Born in Pinsk, Furman was a factory worker in Leningrad, who developed his chess skills in his spare time.In 1931 his family moved to Leningrad, and Syoma Furman became a pupil of one of the leading masters in the city, Ilya Rabinovich. Rabinovich, who was to die of dystrophy in 1942 after having been evacuated to the city of Perm, is perhaps best known for his classic work Endshpil' (‘The Endgame'). He was a player of strongly positional style whose tastes and work ethic evidently rubbed off on the young Furman. He was a late bloomer by chess standards, not reaching even National Master strength until he was well into adulthood. For example, he made only an even score of 6½/13 in the All-Union Candidates-to-Masters tournament, Group 1, at Rostov-on-Don 1939. In the same event at Kalinin 1940, group 3, he was only able to score 5/11, and in the Leningrad Championship of 1940, he scored just 6½/16. His chess development was on hold during the next few years of World War II, as Leningrad was placed under siege by the Nazis, beginning in 1941.
Organized chess started up again as the Second World War ended. In an All-Union Tournament of First Category players at Gorky 1945, Furman posted his first noteworthy result when he tied for first with Konstantin Klaman, at 11/15. At Tula 1945, Furman placed second with 10½/14, behind only V. Lyublinsky. In the Leningrad Championship of 1946, Furman tied for 8th-9th places, with 8½/17. In the USSR Championship semi-final (URS-ch15 sf), Leningrad 1946, Furman was unsuccessful in advancing, but made a highly respectable score of 9/18, to tie for 9th-10th places. He was moving up slowly through the incredibly deep Soviet vanguard.
The year 1947 brought some rewards for Furman. He tied for first place in the All-Union Championship of the Spartak Club, with Vladimir Simagin, at 15/19, but lost the playoff match. Then, in the Leningrad Championship, he tied for 3rd-4th places, with 11/17. At the Saratov 1947 National Tournament, he scored 7/11 for a tied 2nd-3rd place.
Furman qualified from the semi-final at Sverdlovsk 1947, for his first Soviet Chess Championship at age 27. In the final, he performed exceptionally well, placing third, only half a point behind joint winners David Bronstein and Alexander Kotov, with a fine score of 11/18 (URS-ch16, Moscow 1948). In the Leningrad Championship of 1948, he tied for 7th-10th places, with 9½/17. He tied for first-third places at Vilnius 1949, the semi-final for URS-ch17, with 11½/17, qualifying again for the Soviet final. In the Leningrad Championship of 1949, he was off form with 8½/18 to tie for 11th-13th places. Then, in the Soviet final later in 1949, again in Moscow (URS-ch17), he tied for 5th-7th places with 11½/19. In the 1950 Championship of the Spartak Club, he tied for 4th-5th places, with 6/11. Then at Gorky 1950, he was unsuccessful in qualifying for the next Soviet Championship final, as he could only score 9½/15, for fourth place.
In the URS-ch21 at Kiev 1954, Furman scored 10/19 to tie for 7th-9th places. He earned his first international tournament opportunity for Bucharest 1954, where he tied for 6th-7th places with a fine 10/17. He was in the middle of the field in URS-ch22 at Moscow 1955, with 10/19, in a tie for 10th-11th places. It was a similar story for URS-ch24, Moscow 1957, where he scored 10/21 for 12th place. He had a good tournament at Kiev 1957, scoring 11½/19 to tie for 2nd-5th places, behind only Tigran Petrosian. His form dropped for URS-ch25, Riga 1958, as he could only make 6/18 for 17th place. At URS-ch26, Tbilisi 1959, he was again below 50 per cent with 8/19 for 15th place.
Anatoly Karpov is quoted as saying of Furman that he played better with White "by an order of magnitude, of perhaps even two, than with Black". Many of his best games are model examples of strategy in their respective openings.
Wikipedia article: Semyon Furman