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USSR Championship Tournament

Lev Polugaevsky14/22(+7 -1 =14)[view games]
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian14/22(+6 -0 =16)[view games]
Mark Taimanov13.5/22(+6 -1 =15)[view games]
Vasily Smyslov13.5/22(+6 -1 =15)[view games]
Efim Geller13.5/22(+8 -3 =11)[view games]
Leonid Stein13/22(+5 -1 =16)[view games]
Yuri Balashov12.5/22(+5 -2 =15)[view games]
Ratmir Kholmov12.5/22(+5 -2 =15)[view games]
Igor V Platonov12.5/22(+9 -6 =7)[view games]
Aivars Gipslis12/22(+4 -2 =16)[view games]
Vladimir Savon12/22(+7 -5 =10)[view games]
Orest Averkin11.5/22(+5 -4 =13)[view games]
Samuel Markovich Zhukhovitsky11/22(+5 -5 =12)[view games]
Vladimir Mikhailovich Liberzon10.5/22(+3 -4 =15)[view games]
Mikhail Tal10.5/22(+6 -7 =9)[view games]
Evgeni Vasiukov9.5/22(+3 -6 =13)[view games]
Igor Arkadievich Zaitsev9/22(+2 -6 =14)[view games]
Alexander Zaitsev9/22(+5 -9 =8)[view games]
Anatoly S Lutikov9/22(+4 -8 =10)[view games]
Eduard Gufeld9/22(+3 -7 =12)[view games]
Vladimir Borisovich Tukmakov7.5/22(+1 -8 =13)[view games]
Semyon Abramovich Furman7/22(+3 -11 =8)[view games]
Viktor Kupreichik6.5/22(+3 -12 =7)[view games]
* Chess Event Description
USSR Championship (1969)

The 37th Soviet Chess Championship featured twenty-three of the Soviet Union's best grandmasters and master competing. A number of players qualified from the four Soviet semi-final championships held earlier in the year, and the rest of the field was filled out by invitations sent to the very best of Soviet mastery. Among those invited was Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, who had lost his match for the world championship to Boris Spassky just a few months earlier. Petrosian remarked it was a great relief to have been defeated and actually later remarked that his years as world champion were some of the worst and most difficult of his life. As it turned out, being relieved of the world championship made Petrosian more dangerous as a player, as seen here in the largest non-Swiss style Soviet Championship ever held. He finished tied for first with Lev Polugaevsky, each with 14/22. A playoff match of six games was scheduled and held from February 20th to the 28th, 1970 in order to determine a sole victor for the zonal standings, and Petrosian defeated Polugaevsky by two points having only played five of the six games. Though Petrosian would never again challenge a match for the world championship, his win here was the third of an eventual four Soviet crowns he would earn over his long and successful career as one of the best chess players in the world.

Moscow, Soviet Union (Russia), 5 September - 12 October 1969 (1)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 Pts =1 Polugaevsky * 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 14 =1 Petrosian * 1 1 1 1 1 1 14 =3 Taimanov * 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 13 =3 Smyslov * 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 13 =3 Geller 1 * 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 13 6 Stein 0 * 1 1 1 1 1 13 =7 Balashov * 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 12 =7 Kholmov 0 * 1 0 1 1 1 1 12 =7 Platonov 0 0 1 1 0 * 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 12 =10 Gipslis 0 1 * 1 1 1 0 12 =10 Savon 0 0 0 0 * 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 12 12 Averkin 0 1 0 1 0 * 1 0 1 1 11 13 Zhukhovitsky 0 0 0 0 0 1 * 1 1 1 1 11 =14 Liberzon 0 1 0 0 * 0 1 1 10 =14 Tal 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 * 1 1 1 1 0 1 10 16 Vasiukov 0 0 0 0 0 * 1 1 0 1 9 =17 Zaitsev, I 0 0 0 0 1 * 0 1 0 9 =17 Zaitsev, A 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 * 1 0 1 0 9 =17 Lutikov 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 * 1 1 9 =17 Gufeld 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 * 1 9 21 Tukmakov 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 * 1 7 22 Furman 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 * 0 7 23 Kupreichik 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 * 6

1st place playoff (in 1970):

1 Petrosian 1 1 3 2 Polugaevsky 0 0 1

(1) Bernard Cafferty and Mark Taimanov, The Soviet Championships (Cadogan 1998), pp. 144-149.

