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FIDE World Championship Tournament

Mikhail Botvinnik14/20(+10 -2 =8)[games]
Vasily Smyslov11/20(+6 -4 =10)[games]
Samuel Reshevsky10.5/20(+6 -5 =9)[games]
Paul Keres10.5/20(+8 -7 =5)[games]
Max Euwe4/20(+1 -13 =6)[games]

  WCC Overview
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.[1] 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.[2] Max Euwe was also included because he had previously held the world title.[3] The tournament was delayed, partly because the USSR was not yet a FIDE member.[4] 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.[5] 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.[4] 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.[6] Meanwhile, FIDE president Alexander Rueb withdrew FIDE's claim to organize the tournament.[4]

 Smyslov vs Keres
 Smyslov vs Keres, The Hague, 1948
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.[7] 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.[9] 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]

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.[14] First prize was $5,000; second $3,000; third $2,000; fourth $1,500; and fifth $1,000.[13] 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.[16] During the first leg, all players except Botvinnik lodged at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen.[17] 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."[18] 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.[18]

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."[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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."[22] 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!"[23] In a 1994 conversation with Gennady Sosonko, Botvinnik said " 1948 I played well. I prepared with all my heart and showed what I was capable of."[24]

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

 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 50  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Euwe vs Keres 0-1561948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
2. Smyslov vs Reshevsky ½-½411948FIDE World Championship TournamentC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
3. Keres vs Smyslov 1-0271948FIDE World Championship TournamentA15 English
4. Botvinnik vs Euwe 1-0321948FIDE World Championship TournamentD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
5. Reshevsky vs Keres 1-0411948FIDE World Championship TournamentA15 English
6. Smyslov vs Botvinnik ½-½441948FIDE World Championship TournamentD96 Grunfeld, Russian Variation
7. Euwe vs Smyslov 0-1421948FIDE World Championship TournamentC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
8. Botvinnik vs Reshevsky 1-0321948FIDE World Championship TournamentE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
9. Keres vs Botvinnik 0-1581948FIDE World Championship TournamentA13 English
10. Reshevsky vs Euwe 1-0411948FIDE World Championship TournamentD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
11. Keres vs Euwe ½-½341948FIDE World Championship TournamentC86 Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack
12. Reshevsky vs Smyslov ½-½451948FIDE World Championship TournamentD17 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
13. Smyslov vs Keres 0-1571948FIDE World Championship TournamentE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
14. Euwe vs Botvinnik ½-½401948FIDE World Championship TournamentC07 French, Tarrasch
15. Botvinnik vs Smyslov ½-½791948FIDE World Championship TournamentD98 Grunfeld, Russian
16. Keres vs Reshevsky ½-½241948FIDE World Championship TournamentC71 Ruy Lopez
17. Smyslov vs Euwe 1-0701948FIDE World Championship TournamentC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
18. Reshevsky vs Botvinnik ½-½331948FIDE World Championship TournamentA91 Dutch Defense
19. Euwe vs Reshevsky ½-½571948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
20. Botvinnik vs Keres 1-0231948FIDE World Championship TournamentE28 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
21. Smyslov vs Reshevsky 1-0521948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
22. Euwe vs Keres 0-1251948FIDE World Championship TournamentC74 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
23. Keres vs Smyslov ½-½421948FIDE World Championship TournamentD99 Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov
24. Botvinnik vs Euwe 1-0361948FIDE World Championship TournamentD49 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran
25. Smyslov vs Botvinnik 0-1411948FIDE World Championship TournamentB60 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 50  PGN Download
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I believe Botvinnik has said that he was the best player of the 1940s.

Actually that could be true - but I have found that <chess> history splits up much better into 5s. For example one could not call Fischer the best player of the 1970s; that's too much. But he <could> easily claim the period 1970-1975. Then Karpov would be 1975-85, then Kasparov 1985-2000.

I think Mikhail Botvinnik could be the best player 1935-1940, but only just. Then 1940-45 is very hard owing to the lack of international tournaments. Klaus Junge? Sammy Reshevsky? Reuben Fine? Paul Keres? It could also be Botvinnik, again, of course.

