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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Russia vs. Rest of the World

     There have been three matches featuring USSR vs. Rest of the World: 1970, 1984 and 2002. The USSR team won tin '70 and '84 while the Rest of the World won in '02. The first two were held before the breakup of the Soviet Union in while the last match some of the countries who had been former members of the USSR team were on the Rest of the World team. 
     All of the matches the teams consisted of ten players, plus alternates. In the first two matches, the teams were arranged in board order and each member from one team played four games against his equivalent on the other team. The third match was a Scheveningen system in which each player played a game against ten different members of the other team using with a faster time control than the first two matches. 
     In the Spring of 1969 a train carrying Romanian representative to the chess congress was late in arriving and while some Yugoslav officials were waiting at the train station the conceived the idea for the match. Then, at the FIDE Congress in Puerto Rico in the Summer they presented the idea to Soviet officials who agreed, but wanted the match to be split between Belgrade and Moscow. The Yugoslavs were not amenable to that idea and so got the whole match and the bills...$100,000, well over six time that amount in today's currency. 
     Over the following months the problem was how to select the Rest of the World team. For team captain, Dr. Euwe, it was easy. He based his list on the Elo list with Fischer being at board one. But things weren't so simple. Fischer as the only one the Soviets really feared, but he hadn't played since 1968 and it was feat to even get in touch with him. When they finally did, Fischer's first response was an automatics, “No!” Then they invited him to Belgrade as a spectator at no cost to himself. His response was, “Maybe.” That is, he would play if his list of 23 playing conditions were met. His list included specifications regarding the lighting to his fee. After dozens of phone calls and telegrams an agreement was finally reached. 
      The fly in the ointment was Bent Larsen who had won several international tournaments and was angry about playing play second board. But Euwe convinced him that he'd end up on first board anyway because Euwe didn't really think Fischer would show up. When Fischer finally agreed to play, Larsen withdrew from the World team; he refused to play second board. Yugoslav officials chased Larsen, who was giving simultaneous displays in Holland, down and he reluctantly agreed to play. A few days later he changed his mind saying he was too tired. Yugoslav officials then used the same psychological trick on Larsen that they used on Fischer...come as a spectator at their expense and bring his wife. Eventually both Larsen and Fischer ended up in Belgrade; Fischer to play and Larsen to watch. 
     Somebody overheard Tigran Petrosian say that Larsen was right to insist on playing board one so he was asked to try and convince him to play on board two. Enter Bobby Fischer. He had agreed to play on board two...for a substantial fee. Now, out of nowhere, he said he would play on board two for nothing! But, would the Russians accept the arrangement? The Soviets were known to be inflexible when it came to high level protocols like board order and such.  
      Lost in the shuffle was Yugoslav GM Milan Matulovic's refusal to play if he had to play a lower board than East German GM Wolfgang Uhlmann whom he had beaten in a match. Nobody cared about Matulovic though and so he accepted his board 8 assignment. 
     The Soviets did accept the new arrangement and there were some questions about their board order which they explained as follows: World Champion Spassky, Former Champion Petrosian and candidate match finalist Korchnoi were natural choices for the first three boards. Then four GMs who who had obtained the right because of their finish in the Soviet Championship to compete in the next interzonal (Polugayevsky, Geller, Smyslov and Taimanov). The last three places went to GMs of special merit: Botvinnik, Tal and Keres. Reserves were sixth place finisher in the Soviet championship, Leonid Stein and David Bronstein, for Word Championship challenger. 

Round 1: Play ended with the score tied 3-3 and after adjournment Taimanov forced Uhlmann's resignation and Botvinnik defeated Matulovic and the Soviets lead 5-3. Hort nursed a microscopic advantage to a win over Polugayevsky and against Korchnoi, Portisch piddled away his advantage and only drew. The Soviets lead 5.5-4.5 
Round 2: The Soviets won 6-4 giving them a substantial lead of 11.5-8.5. 
Round 3: A miracle happened. With six games adjourned it was predicted that the round would end in a 505 tie. Fischer refused Smyslov's repeated draw offers and squeezed out a win. Tal downed Najdorf while Taimanov-Uhlmann and Ivkov-Keres drew. Then Portisch, with an inferior position managed to win from Korchnoi. That left Matulovic-Botvinnik. Matuovic was a P down in an inferior position, but imprecise play by Botvinnik lead to a drawn position. The Soviet captain wouldn't give him permission to agree to the draw, so Botvinnik “blundered” into a stalemate. Botvinnik's excuse was that after adjournment he had gotten befuddled by Matulovic's weak play. The World won the round by 6-4 and the Soviet's lead by 15.5-14.5. 
Round 4: Surprise. World Champion Spassky was replaced by Stein. On the World team, Reshevsky was replaced by Olafsson. The Najdorf-Tal and Hort-Polugayevsky games were drawn. Gligoric had the edge against Geller, but let it slip and Geller forced a draw. For the third time in the match Portisch mysteriously allowed Korchnoi to draw a worse position. This incurred the wrath of Fischer because Portisch had a winning position.bThis game was regarded by many as crucial in determining the final match result, since the match would have been tied if Portisch had won the game. Against Keres, Ivkov was playing for a win but made some bad moves and lost. Fischer started his last game two hours late because of religious reasons and adjourned a Pawn down, but managed to draw the following day. Larsen was playing to the public and won an exciting game against Stein. He also won a car. Olafsson played 25 moves after losing a piece to Smyslov only because it was his only game in the match. Matulovic managed to force a draw against Botvinnik. The round results were 5-5, making the final score 20.5-19.5 in favor of the Soviets.


      Fischer and Petrosian played on a special board. It was made of green and white marble and had been a gift from Fidel Castro to one of the Yugoslav dignitaries. Fischer also insisted the pieces be different; they could not be shiny. It was here at Belgrade that a group of GMs formed an international association to look after their interests because they did not feel they were being well served by FIDE.
The following game shows that there are “good” Qs and “bad” Qs. Qs need open lines and in this game Tal's Q controls the center and threatens Najdorf's K. On the other hand, Najdorf's own Q plays a very passive role. In both cases, the Qs effectiveness is dictated by the P-structure. 
     I came across this game in Reshevsky's book The Art of Positional Play and to be honest, I am not sure Reshevsky actually wrote the book. It's pretty well known that Fred Reinfeld ghosted the book on Reshevsky's best games and probably other ones, too. One thing we do know is that Reinfeld didn't ghost write this book because it was originally published in 1976 and Reinfeld died in 1964. The prose in the book just does not sound like Reshevsky's writing and it has some pretty glaring errors in analysis. If Reshevsky did indeed write it, he must have really rushed through the games making notes off the top of his head.
 

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