Members · Prefs · Laboratory · Collections · Openings · Endgames · Sacrifices · History · Search Kibitzing · Kibitzer's Café · Chessforums · Tournament Index · Players · Kibitzing

USSR Championship Tournament

Paul Keres12/17(+9 -2 =6)[games]
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian11.5/17(+8 -2 =7)[games]
Efim Geller11.5/17(+10 -4 =3)[games]
Vasily Smyslov11/17(+9 -4 =4)[games]
Mikhail Botvinnik10/17(+6 -3 =8)[games]
Yuri Averbakh9.5/17(+5 -3 =9)[games]
David Bronstein9.5/17(+6 -4 =7)[games]
Mark Taimanov9.5/17(+7 -5 =5)[games]
Salomon Flohr9/17(+4 -3 =10)[games]
Lev Aronin9/17(+6 -5 =6)[games]
Nikolai Georgiyevich Kopilov8.5/17(+7 -7 =3)[games]
Alexander Kotov8/17(+4 -5 =8)[games]
Igor Bondarevsky8/17(+4 -5 =8)[games]
Vladimir Simagin7.5/17(+3 -5 =9)[games]
Oleg Leonidovich Moiseev6.5/17(+3 -7 =7)[games]
Isaac Lipnitsky6.5/17(+4 -8 =5)[games]
Nikolay Novotelnov3/17(+2 -13 =2)[games]
Evgeny Terpugov2.5/17(+1 -13 =3)[games]
* Chess Event Description
USSR Championship (1951)

The 19th Soviet Chess Championship took place in the capital city of Moscow from November 11 to December 14, 1951. Eighteen of the Soviet Union's strongest players, including the reigning world champion, participated in the round robin event. Fourteen of the players qualified from the semi-final tournaments played earlier in the year. Nikolai Novotelnov, Isaac Lipnitsky, and Mark Taimanov qualified from Baku; Vasily Smyslov, Evgeny Terpugov, Oleg Moiseev, and Nikolai Kopilov qualified from Leningrad; Lev Aronin, Vladimir Simagin, and Salomon Flohr qualified from Lvov; and Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, Yuri Averbakh, and Isaac Boleslavsky qualified from Sverdlovsk. Boleslavsky fell ill before the final and was therefore replaced by Igor Bondarevsky, who had placed fifth in the Leningrad semi-final. Four invitations were also sent to Paul Keres as returning Soviet Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik as world champion, David Bronstein as world vice-champion, and Alexander Kotov. The assembled field was the strongest in the history of the USSR championship at that time, which makes it an especially impressive victory for Keres. It was his second consecutive Soviet crown and his third overall. He edged out runners-up Petrosian and Geller by half a point, and finished two full points ahead of world champion Botvinnik, who only managed to finish in fifth place.

The final standings and crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts 1 Keres * 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 12 =2 Petrosian * 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 11 =2 Geller 0 * 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 11 4 Smyslov 0 0 1 * 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 11 5 Botvinnik 0 0 * 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 10 =6 Averbakh 1 * 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 9 =6 Bronstein 1 0 0 1 * 1 0 1 0 1 1 9 =6 Taimanov 0 0 0 0 1 0 * 1 1 1 1 1 1 9 =9 Flohr 1 0 * 0 1 1 0 1 9 =9 Aronin 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 * 1 0 1 1 9 11 Kopilov 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 * 0 1 1 0 1 1 8 =12 Kotov 1 0 0 1 0 1 * 0 1 0 8 =12 Bondarevsky 0 0 0 1 0 * 1 0 1 1 8 14 Simagin 0 0 0 0 0 * 1 1 1 7 =15 Moiseev 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 * 1 1 6 =15 Lipnitsky 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 * 1 6 17 Novotelnov 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 * 3 18 Terpugov 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 * 2

Original collection: Game Collection: USSR Championship 1951, by User: suenteus po 147.

