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.


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: