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Pilnik - Olafsson Match

Fridrik Olafsson5/6(+4 -0 =2)[games]
Herman Pilnik1/6(+0 -4 =2)[games] Chess Event Description
Pilnik - Olafsson (1955)

The first of two matches held in Reykjavik. This match, comprising of six games was from 24th November to 7th December 1955.

Game 1 24th November 1955
Game 2 27th November 1955
Game 3 29th November 1955
Game 4 4th December 1955
Game 5 6th December 1955
Game 6 7th December 1955 (1)

The players

Pilnik had become a Grandmaster in 1952. He was en route from the Gothenburg Interzonal (1955) as part of a circuit of European tournaments and had just tied for the 7-9th place along with Miroslav Filip and Boris Spassky, qualifying for the Amsterdam Candidates (1956).

Ólafsson was the emerging superstar of Icelandic chess. At the age of 17 he had won the Icelandic Championship (1952) at his first attempt. The next year he won that championship again, and also the Nordic Championship (1953). He qualified for the World U-20 Championship final in Copenhagen in 1953, where he secured 3rd place. He had played in his first international tournament at Hastings (1953/54) where he came 4th equal. In 1954 he played in the Marianske Lazne - Prague zonal tournament coming 6th. His first major international tournament victory was a shared 1st with Viktor Korchnoi at Hastings (1955/56).

The match arrangements

The match was held at the restaurant and night club Þórscafé on Laugavegur 105 or Hverfisgata 116 (there were entrances from either street) in the Hlemmur district of Reykjavik. (2)

Progress of the match

It was a one-sided match with Ólafsson winning 5-1 (four wins and two draws). The games were all played to win and were sharp and combinational in character.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Ólafsson ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 5 Pilnik ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 1

Pilnik had white in the odd-numbered games. Progressive scores:

1 2 3 4 5 6 Ólafsson ½ 1½ 2½ 3 4 5 Pilnik ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1

Game 1. In the first game, Pilnik played a favourite system against Ólafsson's Sicilian defence. Pilnik had the initiative with pressure against Ólafsson's backward <d> pawn. Pilnik was unable to break through with his King-side attack, and a draw was agreed in a double rook and pawns endgame.

Game 2. The second game too was a Sicilian Najdorf defence using the latest theory. Ólafsson with White played aggressively castling queenside. Later analysis showed that he was too ambitious. Pilnik gained the advantage, but in a sharp position he kept missing decisive continuations. Eventually,

click for larger view

with 34...Rg3? the tables turned and Ólafsson won in short order.

Game 3. Ólafsson used the Petrov defence, which was not part of his normal repertoire. He equalised easily, but once again he played extremely sharply and dangerously.

click for larger view

13...Bxf3 would have kept the game on normal lines, but instead, with the confidence of youth, Ólafsson played 13...g5?! Pilnik played too passively and Ólafsson outplayed him, his attack smashing through on the king-side.

Game 4. Ólafsson played the first and only English opening of the match. Pilnik, with two successive losses on his score, threw his <h> and <g> pawns forward. Ólafsson should have won, but at the critical juncture missed

click for larger view

31.Rh6!, and this time it was Pilnik who was superior in navigating the complications to achieve a draw. "Friðrik achieved a much better position in the fourth game but fell into a draw in a massive time scramble. Thus, the position was 3-1 to Fridrik in the match, so Pilnik had to win the two last games to catch up with his young opponent. But it went by another way: Friðrik played with the Grandmaster like a cat with a mouse and won both the games!" (3)

Game 5. The third Sicilian of the match. Pilnik, as White, played a system with a king-side fianchetto and tried to build up a Kingside attack in the manner of the Closed Sicilian.

click for larger view

Pilnik could not land a decisive blow and ended up a pawn down with an insecure king. The ending was hopeless, but he played it out. Ólafsson could have won more quickly, but the eventual result was never in doubt. Pilnik was now three games down.

Game 6. Despite being three games down. Pilnik was still fighting hard. He defended using a favourite system - the King's Indian. As in games 2 and 3, the player's employed the latest opening theory. Pilnik had won a fine game using this line against the King's Indian, Samisch (E81) the year before - M Czerniak vs Pilnik, 1954, but the variation he chose in this game left him with a compromised king and no corresponding benefit. Despite a desperate offer of the exchange, he had no counterplay and Ólafsson confidently won.

Ólafsson's reputation was bolstered in defeating a world championship candidate although he remained an amateur preferring a career in law. Pilnik, although he had lost the match, left with a wife! He met Anna Erla Magnúsdóttir, and in December 1955, she moved with him to the Netherlands temporarily and then to Argentina. (4) He was not put off Iceland by the result of this match and in 1957 there would be a rematch.


(1) Skáksögufélagid webpage,
(2) Glatkistan web page #2017,
(3) Morgunblaðið, quoted by
(4) Vikan, 1987, issue 39, p. 28

Original collection: Game Collection: Pilnik - Fridrik Olafsson 1955 by User: Chessical.

 page 1 of 1; 6 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Pilnik vs F Olafsson ½-½351955Pilnik - OlafssonB59 Sicilian, Boleslavsky Variation, 7.Nb3
2. F Olafsson vs Pilnik 1-0481955Pilnik - OlafssonB98 Sicilian, Najdorf
3. Pilnik vs F Olafsson 0-1411955Pilnik - OlafssonC42 Petrov Defense
4. F Olafsson vs Pilnik ½-½421955Pilnik - OlafssonA21 English
5. Pilnik vs F Olafsson 0-1771955Pilnik - OlafssonB58 Sicilian
6. F Olafsson vs Pilnik 1-0361955Pilnik - OlafssonE81 King's Indian, Samisch
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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