Person of day   -  18 OCTOBER 2018

GRIGORY RAVINSKY

GRIGORY RAVINSKY

Grigory Ravinsky was born on 18th October 1909 in St Petersburg. When he was 19, he made his debut in the city championship, where he played against Botvinnik, Romanovsky, Ilyin-Genevsky, Levenfish and Rabinovich. In 1941, he became a master of sport and qualified from the Leningrad championship to the semi-final of the USSR championship, which took place in Rostov-on-Don. This tournament was interrupted by the War.  

After the German attack, St Petersburg started a city chess tournament, which ended up unfinished. One of the documents that remains from those times stated: “Today, we are opening another chess tournament during a difficult and uncertain time for Leningrad. All the renowned masters of the USSR will play, including Romanovsky, Rabinovich, Chekhover, Lisitsin and Ravinsky. The tournament will also be attended by talented masters for sport- Novotelnov, Belchikov, Sklyarov, Ber and Model. We will play in hospitals and military bases, to make our tournament beneficial to our brave soldiers, their commanders and political officers of the Red Army. We will play twice a week and report our results by radio and print. We feel enthusiastic: no blockade and no deficits will stop us from hosting another tournament. We hope that all participants will demonstrate their full potentials in this historic tournament.” (the document was found and published by historians Alexander Kentler and Vadim Faibisovich)

At the end of the war, Ravisky lived in Moscow, where he played in several city championships and qualified for the USSR tournament for the first time in 1944. Ravinsky’s star tournament came in the Moscow championship of 1947, where he split 1st place with Bronstein and Panov and left a dozen famous opponents behind. After that, he was successful in several prestigious tournaments, including the semi-final of the 1952 USSR championship, where he came fourth but did not qualify, despite playing wonderfully against those who finished above him. But Ravinsky’s main calling in life was his role of trainer. 

“Master Grigory Ravinsky, a member of the chess club, was a survivor of the Leningrad Blockade. After the War, he moved to Moscow, where he lived in a communal apartment until the end of his days…

An old bachelor and lover of theatre, he saw his favourite Queen of Spades countless times. The chess club was a true home for him- a home he left each day to sit in Prague Café, famous for its chocolate cakes, which Grigory adored. 

As is often the case with trainers, he understood chess better than he played them. He mentored Vasiukov, Nikitin, Chekhov and other strong chess players. “There aren’t the Petrushkas by Stravinsky, but the students of Ravisky” was a rhyme that every member of the chess club knew. 

He did not shy away from bureaucratic work. While he headed the qualification commission, Grigory spent years analysing matches and waiting for a promotion. Occasionally, he told his interlocutors: “You played this match with the white pieces, but the tournament table says you should have been playing with the black pieces.” Or, “you played well, but I don’t understand why you submitted my game against Panov for our consideration?” (Genna Sosonko)

“During the higher classes, I transferred to the celebrated trainer Ravinsky, who has loved chess for a long time and sacrificed his personal life for it. Grigory was a kind man who was very strict when it came to chess. I remember those happy days when Botvinnik gave simultaneous exhibitions against the most talented juniors in Moscow and I drew against him twice, in the spring and summer. But I could not do so a third time, because I was a few minutes late and Ravinsky refused to allow me to play.” (Evgeny Gik)

In 1957, during a wave of successes enjoyed by his students, he became a recognised trainer of the USSR and two years later, an international arbiter. In 1965, the qualification commissions appointed Grigory examiner in a match against a chess player from Saratov called Revyakin, which finished with the latter’s overwhelming victory. After this, Ravinsky decided that he would not play in any more important competitions. 

Ravinsky’s last student was Sergey Gorelov, who ended up passing away very young. In 1986, he published the Paulsen Variation with Oleg Moiseev as co-author. One of the most famous trainers of the Soviet period passed away in 1994.