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FIDE World Championship Tournament

Mikhail Botvinnik14/20(+10 -2 =8)[games]
Vasily Smyslov11/20(+6 -4 =10)[games]
Paul Keres10.5/20(+8 -7 =5)[games]
Samuel Reshevsky10.5/20(+6 -5 =9)[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 1; 14 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Euwe vs Keres 0-1561948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
2. Euwe vs Smyslov 0-1421948FIDE World Championship TournamentC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
3. Keres vs Botvinnik 0-1581948FIDE World Championship TournamentA13 English
4. Smyslov vs Keres 0-1571948FIDE World Championship TournamentE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
5. Euwe vs Keres 0-1251948FIDE World Championship TournamentC74 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
6. Smyslov vs Botvinnik 0-1411948FIDE World Championship TournamentB60 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
7. Botvinnik vs Reshevsky 0-1421948FIDE World Championship TournamentE29 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
8. Reshevsky vs Keres 0-1631948FIDE World Championship TournamentD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
9. Keres vs Botvinnik 0-1721948FIDE World Championship TournamentC07 French, Tarrasch
10. Keres vs Reshevsky 0-1411948FIDE World Championship TournamentC81 Ruy Lopez, Open, Howell Attack
11. Reshevsky vs Botvinnik 0-1471948FIDE World Championship TournamentC18 French, Winawer
12. Euwe vs Reshevsky 0-1421948FIDE World Championship TournamentE33 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
13. Euwe vs Keres 0-1351948FIDE World Championship TournamentE32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
14. Euwe vs Smyslov 0-1381948FIDE World Championship TournamentD99 Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-30-15  1d410: No one at the time could take down Botvinnik. He won half of his games!
Premium Chessgames Member

"Chess Life" November 2001, Volume 56, Number 10, Page 635 (7):

"Larry Evans' competence and honesty as a journalist have come increasingly under fire recently. Now with the 9/2001 'Chess Life' he compounds his sins. I refer to his comments about me on page 14 - crude attempts to mislead CL readers. A full rebuttal to his falsehoods and distortions could take several pages; I reply here to his worst offenses."

"The dispute between Evans and myself stems from my article 'The Keres-Botvinnik Case' (CL, 5/1998), which was in part a critique of his 'Tragedy of Paul Keres' (CL, 10/1996). Now in the 9/2001 CL Evans writes: 'But [Kingston] devotes six pages to the topic without reaching any conclusion despite what Keres told Whyld and Botvinnik's startling admission in a 1991 interview that Stalin did intervene.'"

"Shameless deception! By saying 'despite' Evans implies that I ignored important evidence in 1998. What he does not say is that these things were then unknown to both him and me. The Botvinnik interview lay buried in a non-chess Dutch magazine, virtually unknown to the wider world, until it was translated into English and posted on Tim Krabbe's website on 10 December, 1999. This is verified by Krabbe himself (e-mail to me, 12/12/99). Whyld's conversation with Keres was in 1962, but was not made public until 11 June, 2000 (again by Krabbe), as Whyld himself told me (e-mail, 8/11/01)."

"Evans further states: 'In a letter to the editor of 'Kingpin' (Spring 2000) Taylor Kingston claimed I misrepresented his views about the Keres-Botvinnik controversy.' Again, false and misleading. Evans misrepresented my opinion of his article, knowing since 1998 that I no longer endorse it. His spokesman Larry Parr has finally admitted that Evans' 'Kingpin' note was morally wrong (rgcp newsgroup, 8/25/2001)."

"In passing, I note Evans' claim (CL 10/2001, p. 7) that Parr has 'refuted' Winter on rgcp. Nonsense - delegating Parr to defend Evans against Winter has proven to be like delegating Al Capone to defend against charges of bootlegging."

"Evans has the right to disagree with me, but no right to misrepresent me, especially to the entire USCF membership. His column is becoming an embarrassment to USCF."

Taylor Kingston

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: I see that Keres book on the tournament is being released by New in Chess.

I was wondering if anyone was familiar with both the Euwe and the Keres books and could recommend which one they like better

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <CG> please update EventDate to be the Date of R1, i.e. 1948.03.02, for all the games in the tournament.


Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Hans Ree, writing in the Forward of the reissued Euwe tb, relates the Euwe confiscated notes story as follows:

<A curious incident, not mentioned in this book but later described by Euwe, happened at the Polish-Russian border, when the players and their entourage were on their way to Moscow for the second part of the tournament. Soviet custom officials were intrigued by the strange hieroglyphic-looking notes in Euwe’s luggage that in fact constituted his opening repertoire. What should they do?

Making a phone call to Moscow, obviously, where it was decided that Euwe’s notes should be confiscated, checked at leisure in Moscow, and eventually given back. It was a scenario for one of Reuben Fine’s nightmares. Perhaps the safety of the foreign players would be assured, but not that of their notes.

But Botvinnik intervened and phoned Moscow himself. After many hours of waiting it was decided that Euwe could keep his notes, provided that he signed a declaration that nothing in it would be detrimental to the Soviet state. To Botvinnik, Euwe joked that in any event, his analyses were either aimed at Reshevsky, or bad and useless. All is well that ends well. >

So it looks as if the authorities were in possession of the notes for several notes before returning them at Botvinnik's request.

