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Los Angeles Interzonal Playoff Tournament

Samuel Reshevsky4/8(+0 -0 =8)[games]
Vlastimil Hort4/8(+1 -1 =6)[games]
Leonid Stein4/8(+1 -1 =6)[games]
* Chess Event Description
Los Angeles Interzonal Playoff (1968)

Bent Larsen had won the Sousse Interzonal (1967) and would be joined by the five next highest finishers for the Candidates matches. As 6th place had been shared between Reshevsky, Hort and Stein, a playoff was necessary to determine the final qualifier. In case of a tie again, the player with the best Sonneborn-Berger score from the Interzonal would advance. (1)

FIDE rules stipulated that in triangular playoffs the contestants need meet each other only twice. (2) In case of four games between each player pair (= 12 games) the United States would probably hold the match. If the playoff was of only six games, it would take place in a European country agreed upon by the players. If this proved difficult to arrange, it might be held in Tunisia. (3) In the end, 12 games were decided upon, and the playoff found a haven in the Steiner Chess Club in Los Angeles. Sponsored by Gregor and Jacqueline Piatigorsky, among the facilities there was a projector system for illustrating the games that had been used in the Second Piatigorsky Cup (1966). (4) Stein arrived with his second and Soviet representative Yuri Averbakh, (5, 6) and Reshevsky was aided by Pal Benko. (6) The director and referee was Isaac Kashdan, (4, 5) who was helped by the young James Tarjan. (4) As seen from newspaper reports, play started at 6 pm. (7, 8) Unlike the Piatigorsky Cups, the playoff did not attract a large number of spectators, possibly because one game was played at a time. (4) Reshevsky and Stein started out first, on Sunday 18 February. (9)

Photo of one of the Hort-Stein encounters, with Tarjan watching:

Stein had Reshevsky on the ropes in the first game, but Reshevsky slipped out by beautiful defense. In the fifth game, Stein defeated Hort, and after 10 games, Stein was leading with 4 points out of 7 (each player played 8 games). Hort needed to win against Stein in the 11th game, otherwise he would be out of question. (10) The scene is a hall with a table on an elevated platform, and about 200 folding chairs for spectators. In the folding chairs are no more than 20 persons, all in the attitude of a cat watching a bird. The hall is lined with 'no smoking' signs. Stein lights a cigarette, inhales two or three times, then lays it on an ashtray. When it burns to inch-length he stubs it out. Hort does not complain, and ranges up and down the aisles in long strides. (8) Stein had the white pieces and started out "aggressively", but Hort created counterplay. Still the whole struggle was ahead as Hort offered a draw on move 11! (11) The offer took Stein by surprise. Hort had a good position, and if he won, would have chances for first place. A draw would kick him out of the race. What if Hort would then be unable to resist Reshevsky in the last game and lose? Stein thought it was better to find a sporting solution, and declined. (10) Hort had been sad at the way his luck had run, but the rejection made him determined. He dismissed Stein's counter-offer (of a draw) a few moves later, and won in 40 moves! (10, 11) Stein was out. Then Reshevsky and Hort drew their last game. All three had 4 points each.

Los Angeles, 18 February - 2 March 1968

Elo* 1234 1234 1234 Pts 1 GM Reshevsky 2580 **** ½½½½ ½½½½ 4 2 GM Hort 2580 ½½½½ **** ½0½1 4 3 GM Stein 2640 ½½½½ ½1½0 **** 4

Reshevsky had the better tie-break at the Interzonal and advanced to the Candidates matches:

Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates Quarterfinal (1968)
Larsen - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal (1968)
Spassky - Geller Candidates Quarterfinal (1968)
Tal - Gligoric Candidates Quarterfinal (1968)

Reshevsky’s qualification surprised many as he was 56 years old, long past the age when most players dream of competing for the World Chess Championship. (4) How did he win? Had he lost it would have been only what one expected, an old man with an ambition he should long ago have outgrown. (12) Instead he set an all time record: the first player in chess history to win an important event without scoring a single full point. (13) Many games were drawn, but according to Michael John Basman, all three displayed something akin to heroism in the first few games. (12) The circumstances gave Reshevsky draw odds against the others. This may have dictated a drawish style of play: Stein and Hort may not have dared to take any unnecessary chances, while Reshevsky did not need to. (13) As for Stein, it was the third time he just failed to make the Candidates. (12)

The event was the last major chess competition organized by the Piatigorskys, and also the swan song for the Steiner Chess Club. Jacqueline stopped supporting the Club in the late 1960s. (4)

*Unofficial FIDE Rating List June 1967 (


1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 16 March 1968, p. 24.
2) Peter Hugh Clarke in British Chess Magazine, April 1968, p. 98.
3) CHESS, Christmas 1967, p. 90.
4) Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer, by World Chess Hall of Fame, # 2014 (
5) Chess Review, April 1968, p. 100.
6) Chess: Jacqueline and Gregor Piatigorsky, by Edward Winter, # 2013 (
7) Redlands Daily Facts, 27 February 1968, p. 8.
8) Modified from AP report by Howard C. Heyn in Times-Picayune, 4 March 1968, p. 58 (Section 4 p. 1).
9) Samuel Reshevsky: A compendium of 1768 chess games, with diagrams, crosstables, some annotations, and indexes, by Stephen Wayne Gordon (McFarland, 1997), pp. 276-277.
10) Leonid Stein: Master of Risk Strategy, by Eduard Gufeld and Efim M Lazarev (Thinkers Press, 2001), p. 78.
11) Sousse 1967 International Chess Tournament, by Robert Wade (The Chess Player, 1968) (not seen, indirect citation).
12) CHESS, April 1968, p. 224.
13) Chess Review, April 1968, p. 99.

Original collection: Game Collection: Los Angeles Interzonal Playoff 1968 by User: Tabanus. Thanks to User: Paint My Dragon for information from books and magazines, and to User: crawfb5 for providing game dates from the New York Times. The English was improved upon by User: WCC Editing Project.

 page 1 of 1; 12 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Stein vs Reshevsky ½-½631968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffC93 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense
2. Hort vs Stein ½-½571968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffE87 King's Indian, Samisch, Orthodox
3. Reshevsky vs Hort ½-½441968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffD94 Grunfeld
4. Reshevsky vs Stein ½-½181968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffE92 King's Indian
5. Stein vs Hort 1-0441968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffA07 King's Indian Attack
6. Hort vs Reshevsky ½-½221968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffC85 Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation Doubly Deferred (DERLD)
7. Stein vs Reshevsky ½-½371968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffC93 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense
8. Hort vs Stein ½-½261968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffE94 King's Indian, Orthodox
9. Reshevsky vs Hort ½-½421968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffD92 Grunfeld, 5.Bf4
10. Reshevsky vs Stein ½-½411968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffE80 King's Indian, Samisch Variation
11. Stein vs Hort 0-1401968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffB10 Caro-Kann
12. Hort vs Reshevsky ½-½461968Los Angeles Interzonal PlayoffA33 English, Symmetrical
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A slightly odd playoff result: the player who advanced from this playoff drew all of his games.

That was because Reshevsky had the better S-B score from the Sousse Interzonal.

Sammy went on to play Korchnoi in 1968. VK was - believe it or not - quite young then, and he had never before played a match, whereas Sammy R was a highly experienced and almost unbeatable match player. Despite that, VK won the 1968 match with great ease.

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