- Smyslov vs Rebel -

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Vassily Smyslov - living legend of Chess

There were a few figures in chess history whose names had been entered in human culture. They were not only playing chess very strong but also constantly creating new ideas, carrying forward theory and practice. They had given people a great deal of pleasure and happiness. They had taught people high art of chess and therefore wisdom of life…

Such a man is the seventh World Champion Vassily Smyslov. He was born in 1921 in Moscow when the Soviet Russia had been nasty ill with so-called "chess fever", before the famous Moscow International tournament 1925.

Young Smyslov has made first steps in chess with the help of his father Vassily Osipovich and uncle Kirill Osipovich who were strong players. Particularly the father who in his thirties once won a game against the future World Champion Alexander Alekhine. That game is merited to be brought here.

Alekhine,A - Smyslov,V.O. (father)
Tournament of the Petersburg Chess Assembly, 1912

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bc5 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.a3 a5 6.d3 0-0 7.Nh3 Ne7 8.Bg5 Ng6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Ne4 Qe7 11.Nxc5 Qxc5 12.Ng5 c6 13.Ne4 Qe7 14.c5 b6 15.b4 bxc5 16.bxc5 Rb8 17.0-0 Qe6 18.d4 Ba6 19.dxe5 Nxe5 20.f4 Ng4 21.f5 Qh6 22.h3 Ne3 23.Qd4 Nxf1 24.Rxf1 Bxe2 25.Rf4 Rb3!

26.Kf2 Rd3 27.Qb2 Bd1 28.Qb1 Rd5 29.Nc3 Rd2+ 30.Kg1 Bc2 31.Qc1? Better were 31.Qe1 31...Rxg2+! 32.Kxg2 Bxf5-+ 33.g4 Be6 34.Kg3 Qg5 35.Qe3 h5 36.h4 Qg6 37.g5 Rb8 8.Rf3 Rb3 39.Qc1 Bg4 40.Re3 Qf5 41.Qg1 Hopefully on 41...Qxc5? 42.Re8+ 41...Rxc3! 0-1

When being only seven years old the little boy Vassya (who learned chess rules only a half year before) has played his first match (but not the last one!) with his uncle Kirill Osipovich. The uncle had played every game without a rook and eventually lost the match. After the match was over the young winner got his first prize in life as the Alekhine’s book ‘My best games’. That present was inscribed "To winner in match, future champion Vassya Smyslov, from uncle. May 29, 1928."

Though Smyslov became a master in 1938, in a bit older age than Botvinnik and Bronstein (both at 16), he soon gained a foothold among the strongest Soviet players. Only three years it needed for him to win the grandmaster title in 1941, after great successes in the 12th USSR championship and the match-tournament for the title of the absolute champion of USSR. Since 1944 Smyslov was occupying the second and first places in Soviet championships. Then he successfully played in international tournaments: the 3rd place in Groningen 1946, 2nd one in 1948 match-tournament for World title, 1st one in Zagreb 1955, 1-2nd ones in Hastings 1954/55, 1-2nd ones in Alekhine memorial 1956. Two brilliant victories in candidates’ tournaments 1953 and 1956 allowed him to fight Botvinnik twice. The first match in 1954 has brought the draw, but next one in 1957 Smyslov won. So he became the 7th Chess World champion. Unfortunately, during the third match with Botvinnik he suffered from severe flu and pneumonia. Those as well as strong actions his opponent’s deprived the new champion his dignity. Thus the whole epoch of a single combat with Mikhail Botvinnik had ended in 1958.

Afterwards Vassily Smyslov played very effectively for many years on the highest level and yet in eighties was among best world grandmasters.

Smyslov’s life does not shut itself only in chess. He likes music, has appetite for reading, and is very interested in public science, politics and faith. The latter always helped him in very complicated situations, crooks in the lot. Great deal of his life Smyslov has been performing as an opera singer. He even qualified once to enter the famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. However, the very destiny forced him to make his way in the world of CHESS - with capital letters.

Vassily Smyslov as opera singer.

Click on the picture to hear Smyslov singing.

Duration 2:30 (450 Kb).

Nowadays Vassily Smyslov retains quite good health (except of very weak sight) in his 79 (touch wood!), and sometimes takes part in any tournaments where he wants strong illumination during a game. As a matter of fact he really is playing half-blind, but having extremely shining ability for such a play Smyslov is not going to ‘clear the dishes’...