Original collection: Game Collection: USSR Championship 1969, by User: suenteus po 147.

 page 1 of 11; games 1-25 of 258  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Balashov vs Kholmov  ½-½48 1969 USSR ChampionshipC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
2. V Tukmakov vs Smyslov 0-141 1969 USSR ChampionshipC93 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense
3. A Zaitsev vs Gufeld 0-169 1969 USSR ChampionshipB40 Sicilian
4. Furman vs Polugaevsky 1-034 1969 USSR ChampionshipE11 Bogo-Indian Defense
5. Gipslis vs Averkin  1-063 1969 USSR ChampionshipB44 Sicilian
6. Taimanov vs I Platonov  1-037 1969 USSR ChampionshipE59 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line
7. Stein vs I Zaitsev  ½-½48 1969 USSR ChampionshipA35 English, Symmetrical
8. Vasiukov vs Savon  0-138 1969 USSR ChampionshipC70 Ruy Lopez
9. Tal vs S Zhukhovitsky ½-½23 1969 USSR ChampionshipC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
10. Kupreichik vs Lutikov  0-139 1969 USSR ChampionshipB04 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
11. Petrosian vs V Liberzon  ½-½34 1969 USSR ChampionshipD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
12. I Platonov vs Kupreichik  1-028 1969 USSR ChampionshipB03 Alekhine's Defense
13. Gufeld vs Petrosian 0-124 1969 USSR ChampionshipC46 Three Knights
14. Geller vs Taimanov 1-042 1969 USSR ChampionshipB42 Sicilian, Kan
15. Kholmov vs V Tukmakov  1-049 1969 USSR ChampionshipB40 Sicilian
16. Lutikov vs Vasiukov  ½-½48 1969 USSR ChampionshipC78 Ruy Lopez
17. Polugaevsky vs Tal 1-037 1969 USSR ChampionshipD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
18. Smyslov vs A Zaitsev  ½-½34 1969 USSR ChampionshipA14 English
19. S Zhukhovitsky vs Gipslis  ½-½73 1969 USSR ChampionshipA46 Queen's Pawn Game
20. I Zaitsev vs Furman  1-054 1969 USSR ChampionshipC93 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense
21. V Liberzon vs Stein  ½-½20 1969 USSR ChampionshipB61 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer, Larsen Variation, 7.Qd2
22. Savon vs Balashov  ½-½26 1969 USSR ChampionshipD34 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
23. Kupreichik vs Geller 0-129 1969 USSR ChampionshipC77 Ruy Lopez
24. Tal vs I Zaitsev  ½-½41 1969 USSR ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
25. Stein vs Gufeld  ½-½20 1969 USSR ChampionshipE62 King's Indian, Fianchetto
 page 1 of 11; games 1-25 of 258  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-16-14  suenteus po 147: While not the strongest field of Soviet masters ever to compete for the championship, it's still humbling to see that Petrosian shared first being the only player out of 23 to go undefeated.
Dec-17-14  Lt.Surena: '"Petrosian shared first"
Another cheap jab by a Petrosian hater. He won the tournament at the end by defeating Pologayevsky in the play-off. Tal and Smyslov the ex-world champs were also present here making it the strongest tournament in 1969 in the world.
Dec-17-14  suenteus po 147: <Lt.Surena> You come on a bit strong. As a matter of fact, the official standings for the tournament proper had Petrosian and Polugaevsky sharing first place. The only reason a playoff match was even held (two months later) was because of the need to establish Zonal standings for the WC cycle. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a playoff. While we can unofficially consider Petrosian the eventual winner, this still counts as a championship win for Polugaevsky and is reflected in most biographical information about him.

Also, I am not a Petrosian hater. Ask around. I'm very much the opposite in fact.

Dec-17-14  Petrosianic: <The only reason a playoff match was even held (two months later) was because of the need to establish Zonal standings for the WC cycle.>

This is a question that's came up for me several times when setting up my website for both the US and USSR Championships. What is considered a title win?

Isaac Kashdan often gets left off the list of US Champions. He tied for first in 1942, but lost a playoff match. Many sources list Reshevsky as sole champion for 1942. But the playoff match was held SIX months later. Is it really possible to argue that Kashdan was never so much as co-champion?

One guy tried to argue that case to me. Said that Reshevsky retroactively became sole champion going back to the playoff, but rewriting history for 6 months didn't appeal to me.

A much more important example. In 1972, Reshevsky, Byrne and Kashdan tied for first in the US Championship. Byrne won a playoff NINE months later. And that playoff only happened because the US had two interzonal spots, and three champions. Had one of them dropped out of the Interzonal hunt, there would have been no playoff. In fact, after the 1972 championship, they began leaving ties unbroken. A lot of lists just list Byrne as the sole champion for 1972, but it's not that simple. He didn't even win the playoff until 1973!

Now, why is this important? Because Fischer won the US Championship 8 times. But how many times did Reshevsky win? Well, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1942 (playoff win), 1946, and 1969. That's seven. But what about 1972? If that counts, it's 8, the same as Fischer. If not, it's only 7.

The rule of thumb I applied is that if there's a playoff RIGHT THERE, at the scene of the tournament, then there were no co-champions. For example, 2010. Kamsky and Shulman tied for first, and had a playoff the next day at the same site. Result, no tie, Kamsky is sole champion. But if a tie is held weeks or months later, at a different location, then yes. There were co-champions until that playoff was held.

Matches can muddle things sometimes, because there are playoff matches (like Reshevsky-Kashdan '42) that don't count as additional title wins, and there are non-playoff matches (like Reshevsky-Horowitz '41) that do. In a playoff match, only half the title is up for grabs, while in a regular match, the full title is. The US Title has never changed hands in a match since the tournament series began in 1936, but one of Larry Evans' 5 championships was retaining his title in a match.

