This was a match between the 32-year-old Efim Bogoljubov, the Soviet Champion and the 35-year-old Peter Romanovsky who had come a distant second to him at that championship.
It took place from 30th November to 28th December 1924 in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and was advertised as the "Soviet Championship Match".
With the undoubted approval of the Soviet chess officials, Romanovsky had written to Bogoljubov:
"Based on my achievements in three All-Russian tournaments, I believe that you will not refuse me the right to ask you for you to compete with me separately and perhaps allow another opportunity for both of us: you could prove your champion's title that you won at the recent tournament, and I could retain the title that I won in 1923 but had to relinquish to you this year because of your excellent play." (1)
The conditions agreed were that the match would be won by the player who first scored six points with the first four draws not counting. The winner would be declared the 1924 Soviet champion and receive 500 roubles, the loser 250. In addition, Bogoljubov would have 150 roubles to cover his personal expenses. The match arbiter would be the experienced master Grigory Levenfish.
The match was publicised by public advertising and it is supposed that Nikolai Krylenko (1885-1938) approved the match and authorised the expenditure.
Kylenko was a senior and prominent Bolshevik legal official. Krylenko had recently (1923) led the prosecution in the political Cieplak show trial of the Soviet Union's Catholic hierarchy. His well-deserved bloody and ruthless reputation made him a formidable figure in a consistent drive to improve the quality of Soviet chess. He continued to support chess as a symbol of Soviet cultural progress and superiority until he was himself was swallowed up and destroyed in Stalin's Great Purge.
"Finally on November 30, Bogoljubov's match against Peter Romanovsky started and it lasted for almost a month ... the first four draws were not counted in the final score. The magazine "Chess" noted that Bogoljubov was very sick while playing the only game he lost. It also published a note by Nikolay Ivanovich Grekov, who was one of the editors of the magazine, which ended with,
"The results of the encounters of our masters against Bogoljubov in the championship (USSR Championship (1924)) were not causing any optimism, but the match annihilated any illusions left..." (2)
Bogoljubov had barely broken into the master ranks before the First World War. His best results were first at Łódź 1913 ahead of Georg Salwe and second to Karel Hromadka in the All Russian Amateur Tournament (Liepāja) 1913. In January 1914, at the All Russian Master's Tournament, he came 8th (9½ points) behind the winners Alexander Alekhine and Aron Nimzowitsch (13½ points)
Although arrested and held in Germany during the First World War, Bogoljubov still had the opportunity to play strong opposition as the interned Russian masters organised their own tournaments.
After the armistice, Bogoljubov travelled to Sweden. Having benefitted from neutrality, it was one of the few countries to have significant chess activity. Consequently, Bogoljubov remained there for just over a year along with Rudolf Spielmann, Richard Reti and slightly later Akiba Rubinstein.
It was during this time that his playing strength and success established him as a leading master.
Bogoljubov played in "J.G.Schultz Memorial" (Stockholm) in November 1919, The Four Master's Tournament (Stockholm) in December 1919. He played a match of 12 games against Rubinstein - Bogoljubov - Rubinstein (1920) - (January 1920) losing 5½ to 6½, won a short match - Bogoljubov - Nimzowitsch (1920) - against Nimzowitsch by 3 - 1 and another against the Swedish player Arthur Hakansson, (Kristianstad) (3)
As international chess resumed in Europe, Bogoljubov won the extremely strong Bad Pistyan (1922) was fifth at London (1922) and second at Karlsbad (1923). Only New York (1924) was a relative disappointment when he came a disappointing seventh due to his poor score against the prize-winners.
Romanovsky's international career was halted almost as soon as it had started. His first foreign tournament being the Haupttunier (Main tournament) B section of the 19th DSB Congress, Mannheim (1914) in which he came second equal in the semi-final of group two. The tournament was unfinished due to the commencement of the First World War. Romanovsky was interned in Germany as an enemy alien until March 1915. During this time he took part in three tournaments made up of captive Russian players including Bogoljubov.
Chess activity in Russia was sparse as the economy had collapsed due to civil war and revolution. Romanovsky had to find a job in the Soviet banking system, but he was still able to play an active part in restoring chess activity in Russia including being a founder of the magazine "Shakhmatny Listok" ("Chess Papers", 1922).
Romanovsky had come second to Alekhine in the USSR Championship (1920) and then won the USSR Championship (1923). He would come second to Bogoljubov in the USSR Championship (1924).
After the departures of Alekhine and Bogoljubov, Romanovsky was one of the Soviet Union's most promising masters in the 1920s and 1930s along with Boris Verlinsky (born 1888);
Grigory Levenfish (born 1889); Ilya Rabinovich (born 1891) and Fedor Bohatirchuk (born 1892). They were denied the opportunity to compete in tournaments outside of the USSR with the single exception of Rabinovich who was allowed to take part in Baden-Baden (1925). A Soviet master playing abroad was an extremely rare event before the Second World War.
