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Sunday, November 24, 2019

31st Soviet Championship, 1963

     In the fall of 1964 I was on a cruise to the Mediterranean which you can read about HERE. One of our ports of call was the Spanish city of Barcelona. It was there that I was looking at a nice wooden chess set in a store window when a gentleman walked up and asked me if I was interested in buying a set. When I said I was, he informed me that the shop where they were made was right around the corner and then escorted me into it. Before disappearing he told the lady behind the counter to make sure that she charged me the same price that she would charge him. 
     The set is long gone, but whether it was in Barcelona or Valencia, I purchased some chess books in Spanish. One in particular was a favorite...a tournament book of the 1963 Championship of the Soviet Union that was played in Leningrad from November 23 to December 27, 1963. 
     Known as the 31st Soviet Championship, twenty of the Soviet Union's strongest players competed with only two notable absences: the newly crowned world champion Tigran Petrosian and the deposed Mikhail Botvinnik. 
     Korchnoi, the defending champion, was probably the favorite to win the tournament because back in August he had finished first at Havana ahead of Geller and Tal. Besides, Leningrad was his home town. Unfortunately for him, the combination of a tough schedule of events that year and some bad losses ruled him out of the battle for first place. 
     Leonid Stein was a somewhat surprise winner when he emerged as the champion by winning the playoff in what would be the first of three Soviet crowns for him and it signaled his arrival as one of the world's strongest players. He remained in the World's top 10 until his untimely death at the age of 38 from a heart attack in 1973. 
Averbakh-Nei scoresheet

     According to the July 1964 issue of Chess Review, "The tournament was formally named the Championship of the Soviet Union, but, in fact and in view of its main purpose, it has become an integral part of the FIDE competitions for qualification to the World Championship program."
     "The six 'winners' of this tournament: Stein, Spassky, Kholmov, Bronstein, Geller and Suetin won the right to participate, along with Tal and Smyslov, in an eight-man, double-round tournament from which four would qualify for the Interzonal Tournamcnt."
     The magazine added: “The writer feels compelled to animadvert (i.e. pass criticism or censure...I had to look that one up. Tartajubow) on this "elective" character of the tournament. Soviet Championships have been celebrated for the combativeness and uncompromising attitudes of their participants. The Chigorin school, Chigorin style and Chigorin mode of approaching the game are well known. At this championship. however. the rules of the ancient and venerated Chigorin school were upset. No one asked to be the winner of the tournament. All, it seems, entered with a studied calculation and the modest wish of qualifying sixth, or better.” 

1-3) Kholmov, Spassky and Stein 12.0 
4-6) Suetin, Geller and Bronstein 11.5 
7-8) Gufeld and Polugaevsky 11.0 
9) Gipslis 10.5 
10) Korchnoi 10.0 
11) Bagirov 9.5 
12-13) Nei and Averbakh 9.0 
14-15) Furman and Taimanov 8.5 
16) Klovans 7.5 
17) Zakharov 7.0 
18-19) Bondarevsky and Novopashin 6.5 
20) Osnos 5.0 

1) Stein 2.5 
2) Spassky 2.0 
3) Kholmov 1.5  

     Everybody knows about the winners, except maybe Ratmir Kholmov, but who was the last place finisher Vyacheslav Osnos? 
     Osnos (July 24, 1935 - August 27, 2009, 74 years old) may have finished last with a miserable + 2 -11 =6 score, but the Russian trainer and author was awarded the IM title in 1965 and was champion of Leningrad in 1971 and 1980. He also competed in six Soviet championship finals from 1963 to 1968. 
     Even though he finished last in this tournament, he qualified by winning semifinal ahead of Spassky, Suetin, Bondarevsky and Averbakh. 
     In 1964, he finished second behind Korchnoi in the Leningrad City Championship, which doubled as a semi-final for the Soviet championship. In 1965, he came third in the semifinal, and achieved his best result in a Soviet championship final, finishing in eighth place behind Leonid Stein, but ahead of David Bronstein and Korchnoi. 
     In 1968, Osnos tied for first in the Leningrad City Chess Championship, but lost the playoff against Valery Bykov and Alexander Cherepkov. In 1969, he won an international tournament in Debrecen. 
     In 1970, he finished third in the Leningrad championship. He won the Leningrad championship in 1971 and 1980. 
     Between 1968 and 1974 he was one of Viktor Korchnoi's seconds and in 1974 he was awarded the title of Honoured Trainer of the Russian SFSR. Osnos assisted Korchnoi during his World Championship Candidate's final match against Anatoly Karpov in Moscow 1974.
     Osnos co-authored with Peter Wells The Complete Richter-Rauzer, published by Batsford in 1998. 
     Normally when you feature a player, you show one of his wins, not a loss, but Osnos’ loss to Spassky was just too instructive not to show. In the game Osnos took the b-Pawn in the opening...always a risky thing to do. In doing so he allowed Spassky to develop his pieces quickly and get a good grip on the center, which in turn gave him excellent attacking chances. 
     Chessgames.com has a nice collection of 75 of his best games HERE

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