Smyslov's wildest game
Smyslov at 1940 USSR Championship (photo courtesy of Douglas Griffin)

Smyslov's wildest game

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Today I am going to show you what is arguably the wildest game of Vasily Smyslov's chess career. It was played in 1940 USSR Championship, one of the strongest and, unfortunately, one of the most forgotten Soviet events. It was a debut of the 19-year-old Vasily Smyslov in the national finals. To everyone's surprise, the lanky teenager from Moscow led the tournament half way through the tournament, and was in contention for the 1st prize until the very last minutes of the last round. In the end, Smyslov finished clear 3rd, behind Bondarevsky and Lilienthal, but ahead of Keres, Botvinnik, Boleslavsky and more than a dozen of other strong masters. 

The game below was a part of Smyslov's streak of five straight victories in the middle of the tournament. Smyslov was playing aggressive, one could even say reckless chess. The game below is perhaps the most extreme example, but it is so crazy that it would probably make Mikhail Tal blush!

Another thing that I liked about this game is that it reminded me of one of the most amazing moves in chess. My choices are perhaps not entirely conventional, but I always considered Spassky's unprovoked Nc6!!? sacrifice in the game vs Averbakh to be one of the most dazzling concepts in the history of chess. 

Here Spassky played 16...Nc6?!!

It was only when I started to work on a book on Smyslov that I found out that Spassky's game had a predecessor:

Sixteen years before Averbakh-Spassy, Smyslov also sacrificed a knight for a pawn with 19...Nc6!!?

Grandmaster Salo Flohr introduced this game in the tournament bulletin as follows:

The game Panov-Smyslov saw a lot of twists and turns. White repulsed an attempted attack by his young opponent and obtained a positional advantage. Then Smyslov decided to sacrifice a piece, which, however, was incorrect with correct play. Panov evacuated his king from a dangerous zone to the kingside.

It seemed that Smyslov would suffer his first loss in the tournament, but "luck favors the brave". After a few mistakes by Panov Smyslov developed a strong attack. The adjourned position is very interesting. Black's attack should be crowned with success.

Enough introductions, let us take a look at this incredible game:

Definitely not the kind of game that one would normally associate with Smyslov!