 page 2 of 7; games 26-50 of 153  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
26. Bronstein vs O Moiseev  ½-½251951USSR ChampionshipE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
27. Botvinnik vs Taimanov  ½-½371951USSR ChampionshipE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
28. Flohr vs Bronstein  ½-½301951USSR ChampionshipE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
29. Bondarevsky vs Petrosian 0-1821951USSR ChampionshipE71 King's Indian, Makagonov System (5.h3)
30. Taimanov vs N Kopilov  1-0701951USSR ChampionshipD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
31. Botvinnik vs Lipnitsky  1-0411951USSR ChampionshipE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
32. Geller vs Keres 0-1311951USSR ChampionshipC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
33. Kotov vs Simagin  ½-½661951USSR ChampionshipA53 Old Indian
34. Aronin vs E Terpugov  ½-½361951USSR ChampionshipA26 English
35. Averbakh vs Smyslov 1-0401951USSR ChampionshipC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
36. O Moiseev vs Novotelnov  1-0351951USSR ChampionshipE45 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Bronstein (Byrne) Variation
37. E Terpugov vs Geller 0-1331951USSR ChampionshipA43 Old Benoni
38. Keres vs Bondarevsky ½-½331951USSR ChampionshipA07 King's Indian Attack
39. Bronstein vs Botvinnik 0-1501951USSR ChampionshipD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
40. Petrosian vs Kotov 1-0521951USSR ChampionshipE68 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Variation, 8.e4
41. Novotelnov vs Flohr 1-0401951USSR ChampionshipD29 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
42. Lipnitsky vs Taimanov  0-1291951USSR ChampionshipB88 Sicilian, Fischer-Sozin Attack
43. N Kopilov vs Aronin  0-1781951USSR ChampionshipB90 Sicilian, Najdorf
44. Simagin vs Averbakh  ½-½491951USSR ChampionshipD32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
45. Smyslov vs O Moiseev  ½-½411951USSR ChampionshipA07 King's Indian Attack
46. Geller vs N Kopilov 1-0461951USSR ChampionshipD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
47. Bondarevsky vs E Terpugov  1-0411951USSR ChampionshipD07 Queen's Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense
48. Taimanov vs Aronin  ½-½291951USSR ChampionshipE61 King's Indian
49. O Moiseev vs Simagin 0-1301951USSR ChampionshipE70 King's Indian
50. Averbakh vs Petrosian  ½-½291951USSR ChampionshipB11 Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4
 page 2 of 7; games 26-50 of 153  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

TIP: You can make the above ads go away by registering a free account!

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: This was Kopylov's only participation in a USSR Championship final tournament. Although he finished 11th, he did have the satisfaction of defeating tournament winner Keres, =2nd place finisher Geller and the current World Champion Botvinnik.
Jul-01-14  FSR: Funny to see Keres, Petrosian, and Geller bunched together at the top of the cross-table. Eleven years later at Curacao they were bunched together almost exactly the same way - except there it was Petrosian who finished half a point above the other two.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sokrates: A magnificent victory by Keres, who didn't have sunny days under the Soviet regime. I think this was his renaissance after having been in a deep cellar of depression in the second half of the 1940s. We shall never learn what Paul Keres could have achieved if he was not forced to live in the Soviet. Well, the same could be said for many others. Only a few, primarily Botvinnik, Petrosian and Karpov were favoured by the regime.
Jun-26-15  zydeco: The tournament was also a zonal for the 1951-54 Candidates cycle. Botvinnik, Bronstein, Keres, and Smyslov were already seeded into the Candidates tournament. Geller, Petrosian, Taimanov, and Averbakh qualified for the Interzonal. The Soviet Union had a fifth spot - which would have gone to Lev Aronin if he had won his last-round game (Aronin vs Smyslov, 1951) - but instead of organizing a tiebreak between Flohr and Aronin, they 'socially promoted' Kotov, who wasn't even close to qualifying but was a member of the Sports Committee -- and justified his rather corrupt qualification by making a record score at the Interzonal. It's a really sad story for Aronin -- who apparently never got over the setback.

This tournament is right up there as one of Keres' greatest achievements. He played smooth, attractive chess, overcame a couple of early defeats, went 4.5/5 down the stretch, and cold-bloodedly won a tough last-round game against Taimanov. He was pretty clearly the best player in the world in 1951 -- and made such an impression that the Soviet grandmasters orchestrated a remarkable coup: they dumped Botvinnik, the reigning world champion, from board one on the 1952 Olympiad team, with the rationale that his recent results hadn't been anywhere close to Keres'.

It's interesting to think about Geller and Petrosian playing as a pair. They don't seem to have much in common stylistically or temperamentally -- but rose up through the ranks at exactly the same time.

Kopilov was definitely the tournament wild card.

Good games from this tournament:

Bronstein vs Kotov, 1951
Smyslov vs Bronstein, 1951
Botvinnik vs Geller, 1951
Smyslov vs Keres, 1951
Geller vs Keres, 1951
Keres vs Taimanov, 1951
Kotov vs Geller, 1951
Petrosian vs Smyslov, 1951
E Terpugov vs Petrosian, 1951
N Kopilov vs Bondarevsky, 1951

Nov-04-17  ughaibu: GrahamClayton: Kopilov also played, at least, in the USSR Championship (1949).
Sep-11-18  ughaibu: Did Botvinnik complain that he was robbed by the drawing conspiracy of Petrosian, Geller and Averbakh?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <zydeco....(Keres) was pretty clearly the best player in the world in 1951 -- and made such an impression that the Soviet grandmasters orchestrated a remarkable coup: they dumped Botvinnik, the reigning world champion, from board one on the 1952 Olympiad team, with the rationale that his recent results hadn't been anywhere close to Keres'....>

Matter of fact, Botvinnik was dropped from the Soviet side in 1952 altogether.