The 7th World Champion has won near thousand games during his career. It is difficult to emphasize any that would be far the best. However, the grandmaster recommended the following games as the very memorable ones. Here you are three of them with Smyslow’s own comments.

Smyslov,V - Euwe,M [C81]
Wch18-NLD\URS ,1948

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Qe2 Nc5 10.Rd1 Nxb3 11.axb3 Qc8 The same situation had been taken place at previous tour between Keres and Reshevsky. Obviously my opponent would be satisfied if I had replicated that game (12.Bg5 h6 13.Bh4 Bc5 etc.). But here an interesting surprise had anticipated for him.

12.c4! This move crossed my mind shortly before the game. dxc4 13.bxc4 Bxc4 14.Qe4

Curious enough such a position happened on the grandmaster level afterwards only twice: first in the game Gipslis-Haag, Pecs, 1964, where it was followed 14…Nb4 15.Na3 Bb3 16.Nxb5!? Bxd1?! 17.Nxc7+ Qxc7 18.Qxa8+ Kd7 19.Bg5! and White soon won; but then Kaplan intensified Black’s defense – 16…Rb8! and after 17.Nd6+ cxd6 18.exd6 Kd8 the White’s attack failed (Kavalek-Kaplan, San Juan, 1965). Ne7? [14...Qe6 15.Nd4! (15.Rd6 15...Bxd6 16.Qxc6+ Ke7 17.exd6+ Qxd6 18.Qe4+ Qe6 19.Qh4+ f6 20.Qg3 was unclear) Qd5 16.Qxd5 Bxd5 17.Nxb5 Rc8 18.Rxa6 Bc4 19.N1c3 Nxe5 20.Ra7 was a little better] 15.Na3! After this move Black was forced to return back his extra pawn and stay in poor position. c6 16.Nxc4 bxc4 17.Qxc4

17...Qb7 [17...Qe6 18.Rxa6 Qxc4 19.Rxa8+ Nc8 20.Rxc8+ Ke7 21.Rc7+ Ke6 22.Rxc6+ Qxc6 23.Nd4+ +-] 18.e6 f6 19.Rd7 Qb5 20.Qxb5 cxb5 21.Nd4 Rc8 22.Be3 Ng6 23.Rxa6 Ne5 24.Rb7 Bc5 25.Nf5 0-0 26.h3 1-0


Smyslov,V - Botvinnik,M [C17]
Wch20, (9), Moscow 1954

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Ba5 This continuation is not so much popular compared with 5...Bxc3+. The game, in my opinion, educes some weaknesses of Black’s opening strategy. 6.b4 cxd4 7.Qg4!

More steady was 7.Nb5 Bc7 8.f4 Ne7 9.Nf3 Bd7 10.Ncxd4 Nbc6 11.c3 7...Ne7 8.bxa5 dxc3 9.Qxg7 Rg8 10.Qxh7 Nd7?! I didn't like this move. It seemed 10...Nbc6 was better, in order to prepare long castling. 11.Nf3 Nf8 M.Botvinnik once recomended here to play 11...Qc7. However, White could have the very strong answer 12.Bb5! If now 12...Rxg2 then 13.Kf1 Rg8 14.Rg1 and after rook exchange black king would be in desperate situation. 12.Qd3 Qxa5 13.h4 Bd7 14.Bg5! This is a very advantageous stay for the white bishop. 14...Rc8 15.Nd4 Nf5 16.Rb1! Such a move hinders the threat of Rc8-c4 and forces Black to play 16...b6 17.g4 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Qxa3. In that case the situation would be not so much hopeless for him. Next move of Black turned out to be fatal. 16...Rc4? 17.Nxf5 exf5 18.Rxb7 Re4+

19.Qxe4!! dxe4 20.Rb8+ Bc8 21.Bb5+! Qxb5 22.Rxb5 Ne6 23.Bf6 Rxg2 24.h5 Ba6 25.h6 1-0


