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Vasily Smyslov
XIV Schach-Olympiade Leipzig, 1960  
Number of games in database: 2,624
Years covered: 1935 to 2001
Last FIDE rating: 2494
Highest rating achieved in database: 2620

Overall record: +911 -305 =1373 (61.7%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 35 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (158) 
    B92 B58 B40 B22 B42
 English (128) 
    A15 A13 A14 A10 A17
 Ruy Lopez (106) 
    C77 C92 C79 C97 C75
 King's Indian (82) 
    E61 E62 E60 E66 E69
 Reti System (76) 
    A04 A05 A06
 English, 1 c4 c5 (68) 
    A30 A36 A33 A35 A37
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (218) 
    C60 C76 C69 C92 C67
 Slav (143) 
    D18 D10 D11 D15 D17
 Nimzo Indian (122) 
    E54 E32 E41 E55 E34
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (92) 
    C92 C97 C93 C98 C84
 Grunfeld (73) 
    D94 D98 D85 D86 D76
 English, 1 c4 e5 (71) 
    A28 A21 A29 A22 A20
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Botvinnik vs Smyslov, 1954 0-1
   Smyslov vs I Rudakovsky, 1945 1-0
   Smyslov vs V Liberzon, 1968 1-0
   Smyslov vs Reshevsky, 1948 1-0
   Keres vs Smyslov, 1953 0-1
   K Gerasimov vs Smyslov, 1935 0-1
   Smyslov vs Ribli, 1983 1-0
   Smyslov vs Karpov, 1971 1-0
   Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1954 1-0
   Botvinnik vs Smyslov, 1957 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948)
   Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954)
   Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Return Match (1957)
   Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Rematch (1958)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1949)
   Zurich Candidates (1953)
   Amsterdam Interzonal (1964)
   Havana (1965)
   Moscow (1963)
   Hastings 1968/69 (1968)
   USSR Championship (1944)
   USSR Championship (1940)
   USSR Championship (1947)
   Palma de Mallorca (1967)
   Las Palmas (1972)
   USSR Championship (1951)
   Budapest (1952)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)
   Petropolis Interzonal (1973)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Smyslov! by amadeus
   Road to the Championship - Vasily Smyslov by suenteus po 147
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by vrkfouri
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by suenteus po 147
   Selected Games (Smyslov) by Qindarka
   Smyslov's Tournaments and Matches 1935-1979 by jessicafischerqueen
   Nearly to Perfection by Imohthep
   Veliki majstori saha 22 SMISLOV (Marovic) by Chessdreamer
   Endgames virtuoso Smyslov by LESTRADAR
   Vasily Smyslov's Best Games by KingG
   Smyslov brevities by ughaibu
   Smyslov's Best Games of chess 1935-1957 by kashparov72c5
   Smyslov's Best Games of chess 1935-1957 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   Nearly to Perfection by Gottschalk

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Vasily Smyslov
Search Google for Vasily Smyslov

(born Mar-24-1921, died Mar-27-2010, 89 years old) Russia
[what is this?]
Vasily Vasiliyevich Smyslov was born in Moscow. A talented singer, Smyslov narrowly missed joining the Bolshoi Opera. Opera's loss was the chess world's gain. He was awarded the Soviet Grandmaster title in 1941. Moscow champion of 1942. He took his first win over Botvinnik at Moscow championship of 1943. Moscow champion of 1944/5. Sub-champion of the World in 1948. Shared the first place with David Bronstein in the 1949 Soviet Championship. Winner of Chigorin Memorial 1951. After his success at Zurich 1953, he became the challenger in 1954, but tied the match with Botvinnik. Soviet champion in 1955 sharing the first place with Efim Geller. Again winner of the Candidates Tournaments at Amsterdam 1956 and after winner of Alekhine memorial (drawing Botvinnik) the way was paved for Smyslov to become the 7th World Champion when he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in 1957. His reign was short-lived as Botvinnik regained the title a year later. Smyslov would go on to many tournament victories such as Amsterdam 1964 (jointly), Havana 1965 in front of Robert James Fischer, and Monte Carlo 1969. In 1982 at the Las Palmas Interzonal Tournament, Smyslov finished second and qualified for the Candidates Matches, and at age 61 advanced past Robert Huebner in the quarter-finals (winning the spin of a roulette wheel to decide the tied match), then defeating Zoltan Ribli in the semi-final, before losing to young challenger Garry Kasparov in the final. Vasily Smyslov crowned a remarkable career by becoming the first Senior World Champion at Bad Worishofen in 1991. His father Vasily Osipovich Smyslov also played and was a strong amateur player.

