The Death of Alekhine and the Rebirth of FIDE, 1948
The Hague / Moscow
World chess champion Alexander Alekhine died on 23 March 1946. At the July 1946 Winterthur congress, FIDE proposed a contest for the vacant title be scheduled for June 1947 in the Netherlands. They planned a quadruple round robin tournament featuring the following candidates- Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres, Vasily Smyslov, and the winner of either the upcoming Groningen or Prague tournaments, decided by a match if necessary. Max Euwe was also included because he had previously held the world title. The tournament was delayed, partly because the USSR was not yet a FIDE member. On 15 September 1946, the proposed contestants (except Fine) met in Moscow to iron out the details. This meeting occurred a day after the USSR-USA match ended, and did not involve FIDE. Botvinnik reportedly announced that he would not play in the Netherlands. He was angry about a Dutch news report that suggested his fellow Russians might collude to help him win the title. The five contestants then compromised with a plan to divide the event between the Netherlands and Moscow. The Soviet Sports Committee refused this idea outright because they wanted all the games to be played in Moscow. Meanwhile, FIDE president Alexander Rueb withdrew FIDE's claim to organize the tournament.
Nothing concrete was decided until the next FIDE congress in The Hague on 30 July-2 August 1947. The Soviets were now members of FIDE. All parties agreed to most of the terms originally proposed at Winterthur 1946. The new conditions stated that the tournament would begin in spring 1948, be played partly in The Hague and partly in Moscow, and most notably, no extra player would be added.[8,9] Miguel Najdorf was excluded because of this change. He won Prague 1946 and would have qualified directly for the championship tournament, since Botvinnik won Groningen 1946 and was already seeded into the championship. Shortly before the tournament, Fine dropped out due to academic commitments. FIDE therefore decided to stage a quintuple round robin, for a total of 25 rounds, with one player having a bye each round.[10,11]
| ||Smyslov vs Keres, The Hague, 1948|
The time control was 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours and 16 moves per hour after that.[12,13] Players were permitted two assistants to help analyze adjourned games. First prize was $5,000; second $3,000; third $2,000; fourth $1,500; and fifth $1,000. Milan Vidmar was arbiter, assisted by Alexander Kotov.[12,15] Decided by lot, the first 10 rounds were held in The Hague, followed by 15 rounds in Moscow. During the first leg, all players except Botvinnik lodged at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. Botvinnik objected to the Kurhaus, explaining that he wanted to stay "in a hotel where I can get to... (the Dierentuin playing hall) on foot in twenty minutes." At first, a few members of the Russian delegation insisted that Botvinnik stay with the other players at the Kurhaus. But Soviet consul Filipp Chikirisov offered to locate different lodgings, and Botvinnik was eventually able to secure rooms at the Hotel De Twee Steden for his family and his seconds, Viacheslav Ragozin and Salomon Flohr.
Botvinnik led the field by a point when he faced Keres in the 10th round. Due to a scheduling vagary, Keres was playing after an unusually long layoff. Before the tournament, Botvinnik had noticed this odd scheduling possibility and warned his countrymen that "when we get to The Hague, one of you will get six days of rest, and lose like a child on the seventh day." "After six days' rest", Botvinnik later recalled, "Keres sat across from me, pale as death." Keres proceeded to lose in 23 moves, enabling Botvinnik to carry a 1.5 point lead into the Moscow leg. In Moscow, the masters played in the magnificent Salle des Colonnes in front of 2,000 spectators. 3,000 more people were in the streets outside, following the action on a giant demonstration board. Botvinnik clinched the title by round 22, finishing three points ahead of Smyslov.
