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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Elisaveta Bykova

Bykova in 1982
     There were two Candidates tournaments in 1956, the men's and the women's.  The men's tournament in Amsterdam 1956 was won by Vasily Smyslov who earned the right to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik. As the loser of the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match in 1954, Smyslov was seeded into the tournament while the other nine were qualified from the Gothenburg Interzonal in 1955. 
1) Smyslov 11.5 
2) Keres 10.0 
3-7 Szabo, Spassky, Petrosian, Bronstein and Geller 9.5 
8-9 Filip and Panno 8.0 
10) Pilnik 5.0   

     The Womens' Candidates Tournament was won by Olga Rubtsova. But, instead of her playing the defending champion Elisaveta Bykova, for some reason FIDE decided that the championship would be decided between the top three female players: Rubtsova, Bykova, and Lyudmila Rudenko, ex-champion and loser of the last title match. 
     The championship tournament was held in Moscow in 1956. The three players each played an 8-game match against each other, with Rubtsova eventually clinching the title to become the fourth women's champion. 
1) Olga Rubtsova 10-6 
2) Elisaveta Bykova 9.5-6.5 
3) Lyudmila Rudenko 4.5-11.5 

     Elisaveta Ivanovna Bykova (November 4, 1913 - March 8, 1989) was the third and fifth Women's World Champion, from 1953 until 1956, and again from 1958 to 1962. She was awarded the title of Woman International Master in 1950, International Master in 1953, and Woman Grandmaster in 1976. Bykova authored three books: Vera Menchik, Soviet women players and the Women’s World Championship. 
     She was born to a peasant family in Bogolyubovo in 1913 and lived in Moscow since 1925. She was taught chess by her older brother. In 1927 she won a school tournament, but for several years after that she didn't play in tournaments, but devoted her time to her studies in high school and the Institute of Economic Planning. 
     When she made her debut in the semi-finals of the USSR Women's Championship in 1935 she finished far down in the standings, but she was determined to improve with persistence and hard work. After graduating from the Institute in 1936 she began serious study of theory and began competing regularly in tournaments. 
     Her first major success was in 1937 when she finished third in the Moscow women's championship and received a second category rating (1875-2000). For a description of the Soviet category rating systems see the article on chessdotcom HERE. She won the tournament the following year. 
     Realizing her need to meet stronger opponents, she began competing in men's tournaments which included Candidate Masters (2125-2250) and as a result moved up to a First Category (2000-2125) rating. 
     During World War Two she was employed in the printing industry and organized Soviet women players in providing recreation for wounded servicemen. Her biggest successes after the war were winning the USSR women's title in 1947, 1948 and 1950 plus the women's championship of Moscow many times. After tying for third in the 1949-1950 women's world championship she was awarded the Master title. 
     In 1953 she met Ludmila Rudenko, the reigning champion, in a 14-game match for the world title. The match had a thrilling finish. Before the last game the score was 7-6 in Bykova's favor which meant that Rudenko could retain her title only if she could win. 
     Bykova came out of the opening with the better game, but got into time trouble and allowed Rudenko to get the advantage. The game was adjourned in a very complicated position in which Rudenko had the better chances. Upon resumption Rudenko played weakly, missing the winning line and then the drawing line and so Bykova became the world champion by winning the match 8-6. Bykova lost the title two years later in the aforementioned women's three-way title match. 
     In 1958 she regained the world championship title by defeating Olga Rubtsova 8.5-5.5 which she held until 1962 when she lost the title to Nona Gaprindashvili. 
     In 1953 Bykova was awarded the Soviet title of Honored Master. The title of Honored Master of Sport was introduced in 1934. It was awarded by the State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport to athletes, including chess players, for outstanding performance. The award was in the form of a badge and certificate. Though normally conferred for life, it was revoked in the case of Alla Kushnir and Viktor Korchnoi following their defection from the Soviet Union. Mark Taimanov also had his award revoked in 1971 following his crushing defeat at the hands of Bobby Fischer, but this was restored in 1991.
     The following game, which has some fascinating hidden tactical possibilities, demonstrates Bykova's powerful attacking play. 

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