Why 'Simaginfan'?

Why 'Simaginfan'?

Mar 11, 2018, 9:32 AM |

Afternoon everyone! This post came about to answer those who ask about my user name.

Before I go any further, you can find an excellent post here - 


It gives loads of information, and games. With just one exception, I have not duplicated anything from that article, so that the two can be used as complimenting each other.

Right!! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin! ( Brits of my generation will understand!)

One member said that it was nice to see that Simagin still had fans. My answer was that it was impossible to study his chess without becoming a fan! I hope he will have a few more as  a result of this article..

Another said that he had to google him - because he knew nothing about him. One explanation being that he played so little outside of the USSR. I explained that there were various reasons for that, so I will briefly go into them.

Soviet Grandmasters were payed by the state - except for poor Levenfish. They were payed employees, doing a job, and had to do as they were told. If they didn't, there were consequences. Even Geller, when he was a World Title Candidate

Simagin had many jobs. He was a key figure in the running of the Moscow Central Chess Club - Bronstein even suggested that it should be renamed in his honour. Secondly, he was the absolute top choice as a trainer/coach/second. For that reason he was assigned firstly to Alexander Kotov - for the period 1950-1952. Then he got transferred to the soviet authorities primary candidate to challenge Botvinnik; Vasilly Smyslov. Why was he so  highly regarded? Firstly, he was regarded as the absolute best analyst in the U.S.S.R. Ahead even of Keres, who was outstanding. Secondly he was a creator of new ideas. A few years ago there was a short soviet video on the web page of one of the Zurich tournaments ( sadly I can no longer find it to post a link) It was about the famous 1953 Candidate's event, won by Smyslov. In it there is a short clip of Smyslov working with his - unnamed-second. Many of the commentators in the clip comment on the fact that in that tournament Smyslov not only reached his sporting peak, but also his creative peak.


Geller, Simagin and Smyslov.

According to Vasilyev in his book on Petrosian, the first player that Petrosian went to work with after winning the 1962 candidate's tournament was Simagin. Keene has commented that Petrosian was at his creative peak in the  period just after that. 

Above all, Simagin was a noted opening theoretician - a couple of his ideas can be found in Fischer's '60 Memorable Games' for example, and another of his ideas cropped up as a 'Novelty' in the kasparov - Short match.

On his opening erudition, I had better throw in some chess.

The following is from Bronstein's 'Secret Notes'.

There is also another side to simagin's absence from international events. The story is related by Yuri Averbakh in his book 'Centre-stage and Behind the Scenes'.


Such behaviour never went unpunished.

Finally there was the fact that as a Soviet player abroad, it was essential to achieve results - not Simagin's strong point!! There is an excellent article by V.B. Malkin called ' Problems associated with the Chessplayer's Psychological Preparation', which contains the following.


Chess history has seen many gifted masters whose creative potential was much greater than is reflected in the results they achieved in competitive play. Amongst Soviet masters we can mention V.Rauzer, V.Ragozin, P.Romanovsky, A.Sokolsky and V.Simagin, and among foreign chessplayers R.Reti and C.Torre. Lack of harmony between their creative and their sporting achievements prevented these outstanding masters from gaining the high places in competitive events which they justly deserved.

Now you know why he played so little abroad, and is not so well known for his results.

O.K. I could spend hours typing up all the varius things that simagin's contemporaries had to say about him, but will limit myself - there are all complimentary. He seems to have been universally well liked and admired. Unusual!!

Averbakh in the above book gives a version of a well known memoir of Simagin.

In his book of his best games, we get a version of the opening paragraph, that centres around this striking looking young man.


Of the chess players of my generation, one of the most striking and unusual was undoubtedly Vladimir Simagin.

A rather pale, freckled face with high cheek-bones, glasses with a thin metal frame, light, straw-coloured hair, protruding in unruly fashion from his crown – that is how I remember him from when I first saw him back in 1935. During the war, when he was exempted from service in the army on health grounds, Vladimir worked as a  fitter in an aircraft factory. He laboured for twelve hours a day, with little to eat and with little sleep, but all the same he contrived to find time for chess. He went about in a quilted jacket, crude boots with wooden soles, and a shabby cap with ear-flaps.

