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Lev Aronin

Full name Lev Solomonovich Aronin
Country Soviet Union
Born 20 July 1920
Kuibyshev, Russia
Title International Master (1950)
Peak rating 2420 (1971)

Lev Solomonovich Aronin (Russian: Лев Соломонович Аронин; 20 July 1920, Kuibyshev - 3 October 1983, Moscow) was a Soviet International Master of chess. He was a meteorologist by profession.

Early years

Lev Solomonovich Aronin played in eight USSR Chess Championships, which were the strongest tournaments in the world during his era, and placed as high as a tie for 2nd-4th places in 1950 at Moscow.

He was the youngest of three brothers, with Gregory (1913-2007) being the eldest, and Efim (1915-1989) being the second. Gregory taught him chess at the age of 8, and he could recall that at the age of 14, Lev beat him and Efim simultaneously without looking at the boards while they were making the moves over the chessboards for Lev and themselves. Gregory later told:

He was lying on the couch at another room and shouted the moves to us, for each board, and we were making them over the boards and shouting back our respective moves. It was amazing. Both games lasted for no longer than around 30 moves each, which is not trivial given both me and Efim were quite strong chess players.

Early competitive results

Aronin lost a match quite badly in 1944, to the strong, experienced Master Alexander Konstantinopolsky, by +1−6=5. In an All-USSR First Category tournament at Gorky, 1945, Aronin scored 5/15, for 14th place out of 16 players. However, he then achieved a very fine win in a tournament (likely a USSR Championship quarter-final) at Erevan 1945, scoring an unbeaten 12/15. He then scored 7½/15 in the Soviet Championship semifinal, Moscow 1945, tying for 8th-9th places. In a Candidate Masters' tournament at Kaunas, 1946, Aronin won clear first place with 11/14, losing only one game. This earned him the Soviet Master title, and marked a big improvement in his play in just two years.

Soviet Master

In 1946 at Tbilisi, in the USSR Championship semifinal, Aronin made an excellent tie for second place, with 11/17. This earned him a place in his first Soviet final, held in Leningrad 1947 (15th URS-ch), and he performed creditably in super-strong company with 7/19, in a tie for 17th-18th places.

Aronin won the 1947 Championship of Moscow Region (Oblast) with an unbeaten score of 8½/10. He then tied for sixth place in the Moscow championship of 1947 with a score of 7½/14. He placed second in the Russian Championship at Kuibyshev with 7½/13, behind only Nikolay Novotelnov.

Then, at Leningrad 1947, the Soviet qualifying semifinal for the next final, he tied for first place with Mark Taimanov, scoring 10½/15, and qualified for his second Soviet final. The next year saw the Soviet Championship (16th URS-ch) held in Moscow, and Aronin scored 6/18, for 18th position.

Aronin again won the Championship of Moscow Region (Oblast) in 1948 with an unbeaten score of 11½/13. He played in the Russian Championship at Saratov 1948, tying for 5th-6th places, with a score of 8½/15.

He had to return to qualifying for the next national championship, but came through the gauntlet of the semifinal, with a fine 11/16 in Moscow 1949, tying for 2nd-3rd places, to advance. The final (17th URS-ch) was also held in Moscow, and this marked Aronin's arrival at the elite level, as he posted a strong 10/19, good for a tie for 9th-10th places, and a 2636 performance rating, according to This was his first Grandmaster-level result (assuming a GM result as 2600+).

Reaches the Soviet elite

Despite his solid finish in 1949, Aronin was not exempt into the next Soviet final. To qualify, he played the semifinal at Gorky 1950, which worked out much better than his 1945 visit there. He scored 10½/15, for clear first place. Aronin also played the Russian Championship at Gorky that same year; he tied for 2nd-4th places, with 7½/12, behind only Rashid Nezhmetdinov.

Moving on to Moscow 1950 (18th URS-ch), this tournament marked the high point of his career, as he scored 11/17 for a tie of 2nd-4th places, behind only Paul Keres. He was exempt from qualifying the next year. Although not quite as strong the next year, Aronin scored 9/17 at Moscow 1951 (19th URS-ch) and a tie for 9th-10th places.

Aronin had to go back to the semifinal stage to qualify for the next final, however, and he qualified successfully at Sochi 1951. The 20th URS-ch was held at Moscow 1952, and Aronin dropped a bit from previous championships, managing only 9/19, for 12th place.

Aronin was awarded the International Master title in 1950 by FIDE, the World Chess Federation.

