Smyslov the Tactician

Smyslov the Tactician

Gserper
GM Gserper
Apr 4, 2010, 12:00 AM |
30 | Tactics

This article is my personal tribute to ex-World Champion Vassily Smyslov who passed away last month. Also I would like to use the opportunity to express my personal view and disagree with the popular belief that Smyslov was mainly a positional chess player.  Nothing can be further from the truth!  To prove my point I could show his attacking games or his invaluable contribution to many sharp openings (like the Grunfeld Defense for example). Instead I want to share my personal experience. The year is 1992, I am playing in the famous Tilburg tournament in the Netherlands where the organizers decided to try a new knock-out system. I just got my GM title a couple of months before the tournament and in the previous round I managed to eliminate the living legend Lev Polugaevsky.  I am ready to conquer the World. My next round opponent is Vassily Smyslov. Of course I knew that the old fox was extremely dangerous (in the previous rounds he eliminated GMs Seirawan and Gulko!) but come on, he is 71 and I am 23!  All I needed to do was to avoid his legendary positional and endgame skills. And so the match has started. The first game has reached a slightly worse for me but still drawn Rook endgame. Somehow I managed to outplay my opponent there and Smyslov was lucky to escape for a draw. In the next game I had a positional advantage and pressed the whole game, but Smyslov managed to escape for a draw with a nice tactical trick. The tie break games were 30 minute games. I thought that rapid games were supposed to be clearly in the favor of a younger contestant (me!). In the first tie-break game we had a classical Nimzo Indian endgame, I managed to outplay Smyslov and had a completely winning position (in fact a checkmate in 6 moves), but missed it in time trouble and the game was drawn.  We had a 10 minutes break before the second tie break game and my head was spinning.  It was not even the missed win that bothered me. I just couldn't understand what was going on.  In every single game I was outplaying Smyslov in positional chess and endgames and he was stronger in tactics.  This is not what I read about my esteemed opponent in the books.  The final game only confirmed my worries.  I made a tactical oversight, lost the game and the match.  It is always unpleasant to lose an important match, but I will forever cherish the memory of that meeting with a chess legend.  I was really impressed both by his chess skills and his great sense of humor.  Overall, he was a dream opponent to play and it is difficult to accept the fact that no one will be able to experience the joy of playing with Smyslov anymore.  But the main thing I learned from the lost match was that Smyslov was foremost a great tactician and all his famous positional and endgame examples are based on his fantastic tactical abilities.

Today I offer you the positions from Smyslov games to find tactical shots.  Since my column is "Tactics from Move One", in all the games Smyslov won pretty quickly (before move 25).  Enjoy the games of the Great Master!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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