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USSR Championship Tournament

Paul Keres12/17(+9 -2 =6)[games]
Tigran V Petrosian11.5/17(+8 -2 =7)[games]
Efim Geller11.5/17(+10 -4 =3)[games]
Vasily Smyslov11/17(+9 -4 =4)[games]
Mikhail Botvinnik10/17(+6 -3 =8)[games]
Yuri Averbakh9.5/17(+5 -3 =9)[games]
David Bronstein9.5/17(+6 -4 =7)[games]
Mark Taimanov9.5/17(+7 -5 =5)[games]
Salomon Flohr9/17(+4 -3 =10)[games]
Lev Aronin9/17(+6 -5 =6)[games]
Nikolai Kopilov8.5/17(+7 -7 =3)[games]
Alexander Kotov8/17(+4 -5 =8)[games]
Igor Bondarevsky8/17(+4 -5 =8)[games]
Vladimir Simagin7.5/17(+3 -5 =9)[games]
Oleg Moiseev6.5/17(+3 -7 =7)[games]
Isaac Lipnitsky6.5/17(+4 -8 =5)[games]
Nikolay Novotelnov3/17(+2 -13 =2)[games]
Evgeny Terpugov2.5/17(+1 -13 =3)[games]
* Chess Event Description
USSR Championship (1951)

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 Aronin, Vladimir Simagin, and Salomon Flohr qualified from Lvov; and Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, Yuri Averbakh, and Isaac Boleslavsky qualified from Sverdlovsk. Boleslavsky fell ill before the final and was therefore replaced by Igor Bondarevsky, who had placed fifth in the Leningrad semi-final. Four invitations were also sent to Paul Keres as returning Soviet Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik as world champion, David Bronstein as world vice-champion, and Alexander Kotov. The assembled field was the strongest in the history of the USSR championship at that time, which makes it an especially impressive victory for Keres. It was his second consecutive Soviet crown and his third overall. He edged out runners-up Petrosian and Geller by half a point, and finished two full points ahead of world champion Botvinnik, who only managed to finish in fifth place.

The final standings and crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts 1 Keres * ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 12 =2 Petrosian ½ * ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 11½ =2 Geller 0 ½ * 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 11½ 4 Smyslov 0 0 1 * 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 1 11 5 Botvinnik ½ ½ 0 0 * ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 10 =6 Averbakh ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ * 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 1 9½ =6 Bronstein ½ ½ 1 0 0 1 * 1 ½ 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 9½ =6 Taimanov 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 * ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 9½ =9 Flohr ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 9 =9 Aronin 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 * 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 9 11 Kopilov 1 1 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 * 0 1 1 0 1 1 ½ 8½ =12 Kotov 1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 * ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 8 =12 Bondarevsky ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ * ½ 1 0 1 1 8 14 Simagin 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ * 1 ½ 1 1 7½ =15 Moiseev 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 * ½ 1 1 6½ =15 Lipnitsky 0 0 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ * ½ 1 6½ 17 Novotelnov 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ * ½ 3 18 Terpugov 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 0 0 0 ½ * 2½

Original collection: Game Collection: USSR Championship 1951, by User: suenteus po 147.

