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🏆 USSR Championship (1951) Chess Event Description
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 Ar ... [more]

Player: Efim Geller

 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Smyslov vs Geller 1-0481951USSR ChampionshipA07 King's Indian Attack
2. Geller vs Simagin 1-0321951USSR ChampionshipD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
3. Petrosian vs Geller  ½-½231951USSR ChampionshipE92 King's Indian
4. Geller vs Keres 0-1311951USSR ChampionshipC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
5. E Terpugov vs Geller 0-1331951USSR ChampionshipA43 Old Benoni
6. Geller vs N Kopilov 1-0461951USSR ChampionshipD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
7. Aronin vs Geller 0-1551951USSR ChampionshipC90 Ruy Lopez, Closed
8. Taimanov vs Geller 0-1431951USSR ChampionshipA48 King's Indian
9. Geller vs Bondarevsky  ½-½331951USSR ChampionshipD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Kotov vs Geller 0-1391951USSR ChampionshipE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
11. Geller vs Averbakh  ½-½301951USSR ChampionshipD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
12. O Moiseev vs Geller 0-1441951USSR ChampionshipA15 English
13. Geller vs Flohr  0-1341951USSR ChampionshipD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
14. Botvinnik vs Geller 0-1621951USSR ChampionshipA45 Queen's Pawn Game
15. Geller vs Lipnitsky 1-0331951USSR ChampionshipE26 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
16. Bronstein vs Geller 1-0501951USSR ChampionshipC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
17. Geller vs Novotelnov 1-0421951USSR ChampionshipD43 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
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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.
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