Crosstables and other info can be found here:
[rusbase-1] [rusbase-2]$...
[rusbase-4] [rusbase-5]

Smyslov Videos:
Singing, playing piano, beating Botvinnik (1957) Receiving World Championship Laurels (1957) Walking with Keres in the Netherlands (1948)

Wikipedia article: Vasily Smyslov


<Revision and Expansion> of this bio under construction by JFQ.


His father was an "Economic Engineer" working in the "Department for the Preparation of Securities" <125 Games, 1>

Lived in a small flat in an old house on the outskirts of Moscow. Highlight of our life was a 'Schroeder' piano, on which my father used to play. He began teaching me piano and chess <125 Games, 2>

Autumn 1938- 1st year student at the Moscow School of Aviation <Romanovsky xii>

"Starting in 1948, I seriously studied singing under Professor Konstantin Zlobin, whom I met by chance in Leningrad in 1947, when I was playing in the 15th USSR Championship. For many years I took lessons from him, and even appeared in a singing competition in the Bolshoi Theatre. But, as in the life of my father, singing remained something for my own satisfaction." <125 Games, 17>

Father Vasily Osipovich Smyslov taught him to play chess at age 7. <125 Games, 1>

After winning a rook odds match against his Uncle Kirill, he was given Alekhine's "Best Games" as a prize. Inscription: 'To the winner of the match, to future champion Vasya Smyslov' <125 Games, 1>

Soviet Grandmaster

Summer of 1935 participated in 1st chess event. Unrated players in chess club of Gorky Park. He won this and two more, by the end of the summer he was 3d Category. <125 Games, 4-5>

Fall 1935, joins the Moskvoretsky House of Pioneers. <125 Games, 5>

"In 1936 he entered the second category, and in the autumn of the same year the first category." <Romanovsky, xi>

In 1937- 1. <Moskvoretsky House of Pioneers Championship 1937> (Fall) 1st, 11-0. Had earned <1st Category rank> in autumn 1936

-<Smyslov> on his "happiest moment": At the championship of the Young Pioneers Stadium, where I won all 11 games, didn't give away a single draw, and there were strong players there, almost all of them became masters, I kept the tournament table from that event." <Sosonko> pp.126-27

Jan. 1938- Leningrad- Smyslov won the USSR under 18 Championship. <Averbakh p.34> Grigory Levenfish gave him 1st prize of an inscribed clock, which "continues to count out the time of my chess career.<125 Games, 9>

Shared 1-3 places with Anatoly Ufimtsev and Mark Moiseevich Stolberg in the <Gorky National 1st Category Tournament 1938 (2d group)> [rusbase-7] This result earned him the Candidate Master title. <Romanovsky, xi>

Shared 1st with Sergey Vsevolodovich Belavenets, ahead of Grandmaster Andre Lilienthal at <18th Moscow Championship 1938>, awarded Master Title. <125 Games, 9> <[rusbase-8]>

Finished 3d in the USSR Championship (1940), Finished 3d in the USSR Absolute Championship (1941)- "in accordance with the norms in existence, for these two successes I was awarded the title of USSR grandmaster." <125 Games, 9-10>

