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Vasily Smyslov
XIV Schach-Olympiade Leipzig, 1960  
Number of games in database: 2,719
Years covered: 1935 to 2001
Last FIDE rating: 2494
Highest rating achieved in database: 2620

Overall record: +947 -308 =1416 (62.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 48 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Sicilian (164) 
    B92 B58 B40 B22 B42
 English (141) 
    A15 A13 A14 A10 A16
 Ruy Lopez (108) 
    C77 C92 C97 C79 C75
 King's Indian (86) 
    E61 E60 E62 E94 E66
 Reti System (79) 
    A05 A04 A06
 English, 1 c4 c5 (71) 
    A30 A36 A33 A35 A37
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (224) 
    C60 C76 C92 C69 C67
 Slav (147) 
    D18 D10 D11 D15 D16
 Nimzo Indian (125) 
    E54 E32 E41 E55 E34
 Ruy Lopez, Closed (97) 
    C92 C98 C93 C97 C84
 Grunfeld (76) 
    D94 D98 D85 D76 D86
 English, 1 c4 e5 (73) 
    A28 A21 A29 A22 A20
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Smyslov vs I Rudakovsky, 1945 1-0
   Botvinnik vs Smyslov, 1954 0-1
   Smyslov vs Reshevsky, 1948 1-0
   Smyslov vs Liberzon, 1968 1-0
   Keres vs Smyslov, 1953 0-1
   K Gerasimov vs Smyslov, 1935 0-1
   Smyslov vs Ribli, 1983 1-0
   Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1954 1-0
   Gligoric vs Smyslov, 1959 0-1
   Smyslov vs Karpov, 1971 1-0

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948)
   Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954)
   Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1957)
   Smyslov - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1958)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   USSR Championship (1949)
   Zagreb (1955)
   Zurich Candidates (1953)
   Moscow (1963)
   Amsterdam Interzonal (1964)
   Havana (1965)
   Venice (1950)
   USSR Championship (1944)
   Capablanca Memorial (1964)
   USSR Championship (1940)
   Las Palmas (1972)
   Palma de Mallorca (1967)
   USSR Championship (1951)
   Budapest (1952)
   Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Smyslov! by amadeus
   Match Smyslov! by docjan
   Road to the Championship - Vasily Smyslov by suenteus po 147
   SmyslovV and SpasskyB Games by fredthebear
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by vrkfouri
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by suenteus po 147
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by Incremental
   125 Selected Games by Vasily Smyslov by Southernrun
   Selected Games (Smyslov) by Qindarka
   Selected Games (Smyslov) by Retarf
   Smyslov's Tournaments and Matches 1935-1979 by docjan
   Smyslov's Tournaments and Matches 1935-1979 by docjan
   Smyslov's Tournaments and Matches 1935-1979 by jessicafischerqueen
   Nearly to Perfection by Imohthep

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Vasily Smyslov
Search Google for Vasily Smyslov

(born Mar-24-1921, died Mar-27-2010, 89 years old) Russia
[what is this?]
Vasily Vasiliyevich Smyslov was born in Moscow. A talented singer, Smyslov narrowly missed joining the Bolshoi Opera. Opera's loss was the chess world's gain. He was awarded the Soviet Grandmaster title in 1941. Moscow champion of 1942. He took his first win over Botvinnik at Moscow championship of 1943. Moscow champion of 1944/5. Sub-champion of the World in 1948. Shared the first place with David Bronstein in the 1949 Soviet Championship. Winner of Chigorin Memorial 1951. After his success at Zurich 1953, he became the challenger in 1954, but tied the match with Botvinnik. Soviet champion in 1955 sharing the first place with Efim Geller. Again winner of the Candidates Tournaments at Amsterdam 1956 and after winner of Alekhine memorial (drawing Botvinnik) the way was paved for Smyslov to become the 7th World Champion when he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in 1957. His reign was short-lived as Botvinnik regained the title a year later. Smyslov would go on to many tournament victories such as Amsterdam 1964 (jointly), Havana 1965 in front of Robert James Fischer, and Monte Carlo 1969. In 1982 at the Las Palmas Interzonal Tournament, Smyslov finished second and qualified for the Candidates Matches, and at age 61 advanced past Robert Huebner in the quarter-finals (winning the spin of a roulette wheel to decide the tied match), then defeating Zoltan Ribli in the semi-final, before losing to young challenger Garry Kasparov in the final. Vasily Smyslov crowned a remarkable career by becoming the first Senior World Champion at Bad Worishofen in 1991. His father Vasily Osipovich Smyslov also played and was a strong amateur player.