It so happened that for a long time my chess career and that of Vladimir took a parallel course: we used to participate in the same tournaments. We were rivals but also members of the same tea; we played together abroad and often shared a hotel room.

I played not less than twenty, and perhaps even as many as thirty games with Simagin. He was a player of original, far from routine style, an artist-researcher, who sought new, untrodden paths. It was always interesting to play against him.

Victor Korchnoi was never known for having much nice to say about anyone!! There are a couple of times when he talked about Simagin though. During one of his 'Best Games' videos, he is discussing the opening moves of a game. It was a risky line, very much in the Korchnoi style. then he smiles and says something like ' Well, I was stupid enough to try this line again against Simagin. i got crushed!!'

In 'Chess is My Life', he has this to say:-

 In this tournament the grandmaster norm was achieved by Simagin, an interesting player, and a pleasant, witty person, who, alas, passed on from this life too soon. I won my game against him quite convincingly. One curious point is that during the game he went up to Taimanov and said: ‘Why does he look at me with such malice, as if I had slaughtered all of his family down to the sixth generation?’

The following is from kavalek's Huffington Post column.

08/29/2014 02:57 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chess in the Time of War


“Wake up,” my wife shouted. “We are at war!”

A few moments earlier, she met Vladimir Simagin pacing back and forth in the lobby of the Polish hotel in Polanica Zdroj, repeating:”Stupid people, stupid people, stupid people....” The Moscow grandmaster explained to her that Soviet tanks crossed into Czechoslovakia overnight. It was August 21, 1968. “The night would not be short,” predicted the Czech poet Karel Kryl in one of his songs.


On Vaclav Touzimsky’s iconic picture, a Soviet tank crashes into a building in the town of Liberec. The tank has one white stripe, not the the usual red star. The Soviets used more than 6,000 tanks during the August 1968 invasion. They came to quash what became known as the Prague Spring, a seven-months attempt to “humanize” communism.

Chess was played and often flourished under totalitarian regimes, military juntas and in the middle of wars. How did the chessplayers deal with that? Did they raise their voices against the leaders of their own country or did they keep silent?

In the Polish spa Polanica Zdroj in August 1968 we continued to play chess. The former world champion Vassily Smyslov, with whom I fought for first place, kept to himself and was quiet. Simagin was exhausted and distressed. The Soviet players spent better times together. Simagin was Smyslov’s coach during his world championship matches in the 1950s.

As fate would have it, I played Simagin in the penultimate round and I knew that the man across the board disagreed with the Soviet occupation. He was a chess philosopher believing that violence has no place in our lives and it is best to leave it on the chessboard. We played nervously, exchanged a lot of pieces until we were left only with my rook against his knight. We sensed that in an absurd, symbolic way the single rook was fighting against thousands of Soviet tanks. Eventually, we agreed to a draw, but the invasion broke his heart. Simagin died of a heart attack during the tournament in Kislovodsk on September 25, 1968 at the age of 49.

Now that you know something of the man, I had better do some chess stuff!

I did a post a while back about my 10 favorite chess books.


Here is what I wrote there.

Best games. Vladimir Simagin.


 This unpretentious little book changed my entire understanding and conception of chess, and that is not an exagerration. Like most players outside of Russia in those days ( luckily, many Soviet players of his time have more recently been able to write books, and many of them express their writer's admiration for Simagin ) I was only really aware of Simagin through a couple of well known games that he had lost, and his being mentioned in connection with various opening lines. Never has a chess book so amazed me, or shaken my naive belief that I knew or understood anything about chess.

In particular I remember one afternoon, sitting in the pub with my portable chess set, a couple of pints, and that book. I was looking at the only game that I give here that is also in kamalakanta's post.