1st International tournament Groningen 1946.
Groningen (1946)
"third place... behind Mikhail Botvinnik and Max Euwe opened the way for my participation in the battle for the World Championship." <125 Games, 11>

World Champion

Smyslov's 2d in the <1948 WCC> seeded him into the <Budapest 1950 Candidates Tournament>. Budapest Candidates (1950)

They were to be joined by the unsuccessful invitees to the 1948 Championship, but only Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres took their places.<nescio>

Smyslov: "3d place in the <Budapest 1950 Candidates Tournament> gave me the automatic right to a place in the next Candidates Tournament." <125 Games, 12>

1st in the <Zurich Candidates Tournament 1953> Zurich Candidates (1953)

1954 <World Championship Match> Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954) Drew Botvinnik, who retained championship on draw odds.

Candidates Cycling

Theoretical Contributions

-<Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov variation (D99)>

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 <Nfd7>

This plan was developed in preparation for the <1948 WCC>. Smyslov: "The point of the plan, involving the transfer of the king's knight to b6, and the development of the other knight at c6, lies in piece pressure on White's pawn centre."> <125 Games, 11>


-<Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense (C93)>

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 <h6>


-<Slav Defense: Smyslov Variation (D16)>

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 <Na6>


-<Ruy Lopez Fianchetto Defense (C60)>

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6

Smyslov revived this line at <Szolnok 1975>







[<1> Vasily Smyslov, "Smyslov's 125 Selected Games" Ken Neat transl. Cadogen, 1983

2 P.A. Romanovsky, "Vassily Vassilievitch Smyslov." Published in Vasily Smyslov, "My Best Games of Chess (1935-1957)" P.H. Clarke ed., transl. (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1958), pp. xi-xxvii (First published as "Izbrannie partii" in Russian in 1952)

3 P.H. Clarke, "V.V. Smyslov, 1952-57." Published in Vasily Smyslov, "My Best Games of Chess (1935-1957)"

4 Yuri Averbakh "Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes" Steve Giddins transl. New in Chess, 2011

5 Genna Sosonko "The World Champions I Knew." New in Chess, 2013

6 Edward Winter, ed. "World Chess Champions." Pergamon Press, 1981

7 Andrew Soltis, "Soviet Chess 1917-1991" McFarland, 1997

8 Harry Golombek "The World Chess Championships of 1957 and 1958" Hardinge Simpole, 1958

9 Smyslov Interview by Vladimir Anzikeev for "Shakhmatnaya Nedelia" (Chess Week). Translated by Zoya Vlassova. First appeared in "Chess Today" No. 1045.

10 Mikhail Botvinnik, "Botvinnik's Complete Games (1942-1956) and Selected Writings (Part 2)" Kean Neat ed., transl. Olomouc, 2012. -Originally published in Mikhail Botvinnik, "Match Botvinnik-Smyslov" (Fizkultura i sport, Moscow 1955)

