Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian had won Curacao Candidates (1962), with Paul Keres and Efim Geller sharing 2nd-3rd. Their playoff for clear 2nd was important for two reasons. First, Mikhail Botvinnik had not yet formally decided if he would defend his championship title. According to Petrosian, "This explained the hastily-arranged match between Keres and Geller ... The match was needed to determine ... the right to participate in a match for the world championship itself, if Botvinnik did not play." 1
Moscow, 11-25 August 1962 2
Botvinnik did end up deciding to defend his title, but if he had not, Petrosian would have faced the winner of this playoff in a world championship match. Second, whoever lost/won the Petrosian - Botvinnik World Championship Match (1963), the ex-champion would be seeded directly into the next candidates event. If the ex-champion decided to play in the next cycle, then only the playoff winner would earn a spot in the candidates. 3
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Keres ˝ ˝ 1 ˝ ˝ 0 ˝ 1 4˝
Geller ˝ ˝ 0 ˝ ˝ 1 ˝ 0 3˝
The match proved to be a gripping struggle. After seven games the score was tied, and Keres therefore needed to win the last game, because Geller would be declared victor in a drawn match due his superior Sonneborn-Berger score. 4 Keres rose to the occasion in Game 8, saccing a knight in a sharp kingside attack to destroy Geller in just 28 moves.
Because Botvinnik declined to play in the next WCC cycle, both Keres and Geller were seeded into the candidates matches. At the Varna 1962 FIDE conference, it had been decided that in the post-1963 cycle the next WCC candidate would be decided in a series of matches, rather than in a tournament. 5 In the 1963-66 cycle, Keres lost his quarterfinal match to Spassky; Spassky - Keres Candidates Quarterfinal (1965). Geller won his quarterfinal match against Smyslov; Geller - Smyslov Candidates Quarterfinal (1965), but was eliminated in his semifinal match against Spassky; Spassky - Geller Candidates Semifinal (1965).
1 Igor Botvinnik, ed., Stephen Giddins transl., Botvinnik-Petrosian: The 1963 World Chess Championship Match (New in Chess 2010), p. 93.
2 Round order and dates: Paul Keres, Photographs and Games (International Chess Enterprises 1997), pp. 337-338.
3 Tidskrift för Schack, March 1965, p. 69 (translation by User: Tabanus).
4 Paul Keres and John Nunn, Paul Keres: The Quest For Perfection (Batsford 1997), p. 148.
5 Yuri Averbakh, Steve Giddins transl., Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes - the Personal Memoir of a Soviet Chess Legend (New in Chess 2011), p. 114.
Original collection Game Collection: 1962 Candidates play-off match: Geller-Keres by User: capybara; Introduction written and sourced by User: WCC Editing Project, with invaluable help from User: Benzol, User: Tabanus, and User: Paint My Dragon.