 One member who did know of Simagin commented that Mark Dvoretsky had noted Simagin's high level of endgame technique in one of his books. Players do not usually associate creative players with high level technique, but I rather tend to think that players of high inborn  talent are just naturally good at endgames! for me, the following game is fascinating on a number of levels - and not just because I am a lover of endgame play. I have spent many hours studying Gideon Barcza, and will post again(  https://www.chess.com/blog/simaginfan/barcza-keres-estonia-hungary-match-1957 ) on him at some point. He was an outstanding endgame player, and, in particular, was probably the greatest player of endings with Knights on the board that the game has ever seen. Karpov once explained how he had beaten Barcza so easily ' I exchanged all the knights off as early as I could!'
The game was played in a match 'Moscow - Budapest'. Simagin utterly destroyed what was , in effect, the  second strongest chess nation on the Planet. A few years later Hungary - who Simagin cleaned up with 7/8 on this ocassion - defeated the Soviet Union Team in the Olympiad. The decisive game in that match was Barcza - Smyslov, where Barcza beat one of the all- time endgame greats in the endgame.
Centre is Yury Averbakh, from who's book it is taken. Pal Benko - then Hungarian, is still with us, I think. Simagin's win against him in the match was also a fascinating game - go find it for  yourselves!!
As you can see, those were the days of 'Brylcream'. ( I sense my younger readers hitting google!!) The legendary Dennis Compton became the U.K.'s first sponsored sportsman to advertise it. Today the players would probably be wearing nike baseball caps!!
The USSR Championships. Even as a three time Moscow Champion, Simagin still had to qualify for the Finals.  Qualifying wasn't exactly easy! I have a photo from the 1950's where 4 genuine Grandmasters - did any other country in the World have four active Grandmasters at the time!?-  are standing having a chat during a USSR Championships semi-final. Simagin managed to qualify  seven times, and when he did, although his results were not so great - he wasn't a man who concerned himself with sporting results - he always made an impact with his games. (Twice he faced Botvinnik with Black in fascinating games - both drawn, although he should - as Botvinnik himself later pointed out in his four volume series - have won one of them) The book 'The Soviet Championships' by Cafferty and Taimanov contains 136 games I think. Four of them are Simagin games. One is the astonishing win against Stein that you can find in Kamalakanta's post linked to above - if you have never seen it, go take a look. It will blow you away. The second is a game where Simagin - notoriously intense and nervous while playing - experimented with taking beta-blockers before the game. The other two I will give here.
The first one I hhave left unannotated - so that those who want to can use it as an analysis excercise. the second has some comments from the above book.

Correspondence Chess. Probably a subject that no-one under the age of 50 who reads this will begin to understand, although, hopefully some will. As noted above, simagin was regarded as the greatest analyst in the old U.S.S.R. Simagin was officially - because of the way that the title system in the iccf works, was only classed as a iccf International master. It is time that they retrospectively changed that!! He won one U.S.S.R. Championship - it would have been two, but in one he made the c.c. player's curse - the 'clerical error' - and did so against his nearest rival Konstaninopolsky - losing a drawn position, and with it back to back championships of the greatest chess power in history. In Soviet c.c. circles he had an almost God-like status. Players of World Championship class were in awe of him. The World c.c. Champion, and player of one of the greatest c.c. games ever played, Grigory Sanakoev, has written a wonderful book called 'World Champion at The Third Attempt'. In his preamble to the following game he talks about how incredibly strong the 6th U.S.S.R. c.c. final was, and how he believed that he was capable of finishing, at worst, in the top three places. 'I began each game thinking only of victory. deep down I considered that finishing outside the top three would be a failure.' He was not a player lacking in - justified - self confidence; then he gives his game - with White - against Simagin. I give two of his notes to the game, and you can draw your own conclusions - putting all the quotes together - as to Simagin's status as a correspondence player.
 I will add two of the greatest c.c. games ever played. The first is against the third prize winner in the tournament mentioned above - he could seriously play - and the second is against a World Champion. If, in c.c. being Soviet Champion doesn't even get you the S.I.M title, let alone the G.M. title, you can imagine how good the World Champions were!
A lovely photo from the 1954 Soviet Team Championship, with Simagin holding the trophy.
That's why I am 'Simaginfan'!!
All - polite - comments welcomed, and if you read this, please leave a  in the comments so that I will be notified that someone has  taken the time to read the article.
Take care guys.
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