memories of famous composers by a.· in december 1979 alexander herbstman ... chess, but my interest

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  • No. 65 (Vol. IV)

    July, 1981

    In December 1979 Alexander Herbstman(b. 1900) left the USSR as a Jewishemigrant accompanied by his wife anddaughter. They now live in Sweden. Thefollowing article is original to EG andowes its existence not onlv to its emi-

    nent author who has known personallyso many of the study world's great Rus-sian and Soviet composers, but also tohis daughter Marina, who largely pro-vided the translation, and to the goodoffices of Alexander Hildebrand.


    by A. Herbstman

    In my childhood 1 lived for a long timein Switzerland. Weggis is near Lucerne,on the shore of the was there that 1 learned to playchess, but my interest in chess compo-sition came much later when I livedin Moscow, working and studying at aHigher Institute of Literature and Art.

    My first studies were composed in 1924.1 took them to the Shakhmaty editorialstaff. A very tall, slim man receivedme most warmly. It was Nikolay Grekov.Not only did Grekov pay my composi-tions the utmost attention, but he intro-duced me to Vasily Platov, then veryfamous, whom he asked to choose some-thing for publication in the magazine.Piatov stopped at one of the studies,the one that 1 myself thought the best."To stan with well publish that one",he said. '"And meanwhile, carry on withthe good work! ... By the way, do youknow the studies of Alexey Troitzky,and have you seen the anthology by me:md my brother?" 1 had to confess thatapart from the studies published inShakhmaty during 1923 I knew nothing.Piatov whispered something to Grekov,who thereupon took two solid books fromthe cupboard, saying These are for you

    to learn from". After I had taken themI realised that they were indeed the col-lections of Troitzky and the brothersPiatov.

    Vasily Piatov was of middle height, withbrown hair and blue eyes. Later heintroduced me to his brother Matvey(ie, Matthew). Matvey looked very likehis brother except that his hair wasreddish. As I was living in Moscow Imet them time and again. In due courseI found out that the majority of theideas in their studies were Vasily1 s, butthey always worked together and theatrribution of a diagram was invariably"V. and M. Piatov".

    Their views on chess aesthetics could belearned from listening to them. Hereis one of their pronouncements. Tikeany other art form the study has tomeet the criteria of form and content.The content is some idea or other ex-pressed either as a combination or aspositional play. Perfection of form liesin simplicity of construction. The simplerthe introduction the stronger is Uieeffect of highlighting the concealed id sof the position.*'


  • z principal creative problem they sawbe the necessity "to display as fully; ssible the struggle of assorted force,order to show combinations and to

    r zdi the special characteristics of thenous pieces, and, with all this, methods.ittack and of defence Studies must, c the appearance of a played game".

    HI V. and M. PistovUt Prize ShaK':u!'roeC!x\pue, 19!


    2.3.i .

  • my parents had a country place. In the H4daytime we went riding in the valleys, * *while at night we monopolised a chess-board. His compositions were famousnot only in Russia, but far beyond itsboundaries. For instance when Grigo-nev competed in "La Strategics" tourneyhe ran away with every one of themajor prizes.

    H3 N.D. (irijsorie\2nd Prize, "64", 1930-1




    f4h4f'5h5f6/ih6(7h7fi8Q +h8Q+



    i) 5. Kg2(gl) Kf6 6. f6 is a known cook.Both sides promote, and 9. Qfl+ wins.

    H4 N.D. Grigorir*2nd Prize, Shakmatny List ok. 1929


    Kc7Kd7Ke6b6/id5Ke5d4Ke4 stalemate

    i) The echo line is 4. ..., d5+ 5. Kd4Kd6 6. b6 Ke6 7. b5 Kd6 8. b4 Ke69. Kc5 Ke5 stalemate.

    H3 and H4 should please all who cantune in to the wavelength of chessbeauty. In H4 the composer consum-mates two midboard stalemates, asechoes.Grigoriev created unsurpassed examplesof pawn studies, but he also paid atten-tion to other configurations, such asbishops on the same colour, with a singlepawn, a theme on which he composedseveral works. Our friendship lasted un-til 1938. In the early autumn Nikolaytold me that the doctors had diagnosedappendicitis and that he had to go intohospital. I visited him there. One daythey forbade me to see him. It turnedout that they had operated but that Niko-lay had caught an infection which turnedseptic. At that time medicine was notso advanced. There was no penicillin,and they could not save his life. Hewas 43 years old. You can imagine mydistress.In 1934 I embarked upon a course ofpost-graduate study in Leningrad. It wasthere that I made friends with ourgreatest composers, Alexey Troitzky andLeonid Kubbel.Troitzky was a forest warden in the back-woods. He was 68 in the year 1 movedto Leningrad, and that was when hecame to live there too. It was the timewhen he prepared his collection of stu-dies to be published. He was alone,and I helped him to check and anno-tate them. His ideas were fresh, but


  • because he had spent most of his lifein out-of-the-way places his themes be-came known to the chess world onlylater, and often when worked up byother composers. Examples of this are:piece struggles, domination, systematicmanoeuvres, stalemate, mate, underpro-motion. All these were worked on byTroitzky much earlier than by other com-posers. In his theoretical articles thetechnique of the art of contemporarystudy composition is exhaustively ex-pounded.On the outbreak of war (ie, in 1941,when German forces invaded the USSR,not the earlier September 1939 datefamiliar to Britain and France. AJR)the threat to Leningrad became veryreal. I hurried to Alexey and tried topersuade him to leave with me. Herejected the idea. He died of starvationduring the long blockade.

