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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smyslov – Botvinnik Game

      Vasily Smyslov (24 March 1921 – 27 March 2010) remains an under-appreciated player.  He was World Champion from 1957 to 1958 and a candidate eight times (1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1983, and 1985) and twice equal first in the Soviet Championship (1949, 1955). 
      In his two world championship matches against Botvinnik in which they played 69 games, Smyslov scored +18 -17 =34.  He only lost the second match because of his horrific start; he inexplicably lost the first three games and 0-3 deficit was simply too much to overcome.
     When one thinks of the greatest players of all time, Smyslov’s name rarely comes to mind but according to True Chess rankings, based on the best year results, No. 1 ranked is Fischer in 1968 with Anand at No. 2 in 2006.  Tied for third and fourth places are Kramnik (1992) and Smyslov (1976). As the site points out these rankings are based on samples too small to give accurate results.
      Ten year result rankings are: 1=Fischer 2=Capablanca 3-4=Kasparov & Kramnik 5-8=Capablanca, Botvinnik, Smyslov and Karpov.
      In their book Warriors of the Mind Keene and Divinsky considered games played between sixty-four of the strongest players in history, and rated Smyslov in ninth place. (Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Lasker, Korchnoi, Spassky, Smyslov and Petrosian.
      A computer method was tried in 2006 by the Department of Computer and Information Science of  the University of Jjubljana in which they compared the player’s moves to those of a chess engine. This can’t be considered too accurate though because the engine they used was Crafty which was not the strongest. A similar project was also conducted in 2007 using Rybka 2.3.2a  Players with fewest average errors using this method were Capablanca, Kramnik, Karpov, Kasparov, Spassky, Petrosin, Lasker, Fischer, Alekhine and in tenth place, Smyslov.
     In any case, by any ranking system, Smyslov rates among the best who ever lived; a little appreciated fact these days. As for Botvinnik, he was probably one of the five best players of all time but after 1948 he was, as Botvinnik himself put it, the first among equals.

Enjoy Smyslov’s Queen sacrifice!

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