Crosstables and other info can be found here:
[rusbase-1] [rusbase-2]$...
[rusbase-4] [rusbase-5]

Smyslov Videos:
Singing, playing piano, beating Botvinnik (1957) Receiving World Championship Laurels (1957) Walking with Keres in the Netherlands (1948)

Wikipedia article: Vasily Smyslov


<Revision and Expansion> of this bio under construction by JFQ.


His father was an "Economic Engineer" working in the "Department for the Preparation of Securities" <125 Games, 1>

Lived in a small flat in an old house on the outskirts of Moscow. Highlight of our life was a 'Schroeder' piano, on which my father used to play. He began teaching me piano and chess <125 Games, 2>

Autumn 1938- 1st year student at the Moscow School of Aviation <Romanovsky xii>

"Starting in 1948, I seriously studied singing under Professor Konstantin Zlobin, whom I met by chance in Leningrad in 1947, when I was playing in the 15th USSR Championship. For many years I took lessons from him, and even appeared in a singing competition in the Bolshoi Theatre. But, as in the life of my father, singing remained something for my own satisfaction." <125 Games, 17>

Father Vasily Osipovich Smyslov taught him to play chess at age 7. <125 Games, 1>

After winning a rook odds match against his Uncle Kirill, he was given Alekhine's "Best Games" as a prize. Inscription: 'To the winner of the match, to future champion Vasya Smyslov' <125 Games, 1>

Soviet Grandmaster

Summer of 1935 participated in 1st chess event. Unrated players in chess club of Gorky Park. He won this and two more, by the end of the summer he was 3d Category. <125 Games, 4-5>

Fall 1935, joins the Moskvoretsky House of Pioneers. <125 Games, 5>

"In 1936 he entered the second category, and in the autumn of the same year the first category." <Romanovsky, xi>

In 1937- 1. <Moskvoretsky House of Pioneers Championship 1937> (Fall) 1st, 11-0. Had earned <1st Category rank> in autumn 1936

-<Smyslov> on his "happiest moment": At the championship of the Young Pioneers Stadium, where I won all 11 games, didn't give away a single draw, and there were strong players there, almost all of them became masters, I kept the tournament table from that event." <Sosonko> pp.126-27

Jan. 1938- Leningrad- Smyslov won the USSR under 18 Championship. <Averbakh p.34> Grigory Levenfish gave him 1st prize of an inscribed clock, which "continues to count out the time of my chess career.<125 Games, 9>

Shared 1-3 places with Anatoly Ufimtsev and Mark Moiseevich Stolberg in the <Gorky National 1st Category Tournament 1938 (2d group)> [rusbase-7] This result earned him the Candidate Master title. <Romanovsky, xi>

Shared 1st with Sergey Vsevolodovich Belavenets, ahead of Grandmaster Andre Lilienthal at <18th Moscow Championship 1938>, awarded Master Title. <125 Games, 9> <[rusbase-8]>

Finished 3d in the USSR Championship (1940), Finished 3d in the USSR Absolute Championship (1941)- "in accordance with the norms in existence, for these two successes I was awarded the title of USSR grandmaster." <125 Games, 9-10>

1st International tournament Groningen 1946.
Groningen (1946)
"third place... behind Mikhail Botvinnik and Max Euwe opened the way for my participation in the battle for the World Championship." <125 Games, 11>

World Champion

Smyslov's 2d in the <1948 WCC> seeded him into the <Budapest 1950 Candidates Tournament>. Budapest Candidates (1950)

They were to be joined by the unsuccessful invitees to the 1948 Championship, but only Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres took their places.<nescio>

Smyslov: "3d place in the <Budapest 1950 Candidates Tournament> gave me the automatic right to a place in the next Candidates Tournament." <125 Games, 12>

1st in the <Zurich Candidates Tournament 1953> Zurich Candidates (1953)

1954 <World Championship Match> Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954) Drew Botvinnik, who retained championship on draw odds.

