There was an extensive bookstall, provided by Chess & Bridge, from which I was delighted to purchase a new publication by Russell Enterprises: Profession: Chessplayer, by Vladimir Tukmakov.
Born in 1946, Tukmakov was arguably the single most promising Soviet player of his generation. His career record includes an incredible 14 appearances in the Soviet Championships, a single appearance in which is a career highlight for many extremely strong players. Sadly, Tukmakov never made it to a Candidates tournament, but in recent years, he has been a successful coach for his native Ukrainian national team. He is clearly a deeply philosophical and cultured man, as is reflected in his book. The 120-page autobiographical section is charmingly written, employing the stylistic device of interspersing standard personal pronoun narrative with third person narrative, as though Tukmakov is looking at himself through the eyes of another. It reminded me of one of my life idols, the late cricket commentator, John Arlott, who once said that he thought it would add a great deal of objectivity to an autobiography, if the subject referred to himself throughout as "he".
Like most memoirs by Soviet players, one is struck by the bureaucratic hurdles they faced in day-to-day life, and about the degree to which life centred on coveted trips abroad. Unlike many, Tukmakov never did anything politically risky, and was never categorised as a "neviezdny", ie. one who was not allowed to travel abroad, but even he felt the heavy hand of political control. When Korchnoi defected in 1976, an open letter was published, signed by numerous Soviet GMs, criticising Korchnoi. Tukmakov's name appeared on it, but he was in Reykjavik when it came out. He says the first he heard about it was whilst in Reykjavik, when his fellow Soviet GM, Antoshin (a notorious KGB functionary) told him about it. "He actually saved me some trouble and signed the letter for me in my absence. Apparently, he had no doubts about my political loyalty", writes Tukmakov, with heavy irony.
The second half of the book consists of 40 deeply annotated games, which include many fine wins against top players, and which provide great instructional material for anyone wishing to improve his chess, as well as those just looking to enjoy some excellent games. There are numerous interesting photos in the book as well, but unfortunately, these are almost all so small as to be virtually impossible to enjoy, at least for my aging eyes.
The small photos aside, my only other criticism of the book concerns the translation. This is attributed to Inga Gurevich and Sofia Ozul, both of whom I assume are not native English speakers. Generally, the translation is very good, but there are regular small lapses, notably misplaced articles (ever the sign of a Russian native speaker), and the occasional odd-sounding expression (the Students' Olympiad is repeatedly referred to as the World Intercollegiate Team Championship, for example). It seems clear that the translation was not reviewed by a native English speaker, which is a pity, as this essential final step would have ironed out these small, but irritating defects.
Nonetheless, Tukmakov's book is a delightful read, and a worthy addition to one's bookshelf. I leave you with a fine combinative win, the final move of which Tukmakov describes as the most beautiful of his chess career. After it, his opponent apparently thought for one hour, before resigning!