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Faithful Companion: Chess in the Life of Marshal V.I. Chuikov


Pictured: An article written by A. Gurevich for the Soviet chess periodical 64, dated February 1975. The full text of the article is translated below:


"It was a special spring--victorious spring of 1945. At noon on 2 May, there was an unusual silence in Berlin. The rumble of guns ceased, bomb explosions, the rattle of tank tracks, the chirp of machine guns became inaudible. Downcast, devastated, having abandoned their machine guns, the columns of the Nazis wandered. The mass surrender of the German troops began.


And in the evening, when Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov went out onto the square in front of the former imperial chancelry, he suddenly heard a thunderous Russian Hurrah! which expanded and grew every minute. And now he, lifted by the strong hands of the jubilant guardsmen, flew high above their heads...


There are people who, even during their lifetime, become a legend. Among them is the famous hero of the Great Patriotic War, Marshal of the Soviet Union V.I. Chuikov.

It was he who at the head of the 62nd Army, which later became the 8th Guards, stood to death in Stalingrad and did not let the Nazis cross the Volga. It was he who then drove them to the west, liberating Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Lublin and dozens of other large and small cities, crossed the Vistula, stormed the Poznan fortress and the impregnable forts of the Kustrin citadel. It was his guardsmen, who broke through the enemy defenses on the Seelow Heights, broke into the capital of the Third Reich, attacking the buildings of the Reichstag, the Imperial Chancellery, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


It was to him that the Chief of the General Staff of the German Ground Forces G. Krebs, who appeared as a negotiator to ask for a truce, told him about Hitler's suicide...


The whole life of V.I. Chuikov is connected with our Armed Forces. The son of a poor peasant with many children, from the first days of the creation of the Red Army - in its ranks, he actively participated in the Civil War. Service in the army became his university. Here he received a higher military education, and showed a rare military leadership gift. In the army, the Marshal got acquainted with chess, falling in love with [the game] for life. [Chess] became his faithful companion in battles and campaigns.


Writer Ivan Paderin in the collection 200 Fiery Days tells about such a curious episode:


In the midst of the battle for Stalingrad, when the Nazis, regardless of losses, rushed to the Volga, a rumor spread among the defenders that Chuikov was badly wounded and someone else was in command of the army. And now Private of the 284th division Ivan Krushinsky (formerly the Donbass chess champion) receives instructions from his regiment commander to go to the army command post, by the way, located next to the front line, hand over a package with a report, and at the same time find out if the commander is really injured.


'It was already evening, or maybe even daytime. The sky was covered with black clouds of smoke. I went down from Mamaev Kurgan, walked along the coast and there, not far from the Bannoy ravine, I found the command post of the army. The sentry stopped me at the entrance:

- Here's the package. Ordered to hand over personally to the commander.

- Come on.

I enter the dugout. There is a map and... chess on the table. A sullen man walks along the wall. Whether he is or not, I cannot determine: in the dugout, a front-line oil lamp burns dimly.

I hand him the package, and I myself look at the chess. The general pointed this out:

- Do you play?

- Haven't played in a long time...

- Sit down


As soon as I had time to make a move, the dugout swayed, and something creaked in the corners.

- Go, go...


I made another move, and I myself look: is he or not?


Somewhere, it seems, before the tenth move, he thought. And at that moment the ceiling trembled, crumbs of earth fell down. The adjutant ran in:

- Comrade General, tanks...


My partner did not even look at the adjutant, he was silent, thought, and made a move:

- Shah .. So, tanks, then?

- Here, right on the Command post breakthrough.

- That's the way it should be. Paulus is exhausted, he wants to scare us with tanks at night. Go and see how ours work, take an anti-tank grenade with you.

- And he turns to me: - Go, go ...


I had no time for chess. I felt that something was wrong near the dugout. A few more minutes passed. I made two or three obviously bad moves. The adjutant returned without a grenade, covered in dust. Reported:

- One tank is hit, on fire, the rest turned back ...


I came to the commander of the unit already late at night, and reported everything as it was. He breathed a sigh of relief and said:

- You were lucky, you ran into two Chuikovs at once. The adjutant's name is Fedor, the commander's younger brother. I've known him since childhood... And you, Ivan Krushinsky, are a chess player of the first category, and you lost, on the fifteenth move you got a mate. Not ashamed? But it's okay, now I'm sure you'll play with him more than once."


Further, the author writes that he does not know if the soldier had a chance to play again with the commander. 'I remember that during the days of the battles near the Volga, Krushinsky dreamed of entering the streets of Berlin and playing his best game of chess there. A German bullet cut short the life of a communist. Somewhere in the steppes near Zaporozhye, a grave mound was lost ...'


After the end of the war, the 8th Guards Army was stationed in the Weimar area. At the initiative of the commander, a garrison championship tournament was held, and a chess room was opened in the House of Officers. Chuikov also visited it sometimes.


'Once,' recalls master Boris Pavlovich Naglis, who was then the champion of the local garrison, 'a messenger came for me and gave the order: immediately report to the commander. I entered the room and saw chess on the table, understood what was the matter.


Chuikov greeted me cordially:

- Let's play, Botvinnik!


Until five in the morning light burned in the windows. The army commander played recklessly, worried about every game. Apparently, he was not very familiar with chess theory, but he had no wits--when the opportunity presented itself, he attacked very skillfully.


With his help, in the spring of 1946, the first army tournament was organized (nowhere in other armies were such competitions held). I was lucky to win the first prize in it and receive a hunting rifle from the hands of the commander himself. The second was Lieutenant Monastyrsky.


About the chess battles of the guards learned not only in our army units, but also in the units of the allies. There was an idea to hold a match with the team of the American military administration. Chuikov, who by that time was Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, supported this proposal and, for his part, did everything to make the meeting take place.


The match, which took place in the American occupation zone, ended, as is known, with the victory of our chess players. The Soviet team was led in board order by Major I. Lipnitsky (later a well-known master and theorist), Major B. Naglis, Junior Lieutenant R. Nezhmetdinov, who a few years later became the champion of the Russian Federation.'


... A long life path has been passed, hard trials, heavy, bloody battles are behind. In books, speeches, the Marshal conveys his accumulated experience to young people. His memoir The End of the Third Reich published in 1973 by the publishing house "Soviet Russia," received universal recognition. It is curious that chess terms are often encountered in them.


Talking about the actions of the army led by him to eliminate the enemy’s Lodz grouping, Chuikov writes: 'The tank group, consisting of the 11th tank brigade and three separate tank regiments under the overall command of General Weinrub, swiftly enters the western outskirts of the city and closes the enemy’s escape routes. The 1st Guards Rifle Corps in reserve is castling to the right flank of the army.


And here is how the author describes his conversation with G. Krebs on the eve of the complete surrender of the Nazis in Berlin.


'I sit down at the table opposite Krebs. I feel that during my absence (V.I. Chuikov went to the communication center to inform Marshal G.K. Zhukov about the statement of parliamentarians by phone) he pondered the situation and prepared some new arguments in defense of his own, or rather Goebbels', proposals. He spoke first, again insisting on a temporary truce.


- I do not have the opportunity to conduct other negotiations, I am only authorized and cannot be responsible for my government. It is in your interest to lead them with the new German government...


This is already a queen move. Krebs puts the main figure into action. It is impossible to give him a descent for obsession. He clearly wants to draw me into the discussion of the issue of a truce./


Recently twice Hero of the Soviet Union Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov celebrated his 75th birthday. As before, he is in the ranks of the defenders of the Motherland.


Translated by Igor Musienko


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