11 Mikhail Botvinnik "Achieving the Aim" Bernard Cafferty, transl. Pergamon, 1981

12 Dmitry Plisetsky and Sergey Voronkov, "Russians vs. Fischer" Ken Neat transl. Everyman Chess, 2005

Tournament Sources

[-<18th Moscow Championship 1938> <[rusbase-9]>

-<Gorky National 1st Category Tournament 1938 (2d group)> <[rusbase-10]>


 page 1 of 105; games 1-25 of 2,624  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. K Gerasimov vs Smyslov 0-1221935MoscowD05 Queen's Pawn Game
2. Smyslov vs V Zak 1-0361938MoscowA43 Old Benoni
3. Smyslov vs M Recash 1-0231938MoscowB10 Caro-Kann
4. N Zanozdra vs Smyslov 1-0251938Ch URS (juniors)B17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
5. V Baturinsky vs Smyslov 0-1341938Moscow-chC45 Scotch Game
6. Smyslov vs Lilienthal 1-0561938Moscow-chC11 French
7. Averbakh vs Smyslov 0-1241939Moscow-chA06 Reti Opening
8. Smyslov vs Kan  ½-½311939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC43 Petrov, Modern Attack
9. Smyslov vs Konstantinopolsky 1-0571939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC77 Ruy Lopez
10. Alatortsev vs Smyslov 0-1401939Leningrad/Moscow trainingE47 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3
11. Smyslov vs V Makogonov ½-½491939Leningrad/Moscow trainingB10 Caro-Kann
12. S Belavenets vs Smyslov 0-1361939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD02 Queen's Pawn Game
13. Smyslov vs Ragozin 0-1351939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
14. Panov vs Smyslov ½-½421939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC77 Ruy Lopez
15. Smyslov vs Goglidze 1-0801939Leningrad/Moscow trainingB83 Sicilian
16. Reshevsky vs Smyslov 1-0701939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
17. Smyslov vs Tolush 0-1241939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC16 French, Winawer
18. P Romanovsky vs Smyslov  ½-½431939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD52 Queen's Gambit Declined
19. Smyslov vs Levenfish  ½-½631939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
20. Lilienthal vs Smyslov ½-½421939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
21. Smyslov vs Flohr ½-½431939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC77 Ruy Lopez
22. Keres vs Smyslov 1-0331939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
23. Smyslov vs I Rabinovich  ½-½311939Leningrad/Moscow trainingB77 Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav Attack
24. Bondarevsky vs Smyslov 1-0261939Leningrad/Moscow trainingE85 King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox Variation
25. Lilienthal vs Smyslov 0-1531939Moscow-chE26 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
 page 1 of 105; games 1-25 of 2,624  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Smyslov wins | Smyslov loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 53 OF 53 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-25-16  luftforlife: <A.T PhoneHome>: Heinrich Fraenkel Assiac, The Delights of Chess (New York: Dover Publications 1974), 70 ("Befitting his monumental stature and imposing appearance, he is what may be called a stately walker. He walks in slow and measured step . . . .").

Cf. GM Svetozar Gligoric, The World Chess Championship (Lovett P. Edwards tr., R.G. Wade ed.) (London: Harper & Row 1972), 11 ("Tall and strongly built, he walks firmly and steadily . . . his movements slow and dignified.").

Mar-28-16  TheFocus: Rest in peace, Vasily Smyslov.
Apr-02-16  luftforlife: Apparently, Heinrich Fraenkel wrote under the pseudonym "Assiac." (That had not been obvious upon the title page of, or in the citation to, The Delights of Chess in the form in which I viewed it.)

See Tidskrift för Schack, December 1970, Number 10, Entry by "E.U." under "Boknytt," at 340:

Apr-14-16  AlicesKnight: I met him once - in a simul. You would never have guessed that he had come from a recent demanding tournament - he was completely what we in the UK would call "a gentleman", still ready to take on over 30 of us. My only claim to fame ever in chess is that on this night, after four hours, I accepted his resignation - he was as dignified as ever. Indeed a grandmaster.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jim Bartle: Moves of the game, <alicesknight>?
May-28-16  N.O.F. NAJDORF: AVRO 38:

When Korchnoi alleged the existence of official anti-Semitism in the Soviet chess establishment, the Soviet Government countered by listing great grandmasters of Jewish extraction, including Smyslov. I don't know about Smyslov's mother, but it is likely that he had at least a Jewish grandfather, as his father had a Jewish patronym, namely Osipovich.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <N.O.F. NAJDORF: AVRO 38:
When Korchnoi alleged the existence of official anti-Semitism in the Soviet chess establishment, the Soviet Government countered by listing great grandmasters of Jewish extraction, including Smyslov. I don't know about Smyslov's mother, but it is likely that he had at least a Jewish grandfather, as his father had a Jewish patronym, namely Osipovich.>

Yeah, I don't know how Jewish having a Jewish grandfather makes you, but Smyslov was a standard Russian Orthodox Catholic. And a very superstitious one.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Under Jewish religious law, descent is through the mother, so even having a Jewish father and Gentile mother would make one a Gentile.
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <Under Jewish religious law, descent is through the mother, so even having a Jewish father and Gentile mother would make one a Gentile.>

But all people who define themselves as Jews accept this definition. There are about a dozen of definitions of a Jew. Among them even religious ones (IIRC, Liberal and Reform Jews accept paternal descent too). By the way, for the same reason f.x. the Israeli Law of Return left the definition of a Jew open.

