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Amsterdam Candidates Tournament

Vasily Smyslov11.5/18(+6 -1 =11)[games]
Paul Keres10/18(+3 -1 =14)[games]
Laszlo Szabo9.5/18(+3 -2 =13)[games]
Boris Spassky9.5/18(+3 -2 =13)[games]
Tigran V Petrosian9.5/18(+3 -2 =13)[games]
David Bronstein9.5/18(+4 -3 =11)[games]
Efim Geller9.5/18(+6 -5 =7)[games]
Miroslav Filip8/18(+4 -6 =8)[games]
Oscar Panno8/18(+2 -4 =12)[games]
Herman Pilnik5/18(+1 -9 =8)[games]
* Chess Event Description
Amsterdam Candidates (1956)

The event was played in Amsterdam and Leeuwarden from 27 March - 30 April. Ten players competed in order to become the challenger for the world title. As the loser of the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954), Smyslov was seeded directly, and the other nine were qualified from the Gothenburg Interzonal (1955).

The opening ceremony took place on 26 March in Vossius Gymnasium, Amsterdam where the chairman of the Dutch Chess Federation Hendrik Jan van Steenis and FIDE President Folke Rogard held welcoming speeches. The tournament was formally opened by Vice Mayor de Roos, and the chairman of the Stichting Internationale Schaaktraditie Amsterdam Evert Straat thanked all the sponsors. Whereafter the former (1935-1937) World Champion Max Euwe presented the tournament program and performed the drawing of lots. Play started at 5:30 pm the next day in Minerva-paviljoen, Amsterdam - the main venue, and lasted for five weeks and 18 rounds when all the players had met each other twice (once with each color). Rounds 10 and 11 were played in Leeuwarden, where the players stayed in Hotel Lauswolt for five days (12-17 April).

As in the Zurich Candidates (1953) tournament, Smyslov won. He went on to win the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1957), and became the seventh World Champion. He then lost the Smyslov - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1958). The next qualifier cycle was the Portoroz Interzonal (1958) and the Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959).

Minerva-paviljoen, Amsterdam (1-9, 12-18) and De Beurs, Leeuwarden (10-11), Netherlands, 27 March - 30 April 1956

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 Pts CHF* 1 Smyslov ** ½½ ½½ 0½ ½½ ½1 11 ½1 1½ ½1 11½ 5000 2 Keres ½½ ** ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 ½½ ½0 1½ 1½ 10 3500 =3 Szabó ½½ ½½ ** 1½ ½½ ½½ ½1 0½ ½½ 01 9½ 1310 =3 Spassky 1½ ½½ 0½ ** ½½ ½1 0½ ½½ ½½ ½1 9½ 1310 =3 Petrosian ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ** 0½ 01 1½ ½½ 1½ 9½ 1310 =3 Bronstein ½0 ½0 ½½ ½0 1½ ** ½1 1½ ½½ ½1 9½ 1310 =3 Geller 00 ½½ ½0 1½ 10 ½0 ** 11 ½1 1½ 9½ 1310 =8 Filip ½0 ½1 1½ ½½ 0½ 0½ 00 ** 10 ½1 8 650 =8 Panno 0½ 0½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ½0 01 ** 1½ 8 650 10 Pilnik ½0 0½ 10 ½0 0½ ½0 0½ ½0 0½ ** 5 500

Tournament director: Max Euwe, assisted by Haije Kramer and Wolfgang Heidenfeld.

Tournament books: Das Kandidatenturnier für die Weltmeisterschaft 1956, by Max Euwe and Willem Jan Muhring (ten Have, Amsterdam 1956. 186 pp. Reprinted 1980: Variant, Nederhorst den Berg); World Championship Candidates' Tournament: Holland 1956 by Baruch Harold Wood (Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1956. 156 pp. Reprint 2003: Hardinge Simpole Ltd.).

Daily reports in Utrechts Nieuwsblad are available at Dates are from De Telegraaf, which is available at The New York Times had daily reports except rounds 10 and 11.