1945-50 I'd say Bronstein or Smyslov. Botvinnik didn't play much, of course. But he won THIS tournament and became, belatedly, World Champion.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <offramp>

Botvinnik said specifically that he was unbeatable 1941-48 just as Alekhine had been 1927-34. He said every great player has that period and that was his.

<I think Mikhail Botvinnik could be the best player 1935-1940, but only just. >

I don't think there is one. Botvinnik, Flohr, Alekhine, Keres, Fine would all have claims.

<Then 1940-45 is very hard owing to the lack of international tournaments. Klaus Junge? Sammy Reshevsky? Reuben Fine? Paul Keres? It could also be Botvinnik, again, of course. >

It's Botvinnik, obviously. The 1941 Match-Tournament, the 1944 championship and the 1945 championship were probably the strongest events of the period, and he blew everybody away. He won every event he participated in from 1941 on. Alekhine would have a better claim than anyone you list. He dominated Junge and Keres at any rate. What did Fine and Reshevsky do? No fault of theirs, of course.

1946-50 -- probably the top international events were Groningen, the Chigorin Memorial and this event. Botvinnik won them all. But he didn't play after 1948. Bronstein won the interzonal in 1948 and the Candidates in 1950, so you could make an argument for him. Smyslov I don't see. He gets the 1950s, though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <jess.....I think that extra player should have been Miguel Najdorf.>


Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <keypusher: Botvinnik said specifically that he was unbeatable 1941-48 just as Alekhine had been 1927-34. He said every great player has that period and that was his.>

Most interesting--I have never seen that quote, or any reference thereto, until now.

<< (offramp) I think Mikhail Botvinnik could be the best player 1935-1940, but only just. >

I don't think there is one. Botvinnik, Flohr, Alekhine, Keres, Fine would all have claims.>>

There was also Capablanca, but I agree: this was the first period in which one could speak of the titleholder as being primus inter pares.

As to the 1940s as a whole, I have recently stated my views elsewhere. There is no evidence which persuades me that there is any possibility Botvinnik's statement was anything but correct. To aver, as <offramp> has, that there is even the ghost of a chance that Smyslov was the strongest player during the years 1946-1950, when he did not win a single one of the major events from 1946-48--and one player won them all--flies in the face of logic. Then again, there are Carlsen deniers in the present day who would tell you that he has never put a foot right.

In the fifties, different story, as even Botvinnik admitted many years on.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: < offramp: I believe Botvinnik has said that he was the best player of the 1940s.

Actually that could be true - but I have found that <chess> history splits up much better into 5s.>

You have SOLVED chess history! What a great day this is.

Nov-02-14  Zonszein: Fischer once said that Reshevsky was the best from 1948 and for a decade
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Fischer made a number of statements, but not all were true.
Nov-02-14  Zonszein: Right, but they were always interesting
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <There was also Capablanca, but I agree: this was the first period in which one could speak of the titleholder as being primus inter pares.>

Well Capablanca definitely wins 1936.

<perfidious> Here is the Botvinnik quote. But I can't find the source. Supposedly an interview from the 1970s.

<Of course, I would have crushed him [Alehkine]! You know, every chess champion has a period in his life when he is just in a class by himself, and if for Alekhine it was the period from 1927 till 1934, for me it was from 1941 through 1948. Nobody could have beaten me at the time.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Yes, the 1940s worked out very nicely for Botvinnik. He sat out the war, whilst it disposed of or indisposed several opponents or potential opponents. Not that I'm accusing him of being in any way responsible for the war, of course.
Nov-02-14  Zonszein: Levenfish was very unlucky
He was a great player
But Botvinnik was the representative of the Soviet power There is no justice in this world
Imagine if Lewenfish had played in that tournament
As well as Najdorf, Bronstein.......
Nov-02-14  Absentee: Levenfish and Bronstein were both soviets, by the way.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Considering that for the first five years of the 1940's mankind were dropping bombs on each other the best player of the 40's is a title best lay unclaimed.

There was so little chess played and the war came at the wrong time (is there ever a right time for a war?) for Fine, Keres, Reshevsky and a whole host of others.

It certainly put the knackers on a Keres - Alekhine or Fine v Alekhine WC match both of which were in the pipeline after AVRO 1938.

AVRO (1938)

Botvinnik quite rightly won the strongest tournament of that era.

FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948)

so I guess we can run with that. Just a pity that they did not let Najdorf in. Even just to make it an even number of players.

