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FIDE World Championship Tournament

Mikhail Botvinnik14/20(+10 -2 =8)[games]
Vasily Smyslov11/20(+6 -4 =10)[games]
Samuel Reshevsky10.5/20(+6 -5 =9)[games]
Paul Keres10.5/20(+8 -7 =5)[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 2; games 1-25 of 50  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Euwe vs Keres 0-1561948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
2. Smyslov vs Reshevsky ½-½411948FIDE World Championship TournamentC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
3. Botvinnik vs Euwe 1-0321948FIDE World Championship TournamentD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
4. Keres vs Smyslov 1-0271948FIDE World Championship TournamentA15 English
5. Reshevsky vs Keres 1-0411948FIDE World Championship TournamentA15 English
6. Smyslov vs Botvinnik ½-½441948FIDE World Championship TournamentD96 Grunfeld, Russian Variation
7. Botvinnik vs Reshevsky 1-0321948FIDE World Championship TournamentE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
8. Euwe vs Smyslov 0-1421948FIDE World Championship TournamentC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
9. Reshevsky vs Euwe 1-0411948FIDE World Championship TournamentD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
10. Keres vs Botvinnik 0-1581948FIDE World Championship TournamentA13 English
11. Reshevsky vs Smyslov ½-½451948FIDE World Championship TournamentD17 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
12. Keres vs Euwe ½-½341948FIDE World Championship TournamentC86 Ruy Lopez, Worrall Attack
13. Euwe vs Botvinnik ½-½401948FIDE World Championship TournamentC07 French, Tarrasch
14. Smyslov vs Keres 0-1571948FIDE World Championship TournamentE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
15. Botvinnik vs Smyslov ½-½791948FIDE World Championship TournamentD98 Grunfeld, Russian
16. Keres vs Reshevsky ½-½241948FIDE World Championship TournamentC71 Ruy Lopez
17. Reshevsky vs Botvinnik ½-½331948FIDE World Championship TournamentA91 Dutch Defense
18. Smyslov vs Euwe 1-0701948FIDE World Championship TournamentC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
19. Euwe vs Reshevsky ½-½571948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
20. Botvinnik vs Keres 1-0231948FIDE World Championship TournamentE28 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
21. Smyslov vs Reshevsky 1-0521948FIDE World Championship TournamentC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
22. Euwe vs Keres 0-1251948FIDE World Championship TournamentC74 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
23. Botvinnik vs Euwe 1-0361948FIDE World Championship TournamentD49 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran
24. Keres vs Smyslov ½-½421948FIDE World Championship TournamentD99 Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov
25. Smyslov vs Botvinnik 0-1411948FIDE World Championship TournamentB60 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 50  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 8 OF 8 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-05-17  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).

Mar-05-17  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:

Mar-08-17  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.
Aug-02-19  Chesgambit: no world championship 1946-1948
Aug-02-19  Chesgambit:
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <I also think a better player than Botvinnik in ‘48.> In fact Keres played quite badly in that tournament. He was very close to -3=2+0 debacle in his mini-match with Reshevsky, not to mention his loss to Botvinnik, and there were quite a lot of inaccuracies in his play in other games as well. His final result was not so disastrous only thanks to his dominance over poorly playing Euwe and a gift he had gotten from Reshevsky who lost a game with sound extra Pawn from the opening.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: Photo of all players here:

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