Photo of the players:

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Candidates Tournament, 1956) by User: Resignation Trap and Game Collection: Amsterdam Candidates 1956 by User: Tabanus. Thanks to User: Benzol, User: Chessical, User: Stonehenge and User: Phony Benoni for help with the sources. *Prizes in CHF or Swiss franc, Wikipedia article: Swiss franc.

 page 1 of 4; games 1-25 of 90  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Geller vs Petrosian 1-0461956Amsterdam CandidatesE58 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 8...Bxc3
2. Panno vs Pilnik 1-0401956Amsterdam CandidatesA21 English
3. Keres vs Bronstein ½-½471956Amsterdam CandidatesC28 Vienna Game
4. Filip vs Spassky ½-½201956Amsterdam CandidatesA05 Reti Opening
5. Smyslov vs Szabo ½-½311956Amsterdam CandidatesE62 King's Indian, Fianchetto
6. Spassky vs Keres ½-½291956Amsterdam CandidatesD28 Queen's Gambit Accepted, Classical
7. Petrosian vs Bronstein 0-1361956Amsterdam CandidatesE66 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Yugoslav Panno
8. Pilnik vs Filip ½-½571956Amsterdam CandidatesC78 Ruy Lopez
9. Szabo vs Panno ½-½421956Amsterdam CandidatesA56 Benoni Defense
10. Geller vs Smyslov 0-1561956Amsterdam CandidatesE26 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
11. Keres vs Pilnik 1-0411956Amsterdam CandidatesB20 Sicilian
12. Smyslov vs Petrosian ½-½531956Amsterdam CandidatesE63 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Panno Variation
13. Panno vs Geller ½-½191956Amsterdam CandidatesA14 English
14. Bronstein vs Spassky ½-½341956Amsterdam CandidatesE63 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Panno Variation
15. Filip vs Szabo 1-0191956Amsterdam CandidatesE77 King's Indian
16. Petrosian vs Spassky ½-½711956Amsterdam CandidatesA26 English
17. Geller vs Filip 1-0381956Amsterdam CandidatesC95 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Breyer
18. Pilnik vs Bronstein ½-½241956Amsterdam CandidatesC67 Ruy Lopez
19. Szabo vs Keres  ½-½191956Amsterdam CandidatesE53 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
20. Smyslov vs Panno 1-0411956Amsterdam CandidatesB92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation
21. Bronstein vs Szabo  ½-½431956Amsterdam CandidatesE58 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 8...Bxc3
22. Panno vs Petrosian ½-½521956Amsterdam CandidatesD94 Grunfeld
23. Keres vs Geller  ½-½211956Amsterdam CandidatesA30 English, Symmetrical
24. Spassky vs Pilnik ½-½731956Amsterdam CandidatesA56 Benoni Defense
25. Filip vs Smyslov  ½-½231956Amsterdam CandidatesE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
 page 1 of 4; games 1-25 of 90  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

Vasily Smyslov recalls a nervy moment in the tournament:

<"The battle became especially fierce in the second cycle, when three rounds from the finish Keres was level with me, with Geller and Bronstein half a point behind, and Spassky and Petrosian trailing by a further half point. In this sharp situation <<<I won a very tense game against Bronstein,>>> (Smyslov vs Bronstein, 1956) then drew with Spassky, and success in the final game with Pilnik gave me victory in the tournament.">

-Vasily Smyslov, "Smyslov's 125 Selected Games" Ken Neat transl. (Cadogen 1983), pp.13-14

Mar-07-14  RookFile: Really an awesome result for Smyslov. He was at the height of his powers in these days.
Jun-07-15  zanzibar: Here's a little contemporanous atmospherics:

Dec-17-18  Olavi: From four quite easily winning positions in rounds 2-5 Petrosian scored just three draws and a loss. As Euwe wrote in his tournament book, he really should have won the tournament - and who knows, Tal would never have become WC.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Tough for even the strongest character to overcome what happened to Petrosian in that second-round game, though so very easy to play armchair quarterback after the event.

Bit surprising really that Euwe would offer up the idea that Petrosian should have come out winner; one rather suspects matters would have gone differently overall for everyone concerned.

Why Tal 'would never have become WC' is beyond my understanding, as it was only the next year that he took that critical first step by qualifying from the Soviet title event.

Dec-20-18  Olavi: <Why Tal 'would never have become WC'> is my thoughts on a possible Petrosian - Tal 24 game match in 1960. Remember that Tal scored 5½/12 against the other Soviets in the 1959 candidates, and I'd put it beyond him to beat Petrosian at least before the 70's. As for that opinion of Euwe's, I agree, but he was referring to how it seemed to him after the tournament ended. In 1953 Smyslov had dominated, this time, despite the gap at the end, not so, and for Euwe Petrosian had played the best chess.
Dec-20-18  fabelhaft: <Remember that Tal scored 5½/12 against the other Soviets in the 1959 candidates>

He didn't lose any of his games against Petrosian, not sure if the losses to Keres say much about how Tal would have done against Petrosian.

<I'd put it beyond him to beat Petrosian at least before the 70's>

They played a dozen games up until Curacao 1962, and Tal was the only player to win between them.

