- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

If you doubt the power of a good PR agent, consider the 1956 world championship candidates tournament in Amsterdam.

The candidates tournament in Zurich in 1953 is one of the most famous chess competitions of all time, owing almost entirely to the classic tournament book by Soviet GM David Bronstein. The Dutch follow-up, which began 50 years ago next month, barely registers in the anthologies.

That’s a shame, for the Amsterdam event included three future world champions — Russians Vassily Smyslov and Boris Spassky and Armenian Tigran Petrosian — as well as such legendary also-rans as Bronstein, Paul Keres and Efim Geller. Smyslov repeated his Zurich triumph and would go on to defeat his great Soviet rival Mikhail Botvinnik for the world crown later that year.

Smyslov won a critical point early in the tournament against Geller, a game he included in his fine 1979 collection, “125 Selected Games.” We rely heavily on the winner’s own annotations here.

Saddled with permanently weak central pawns, Geller makes a shrewd practical gamble with 21. Rd7 Qc6 22. Rxb7! (Re7 Nxc3 23. f3 Qf6 24. Rd7 Qe6 25. Bxf5? Ne2+! 26. Nxe2 Rxf5 wins for Black) Qxb7 23. Nxf5, sacrificing the exchange to remove Black’s dangerous bishop and setting a little trap in the process: 23…Nxc3? 24. Qh4 Nxb1 25. Ne7+ Kh8 26. Ng6+ Kg8 27. Ne7+, with a draw, as 27…Kf7? 28. Bg5! Rc7 29. Qh5+ is too dangerous to contemplate.

White avoids Black’s repeated invitations to trade down to the endgame and appears to have made some headway with 40. gxh6 Rxh6 41. Qg3, the adjourned position. But Smyslov finds an unexpected and inspired sealed move: 41…Qe4!! (with the brutal threat of 42…Qh7 and mate down the h-file) 42. Qxf4 (forced, as 42. Bxe4 Ne2+ 43. Kf1 Nxg3+ 44. Ke1 Rh1+ 45. Kd2 Nxe4+ cleans house) Qxf4 43. Bxf4 Rxf4 44. Re1 Ra4, with a technically won ending.

The contest is over after 53. Kg3 Rd4 54. Be8 (Bh5 Rd7 stops any perpetual check ideas, while on 54. Bf5, Smyslov gives 54…Rd5 55. Kg4 Rxf5! 56. Kxf5 Rxf3+ 57. Ke4 Rf7 58. Kd5 b3 59. Kxc5 b2 60. Re1 Rc7+ 61. Kb4 Rc1, winning) b3 55. g6 Rd8 and Geller’s flag fell. It’s hopeless anyway after 56. Re7+ Kf6 57. g7 Rxe8! 58. Rxe8 Kxg7, and Black will win.

Smyslov’s only loss in the tournament came at the hands of a 19-year-old Leningrad grandmaster named Boris Spassky, making his first appearance in the world championship cycle.

Spassky, who would finally claim the world crown 13 years later, was lucky and then good in his upset of the tournament winner. On the Black side of an English Opening, Spassky is pushed back on the queenside (20. Bxd4 Ra6 21. b4 b6?! [axb4 was better] 22. b5 was one key source of his troubles) while his d-pawn proves increasingly hard to defend.

Smyslov’s 24. Bxf3 Rae8 25. Rc6!, pinning the bishop, appears to cement his advantage, but he unwisely allows his young opponent attacking chances on the kingside with 28. Rac1 g5 29. R6c2?! (oversubtle; just taking the pawn with 29. Bxf6 Qxf6 30. Qxd5 gives White an enduring edge) Qf7 30. Kh1 f4 31. gxf4 gxf4 32. Rg1 fxe3 33. fxe3 (see diagram; White appears poised for a crushing attack) Ne4!!?.

Black gives up his queen for a rook and minor piece, but his remaining forces pose no end of defensive problems for White’s cornered king. White should still win, but Smyslov appears flustered by the need to shift so quickly from attack to defense.