Candidates Cycling

Theoretical Contributions

-<Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov variation (D99)>

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 <Nfd7>

This plan was developed in preparation for the <1948 WCC>. Smyslov: "The point of the plan, involving the transfer of the king's knight to b6, and the development of the other knight at c6, lies in piece pressure on White's pawn centre."> <125 Games, 11>


-<Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense (C93)>

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 <h6>


-<Slav Defense: Smyslov Variation (D16)>

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 <Na6>


-<Ruy Lopez Fianchetto Defense (C60)>

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6

Smyslov revived this line at <Szolnok 1975>







[<1> Vasily Smyslov, "Smyslov's 125 Selected Games" Ken Neat transl. Cadogen, 1983

2 P.A. Romanovsky, "Vassily Vassilievitch Smyslov." Published in Vasily Smyslov, "My Best Games of Chess (1935-1957)" P.H. Clarke ed., transl. (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1958), pp. xi-xxvii (First published as "Izbrannie partii" in Russian in 1952)

3 P.H. Clarke, "V.V. Smyslov, 1952-57." Published in Vasily Smyslov, "My Best Games of Chess (1935-1957)"

4 Yuri Averbakh "Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes" Steve Giddins transl. New in Chess, 2011

5 Genna Sosonko "The World Champions I Knew." New in Chess, 2013

6 Edward Winter, ed. "World Chess Champions." Pergamon Press, 1981

7 Andrew Soltis, "Soviet Chess 1917-1991" McFarland, 1997

8 Harry Golombek "The World Chess Championships of 1957 and 1958" Hardinge Simpole, 1958

9 Smyslov Interview by Vladimir Anzikeev for "Shakhmatnaya Nedelia" (Chess Week). Translated by Zoya Vlassova. First appeared in "Chess Today" No. 1045.

10 Mikhail Botvinnik, "Botvinnik's Complete Games (1942-1956) and Selected Writings (Part 2)" Kean Neat ed., transl. Olomouc, 2012. -Originally published in Mikhail Botvinnik, "Match Botvinnik-Smyslov" (Fizkultura i sport, Moscow 1955)

11 Mikhail Botvinnik "Achieving the Aim" Bernard Cafferty, transl. Pergamon, 1981

12 Dmitry Plisetsky and Sergey Voronkov, "Russians vs. Fischer" Ken Neat transl. Everyman Chess, 2005

Tournament Sources

[-<18th Moscow Championship 1938> <[rusbase-9]>

-<Gorky National 1st Category Tournament 1938 (2d group)> <[rusbase-10]>


 page 1 of 109; games 1-25 of 2,720  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. K Gerasimov vs Smyslov 0-1221935MoscowD05 Queen's Pawn Game
2. S Belavenets vs Smyslov  ½-½341937Clock simul, 6bE32 Nimzo-Indian, Classical
3. Smyslov vs Averbakh  1-0241938junior ttE17 Queen's Indian
4. Smyslov vs A Chistiakov  ½-½321938Moscow-chC12 French, McCutcheon
5. Smyslov vs S Kogan  ½-½371938Moscow-chC42 Petrov Defense
6. Smyslov vs M Yudovich  1-0491938Moscow-chB20 Sicilian
7. Smyslov vs Rekach 1-0231938Moscow-ch semifinalB10 Caro-Kann
8. N Zanozdra vs Smyslov 1-0251938Ch URS (juniors)B17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
9. Smyslov vs V Zak 1-0361938All Union First CategoryA43 Old Benoni
10. Smyslov vs N Rudnev  1-0431938All Union First CategoryC10 French
11. V Baturinsky vs Smyslov 0-1341938Moscow-chC45 Scotch Game
12. Smyslov vs Lilienthal 1-0561938Moscow-chC11 French
13. Averbakh vs Smyslov 0-1241939Moscow-chA06 Reti Opening
14. Smyslov vs Kan  ½-½311939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC43 Petrov, Modern Attack
15. Smyslov vs Konstantinopolsky 1-0571939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC77 Ruy Lopez
16. Alatortsev vs Smyslov 0-1401939Leningrad/Moscow trainingE47 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3
17. Smyslov vs V Makogonov ½-½491939Leningrad/Moscow trainingB10 Caro-Kann
18. S Belavenets vs Smyslov 0-1361939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD02 Queen's Pawn Game
19. Smyslov vs Ragozin 0-1351939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
20. Panov vs Smyslov ½-½421939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC77 Ruy Lopez
21. Smyslov vs V Goglidze 1-0801939Leningrad/Moscow trainingB83 Sicilian
22. Reshevsky vs Smyslov 1-0701939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD51 Queen's Gambit Declined
23. Smyslov vs Tolush 0-1241939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC16 French, Winawer
24. P Romanovsky vs Smyslov  ½-½431939Leningrad/Moscow trainingD52 Queen's Gambit Declined
25. Smyslov vs Levenfish ½-½631939Leningrad/Moscow trainingC98 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
 page 1 of 109; games 1-25 of 2,720  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Smyslov wins | Smyslov loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 47 OF 54 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-15-12  brankat: <ewan14> Which he probably was. Although that would be a close call. There were also Petrosian, Tal, Larsen, Fischer, Geller, Korchnoi was just getting in gear.
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <Korchnoi stayed in the top-10 through 1991 (aged 60), but quickly flew by top-20 into the top-50 tier afterwards.>

