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Vladimir Selimanov vs William James Lombardy
World Junior Championship (1957), Toronto CAN, rd 1, Aug-07
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Closed Defense (C96)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-05-10  jerseybob: Andy Soltis' NY Post column of 4-4-10 mentions this game, and speculates that Selimanov's relatively poor performance in this tourney(4th place) led to his suicide shortly thereafter. William Lombardy, in his new book, brings a foreign girlfriend into the mix, saying Selimanov killed himself because Soviet authorities were keeping the couple apart, perhaps as punishment for his not winning the tourney. Soltis' excellent column, was an ode to the recently-deceased Vasily Smyslov, who was Selimanov's step-father and mentor.
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: The Post is on line--can you put in a link for this Soltis column?
Apr-06-10  jerseybob: Champ's tragedy -
Apr-06-10  jerseybob: That's not a link. How do you add links to this platform?
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: copy + paste?
Apr-06-10  jerseybob: Champ's tragedy

Last Updated: 8:35 AM, April 4, 2010

Posted: 11:48 PM, April 3, 2010

Comments: 0
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Vasily Smyslov, who died last week at 89, never talked about the life-wrenching tragedy that came at the time of his greatest triumph.

Smyslov was 27 when he married his wife, Nadezhda, and adopted her son, Vladimir Selimanov, whose father had been killed in a Stalinist purge. Smyslov, who owed his love of chess to his own father, a strong amateur, became Vladimir's mentor.

In 1957, the family reached a pinnacle when Smyslov won the World Championship and Vladimir was the Soviet entrant in the World Junior in Toronto.

But Selimanov, then 18, lost in the first round to William Lombardy of New York and in the second to Mathias Gerusel of West Germany. He finished a disappointing fourth.

"At that time, such a performance was viewed almost as treason to the motherland," wrote an interviewer on the site on March 26, 2008, noting that Smyslov and his wife never talk of what happened to Vladimir next: "Soon after his return, he killed himself."

In the definitive book on world champs, "Kings of the Chess World," Isaak and Vladimir Linder wrote that the Smyslovs "bore the tragic death of their son stoically. Chess helped him endure the pain."

Read more:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: I think the young man in question suffered from personal problems beyond being a competitive chess player in the USSR. If anything, being a promising young GM would probably get the fellow closer to getting his own apartment, maybe a Lada, maybe a little access to the dollar stores. No shame in finishing 4th in the world junior championship.

Stalin was already dead for several years; there had been a bit of a thaw in the heavy handedness of the Politboro. Not much, but certainly not winning a tournament wasn't going to ruin a young player's future. When Botvinnik won that 1948 tournament that made him World Champion, he sent a telegram to Stalin saying something like "I have received this wonderful prize in honor of you, courageous leader, and the Rodina", words to that effect. I think the horrible paranoia that Stalin had created must have dissipated a bit by 1957.

It's a very interesting story, hadn't heard this before. Smyslov must have felt terrible, as though the kid felt he had to punish himself because he couldn't measure up to his champion Stepfather.

I think Bill Lombardy won the tournament.

Apr-07-10  miguelito: asi es el comunismo , un sistema implacable y criminal .
Apr-07-10  jerseybob: Lombardy not only won, he swept. Depending on the exact date Selimanov died, I'm curious what effect all this had on Smyslov as he prepared for the 1958 re-match with Botvinnik (and what a stupid rule that was, by the way).
Apr-07-10  jerseybob: Besides all the atmospherics, the game itself is also interesting. It seems the culprit is white's 15.b4. Fischer was a master at knowing when to play this push(well almost always, except for in his 1965 game vs. Kholmov!). Here it seems incorrect; 15.Nf1 might've been better. A year later in the 1958 Olympiade, Lombardy played this same 10..c6 system vs. Gligorich, and was met by the superior 11.a4 (1-0, 42)
Sep-14-10  jerseybob: Just stumbled across an interesting video of Smyslov skittling with Vladimir in the late 50s. It's in one of the links under Smyslov's bio.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Lombardy went 11-0, the only sweep in the history of the World Junior Championship. I don't think anyone else has ever given up less than a point. What a shame he went and wasted his talents on the priesthood.
Nov-29-11  Shams: <FSR> An interesting bit of trivia. As a sometime opponent and friend of Fischer, I wonder if they reveled in their symmetrical triumphs. The eleven-and-oh boys.