White’s 39. Qa8? (Qa2! holds the defense together) Nf3 40. Qh8+ Kg6 41. Rc1 looks dangerous, but the Black king will be perfectly safe while the threats mount against his White counterpart; e.g. Black’s 44. h4 Nh3 threatens the lethal 45…Rf1+ 46. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 47. Kg2 Rf2+! 48. Kxh3 Rh2 mate.

Black’s bold play finally pays off on 51. Kh1 Rg7 52. Qf2? (White had to take the sting out of the rook invasion with 52. Qe4 Rg4 53. Qe7, with rough equality) Rf4! 53. Rc4 (Rc2 Rxh4+ 54. Qh2 Rg1 mate) Rxc4, when 554. dxc4? loses trivially to 54…Rg1+ 55. Qxg1 Nxg1 56. Kxg1 Kxh4.

With covering fire from his two rooks, Spassky’s king can saunter across the board, barely inconvenienced by the queen checks as it picks off pawns left and right. By 66. Qd2+ Rgc3, White’s queenside can’t be held and his king is too far from the action to offer any aid; Smyslov resigned.

1956 Candidates Tournament, Amsterdam


1. d4Nf629. Qh5Rd8

2. c4e630. Be2Qf5

3. Nc3Bb431. Qh4Qf6

4. a3Bxc3+32. Qh5Nc6

5. bxc3c533. g4Qf7

6. e3b634. Qh4Ne7

7. Ne2Nc635. Qh3Ng6

8. Ng30-036. Qh2Nf4

9. Bd3Ba637 Bf3Qxc4

10. e4Ne838. g5Rd6

11. Be3Na539. Rc1Rg6

12. Qe2Rc840. gxh6Rxh6

13. d5Qh441. Qg3Qe4

14. 0-0Nd642. Qxf4Qxf4

15. Rad1f543. Bxf4Rxf4

16. dxe6dxe644. Re1Ra4

17. exf5exf545. Re8+Kh7

18. Qf3Bb746. Be4+g6

19. Qf4Qf647. g4Rxa3

20. Bb1Ne448. Re6Rxc3

21. Rd7Qc649. Kg2b5

22. Rxb7Qxb750. f3b4

23. Nxf5Rce851. g5Rh4

24. Qg4Kh852. Bxg6+Kg7

25. Ng3Nxg353. Kg3Rd4

26. hxg3Qf754. Be8b3

27. Qh4h655. g6Rd8

28. Bd3Qf6White forfeits

1956 Candidates Tournament, Amsterdam


1. c4e634. Rg7+Qxg7

2. g3f535. Bxg7Rxf3

3. Bg2Nf636. Qxd5Ng5

4. Nf3Be737. Bd4Ref7

5. 0-00-038. Kg2R3f5

6. b3d539. Qa8Nf3

7. Bb2Bd740. Qh8+Kg6

8. d3Be841. Rc1Rf8

9. Nbd2Nc642. Qg7+Kh5

10. a3a543. Kh1Ng5

11. Qc2Qd744. h4Nh3

12. cxd5exd545. e4R5f7

13. e3Bh546. Qg2Nf2+

14. Bc3Bd647. Kg1Ng4

15. Qb2Ra648. e5Bxe5

16. Rfc1Kh849. Bxe5Nxe5

17. Bf1Rb650. Qe2+Nf3+

18. Bg2Qe651. Kh1Rg7

19. Nd4Nxd452. Qf2Rf4

20. Bxd4Ra653. Rc4Rxc4

21. b4b654. Qxf3+Rcg4

22. b5Raa855. Kh2Kxh4

23. Nf3Bxf356. Qf6+Kh5

24. Bxf3Rae857. Qf3Kg5

25. Rc6Re758. Qe3+Kf5

26. a4h659. Qf3+Ke5

27. Qb3Kh760. d4+Kxd4

28. Rac1g561. Qd1+Kc3

29. R6c2Qf762. Kh3Kb4

30. Kh1f463. Qc2Rg3+

31. gxf4gxf464. Kh4R7g4+

32. Rg1fxe365. Kh5Rc4

33. fxe3Ne466. Qd2+Rgc3

White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]washington times.com.

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