Some charge that the Soviets pressured Keres to throw games to help Botvinnik win. According to Kenneth Whyld, Keres told him that "he was not ordered to lose... games to Botvinnik, and was not playing to lose. But he had been given a broader instruction that if Botvinnik failed to become World Champion, it must not be the fault of Keres." In 1991 Botvinnik claimed that "during the second half in Moscow... it was proposed that the other Soviet players... lose to me on purpose... it was Stalin... who proposed this. But of course I refused!" In a 1994 conversation with Gennady Sosonko, Botvinnik said "...in 1948 I played well. I prepared with all my heart and showed what I was capable of."
1 2 3 4 5
1 Mikhail Botvinnik ***** ½½1½½ 1½011 11110 1½1½½ 14.0
2 Vasily Smyslov ½½0½½ ***** ½½1½½ 00½1½ 11011 11.0
3 Samuel Reshevsky 0½100 ½½0½½ ***** 1½01½ 1½½11 10.5
4 Paul Keres 00001 11½0½ 0½10½ ***** 1½111 10.5
5 Max Euwe 0½0½½ 00100 0½½00 0½000 ***** 4.0
1. FIDE (Fédération internationale des échecs or World Chess Federation), founded in 1924, first administered a world chess championship in 1948. In Edward Winter, Interregnum (2003-2004)
2. Erwin Voellmy, Schweizerische Schachzeitung (Nov 1946), pp.169-171. In Winter, Interregnum.
3. Minutes of the FIDE Secretariat of the congress in Winterthur in July 1946. In Winter, Interregnum.
4. CHESS (Dec 1946), p.63. In Winter, Interregnum.
5. Mikhail Botvinnik, Achieving the Aim Bernard Cafferty, transl. (Pergamon 1981), pp.105-106
6. Botvinnik, Achieving the Aim pp.107-108
7. The USSR joined FIDE at The Hague conference of 1947. They arrived late on 2 Aug, the last day of the congress. El Ajedrez Argentino (Nov-Dec 1947), pp. 298-300. In Winter, Chess: The History of FIDE Section 5: Euwe world champion for one day
8. Erwin Voellmy, Schweizerische Schachzeitung (Oct 1947), pp.154-155. In Winter, Interregnum.
9. Chess Review (Aug 1947), p.2
10. American Chess Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1948), p.11. In Winter, Interregnum.
11. American Chess Bulletin (Mar-Apr 1948), p.25. In Winter, Interregnum.
12. Paul Keres, Match Tournament for the World Chess Championship - The Hague and Moscow 1948 (Estonian State Publishing 1950), p.7
13. Harry Golombek, The World Chess Championship 1948 (Hardinge Simpole 1949), p.3
14. Botvinnik, Achieving the Aim p.111
15. Golombek, p.4
16. G.W.J. Zittersteyn, The Preparations for the Netherlands Leg in Max Euwe, The Hague-Moscow 1948 Match/Tournament for the World Chess Championship (Russell Enterprises 2013), p.19
17. D.A. Yanofsky and H.J. Slavekoorde, Battle Royal... A Round by Round Account of the Thrilling Contest for the World's Chess Title. In Chess Life and Review (Apr 1948), p.7
18. Botvinnik, Achieving the Aim pp.113-114. We have corrected the spelling of the hotel in the source text, which was Twee Staden. According to a contemporary Dutch newspaper account, the correct spelling is De Twee Steden. De Tijd, 25 March 1948, p.2.
19. Mikhail Botvinnik, 15 Games and their Stories Jim Marfia, transl. (Chess Enterprise Inc. 1982), pp.40-42
20. Golombek, p.126
21. Taylor Kingston, The Keres-Botvinnik case revisited: A further survey of the evidence (Chess Cafe, 8 Oct 2001), p.2.
22. Tim Krabbé, Open Chess Diary, Item #65 (11 June 2000)
23. Max Pam and Genna Sosonko, Een interview met Michail Moiseevitch Botwinnik (Vrij Nederland 20 Aug 1991). In Tim Krabbé, Open Chess Diary Item #42. In Kingston, pp.4-5
24. Genna Sosonko, Russian Silhouttes 3d Edition (New in Chess, 2009), p.42