A look back at the 1970 USSR vs. Rest of the World
Sunday, 01 September 2002 00:00
On paper the 1970 Soviet team looked monumental. Five world champions and Keres on board 10! A fantastic display of power.
For some unknown reason, Robert Fischer, USA, conceded his place on the top board to Bent Larsen of Denmark, thus pairing himself against Tigran Petrosian instead of World Champion Boris Spassky.
USSR vs. the Rest of the World 1970
Stein lost on Board 1 in Rd.4 Olafsson lost on Board 6 in Rd.4
Seated, from right: V. Smyslov, FIDE President Dr. Max Euwe, B. Spassky, M. Tal and T. Petrosian
On paper the Soviet team looked monumental. Five world champions and Keres on board 10! A fantastic display of power. They might take on an all time list of greats like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubinstein, Pillsbury, Maroczy, Tarrasch, Morphy, Steinitz and Tchigorin. They should have no difficulty disposing of Dr. Euwe&rsquos double quintet which contained several old veterans (Najdorf, Reshevsky) and several tired veterans (Gligoric, Ivkov).
The narrow victory for the USSR was an ominous sign that the Soviet grip on world class chess was nearly ended… The names are great but the fire seems to be going out. The first fact is that the USSR has not produced youngsters to replace the aging greats like Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres. Tal was ill. Taimanov, and Geller have been around for a long time. And the big three of Spassky, Petrosian and Korchnoi do not have the iron discipline and will that Botvinnik, Smyslov and Keres had 25 years ago.
The USSR-Rest of the World match got underway with Premier Mija Ribicic of Yugoslavia making the first move on the top board. About 3,000 people filled the Trade Union Hall for the opening ceremonies, while hundreds more watched the moves on screens erected outside the hall on Marx-Engels Square.
For some unknown reason, Robert Fischer, USA, conceded his place on the top board to Bent Larsen of Denmark, thus pairing himself against Tigran Petrosian instead of against world champion Boris Spassky. Fischer also stipulated that his opponent make his move before writing it down on the score sheet, a condition to which Petrosian agreed, even though it puzzled him. (Many tournament players are accustomed to write the move first and reconsidering it for a moment before actually making it.) Fischer regretted playing on Board 2, saying, "I ought to have my head examined!"
On the first board, Spassky and Larsen drew in 39 moves; although the world champion had a good position, he was happy to draw because he was down the exchange. On Board 2, Fischer outplayed Petrosian in a game described as spectacular. He won in 39 moves and was awarded 1,500 dinars approximately $120, for the best game of the first round.
In a complicated position of the third board, Lajos Portisch of Hungary was two pawns up on Victor Korchnoi and was confident of wining. However, he inadvertently repeated a position for the second time, thus allowing his opponent to claim a draw by repetition. The game lasted 62 moves.
Vastimil Hort of Czechoslovakia beat Lev Polugaevsky after 60 moves. However, Efim Geller offset this USSR loss by winning against Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia on Board 5 in 39 moves.
The first game to finish was a 30-move draw on the sixth board between Samuel Reshevsky, USA and Vasily Smyslov.
Mark Taimanov defeated Wolfgang Uhlmann of East Germany in 58 moves on Board 7; and when Milan Matulovic of Yugoslavia lost to Mikhail Botvinnik in 46 moves, that put the USSR into the lead. Games on the last boards, Mikhail Tal vs Miguel Najdorf of Argentina, and Boris Ivkov of Yugoslavia against Paul Keres, ended as draws.
At the end of the first round, therefore, the USSR was leading 5,5 -4,5. In all the results given, the first named player in each case had the white pieces.
The second round started poorly for the world team when Larsen, playing the white pieces lost to Spassky in 18 moves. Larsen, in an attempt to take his opponent "out of the book&rsquo, tried an irregular opening which Spassky took in his stride. However, the Champion contrived such a complicated maneuver on his 12th move, when he offered his opponent a knight, that Larsen spent 45 minutes studying the position before coming to a decision. He took the knight; then Spassky gave him a rook- and three moves later, forced him to resign!
The brilliancy prize for the second round went to Spassky for this game.
On the second board, Petrosian tried an English Opening against Fischer but the latter slowly got the upper hand and, at adjournment time, was up a pawn. He nursed his advantage and, 21 moves after play was resumed, he scored his second win against the former world champion. The next three boards, Korchnoi- Portisch, Hort- Polugaevsky and Geller- Gligoric, were drawn games, as was the game on Table 8 between Matulovic of Yugoslavia and Botvinnik. On Board 7, Uhlmann lost to Taimanov for the second time; however, Najdorf scored for the world team when he defeated Tal on Board 9 in 50moves.
