The Myth of the ‘Soviet School’

There’s still a certain mystique attached to players from the former Soviet Union. But does this stem from ‘secret training methods’ or just a culture in which there were strong incentives for being good at chess.

In conversation with strong former Soviet players I’ve become convinced that it was very much the latter, the reward for being good at chess being that you got some nice trips out of the Soviet Union and made lots of money (by Soviet standards). As for any ‘Soviet school’ it seems that it has been nothing more than propaganda, served up to gullible Westerners who were impressed by the ease with which the top Soviet players dispatched them.

It took me a while to stop believing the mythology but once I did my results against Russians improved a lot. Here’s an important win of mine against the gentlemanly Yuri Razuvaev, and as I’d already dispatched his compatriot Naum Rashkovsky it helped set me up for my final GM norm.