Quickly? Elo lists his last top-20 appearance as late as at the age of 68.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: Funnily, the names in <brankat>'s totally unrelated list, save for Fischer, are all examples of chess longevity. Tal and Petrosian were both top players till their respective deaths at around 55 each. Geller became Soviet champion at 54, Korchnoi was top-20 at 68 and top-100 at 75...

Btw, as for chessmetrics, it has one player who <peaked> in his mid-60s or even mid-70s, depending on whether we take rating or ranking peak. Celso Golmayo Zupide.

Mar-15-12  ewan14: The ' sixties '

Surely Petrosian only

Spassky had a good record against Tal , esp. 1965

Larsen . esp. 1968

Fischer , Geller ( definitely ) and managed to beat Korchnoi in the 1968 Candidates final

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: As for chess longevity:
Najdorf's highest rankings:

(age range / ranking):

20-30: 13
30-40: 2
40-50: 3
50-60: 11
60-70: 21
70-80: 67

Smyslov's, as the page subject:

10-20: 10
20-30: 2
30-40: 1
40-50: 3
50-60: 8
60-70: 9
70-80: 118
80-90: 600


20-30: 1
30-40: 1
40-50: 1
50-60: 1 (for the last time at 58y0m)
60-70: 6 (at 66y4m)

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: Korchnoi:

10-20: 104
20-30: 5
30-40: 1
40-50: 2
50-60: 2
60-70: 12
70-80: 30

Mar-16-12  Everett: <alexmagnus: <Korchnoi stayed in the top-10 through 1991 (aged 60), but quickly flew by top-20 into the top-50 tier afterwards.>

Quickly? Elo lists his last top-20 appearance as late as at the age of 68.>

Interesting. I used chessmetrics. Did you not notice? There is even a graph provided. Also, just because one popped up again for a month or three in the top 20 does not equal consistent and sustained performance, which is what I thought this thread was emphasizing. Finally, top 50 may simply mean 21st, 22nd, etc... so it is not a massive slight to Korchnoi...

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: I saw that you used chessmetrics, I just find it weird chessmetrics isn't too impressed from Korchnoi's series of tournament victories in late 1998/early 1999 (which brought him to 17th place on Elo rankings).
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <one of only two or three men to have retained top ten strength beyond age sixty>

How about Steinitz? He was probably top 10 continuously from 1863 until his death in 1900 in his mid-sixties.

Mar-24-12  brankat: Happy Birthday and R.I.P. Vasily Vasilievich!
Mar-24-12  talisman: happy birthday champ...reading about your 57 right now.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: R.I.P. 7th World Chess Championship, Vasily Smyslov. Don't forget when you won the title: Botvinnik-Smyslov World Championship Return Match (1957).
Mar-24-12  AVRO38: Any plans for a Smyslov Memorial Tournament?

