Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Historical Revisionism

If you collect enough chess books, as I do, you begin to notice differing treatment of chess history, depending on who writes it. This is particularly glaring in books from the old USSR, and often depends upon when they were written.
The most obvious example is the coverage of Alexander Alekhine. Between in the mid 1920's until the early 1950's he was considered a traitor to the 'October Revolution', but following the death of Stalin he was rehabilitated. Kotov's 1973 book on Alekhine even goes so far as to prove he didn't escape from the USSR, but was given explicit permission to leave, even providing the text of the declaration.
The same book also glosses over his activities in occupied Europe during WWII, and states that any objections to Alekhine resuming his post-war chess career were entirely the creation of the USCF "or more accurately, certain of its over-active members - R.Fine, A. Denker and others". Interestingly enough these claims were taken to task by RG Wade in forward to the english language edition of the book!

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