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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reshevsky Tricks Najdorf

     The date and venue of 10th Chess Olympiad held in 1952 in Helsinki was held concurrently with the Summer Olympics. Helsinki had been earlier selected to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were canceled due to World War II. The 1952 Games had the most number of world records broken until surpassed by the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, and Saarland made their Olympic debuts in Helsinki. 
     This Chess Olympiad was especially notable for the debut of the Soviet team, who won their first gold medals and went on to completely dominate the Olympiads for the next four decades. 
     Although the Soviets won the gold medal, it was not as easy as they might have expected. The team consisted of Keres, Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Boleslavsky and Kotov. Keres' score of about 50 percent was disappointing, but the rest of the team made up for his poor showing. 
     This event saw a change in the old format of playing two rounds per day and the adjournments were, this time, held the following morning. The teams were divided into three groups of 8 and 9 with the top three of each group qualifying for the Finals. 
     Because there were no Elo rating in those days, a jury seeded the teams at their discretion and their decisions were often held in dispute. The 25 teams were divided as follows: 
     Group 1) Argentina ahead of West Germany, Czechoslovakia, England, Denmark, Cuba, Iceland, Saar, and Luxembourg. 
     Group 2) Sweden ahead of Hungary, Yugoslavia. East Germany, Austria, Italy, Brazil and NorwayGroup 
      Group 3) Soviet Union ahead of the United States, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and Greece. 
     The US team consisted of Samuel Reshevsky, Larry Evans, Robert Byrne, Arthur Bisguier, George Koltanowski and Hans Berliner.
     The finals consisted of just 9 teams and turned out to not be a very good idea. Apart from the inconvenience caused by the odd number of participants, nine teams were way too few because the gain of a single point from a blunder might play relatively important role. 
     The Final A section was a tough fight. The Soviets started moderately, beating Hungary and drawing with the American team. Finland beat West Germany but were down the table because of a bye at the start. Yugoslavia earned valuable 3-1 win over Hungary in round three. Most of matches were either draws or 2.5-1.5 so the standings were not very clear and whether a team already had a bye or not further clouded the issue. In fact, at the halfway point, the Soviets were in sixth place. 
     The US team (which had a bye in the last round) was undefeated until the seventh round when they unexpectedly lost to Sweden (Stahlberg, Stoltz, Lundin, Skold, Johansson and Danielsson) which knocked them out of contention for a medal. 
     Georgia's chess blog has an amusing anecdote about this Olympiad HERE.

1) Soviet Union 21.0 
2) Argentina 19.5 
3) Yugoslavia 19.0 
4) Czechoslovakia 18.0 
5) United States 17.0 
6) Hungary 16.0 
7) Sweden 13.0 
8) West Germany 10.5 
9) Finland 10.0

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