But in this case, yes. Polugaevsky was co-champion at least for a couple of months. So Polugaevsky's three Soviet titles were:

1967: (Tied with Tal)
1968: (tied and won a playoff)
1969: (tied, but lost on playoff)

The system isn't perfect. (It makes Polugaevsky a 3-time champion, the same as Keres, who won <clear> first 3 times), but it's hard to suggest something better.

Dec-17-14  Petrosianic: <suenteus po 147>: <it's still humbling to see that Petrosian shared first being the only player out of 23 to go undefeated.>

It seems to be a tradition of sorts. You lose the world title, then run right out and win the Soviet title to prove that you've still got it. Spassky did the same thing in 1973.

Dec-17-14  suenteus po 147: <Petrosianic> Thank you for that thorough discourse on the complication of playoffs and when/where they occur. I'm inclined to view shared titles as being slightly less valuable than sole champion titles. Which I think is the source of <Lt.Surena>'s ire: He wants the record to stand that Petrosian was sole champion and didn't share with nobody. And yeah, after the playoff we can recognize him as that, but before that playoff (which might not have occurred had there been no zonal issue) it was shared. So while Polugaevsky has three titles, they are not quite as impressive as Keres three clear firsts.
Dec-17-14  HSOL: Why does it matter when the playoff/tiebreak is decided? If there is a playoff/tiebreak, there usually is one winner. Before the playoff is played, in my opinion, there is NO champion, rather than two or more co-champions.
Dec-17-14  Petrosianic: <He wants the record to stand that Petrosian was sole champion and didn't share with nobody.>

Well, he was sole champion... After the playoff was held.

What really mucks it up is ties that are left totally unbroken. Like 1967. Should we count that as half a title? It would get confusing if someone tied for first in 6 championships (no playoffs in any) and we called him a 3-time champion. (Or even worse, imagine having to call someone a 2 1/2 time champion).

But if we don't get into fractions, Polugaevsky did the exact same thing in 67 that he did in 68 and 69. The only difference is in playoffs that happened later and might not have happened at all (if funding had fallen through or some such).

The thing is that in those cases the playoffs were different events, with different organizers. If the playoff his held at the tournament site, that's different. Like no one would deny that the Kramnik-Topalov rapids playoff was part of the same event as the Kramnik-Topalov match. But if they hold a closing ceremony for a tournament or match, then any additional playoff is a completely different event.

In the US, they've occasionally had something totally weird. A playoff that did NOT break the tie. There were a few years where they had a championship ring or trophy made. Then when there was a tie, they had a playoff to see who got the Ring, but they specifically said that the title itself remained shared even after one guy had won and the other had lost the playoff. Totally weird.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: One wonders whether a playoff would have been held if Petrosian had retained his world title in '69, as he refused to play a match with Bronstein to break a tie for the Moscow championship held the previous year.
Dec-17-14  Petrosianic: Didn't they have something similar when Karpov and Kasparov shared the Soviet Title in 1988? I'd heard that a playoff was contemplated, but am not sure why it wasn't held.

For that matter, I'm not sure why it was held this time. Suenteus said to establish Zonal Standings, but Petrosian was already seeded into the 1971 Candidates, so Polugaevsky would have had the top Interzonal spot with or without a playoff.

Playoffs seem to be totally haphazard. In 1948, Bronstein and Kotov shared 1st. No playoff. In 1952, Botvinnik and Taimanov did and they played a match. Neither one was a Zonal year. Then in 1977, they DID have a playoff, but the title remained shared afterwards.

That's one thing I like sports like Baseball or Football, that play the same rules (almost) every time, so you can compare one season with another. Look at the headaches they had with Roger Maris from something as simple as going from 154 games to 162.

Dec-17-14  Petrosianic: It definitely seems wrong to combine the results from the playoff into the tournament itself.

In the actual tournament, Petrosian and Polugavsky both scored +6, to share first. But by going -2 in the playoff, that drops Polugaevsky to only +4 (+7-3=17, according to the crosstable at top). That would put him BEHIND Smyslov, Geller and Taimanov, who all scored +5.

Can anyone argue that by losing the playoff, Polugaevsky dropped himself down from 2nd to a tie for 5th? No, but that's what's implied if we combine the two events into one.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Am not familiar with the circumstances behind the '88 result, only that there was no playoff. Both those titans had plenty of juice in their respective corners if they had no desire to pursue a playoff.

Am a bit surprised that <posuenteus> stated thus, as it is obvious that Petrosian was seeded in to the next cycle.

Dec-18-14  suenteus po 147: The introduction I wrote was the result of sources I consulted putting the collection together. I've since lost all my sources so I can't tell you now where I got it from, only that what I've written is what I read.
May-02-15  m.okun: Gold era of the Soviet chess!
May-02-15  kia0708: Polugaevsky was Nr 2 in Russia !!!

wow, what a player

May-02-15  m.okun: More likely, "small Leva" always played a supporting role.
Dec-06-15  Zonszein: I think that in 1988 there were a lot of discussions about whether to play a match of four games. But in the end there was no agreement.
Maybe neither Karpov nor Kasparov really wanted to play
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