My Favorite Game Of. Number 22. Vassily Smyslov. Truth in Chess.

My Favorite Game Of. Number 22. Vassily Smyslov. Truth in Chess.


Afternoon Everyone.

So, finally I decided that - as with Max Euwe - I should stop posting losses by a great player, and show you a win or two!! 

Back to my usual format for these little posts. It will be far too long for most, but apologies for not apologising for that!

Vassily Smyslov. I just love his chess!! Anyone who doesn't - see my next paragraph!!

When I was starting out as a player, without a penny to my name, my local library had four books about World Champions. The wonderful Bernard Cafferty's books on Tal and Spassky, the Bob Wade collection of Fischer's games, and this one.

Yes, you are quite right - as Max Miller used to say. Being an utter patzer and knowing nothing , the Smyslov book was the dull one!! Luckily, over time I got to be strong enough to understand his chess and began to eat up every game of his that I could get my hands on!!

The man was a legend even before he had left us. And he left us after a very long and outstanding career, and with a legacy of truly wonderful, magnificent  chess.

Some brief as I can make them comments.

In the opening he was simply outstanding. He rewrote the books on a huge range of openings. I haven't tried it, but go search for the term 'Smyslov Variation', and see how many opening systems come up. Lots and lots. Plus he reinvented a lot of lines, like the Closed Sicilian for example.

In the middle game he was true eclectic - always playing to the needs of the position with incredible depth of insight. A game against Rene Letelier sticks in my mind. For many moves Smyslov has a Bishop on c3 that looks stupid,but it controls the whole position!!

( And for good measure you get some Smyslovian endgame technique - always a joy!)

Smyslov 1939. correct date courtesy @Ddtru via Pinterest.

And in the endgame - my regular readers will know that I love my endgames - he was - from early on in his career, simply magnificent. 

One of my favourite browsing books - that I have recommended to others countless times - is this one.

For me it is a real joy and delight!! I have never put a single position from it on to a chessboard - just worked 'blindfold' from the diagrams with Smyslov's explanations. I am still learning from it, and for anyone who wants to get stronger at chess I would - seriously - say to buy it and do the same thing.
 But what would an old guy like me who never had internet coaching ( or any coaching!!) from some nondescript 'master', possibly  know!!!

Whilst thumbing through that book a few weeks ago I came across a game that I really love!

I first studied it not long after it was played. Back in those days the little booklets/bulletins of the Soviet Championships were a 'must buy' for me. I remember that this one had a pink paper cover, with the cross-table on the front. Sadly it has gone the way of many such things that have been in my library.

Smyslov in his 60's battling with one of the rising stars of Soviet Chess of the time.

Eingorn left of picture v. Josif Dorfman.

I got so interested going over it again that I put all my thoughts - not engine sound I am sure - onto the page! Real battle, with a beautiful finish.

O.K. I had better get to the subject at hand before you all fall asleep!!

Back in the 'Best games' book given above was one that really caught my imagination - to this day I struggle to think of one like it. It was played nearly 40 years before the game given above - Smyslov was a great player for a long time.

Recently one of the outstanding posters on this site put out an incredible ( all his stuff is incredible!!) article.  

Strangely, I was doing the notes to the game when he posted it!! If you haven't seen it yet, go take a look - it is waaay better than my stuff!!

So why has this particular game stuck in my head over so many years?

My regular readers would expect one of two things - either one of his wars with Botvinnik - go read the outstanding work of my friend @ddtru on one of the greatest of all title matches   

( No, you shouldn't take too much notice of a series on this site written by my betters on the subject of the most exciting World Championship matches of all time - that's me in the bad books again!!! )

Well, why has it stuck in my head out of hundreds of Smyslov games?. Because it is almost surreal. The Knight goes to g5, and sits there for a dozen moves or so - hanging to the pawn on h6 - whilst Smyslov does some housework!!