Dec-20-18  Olavi: I took these things into consideration. For me, what I wrote is almost a conviction; but of course my argument is rather weak. As must any argument about the matter be, I think.
Dec-04-19  diagonal: Candidate's Tournament 1956 in The Netherlands: <Ten players, but none of West Europe or the USA!>

Six from the Soviet Union, two from Argentina, and one each from Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

And watch out the near misses / next following players from the Interzonal at Gothenburg in 1955, with the top nine players qualifying for this Candidate's Tournament (the winner was Bronstein with 15/20, Keres was second with 13.5, surprising Panno had 13, Petrosian 12.5, Geller and Szabo each had 12, then Filip, Pilnik and young Spassky with 11; Smyslov was directly qualified from the previous title match against WC Botvinnik in 1954):

Just missing out at Gothenburg Interzonal with 10.5 were unlucky Georgy Ilivitzky, Soviet Union, and Ludek Pachman, Czechoslovakia (with Ilivitzky defeating Pachman in a Candidates Reserve play-off at Prague in 1956); followed jointly by Najdorf, and Guimard, both from the federation of Argentina. Hard (chess) days for West Europe and the USA.

Dec-04-19  Olavi: Olavi: <diagonal> Reshevsky and Evans were qualified for the Gothenburg Interzonal (1955), from which the former would of course have gone further. According to Lothar Schmid in Schach-Echo 17/1955, they chose the US Open instead. That had a 3000 $ first prize. 56th US Open (1955)
Dec-05-19  Olavi: According to that report by Schmid, in the congress just before the Gothenburg Interzonal Botvinnik had asked to be allowed to play in this candidates' hors concours.
Dec-05-19  diagonal: <Olavi> Thanks for pointing out that (Reshevsky)!

In the previous Candidate's, the famous 1953 Zurich and Neuhausen tournament, also won by Smyslov, eight of the top ten finishers were coming from the Soviet Union, the two exceptions were <Najdorf>, and of course, <Reshevsky> as shared second (together with Bronstein and Keres).

Amazing background line by Lothar Schmid concerning a request of the World Champion to play hors concours in the Candidate's. Was Botvinnik really serious about that?

Playing as a reigning World Champion in a qualification contest, and possibly not winning, would mean to lose face in those days.

Botvinnik did not participate in too many big international tournaments very often as reigning World Chess Champion:

<1952 Budapest (Maroczy Memorial)> 3rd-5th> (Keres won ahead of Geller); <1956 Moscow (Alekhine Memorial)> =1st (shared with Smyslov); <1958 Wageningen (Caltex-Scheepjes)> 1st (ahead of Flohr and Donner, six players, four from the Dutch hosting nation); <1961/62 Hastings> 1st (ahead of Gligoric, followed by his compatriot Flohr); <1962 Stockholm> 1st (ahead of Flohr, many Swedish fodder players).

Dec-07-19  Olavi: It's hard to believe Botvinnik actually thought that he be allowed to play, but from his point of view, he must have thought that he needed the toughest possible 'training'. I think it showed in the match next year, he failed to win a couple quite winnable positions.
Mar-23-21  tympsa: In this tournament Keres was not even close to come thru. Too many draws and only 3 wins against clearly inferior players. Loss to Filip sealed the deal. He had to wait another 3 years to try again, but in 1959 young Tal was too strong
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: "Clearly inferior players"?

That is a pretty strong field.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: That poster got thing right: Keres' loss to Filip from a winning position was the death blow to his chances.
Mar-23-21  vonKrolock: This was mainly a Soviet-Argentinian event 🙂 ... Well, and this was actually an enough balanced tournament: Seven players scored 9.5 or more points. There was just two mini-matches with a score of 2-0 (Smyslov beating Geller was one of them). How hard was the field: The ninth (penultimate) drew 1-1 with four of the first seven participants, and drew one game against the others... Keres missed that whole point (game won) but that single point still wouldn't be enough for him to become the challenger. Smyslov lost also a mini-match 0,5-1,5 - to Spassky, who held vs Keres with 1-1 ... Etcetera etcetera & summa summarum, Smyslov's victory in the event cannot be contested solely on the basis of that Keres accidental defeat to Filip ... And finally, since he beat Botvinnik in the title match, this was by far also not a useless Tournament
Mar-23-21  thelegendisback: Same old story when Keres comes close to becoming the challenger then he has to lose games. Same as in 1948, 1953 or later again 1962.
Nov-09-22  unspiek: <thelegendisback> Nobody but Botvinnik was ever in sight of winning the 1948 match-tournament. In 1953, Keres played well, but not as steadily as Smyslov. 1962 was Keres' great chance; I followed that event closely at the time, pulling for him, but, alas, Petrosian eked past at the end. But Keres was not as young as he had been by then, maybe that draw arrangement with Petrosian and Geller wasn't all bad.

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