 page 1 of 7; games 1-25 of 153  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Botvinnik vs O Moiseev 1-0571951USSR ChampionshipE45 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Bronstein (Byrne) Variation
2. Bronstein vs Kotov 0-1661951USSR ChampionshipE64 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Yugoslav System
3. Flohr vs Taimanov  ½-½281951USSR ChampionshipA15 English
4. Smyslov vs Geller 1-0481951USSR ChampionshipA07 King's Indian Attack
5. Keres vs E Terpugov 1-0221951USSR ChampionshipD07 Queen's Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense
6. Petrosian vs N Kopilov 0-1341951USSR ChampionshipE43 Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation
7. Simagin vs Aronin  ½-½301951USSR ChampionshipE61 King's Indian
8. N Novotelnov vs Bondarevsky 0-1391951USSR ChampionshipD34 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
9. I Lipnitsky vs Averbakh  1-0421951USSR ChampionshipA27 English, Three Knights System
10. Flohr vs Botvinnik ½-½811951USSR ChampionshipD14 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Exchange Variation
11. Averbakh vs Bronstein 0-1421951USSR ChampionshipB93 Sicilian, Najdorf, 6.f4
12. Geller vs Simagin 1-0321951USSR ChampionshipD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
13. N Kopilov vs Keres 1-0591951USSR ChampionshipB32 Sicilian
14. Kotov vs N Novotelnov  1-0371951USSR ChampionshipE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
15. Aronin vs Petrosian 1-0391951USSR ChampionshipC91 Ruy Lopez, Closed
16. Bondarevsky vs Smyslov  ½-½621951USSR ChampionshipD94 Grunfeld
17. Taimanov vs E Terpugov 1-0371951USSR ChampionshipD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
18. O Moiseev vs I Lipnitsky  ½-½301951USSR ChampionshipE02 Catalan, Open, 5.Qa4
19. Botvinnik vs Taimanov  ½-½371951USSR ChampionshipE40 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
20. I Lipnitsky vs Flohr  ½-½341951USSR ChampionshipB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
21. Petrosian vs Geller  ½-½231951USSR ChampionshipE92 King's Indian
22. Keres vs Aronin 1-0631951USSR ChampionshipB62 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer
23. Smyslov vs Kotov ½-½671951USSR ChampionshipB85 Sicilian, Scheveningen, Classical
24. Simagin vs Bondarevsky  ½-½201951USSR ChampionshipD34 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
25. N Novotelnov vs Averbakh 0-1311951USSR ChampionshipE08 Catalan, Closed
 page 1 of 7; games 1-25 of 153  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-25-14  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.
Sep-12-18  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!

Sep-12-18  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.
Sep-12-18  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.
Jan-29-19  ughaibu: Presumably it was Botvinnik who voted for himself.
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <perfidious: ..paraphrasing > Here's Botwinnik's quote (from the intro):

"Late in December 1952, in Moscow, the 20th USSR Championship was coming to an end. When I resumed my game from the last round, I was not in the best of spirits. Initially I had retained every chance of winning, but I played weakly, and before Black's 58th move it was already clear that the game should end in a draw: there were opposite­ colour bishops. Meanwhile, only success in this game would enable me to catch the leader Mark Taimanov, and keep open an opportunity of fighting for the championship of the country. And to win this title was simply essential. <A few months earlier, on the proposal of other participants, I had been excluded from the Olympiad team, since, in the opinion of my colleagues, I was now a poor chess player.> The 20th Championship was the first after the Olympiad, and, naturally, I wanted to demonstrate that the World Champion could still perform successfully.

I managed to win that last round game (Suetin vs Botvinnik, 1952) and to share first place in the tournament with Taimanov. Our match concluded successfully for me, and for the last (and 7th ) time I won the title of USSR Champion. True, there were a number of adventures in the match..."

Jan-29-19  ughaibu: Why did Botvinnik state it was his 7th title? Everyone else says it was his 6th.
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <ugh> Which six of the seven championships do you mean?
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: Aside of 1931, 1933, 1939, 1944, 1945 and 1952

there's USSR Absolute Championship (1941)

Jan-29-19  ughaibu: That certainly looks like seven to me. So why is it said the the most Soviet championships were won by Botvinnik and Tal, at six a piece?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <ughaibu>
Probably because they don't count USSR Absolute Championship (1941), because of the non-standard format and unusual back-story of that event.
Jan-29-19  ughaibu: Beatgiant: That seems reasonable. The 12th Soviet championship was played before the "absolute championship" and the 13th after it, so the "absolute championship" doesn't appear to be a Soviet championship.

I wonder if Botvinnik denied that.

Jan-29-19  Howard: Bit surprising that Iron Tigran lost two games, but then...

a) He was only 22 at the time, and still rather inexperienced. b) I read somewhere once that his "Iron Tigran reputation didn't engender until about the mid-50's. Before that, he was known to take chances in his games.

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