It just sits there!! Absolutely extraordinary - particularly when you are 'young', in knowledge terms,  and trying to learn how chess works. 

When I first saw it, with every move I was trying to work out what would happen if Black took the Knight. And Black didn't take it. And it just sat there!!  And then the Knight landed the decisive blow. 

Tal and Spassky smashing Grandmasters I could understand. Fischer wiping the floor with his opponents, I could understand. That is the level that I was at.

But this game!!?? It was like something from the old television show 'The Outer Limits'. Indeed, the White Knight reminds me of the famous 'monster' on the aeroplane wing .

This couldn't really happen in a real life chess game .

For those of you who have never seen this half forgotten chess masterpiece before - I really hope that the mystical spell that it cast upon me casts itself upon you too!

Enjoy the game! All comments ,contributions, favourite Smyslov games, and particularly pictures ( I have not been able to find a good one of Lyublinsky. I know the name well - he lost two wonderful games on the evolution of the exchange sacrifice, against Simagin and Botvinnik) in the comments are genuinely welcomed. 

O.K. Big thank you to the inimitable @Spektrowski for linking to a usable picture of Lyublinsky ( other transliterations are available - I think of him as Liublinski!) in the comments here. Cheers mate!


Smyslov playing in that event - via the incredible Douglass Griffin on Twitter.

Mikenas - Smyslov. 1949 soviet Championship. Douglas Griffen

The old question - is chess Sport, science or art? ( Smyslov was standout in all three areas)

Chess players rather like to put themselves in to one of those catagories, don't they.

Some see themselves as sportsmen/ sportswomen. Seekers of points, ratings and titles.

Some see themselves as artists. Seekers of creativity and beauty.

Some - I would include myself in this - minority - group. Seekers of the truth who want to understand how our wonderful game works. 

Here are the thoughts of the great Vladimir Kramnik - for me the greatest and most interesting talker on chess of the modern era - on Vasilly Smyslov.

Smyslov is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. By the way, why do you think he lacks that aura of mystique like Tal or Capablanca? Because Smyslov is not an actor in chess, his play is neither artistic nor fascinating.
     I would recommend a study of Smyslov’s games to children who want to know how to play chess because he plays the game how it should be played: his style is the closest to some sort of ‘virtual truth’ in chess. He always tried to make the strongest move in each position.
     Smyslov has been underestimated. He mastered all elements of play. Smyslov was a brilliant endgame specialist, all in all his play resembled a smooth flow, like a song. When you look at his games, you have that light feeling as if his hand is making the moves all by itself while the man is making no effort at all – just like he was drinking coffee or reading a newspaper! This has the feel of Mozart’s light touch! No stress, no effort, everything is simple yet brilliant. I like this feature of Smyslov and I am fond of his games.
     I feel a bit sorry that Smyslov did not hold the title for a longer period because, in my view, he really is an outstanding chessplayer. He played in the Challengers Final when he was 63! This indicates the highest class. Chess players who adopt an intensive approach normally can’t maintain their position at the highest level at that age. Smyslov could, and it was not because of his energy, drive or character – he had a deep understanding of chess. Smyslov played differently than his predecessors. He was a master of positional play and surpassed his predecessors in this area. He was also good at opening preparation and tactics but no more than that.
     Smyslov did not have incredible conceptual ideas but he was very accurate and carried out his ideas ‘millimetre by millimetre’. Probably, he was the first chess player to reach the highest level of accuracy. To a certain extent, Smyslov was the pioneer of this style, which was later brilliantly developed by Karpov, i.e. the gradual mounting of positional pressure based on the most accurate calculation of short lines.

Smyslov and Kramnik. 2001.

OK. Another update to all this. My friend Andrey - who knows rather more than me about Smyslov, to say the least, has reminded me of a post of his:-   

I have added the game here - but there is more stuff in the article, including Andrey's wonderful notes. If you haven't seen it before, go check it out. Thanks mate.