Dec-04-16  GIA: <N.O.F. NAJDORF: I don't know about Smyslov's mother, but it is likely that he had at least a Jewish grandfather, as his father had a Jewish patronym, namely Osipovich.>

Nonsense. The man called Osip Smyslov couldn't be Jewish at least because of his Russian family name. The Russian forms of the many jewish biblical first names were popular in 19th century Russia.

Mar-24-17  TheFocus: Thank you for your wonderful games and wonderful books.

Happy birthday, Vasily Smyslov!!

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Here's a link to him singing some opera:

Care of van Reek's Rebel website.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <zanz> Wow, and a pretty difficult aria indeed! Moving bariton voice.

Thank you for sharing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: I listen to Russian Operas from time to time on YouTube, but have no great knowledge. From what opera is the aria that Smyslov is singing. Boris Godunov perhaps?
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: His first name is the equivalent of the western BASIL. His last name means OF THE MISS or DESCENDENT OF THE INCORRECT.

His name in English would probably be BASIL FAULTY.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Faulty Towers is about rook endings.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: It's true that Smyslov is casting a beady eye upon the faulty tower in his portrait above.
Jul-14-17  ebotdgreat: Smyslov still alive!
Aug-31-17  Howard: It's been said that Smyslov had a very harmonious playing style. While some might call that description self-explanatory, I don't understand that.

Could someone help me here?

Aug-31-17  Retireborn: Smyslov's own autobiog was called In Search of Harmony, but I believe that's a reference to his passion for opera and singing.

From a chess point of view, "harmonious" probably means that he modelled himself on Capablanca rather than Lasker. Play over sufficient of his best games and it'll be self-explanatory to you too, I should think.

Aug-31-17  Nerwal: <Play over sufficient of his best games >

Yes, it's best to make your own opinion and impressions by looking at his games.

I like Smyslov vs H Steiner, 1946 for instance. His pieces seem always perfectly placed, the exchange deficit is not felt at all.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <His last name means OF THE MISS or DESCENDENT OF THE INCORRECT.> Nonsense! :-)

In slavic languages, <smysl> generally means <sense>. Consider this (Czech) usage of the root word:

Pet <smyslu> = Five <senses>

Toto nedava <smysl> = This does not make <sense>

<Smysl> toho vseho = The <meaning/purpose> of it all

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: The photo of Smyslov here on his player page is much better than the photo of him shown on the return WC match page

Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Return Match (1957)

(where he looks like the Soviet version of Gomer Pyle)

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: After reading this:

< offramp: His first name is the equivalent of the western BASIL. His last name means OF THE MISS or DESCENDENT OF THE INCORRECT.

His name in English would probably be BASIL FAULTY.>

and this:

< Gypsy: <His last name means OF THE MISS or DESCENDENT OF THE INCORRECT.> Nonsense! :-)

In slavic languages, <smysl> generally means <sense>. Consider this (Czech) usage of the root word:

Pet <smyslu> = Five <senses>

Toto nedava <smysl> = This does not make <sense>

<Smysl> toho vseho = The <meaning/purpose> of it all>

All is clear.

The translation of "Smyslov" is that <offramp> has lost his senses!

Mar-12-18  N.O.F. NAJDORF: Maybe you're right, GIA, since even Stalin's first name (not to mention Goebbels') was Joseph (same as Ossip).

According to

Smyslov's mother was Jewish, although the claim has been disputed.

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