The match was dominated by Bogoljubov who overwhelmed his opponent in the first half of the match; at the halfway point the score was 4 to 0 in favour of Bogoljubov. In the second half of the match, whilst the deficit was too great to rectify, Romanovsky did not collapse but managed to keep the score level.
Bogoljubov had White in the odd-numbered games.
...........1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Bogoljubov ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ - 8
Romanovsky ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ - 4
........... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Bogoljubov ½ 1½ 2 3 4 5 5½ 5½ 6½ 7 7½ 8
Romanovsky ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1½ 2½ 2½ 3 3½ 4
Bogoljubov opened the match with a Ruy Lopez. Romanovsky sacrificed a Rook and a Pawn for a Bishop and a Knight leading to a draw.
Romanovsky's first White in the match saw him play in his newly adopted hypermodern style, but he then strayed beyond the bounds of prudence with <19.g4?!>
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allowing Bogoljubov to sacrifice a Knight for two Pawns and to open up Romanovsky's King. Both players made tactical errors in a complex position, but defending the King proved the harder task and Bogoljubov scored the first win of the match.
Despite his reputation as a Hypermodern, Bogojubov was not stirred to follow the cutting-edge lead of Game 2, but instead used a Nineteenth-Century opening, the Vienna Game. He achieved little, Romanovsky methodically equalised and the game ended in a drawn opposite coloured Bishop ending. Bogojubov remained one game up in the match, but Romanovsky would have White in the next day.
Romanovsky played an English opening which evolved into a QGD Cambridge Springs Defence. He could not establish any advantage and the game seemed to be heading towards a draw. In the ending, Bogoljubov spotted a fleeting tactical opportunity and was able to force a Pawn through to Queen. Bogoljubov was now two games up.
This was a game in which Bogoljubov slowly outplayed Romanovsky out of the opening, pressing him back to eventually win two Pawns. Romanovsky, defending a Grunfeld set up against the English, was always on the defensive in the game and was now three games down.
Romanovsky was once again outmanoeuvred by Bogojubov who won two pawns in the middlegame. This was the third loss in a row for Romanovsky, and he was now 4-1 down in the match with the prospect of the Black pieces in the next game.
Bogoljubov blundered away this game,
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after <42...Bxb5?> whilst <42...Bc7!> would have held the position. The two Bishops in the centre of the board combined with White's vulnerable King prevent Romanovsky from pressing forward with the passed Pawns.
Romanovsky opened as White with a double fianchetto English system. Bogoljubov gained the initiative on the King-side but let his advantage dissipate. Romanovsky managed to double his Rooks on Bogoljubov's eighth rank, but Bogoljubov was still in sight of a draw until he allowed his King to become trapped. Romanovsky had now clawed back two points in three games; the score now stood at 5½ - 2½. The press noted that Bogoljubov was feeling ill that day.
This game is famous for Romanovsky's Queen being trapped mid-board.
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Romanovsky defended with a Stonewall structure. Bogoljubov's active response stymied Romanovsky in developing any initiative on the King-side. Romanovsky had absolutely no counterplay in this game; Bogoljubov opened the <c> file and placed a Rook on his opponent's seventh rank crippling Black.
The Soviet masters obviously studied these games in depth and Rabinovich would use Bogoljubov's set up against Tarrash the very next year at Baden-Baden (1925) I Rabinovich vs Tarrasch, 1925.
Bogoljubov used a similar defence in the Ruy Lopez as in Game 1 and quickly achieved equality. The game was drawn in 24 moves, but Romanovsky could have been put under more pressure
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Here, Romanovsky has just played <19.Nfd4>, both players missed the strong rejoinder of <19...Qb6> and then <Bg4> tying up White's pieces.
This was a draw, but also a lengthy fight. Bogoljubov as White achieved little from a symmetrical English opening and Romanovsky had a slight advantage. Despite all of Romanovsky's efforts, it was insufficient to allow him to grind out a win in a Bishop versus Knight endgame.
The last game of the match on the 28th December was also the lengthiest. In this game, Bogoljubov introduced a new defence into the match - the McCutcheon variation of the French Defense. Nearing equality, he then played too casually and allowed Romanovsky to capture his dark-squared Bishop and so double his <d> pawns. Bogoljubov exchanged his Queen for two Rooks and a Pawn but was left with a passive position. At one point he was reduced to shuffling his King between <e7> and <d7>.
Romanovsky should have won, and he undoubtedly wanted to win (he ignored a three-fold repetition on move 33), but he then missed several promising opportunities. His advantage dissipated progressively and the game was eventually agreed drawn on the 66th move.
Bogoljubov took the match by five games to one and so retained his 1924 Soviet Championship. The next year he would make it two championships in succession.
(1). "Selected Games", Peter Romanovsky, Sergei Tkachenko, Grigory Bogdanovich, p.55.
(2). "Bogoljubov, the fate of a chess player", Sergei Soloviov p.83