Botvinnik,M - Smyslov,V [D73]
Wch21, (17), Moscow 1957

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.c4 c6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d4 0-0 6.Nc3 d5 7.cxd5 cxd5 8.Ne5 b6 9.Bg5 Bb7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.0-0 e6 12.f4 Bg7 13.Rc1 f6 14.Nf3 Nc6 15.e3 Qd7 16.Qe2 Na5 17.h4 Nc4 18.Bh3 Nd6 19.Kh2 a5 20.Rfe1 b5 21.Nd1 b4 22.Nf2 Ba6 23.Qd1 Rfc8 24.Rxc8+ Rxc8 25.Bf1 Bxf1 26.Rxf1 Qc6 27.Nd3 Qc2+ 28.Qxc2 Rxc2+ 29.Rf2 Rxf2+ 30.Nxf2 Nc4 31.Nd1 Kf7 32.b3 Nd6 33.Kg2

Who even could imagine that an experienced and skilled grandmaster like World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik would lose such a seemingly equal endgame? Not surprisingly that only several moves later (after adjournment) his second Gregory Goldberg conveyed me from Mikhail Moiseevich an offer for a draw agreement. 33...h5 34.Kh3 Ne4 35.g4 hxg4+ 36.Kxg4 f5+ 37.Kh3 Bf6 38.Ne1 Kg7 39.Nd3 Nc3 It would deserve attention also 39...Kh6 [39...Kh6 40.Nc5 Nc3 41.Nb2 Nxa2 42.Nxe6 Nc1 43.Nc5 Kh5 44.Kg3 Bxh4+ 45.Kf3 Be7 46.Nbd3 Nxd3 47.Nxd3 g5 48.fxg5 Kxg5 with some advantage for Black] 40.Nxc3 bxc3 41.Ne1 Kh6. This move was sealed. Next morning the draw offer had been followed, as mentioned.

The situation really looks proof. But Black found a fine plan connected with a motive of zugzwang. 42.Nc2 Be7 43.Kg3 More stout resistance would promise the continuation 43.а3 Kh5 44.b4 axb4 45.axb4 Bxh4 46.b5 Bd8 47.Kg3 g5 48.fxg5 Kxg5 49.Kf3 Bb6 50.Nb4!, retaining draw chances. 43...Kh5

44.Kf3 Kxh4 45.Ne1 g5 46.fxg5 Kxg5 47.Nc2 Bd6 48.Ne1 Kh4 49.Nc2 Kh3 50.Na1 Kh2 51.Kf2 Bg3+ 52.Kf3 Bh4 53.Nc2 Kg1 54.Ke2 Kg2 55.Na1 Be7 56.Nc2 Kg3 57.Ne1 Bd8 58.Nc2 Bf6

It is zugzwang. 59.a3 [59.Kd3 Kf2 60.Na1 Ke1 61.Nc2+ Kd1 62.Na1 Be7 63.Nc2 Bd6 64.Na1 Kc1 65.Kxc3 Bb4+ 66.Kd3 Kb2 67.Nc2 Kxa2 and Black wins] 59...Be7 60.b4 a4 61.Ne1 Bg5 62.Nc2 Bf6 63.Kd3 [63.b5 Bd8 64.Ne1 Ba5 65.Nc2 Kg4 66.Ne1 Bc7 67.Nc2 Bb6 68.Nb4 f4 69.exf4 Bxd4 70.Kd3 Bb6 71.Kxc3 Kxf4 72.Nc6 Ke3 73.Kb4 d4 74.Ne5 d3 75.Kxa4 d2 76.Nc4+ Ke2 with win]

63...Kf2 64.Na1 [64.Kxc3 Ke2 65.Kb2 Kd2 66.Kb1 Be7 67.b5 Bd8 68.Kb2 Ba5 69.Kb1 Kd3 could not allow White to escape] 64...Bd8 65.Nc2 Bg5 66.b5 Bd8 67.Nb4 Bb6 68.Nc2 Ba5 69.Nb4 Ke1

White resigned

Apart from playing chess Vassily Smyslov has been composing chess etudes for many years through his life. This is what ex-World Champion says himself: "…Since the very young age my chess study has been accompanied with passion to etudes. I liked to solve compositions, especially those that were close to practice. Besides getting aesthetic pleasure compositions contributed in development of my analytic capacities..."

So it is now. Grandmaster spends all days in order to compose new and new etudes. Here you may have a pleasure to solve a bit of his best works by yourselves.

Draw white to move


Draw white to move



Draw white to move


White wins

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