The Talented Mr. Alexander Tolush
Alexander Tolush, enpassant
Could he have been world champion !?
Tolush chalked up 14 points out of 19 and won first prize by a 2 point margin. He won 10 games, lost 1 (to Smyslov) and drew 8.
Tolush played with his usual energy, ingenuity and resourcefulness, boldly creating combinational complications. The following diagram shows the position after Black’s 25th move in the encounter Tolush vs Ciocaltea. The Romanian grandmaster was smashed by a direct attack on the King-side:
Tolush played many brilliant games, defeating almost all of the top players of his generation, including Botvinnik and Smyslov. He was a brilliant attacker, filled with imaginative ideas. But he was a difficult person…
During the 2nd world war Tolush was an officer in a tank division, and saw some of the worse fighting of the war. It was during this period that he developed a drinking problem, especially with Vodka,and this prevented him from fighting for the highest title, being unable to produce the type of consistency necessary to qualify for the difficult elimination cycle.
An interesting story is told of one incident involving his drinking during the Bucharest tournament : http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=20500&kpage=1
”When he (my friend) was much younger, he had the privilege of watching Tolush’s greatest tournament result, at Bucharest 1953. Tolush had already become a chess legend for his wildly erratic play. At the time it was believed that this was a psychological after effect of WWII (evidently, he was a tank officer who witnessed some of the worst fighting).
But at Bucharest he was, for the only time in his life, consistently beating some of the best players in the world (but not all–another weakness of his was that he wasn’t very good at drawing games).
My friend was baffled at Tolush’s sustained brilliance and managed to secure a private interview with the man during the tournament.
The conversation, to paraphrase Conrad Veidt in Casablance, was a trifle one-sided: he found Tolush passed out from drunkenness on the floor of his hotel room. In fact, it was almost impossible to awaken Tolush so he could play in that evening’s game. A game which, incidentally, he won…”
Tolush was one of three trainers that Spassky worked with on his road to immortality. Tolush at times could be downright brutal, though not physically; it was his drinking that made him aggressive and irritable. But Spassky deeply respected him and Tolush taught him everything he could about attacking chess, turning him into one of the most feared attackers of his generation.
Tolush and Spassky started to work together in 1952, shortly after Spassky had split with his first trainer, Zak.
”It was then that I met Tolush, and it seemed natural that we should work together….Tolush was very involved with chess. He was a brilliant player who loved to sacrifice pieces, and he helped me very much. When I first met him in the early 1950’s I had a great desire to work with him, and I changed my style because he was an attacking player.”
The partnership worked well at first, and Tolush went with Spassky to his first international tournament at Bucharest.
”He continued as my trainer from 1952 to 1960. It became hard for me, because I didn’t find a good personal contact with Tolush. He was a rather brutal man and he liked very much to give advice to me…it was terrible! (Boris, mimicking Tolush) ”I don’t like that position! I’ve always tried to teach you; you are a very stupid boy; you make mistakes here, there, this time, that time; you must think, watch your step…”
“Eight years is a very long time, you know. I had nobody to turn to at that time except my mother. I didn’t have contact with my brother and sister and was alone.
That man…I still had respect for him, of course….Also I made the mistake of leaving Tolush at the time of my divorce, when I was in a very nervous state. I should have had a special meeting with him to explain what I was doing, but instead I refused to speak to him.”
Unfortunately, Tolush died in St.Petersburg (Leningrad) several months before his student (Spassky) won the World Championship in the summer of 1969. His biography Alexander Tolush (1983) was compiled by his wife Valentina and includes 92 games.
Here are some combinations taken from the actual games of Alexander Tolush. The dot on the right hand side indicates who is to move and win. The solutions can be found by clicking http://www.wtharvey.com/tolu.html