At the time Najdorf had a plus score on Botvinnik. (P.1 Won 1) level at 1-1 with Keres and a one game draw with Smylov. Reshevsky had never played him and only Euwe had a plus score v him before 1948.

He would have upset slightly the apple cart perhaps taking points of Botvinnik, Smylov and Keres (these games would have been good). Max Euwe may have scored a few more points.

In later years Sammy was to establish a 21-10+ overall score v Najdorf. The later years record by Botivinnik, Smyslov and Keres v Najdrof are hardly impressive.

Botvinnik leads 2 wins to one. (1 draw.)
Smsylov leads 1-0 (11 draws)
Keres 2-2 (11 draws.)

Still reckon Botvinnik would have won it but it does look like Reshevsky had marked Najdorf's card. It would have been a cloer victory. Perhaps too close for Russian comfort. So no Najdorf.

(stats gathered from here - too lazy to double checked another source.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Levenfish was around 60 in 1948. As far as I know, before today it has never occurred to anyone, ever, not even Bronstein at his most feverish, that he should have been included in this event. Najdorf would have been nice, though.
Nov-02-14  Zonszein: Great post!
I insist though, that they could have invited Bronstein and Levenfish as well..

And as Plato (I think) put it thousand of years ago.. Only the dead soldier has seen the end of the war
There's no "right" time for war, but it seems to go over and over

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Why Levenfish? His one claim to anything was a drawn match with Botvinnik in 1937. As for Bronstein, he had not yet established himself as anything like a serious contender--winning the interzonal that year did not constitute prima facie proof that he was in the first half-dozen players in the world.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Adding Levenfish or Bronstein would be too many Soviets.

Possibly consider Salomon Flohr (A Ukranian, then Czech then Russian citizen) or even Laszlo Szabo (Hungary) before Bronstein or Levenfish, but not over Najdorf.

Flohr was actually pencilled in but the war years had been unkind to him. He fled into Sweden and apparently, with Botvinnik's help, from there to Russia .He never regained his pre-war form. Russia asked if they could swap him for Smyslov. FIDE agreed.

Nov-02-14  Petrosianic: Smyslov was next in line after Botvinnik because he had finished 2nd in the Soviet Absolute Championship.

But since Flohr was FIDE's "Official Challenger", I've never quite understood his absence. Obviously, his form wasn't what it once was, but there was no guarantee about anyone.

Nov-03-14  Zonszein: Right, I think it was in Russian Silohuettes that I read that Levenfish should have been invited to AVRO 38.
Nov-03-14  Olavi: <Petrosianic: But since Flohr was FIDE's "Official Challenger",>

Flohr was voted challenger in Stockholm 1937. I don't think that is very relevant.

Nov-03-14  Petrosianic: I don't see how who the Official Challenger is could possibly <not> be relevant to deciding who the Candidates are going to be? By definition, it is.
Nov-03-14  Olavi: But it was 11 years before? They simply decided otherwise, I believe in the 1947 Winterthur congress.
Nov-03-14  Petrosianic: AVRO was 1938, and it played a big part in the process too.

I'm not saying they couldn't have voted to take Flohr's Challenger Status away from him, but did they actually do that? It seems like a big drop to go from Official Challenger to not even one of the Candidates.

Nov-03-14  Petrosianic: Now I could be wrong about AVRO. Maybe it was irrelevant. I've heard stories about FIDE simply assigning slots. Three for the Soviets, two for the US, and one for the only living ex-champion.

The Soviet slots were filled by the 1941 Absolute Championship.

The USCF picked the two American representatives. Fine and Reshevsky were top choices. However, there were some rumblings in Chess Life about how it would be more "democratic" to let the US Championship serve as a qualifier for those two spots. It didn't happen, but that's why Reshevsky made darn sure to play in (and win) that tournament, after missing it in 1944, just in case.

The US petitioned to get three spots of their own, but FIDE wouldn't go along with it, saying that the numbers were based on how many strong players each country had.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Petrosianic: ...

The Soviet slots were filled by the 1941 Absolute Championship>

I like to imagine that that tournament took its name from its corporate sponsor, Absolut Vodka, and that it was called "Absolute" due to a typo.

Sadly I don't hold out much hope that this is true.

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