The USSR team won the two adjourned games, Smyslov- Reshevsky on Board 6 and Keres- Ivkov on Board 10.
Who says chess enthusiasts do not have a sixth sense? Now when they thought there were no more surprises, they filled the large hall to its capacity in the quickest time ever - less than half an hour.
Fischer worried his fans a bit with his treatment of a Caro-Kann line that was made unorthodox by Petrosian this time, for a change. But here as well a King&rsquos maneuvre was the solution. With his point divided, Fischer already got a car (as a special prize), which happened to be the newest type of "Moskvich".
Before that, Hort and Polugaevsky had made the only "grandmasters&rsquo draw" in the whole match - one in 40 games, a unique fact indeed! They needed only 11 moves for it. The Geller- Gligoric draw was the consequence of an almost complete blockade.
When not less than six games were adjourned, nothing seemed to indicate a surprise. Fischer, Larsen and Hort had a good look at the positions, forecast the round&rsquos outcome as very satisfying 5:5. Fisher and Reshevsky were seen together, engaged in analysis of Sammy&rsquos adjourned game. The game was resumed next morning because of Reshevsky&rsquos religious habits: it was Friday. He exploited to the whole his better Queen&rsquos ending against Smyslov who vainly made repeated draw offers, while Tal, on the other hand, made Najdorf pay for his win in the previous round. Two draws followed: Taimanov- Uhlmann, and Ivkov- Keres. Then Portisch managed to defeat Korchnoi at last …out of a less favorable position! There remained Matulovic- Botvinnik game only. The Yugoslav grandmaster was a Pawn down - with only his "Botvinnik complex" as …compensation. While many wondered why he had not been replaced earlier with Olafsson or Darga, he fought desperately in an ending very alike to those deeply explored by Botvinnik in his theoretical analyses. After an unprecise move or two, however, the former World Champion came to a dead end.
The World&rsquos team thus reduced the Soviet lead in the general score to the minimum- 15,5:14,5. The distance of one point only was covered, in a way, by highly flown morals of World&rsquos grandmasters. The Soviets had all reasons to start fearing the worst: their mostly silent faces were eloquent enough.
THE LAST ROUND
A surprise move by the captain of the USSR team before the last round added to its tension. He replaced no one else than the World Champion, Boris Spassky, whose loss in the previous round was his first defeat after he won the title last summer. He was replaced with Stein, three times USSR Champion. On the other hand, Dr. Euwe substituted Reshevsky with Olafsson from Iceland. Both reserve players lost.
But first Najdorf drew with Tal, as did Hort with Polugaevsky. Gligoric had the upper hand against Geller all along, except in the last two or three moves, when he let Geller equalize, and force the draw. Portisch for the third time in this match mysteriously allowed Korchnoi a draw in a worse position, blowing away the World&rsquos sudden chances for a final triumph.
Striving for a "revanche" Ivkov made quite a few unhealthy moves against Keres and lost. Fischer appeared ten minutes late, took his last game somewhat too lightly, and adjourned it without a Pawn, only to use all his resources in exemplary manner the next day and save half a point.
On the top board, Larsen felt himself obliged to play for the public. He triumphed again in an exciting game with Stein, thus winning the Best Game of the Round Award (which went to Reshevsky the day before)- and a car for himself, too.
Fischer,R - Petrosian,T [B13]
URS-World Belgrade, 1970
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Na5 8.Qa4+ Bd7 9.Qc2 e6 10.Nf3 Qb6 11.a4!Rc8 12.Nbd2 Nc6 13.Qb1 Nh5 14.Be3 h6 15.Ne5 Nf6 16.h3 Bd6 17.0-0 Kf8 18.f4 Be8 19.Bf2! Qc7 20.Bh4 Ng8 21.f5 Nxe5 22.dxe5 Bxe5 23.fxe6 Bf6 24.exf7 Bxf7 25.Nf3! Bxh4 26.Nxh4 Nf6 27.Ng6+ Bxg6 28.Bxg6 Ke7 29.Qf5 Kd8 30.Rae1 Qc5+ 31.Kh1 Rf8-+ 32.Qe5! Rc7 33.b4! Qc6 34.c4! dxc4 35.Bf5 Rff7 36.Rd1+ Rfd7 37.Bxd7 Rxd7 38.Qb8+ Ke7 39.Rde1+ 1-0