    H5 A.A. TroitskyNovoye Vremya, 18%

    Version 1922


    5. Kg46. Kh37. Kg2, or

    6. .


    ., glQ(R) stalemate.

    H5 is one of Troitzky1 s first endgamestudies. H6 was published in 1925, andshows a most ambitious theme: under-promotion to two minor pieces combi-

    ned with the ending two knights againstpawn. It is expressed here in classicallysimple form with lively, double-edgedplay.

    H6 A.A. Troitsky

    H61. d6 Sxa6/i2. d7 Rg3+3. hg Sxc54. d8S wins/ii.

    i) 1 ed 2. cd Sxa6 3. d7 Rg3+ 4.hg Sc5 5. d8D wins.ii)4. d8Q(R)?Se6+ 5. K-Sxd8.

    Having failed to rescue Troitzky 1 thentelephoned Kubbel, asking him to helpme with my suitcases to the railwaystation. He agreed. On the way to thetrain I already knew (Herbstman was amajor in the Soviet Army. AJR) thatthat train was the last to leave Lenin-grad, and that there was grave doubtwhether it would get past Bologoye, astation on the route to Moscow, as itwas invested by the Germans. Leonidhelped me with the baggage and wefound ourselves alone in a compartment.I locked the door and announced thatI would not let him out, because hewould die if he remained in Leningrad.In a few days the German forces wouidbe there. He began to make objections,saying that he could not leave his brothersbehind just like that. He wished me a


  • good trip, and a safe one, and descen-ded to the platform. The train movedoff. I never saw him again. All threebrothers died in the siege, just asAlexey Troitzky died. (Ex-LeningraderAlexander Sarychev told me when I wasin Baku that there were no gravestones10 the memory of the two great compo-sers. 'There aren't any gravestones. Therewere so many bodies that bulldozershad to be used to pile them into massgraves..." AJR).

    H8 L.I. Kubbd1st Prue, Shakhmaty, 1925-1




    H7l.Se3+2. Qg4+3. Qf4+4. on+5. Qdl +6. Qc2+7. Qb2+8. Qa3+c^ Sc2 matt

    Kg3Kf2Ke2Kd2Kc3Kb4Sb3K xa3

    3 + 5

    H is hard to select one study fromKubbefs legacy, so remarkable are abso-lutely all of them' (H7 and H8)My friendship withNikolayGrigoriev andthe most cordial relations with VasilyPiatov, Alexey Troitzky and LeonidKubbel comributed enormously to mydevelopment as a chess composer. It wastheir guidance that enabled me to workout ideas, to polish them, and to eli-minate flaws.

    H81.B12+2. h73. Be34. Kf25. Bd5+6. hgQ7. KB8. Qg2+

    Khlc2+Rxe3+Rh3cdRh2+clQRxg2 stalemate

    1 acknowledge that it was their concernfor me that helped me to succeed incompetitions, and to be awarded about150 prizes, to become, along withAndre Cheron, the first study holderof the FIDE title of International Masterof Chess Composition - in 1959.

    Tourneys1. Club de Xadrez Guanabara (Brazil;-

    Closing date. 31.viii.81. Judge:S.A. da Silva. Maximum 3 entriesper composer. Send to: Mr. ClaudeFisch, Praia de Botafogo 96/1407.22.250 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    2. Czech Chess Federation announcesa Jubilee Tourney in honour ofFIDE Grandmaster Dr. JindnrhFritz, who will be 70 on -the closing date for entries. Send(single copy) to: Ing. FrantisckMacek, Obrancu miru 90, Praha(Prague) 7. 170 00 Czechoslovakia.



    No. 4296 V.A. BronPrize, Gazcta Czemtochowska, 1979

    Award; 26.xi.80


    \o.4298 V Razumenkand I Vfitrofanm

    A '



    & _ _

    v \.1 tho

    o4-- .8* + Ka6 K.\h2 ^

    ^, BH 7 Bd2 Bg5 8 Bel Bxei stae-Tiiate.

    JRH: There are 4 prior studies termina-ting the same way. Earliest is Sokolov(1940), No. 611 in "650".There were also 3 Hon. Mentions and4 Commendeds.

    v S Lur.^^h, No. 4298: V. Razurnenko and L. Mitro--lpcrtolumr. fanov. 1. Kh2 d Q 2. Bd8+ g5 3. Bc7K ^ J R\h2 g4 4. Bd8+ Qg5 5. c7 a2 6. (4 gf 7.

    * B

  • Kcl I i . Qxe3t Kb l= or 5. Sclt Kd26. Sb3+ Kc3 7. e8Q Kxb3 8. Qb5+Ka2 9. Qc4+ Kbl 10. Qb3+