A nice story for Botvinnik's bequest (given the criticism so-oft directed his way).

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Botvinnik indicates that Kere's also wrote a tournament book. I wonder if it's available somewhere online?

My Russian needs some work.

Mar-05-17  Paarhufer: <z: My Russian needs some work.>

Keres wrote "Maailmameistri-turnir Haag-Moskva 1948" (Tallinn, 1949).

Okay, there is an Russiian edition, too: Матч-турнир на первенство мира по шахматам, Гаага-Москва, 1948 (Таллин 1950).

And here you can find a new edition with additions by Botvinnik:

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Thank you <Paarhufer> for that information.

I was hoping to find the 1950 edition with Keres' pure notes.

I also found that link you cite, and indeed, it is very useful.

(One has to be extra careful with some of those "other" Russian chess - that seem to bait their hooks with chess books a lot.)

For the record:

<Матч-турнир на первенство мира по шахматам, Гаага-Москва, 1948 (Таллин 1950) >

google translates into:

<Match-tournament for the World Chess Championship, The Hague-Moscow, 1948 (Tallinn, 1950)>

I'm still looking for it, and will report back if I find anything.

BTW- The Russian wiki page has more stamps than the English version:

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I posted some of Keres' notes (from the recently published English translation of his book) along with computer annotations to this (in)famous ending: Keres vs Botvinnik, 1948
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: <zanzibar: Botvinnik indicates that Kere's also wrote a tournament book. I wonder if it's available somewhere online?

My Russian needs some work.>

An english translation of Keres book has just been published by New in Chess. I am hoping it will be available on Amazon soon.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: From the introduction above.

"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."

However in CHESS November 1946.(page 63 - cover story).

It reads that the original claim which upset Botvinnik came from a Dutch newspaper about possible fellow Russians collaborating prior to and regarding the Groningen (1946) tournament and not the 1948 World Championship event.

(It appears all these game fixing rumours can be traced back to a bored Dutch Hack with column inches to fill.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <An english translation of Keres book has just been published by New in Chess. I am hoping it will be available on Amazon soon.>

I will just wait for my free version once keypusher copies it all here:)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi tamar,

Is this the Keres Book of this tournament?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally> Yes. <tamar> You are going to wait a long time, my friend. :-) That is not a small book.

I should have thought harder about the copyright issue, I guess, crazy as current copyright law is (Keres has been dead for more than 40 years). Obviously when I did the Tarrasch book it wasn't an issue -- I got that book off the internet, since it had entered the public domain long ago.

I strongly recommend the Keres book, and I'm very glad I got it, though it is pricey.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <I should have thought harder about the copyright issue, I guess, crazy as current copyright law is (Keres has been dead for more than 40 years).>

This, of course, is an absurd thing to say. Copyright law <is> crazy, but there is nothing crazy about wanting copyright protection on a translation you just published, especially if it is the first edition in English. Lord knows I couldn't have done much with the Estonian or Russian versions, even if I could have found them.

I've thought of one way to assuage my guilt -- I could get you a copy, <tamar>. I think that would more than make it up to the publisher, and I've been grateful for your posts on the Keres-Botvinnik games and dozens if not hundreds of other games over the years. If you would like a copy, please post your address in my forum, and I'll delete it afterwards.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Ever since I read "The Art of the Middle Game", I look for Keres writings.

BTW I recently discovered that this is online, and I am rereading "The Art of Analysis"

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <tamar> so is that a yes?
Jan-15-18  GT3RS: My man Botvinik had an easy ride. Didn't have to face Euwe due to his strong influence. Of course this doesn't prevent him from being one of the weakest champions in history. Haha
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <tamar>, excellent book--got to read it as a young player and it made a strong impression.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OrangeTulip: So Euwe had an off-tournament. But what about the contrast to the tournament of Groningen in which he scored only 1/2 point behind the winner Botwinnik? Was it he pressure? Or the stronger opponents?
Aug-05-18  1d410: cuz Smyslov and Keres were competent players
Nov-06-18  PJs Studio: My balls no Russian official told an Estonian Jew (who’s homeland had recently been occupied by Stalinists, multiple times!) “Maybe tings go bit smoother if chess games go somewhat baddly for comrad Paul? Da?”

Corruption was rampant in those days... no way did some Stalinist not take it upon himself to say something even if Stalin did not. And why would Botvinnik have gotten so angry at Russian officials had Keres not been prompted anyway?!

Keres was twice the player Botvinnik was and thrice the man! Possibly the greatest to never hold the title - with my favorite Victor Kortchnoi being a very, very close second.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Keres was twice the player Botvinnik was>

Sorry, that's just wishful thinking, PJ.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Reading Taylor Kingston and his polemic on ethics in journalism is vastly amusing, given his own practices.
Nov-09-18  PJs Studio: You’re right Keypusher. I was exaggerating. My apologies. Keres was a very decent and kind man. I also think a better player than Botvinnik in ‘48. But that’s just my opinion.
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