If the Russians can honor Tal and Botvinnik with memorial tournaments, you'd think they could at least honor an actual Russian World Champion like Smyslov.

Apr-02-12  Dr. Yes: I was trying to post a very high compliment to Smyslov and got many interesting opinions and comments. I don't believe much in chessmetrics and someone mentioned how they delist inactive players. Generally, a top five or ten player might have a chance in a WCC match, but outside of top that, almost no chance, so I really respect Smyslov's longevity, not sure about Korchnoi's or Steinitz's beyond age 60. There were plenty of young tigers appearing on the scene but they may have been shunted off to other pursuits.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Dr. Yes>
If we don't use chessmetrics and just seek "top 10 or credible WCC possibility for 30 years," I'd add Keres and Botvinnik (both from around 1935 to 1965) to that list.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: And there's also Tarrasch (maybe about 1888 - 1918), although you might consider him more of a <19th century> than <20th century> chess player.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: Also Korchnoi (1956-1986) should probably qualify.
Premium Chessgames Member
  parisattack: <Dr. Yes: ... so I really respect Smyslov's longevity, not sure about Korchnoi's or Steinitz's beyond age 60. >

Any common thread stylistically amongst players who have still played great chess late 50s ->?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <parisattack>
Great idea for a Game Collection: "sextagenarian masterpieces"! A quick search of the Game Collections didn't turn up anything similar.

As for style, they seem to span a wide spectrum. Of course it helps if the player's style is universal enough to keep working well through many decades.

But more importantly, the player has to remain alive, in good health, and active in chess long enough. For example, Alekhine died in his mid-fifties, and the main part of Fischer's career ended by the time he was 30.

Apr-29-12  JohnDahl: Averbakh, NIC interview, May 1997:

<With Smyslov I've been friends ever since 1935, when he was still a boy and I met him with his father. We played together in this championship and were living in the same room. I was astonished when he started to look for the title for the second time in the eighties. He asked me to be his coach and I wondered what his reasons were. Then I understood. He didn't like to be a veteran. It was his big challenge to show the world that he could do this a second time. He is deeply religious and believes in his destiny. He believes that it is God who supported him. Never before did he work so hard. Eight hours a day. I was terribly tired after these sessions, but he saw all this as his predestination.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  parisattack: Lasker and Korchnoi great fighters/defensive players...Smyslov not known particularly in that regard.

Positional players mixed...Fischer, as you say. Capablanca slid, Karpov's rating basically fell off a cliff. But Botvinnik played some of his finest games in the late 1960s after he lost the title. Reshevsky still a factor into the late 1960s.

Interesting chart:

May-04-12  JohnDahl: Kasparov in OMGPII devotes 120 pages to his chapter on Smyslov. He ends with this tribute:

<The unprecedented chess career of this great master, like a magic crystal, absorbed an entire century: from meetings with the elderly Fedor Duz-Khotimirsky (born 1881), a contemporary of Chigorin and the author of sensational wins over Lasker and Rubinstein in St Petersburg 1909 - to his unique match with the 13-year-old French boy Etienne Bacrot (born 1983), who was already on the verge of becoming a grandmaster. From the stagecoach era to the computer age.>

He quotes Botvinnik:

<In the period 1953-58 Smyslov was undoubtedly the strongest tournament fighter. His talent was universal - he could play subtly in the opening, go totally onto the defensive, attack vigorously or manoeuvre coolly. And this is to say nothing about the endgame - here he was in his element. Sometimes he took decisions that were staggering in their depth... The combination of good calculation of variations, boldness, independence and natural health made Smyslov invulnerable at that time.>

Nakamura's take: <kind of boring>

Jun-24-12  The Rocket: <"So if Smyslov was the best player in the world in the fifties ( according to Botvinnik )">

So botvinnik concidered Smyslov to be better than himself?

I have always thought of them as equal

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Perhaps one can be the best player, but not world champion, because they cannot beat the incumbent in a long match? I guess that would mean that world champion is defined by two measures, 1) tournament record and rating, 2) best match player.
Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Only problem is that Reshevsky was better than both of them in the 1950's.
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