Sep-12-18  ewan14: Did he not play because he was not to be on board 1 ?
Sep-12-18  ughaibu: Ewan14: No, he was voted off the team by the other players.
Sep-12-18  Retireborn: Botvinnik did play in the next six Olympiads though (as well as the 1961 and 1965 Euros.)
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: In <Botvinnik's Best Games 1947-70>, at the finish of a game played against one of those who made up the '52 Soviet team, (paraphrasing) 'This game had definite significance for me....a secret ballot in which only one vote was cast for the World Champion. Naturally, I wished to prove that I did not play worse than our "Olympic men".'

I have occasionally wondered who cast the one vote in favour of Botvinnik's participation. My first thought: Keres.

Sep-12-18  Retireborn: <perfidious> What game was that, do you know? I assume it's from the 20th USSR ch shortly after Helsinki, where he scored +3=2-0 against the team members.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: I do not have the book on hand but according to Wiki (I know not always a reliable source...) Botvinnik says:

"..these games (plural) had a definite significance for me..." so he was talking about all three victories.

Wiki also states the players voted for the board positions and Botvinnik was not happy with board 2 - Keres was voted board one.

I do recall Bronstein saying somewhere it was the board order vote that Botvinnik did not like and he [Bronstein] was voted on as board 4 adding jokingly he thought Botvinnik should have protested over that!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: see above.

link to 1952 USSR Championship

USSR Championship (1952)

found a mention of what I said above.


The Soviet olympic team for Helsinki in 1952 was very curious -- the world champion was omitted. Is it true that your other players voted him off the team? So democratic!


No. First, we voted for the team line-up, and we placed Botvinnik second, after Keres. I was placed fourth. Botvinnik protested, and declined to take part. Why didn't he protest that I was placed fourth?

Saidy slipped in [Was it to signify that Keres was forced to lose to Botvinnik in 1948 for the crown > -- AS] as an after thought. I edited it out as it was misleading.

I read the above from somewhere else, it had no mention of Keres.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Retireborn>, I am doing all this from memory--my copy of Botvinnik's games is in mothballs and I have not read it in years--hence the gaps in my post. Do not recall which game it was.
Sep-12-18  Retireborn: Thanks to both.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Perfidious:

"I have occasionally wondered who cast the one vote in favour of Botvinnik's participation. My first thought: Keres."

It still may the case that a vote was taken by the players to oust Botvinnik.

I speculate that the players where told one of them voted for Botvinnik, but not told which one. (infact none of them did.)

So the Soviet Olympiad team were all denying to each other it was not one of them (and all were telling the truth.) but all are thinking 'one of us is lying.'

So no one in the team trusted anyone, which is just how the USSR liked it.

Sep-13-18  Howard: Petrosian lost only two games, despite the fact that (according to How to Defend in Chess) his playing style had not evolved into the avoid-losses-at-all-costs stage yet.
NOTE: You need to pick a username and password to post a reply. Getting your account takes less than a minute, totally anonymous, and 100% free--plus, it entitles you to features otherwise unavailable. Pick your username now and join the chessgames community!
If you already have an account, you should login now.
Please observe our posting guidelines:
  1. No obscene, racist, sexist, or profane language.
  2. No spamming, advertising, or duplicating posts.
  3. No personal attacks against other members.
  4. Nothing in violation of United States law.
  5. No posting personal information of members.
Blow the Whistle See something that violates our rules? Blow the whistle and inform an administrator.

NOTE: Keep all discussion on the topic of this page. This forum is for this specific tournament and nothing else. If you want to discuss chess in general, or this site, you might try the Kibitzer's Café.
Messages posted by Chessgames members do not necessarily represent the views of, its employees, or sponsors.
Spot an error? Please suggest your correction and help us eliminate database mistakes!

home | about | login | logout | F.A.Q. | your profile | preferences | Premium Membership | Kibitzer's Café | Biographer's Bistro | new kibitzing | chessforums | Tournament Index | Player Directory | Notable Games | World Chess Championships | Opening Explorer | Guess the Move | Game Collections | ChessBookie Game | Chessgames Challenge | Store | privacy notice | contact us
Copyright 2001-2018, Chessgames Services LLC