I was curious if any other notables were in the 1957 field (Toronto) but a few moments googling turned up nothing. Might you know?

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams> You can judge for yourself: The tournament is variously listed as "Toronto" and "Wch U20." It looks like Cardoso and Gerusel became IMs, Selimanov killed himself, and the rest went nowhere fast. Not too distinguished a field, not that you can blame Lombardy for that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams> It is interesting to look at the also-rans in some of the World Junior Championships. They include the likes of Larsen and Timman. Tal Shaked won the World Junior ahead of Morozevich. Gee, I wonder which of them had a greater impact on chess?
Nov-29-11  Shams: It will be nice when we finally get dedicated tournament pages here.

The tournament would have been a Swiss, I take it, so Lombardy would have played most of the other top players. Ok, not a great field-- another point in common with Fischer's '63 triumph.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: There are a fair number of World Junior Champions who didn't do much in chess after winning that title. See Roman Slobodjan, anyone? Pablo Zarnicki?
Nov-29-11  Shams: Yeah, that's an ouch for Pablo. It's not a good sign when your two-sentence bio includes this: <Sub-champion of Argentina (1994 and 1999).>
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams: ... The tournament would have been a Swiss, I take it, so Lombardy would have played most of the other top players.>

No, the World Junior in those days was a round robin. Lombardy beat everyone.

<Shams: Ok, not a great field-- another point in common with Fischer's '63 triumph.>

<Are you on drugs?> Evans, Benko, Reshevsky, Saidy, R. Byrne, R. Weinstein, Bisguier, Addison, Mednis, Steinmeyer, and D. Byrne. That's 6 GMs, 4 IMs, and Steinmeyer (granted, a few of them, like Mednis, only got those titles later). Game Collection: US Championship 1963/64 Hooper and Whyld in The Oxford Companion to Chess (1992), p. 81, called Fischer's achievement "the most remarkable achievement of this kind," noting that the 1963/64 U.S. Championship was "a tournament of about category 10." Do you have any idea how hard it is to sweep any strong tournament, let alone one this strong? See

Nov-29-11  Shams: Yeah, not sure where I got that at all! I stand corrected. And a bit embarrassed.

But still a proud D*A*R*E graduate, mind you.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams: ... It's not a good sign when your two-sentence bio includes this: <Sub-champion of Argentina (1994 and 1999).>

What is a sub-champion? Is that like Jared?

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Shams: ... But still a proud D*A*R*E graduate, mind you.>

And we all know how effective <that> program is. :-)

Nov-29-11  King Death: The field that Lombardy beat in Toronto doesn't compare to Karpov's win in Stockholm. After he had some trouble in the prelims, Karpov pounded the field in the finals. (Adorjan, Andersson, Ribli and the 1967 winner Kaplan all played)

I noticed that both Ribli-Karpov games are listed as being played in a Budapest team event. The game that Ribli won in '69 was actually the preliminary event in Stockholm as far as I know and the game that left Karpov in danger of failing to even make the final. That might have changed the course of chess history.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <King Death> No doubt about it. Any World Junior these days (or even in 1969) is way stronger than those in the '50s. That's why Lombardy's feat will never be duplicated - well, I suppose if Magnus Carlsen had decided to play he might have had a shot at it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: White's Qxc3/d2 seems a total waste of time. Why not just 19. Bxc3? Take 2 moves to leave the Queen on a half open file and let Black gain another tempo with an obvious developing move, Rd8? I know it would be ugly, but maybe 22. f3 might have held the e Pawn. Okay, tossing it in Fritz. Results next post.
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