from a 'nomenklatura' (e.g. Alekhine, Bronstein... Leningrad, Moscow... Zaitsev) of openings, all we have is 'candidate master' from Paul. There are thriving US chess communities with many Russians, hasn't any Russian legacy emerged there, George? (How about 'priem'?)
John, I've had very little contact with chess since moving to Phoenix. Originally I met some local players, in particular the very amiable and experienced Nikolay Andrianov, an ex-Soviet IM who regularly wins tournament prizes around the country and coaches a fair bit. I still say hello to Nick occasionally, but keep in regular touch with another chess playing friend (and we go shooting, etc, not chess playing.) There was also an old Russian (maybe Ukrainian?) called David Gurevich who played in the same team as the young Bronstein back in their early days and we played some blitz games (wind up analog clock only!) in between fond reminiscences, at his place, but he was very advanced in years and weakening with cancer, shortly passing on. I also tried some low key coaching for a short time in that period, but was not enjoying it, frankly, with having having to focus on adjusting to married life in a very strange land doing very different types of work compared to what I had been used to in order to help wifey pay the mortgage, etc. I was so out of touch that it was an American who told me about the passing of Tony Miles a couple of years after it happened and I had no idea who even the World Champion was for years after the Kasparov-Kramnik, London 2000 match. Apart from those first three or four years of slight involvement, it is only since joining this forum that I've had further contact with chess and chess players, and that's mainly just for reminiscing and keeping in touch with friends from the "old country", and making new ones like Paul McKeown! Yikes!!! :lol: So, I'm more of a listener in this thread, trying to learn something, and making the odd stupid comment now and again.

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