Person of day   -  1 MAY 2021

ALEXANDER TOLUSH

ALEXANDER TOLUSH

Alexander Kazimirovich Tolush was one of the most creative chess players in the USSR. An adherent of an ultra-attacking style, always ready to charge into attack, he often encouraged himself with his fighting credo: “Onwards, Kazimirovich!” The whole chess world knew about this habit of his. He once checkmated Botvinnik and could not resist from saying: “That is mate, Mikhail Moiseevich!” Of course, this brought on the justified opprobrium of the world champion, but Tolush was like this…

He came forward during tournaments in Leningrad in the early 1930s. In 1935, he won the RSFSR championship and the semi-final of the Soviet trade unions’ championship. In the 1940s and 1950s, he was a regular participant in Soviet championships. In 1947 and 1948, he came 5th, split 2nd-4thplaces in 1950 and 4th-5thplaces in 1952 and 1957. In the latter, he played with particular inspiration, retaining a chance of finishing 1stuntil the very end. Only a defeat in the final round at the hands of Tal, who became the eventual champion, brought Tolush down. 

TolushwontwoEuropeanteamchampionshipswiththeSovietteam, in1957 and1961. He played successfully in multiple international tournaments, winning competitions in Leningrad and Bucharest in 1953 and Warsaw in 1961. He was the four-time champion of Leningrad. 

Tolush won great fame thanks to his work as a trainer. In the 1940s and 1950s, he worked with Paul Keres, Boris Spassky and Ludmila Rudenko. He played a particularly significant role in the evolution of young Spassky. Mikhail Botvinnik described this as follows: “Spassky prefers to play in a style that used to be employed by Alexander Tolush, who met him when Spassky was 14 or 15 and they went on to work together for many years. Tolush had weak technique, but an amazing, self-sufficient style. He did not exemplify any real school of chess, but when a commotion was needed on the chess board and when all pieces had to be used, he would seize the initiative and perform an artistic attack.” 

Meanwhile, Mikhail Yudovich wrote that Tolush won and lost dramatically, for he fought until the end, laid creative traps and performed unexpected surprises masterfully, thereby changing the nature of the contest. 

Alexander Tolush died in March 1969 in Leningrad.