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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Botvinnik – Averbach Training Match, 1957

     The year 1957 was a big one in Moscow. The Soviet Union launched the first space satellite Sputnik. The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students opened on July 28, 1957, in Moscow, Soviet Union. The festival attracted 34,000 people from 130 countries. This became possible after the bold political changes initiated by Nikita Khrushchev. It was the first World Festival of Youth and Students held in the Soviet Union, which was opening its doors for the first time to the world. 
     The Khrushchev reforms, known as Khrushchev's Thaw, resulted in some changes in the Soviet Union. Foreigners could come for a visit, and people were allowed to meet foreigners, albeit only in groups under supervision. 
     In the United States automobile tail fins were getting bigger and cars had more lights, bigger more powerful engines and an average car sold for $2,749. The continued growth of the use of credit was shown by the fact that 2/3 of all new cars were bought on credit. Gas cost 24 cents a gallon. 
     Television featured the debut of "Perry Mason" and "Maverick" while Rock and Roll was the popular music with "Little Richard" being one of the biggest stars.. The popular toys were Slinkys and Hula Hoops and the Frisbee was introduced. The average yearly wage was $4.550.00. Bacon was 60 cents a pound and eggs were 28 cents a dozen. 
     On the political scene South Vietnam was attacked by Viet Cong guerrillas and it wouldn't be long before the U.S. began to dabble in the situation. President Eisenhower sent troops to Arkansas to enforce anti-segregation laws. 
     Meanwhile in the chess world the big event was another World Championship match. The Zurich 1953 Candidates Tournament was won Vasily Smyslov who finished two points ahead of Bronstein earning him the right to challenge Botvinnik in Moscow in March of 1954. The 1954 match was marked by sharp swings in the lead. Botvinnik won three of the first four games, but then disaster struck and Smyslov scored four wins and 3 draws in the next seven games to take the lead 6-5. The Botvinnik struck back scoring four wins, a loss and a three draws making the score 10.5-8.5 in his favor. In the remaining four games Smyslov evened the score with two wins and three draws, but Botvinnik retained his title. 
     Going into the 14th game Botvinnik was leading 7-6, but when Smyslov won a brilliant game to tie the match, Botvinnik thought he smelled a rat. On their way out of the playing hall Botvinnik told his second Ilya Kan that Smyslov must have been tipped off about his opening preparation. Kan pointed out that Botvinnik had played that particular variation against the K-Indian before, so it was possible for Smyslov to have been prepared. Botvinnik insisted that Smyslov had played his moves too quickly. Kan jokingly asked Botvinnik if his maid could have passed along the information. Botvinnik didn't say anything, but that was the end of Kan's work as a second. 
     At the 1956 Amsterdam Candidates Tournament Vasily Smyslov finished first 1.5 points ahead of Keres and earned the right to challenge Botvinnik for a second time for a match to held in Moscow in March of 1957. In this match, which was won by Smyslov, and as he was to do in their 1958 rematch, Botvinnik didn't use a second because he didn't trust anybody.
     However, in preparation for his second match with Smyslov, Botvinnik wanted to play a 12-game match with Yuri Averbach to begin right after New Year's Day of 1957. Averbach caught a cold and so they only played 10 games and the 9th game, which had been adjourned, was never played off. Botvinnik led +3-2=4, but Averbach has slightly the better of it in the adjourned game so had winning chances. 
     Unlike most training matches, this one was an intense struggle that was marred by time trouble and some serious mistakes. Years later Averbach wondered if it had drained too much strength and energy from Botvinnik and influenced the result against Smyslov in their match a month later. The following game from their training match demonstrates the fighting qualities of both players. 

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