International chance denied

Very little about Aronin's chess can be found in English-language sources. However, GM David Bronstein, in his acclaimed 1995 book The Sorcerer's Apprentice (coauthored with Tom Furstenberg) is one writer who has something to say. Bronstein wrote that he had played several games with Aronin, and knew him quite well. Bronstein's first encounter with Aronin,

which ended in a draw, dates back to the Semi-Final of the USSR Championship in 1945. Lev Solomonovich Aronin played successfully many times in USSR Championships but never managed to actually become the champion. He never received the title of grandmaster which he deserved without any doubt. Also, his name was removed from the list of participants of the Interzonal Tournament 1952 in Stockholm in favour of another player, a high-ranking member of the USSR Chess Federation (Alexander Kotov, T.F.). It turned out that this player was to be the winner of the tournament with a record score. In the 22nd USSR Championship played in 1955 Aronin had a totally winning position in the last round against Vasily Smyslov and therefore did not seriously analyse the adjourned position. He missed a hidden, very neat, drawing variation found by Smyslov, who had done his homework brilliantly, and had to settle for a draw, missing qualification by half a point for the Interzonal Tournament in 1955. Aronin's style of play reminds me of Mikhail Botvinnik and Semyon Furman, very positional and safe but occasionally also using his combinative talent.

In fact, Aronin did not play in the 1955 Soviet Championship final, referred to by Bronstein, with the game against Smyslov. Likely Bronstein means the 1951 Championship, in which Smyslov and Aronin both played. And for the 1952 qualification situation with Kotov, referred to by Bronstein, Aronin had finished with 9/17 in the 1951 Championship, the Soviet qualifying event for the 1952 Interzonal, while Kotov had 8/17 in that event. Several players who had finished ahead of Aronin in that 1951 event were otherwise exempt past the 1952 Interzonal stage: Botvinnik as World Champion, and Paul Keres, Smyslov, and Bronstein, based on their earlier strong performances from previous World Championship cycles. Taimanov, Efim Geller, Yuri Averbakh, and Tigran Petrosian all finished ahead of Aronin in the 1951 Soviet final, and those four played in the 1952 Interzonal, along with Kotov; all five Soviets also played well enough to move on from Stockholm to the 1953 Candidates' Tournament at Zurich.

Later tournament results

Aronin's next strong performance took place in the Soviet Team Championship, Riga 1954. There, he scored 6½/10. Then, at Leningrad 1956, he was again in form, with 11½/19, tying for first with Abraham Khasin, Alexander Tolush, Konstantin Klaman, and Boris Spassky.

He went back to the semifinal stage for the 1957 Soviet final, and he qualified through with a fine 14/19 at the semifinal in Tbilisi 1957, second place behind Taimanov, and advanced to the final. Then, at the 1957 Soviet Championship in Moscow (24th URS-ch), Aronin scored 11/21 to tie for 10th-11th places. In an International tournament in Leningrad later in 1957, Aronin scored 12/19, good for a tie for third-fourth places, behind Spassky and Alexander Tolush, and tied with Taimanov.

Aronin was selected for the Soviet team for the first European Team Championship, Vienna 1957, and scored 1½/3 on the second reserve board. The Soviets won team gold, and in an utterly dominant performance, captured individual gold medals on each of the top nine boards.

In the Alekhine Memorial, Moscow 1959, Aronin had a minus score of 5/11, and tied for 7th-9th places. In the Moscow Championship of 1961, he tied for 3rd-5th places with 11/17. He played in an International tournament at Moscow 1961, and finished fourth, with 6½/11. He trailed only winners Evgeni Vasiukov and Vasily Smyslov, and third-placed Friðrik Ólafsson, while finishing ahead of several Grandmasters.

For the next Soviet final, he had to qualify, and did so at Riga 1962. Then, in the 1962 Soviet Championship at Erevan (30th URS-ch), Aronin scored 10½/19. He had a poor tournament at the Moscow 1962 International, scoring just 5/15. He won the Moscow Championship in 1965.

Legacy and style

Aronin never got the chance to compete internationally, outside the Soviet Union, in an individual tournament. It is entirely possible that his career as a meteorologist worked against him in this respect; defections of several very strong Soviet players, including as Alexander Alekhine, Efim Bogolyubov, and Fedor Bohatirchuk to the West following the Soviet takeover in 1917 may have made the Soviet chess organization wary of allowing Aronin to travel outside the USSR with his important (and possibly secret) scientific knowledge. His only international chances came in a team event in 1957, and in a team match against Bulgaria that same year, where he played two games. In every Soviet tournament he played, he had to face a number of very strong compatriots. Stuck behind the incredibly deep Soviet vanguard, which in 1957 had 15 of the world's top 20 players, Aronin's chances to go abroad never came, since he was 37 by this time, and international opportunities were reserved for proven winners and younger players.

Aronin's style tended to be positional in nature, with the tactics arising naturally out of the position rather than being forced, and he was one of the leading lights with the King's Indian Defence from the mid-1940s, as this defence became very popular. He was a fine theoretician who was dangerous for virtually everyone he met; during his career he scored wins over almost all the top Soviet players, excepting Mikhail Botvinnik and Vasily Smyslov.

One of the mainline variations in the Orthodox King's Indian Defence is named the Aronin-Taimanov Variation, in honour of him and of GM Mark Taimanov. The variation runs 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1.

Aronin died at age 63 in Moscow on October 3, 1983.

Notable chess games

Konstantinopolsky had been Bronstein's youth coach, and was a near-GM strength player himself.