Soviet Cheating in FIDE Competition: 1952 Stockholm Interzonal

JamieDelarosa

For the 1951-1954 chess championship cycle, the Intezonal was held at Saltsjobaden. Stockholm, Sweden. Under the original plan, the top five finishers were to advance to the Candidate's Tournament in 1954 (played at Zurich, Switzerland).

However, it was readily apparent the five Soviet players (Alexander Kotov, Mark Taimanov, Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, and Yuri Averbakh) in the Interzonal had colluded to draw all of games amongst themselves.  This meant, rather than having to seriously play 20 games in the tournament, the Soviets only had to prepare for 16 games. Their games versus other Soviets were, essentially, "rest days."

After the Soviet players finished in the top five spots, the FIDE decided to include the next three non-Soviet players in the Zurich Candidates Tournament.  Therefore, Gideon Stahlberg of Sweden, Laszlo Szabo of Hungary, and Svetozar Gligorich of Yugoslavia also qualified to advance.

Some may argue, as Averbakh did, that the Soviets employed legal "sporting tactics."  I do not believe that pre-arranged game results are ever ethical or proper.

Here are the standings:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1

1 Kotov * ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 16½

=2 Taimanov ½ * ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 13½

=2 Petrosian ½ ½ * ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 13½

4 Geller ½ ½ ½ * ½ 1 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 13

=5 Averbakh ½ ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 12½

=5 Ståhlberg ½ ½ ½ 0 1 * 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 0 1 1 ½ 1 12½

=5 Szabó 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 * ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 12½

=5 Gligoric 0 ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ * 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 12½

9 Unzicker 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 * ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 11½

10 Eliskases 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ * ½ 1 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 10½

=11 Pilnik 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ * 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 10

=11 Pachman ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 * ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 10

=11 Steiner ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ * ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ 1 1 10

14 Matanovic 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ * 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 9

15 Barcza 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 1 * 1 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 8

16 Stoltz 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 * 0 1 1 ½ 1 7½

17 Sanchez 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 * ½ 0 1 1 7

18 Wade 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 1 0 ½ * ½ 0 1 6

19 Vaitonis 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 0 1 ½ * ½ 0 5

=20 Golombek 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½ * 0 4½

=20 Prins 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 1 * 4½

(22 Julio Bolbochan of Argentine withdrew after Round 1 due to illness)

 

Kieseritzkys_Revenge

It wasn't against the rules so it wasn't cheating.  Case closed.

JamieDelarosa

Chess Review, November 1952 (p.323):

Soviet entrants made a clean sweep of the top five places, which qualified them to take part in the World Championship Candidates Tournament of 1953 to determine the next challenger for the world title. Seeded in this coming event are Samuel Reshevsky of the USA, Dr. Max Euwe of Holland, and the first five players in the Candidates' tournament of 1950 -- D.Bronstein, I.Boleslavsky, V.Smyslov, and P.Keres, all of Russia, and M.Najdorf of Argentina.

A noteworthy circumstance in the Saltsjobaden affair was the pacific attitude of the Russian players toward one another. All games among them were drawn! Kotov, for example, who fell with fury upon most of his non-Russian rivals, was content to play the shortest possible "grandmaster draws" with his compatriots: vs. Averbach, 20 moves; vs. Geller, 15 moves; vs. Petrosian, 15 moves; vs. Taimanov, 17 moves. Since Kotov proved to be the class of the tournament, a sterner attitude on his part toward the other Russians might well have enabled an "outsider" to squeeze into the charmed circle of qualifiers.

Julio Bolbochan of Argentina suffered a hemorrhage and was compelled to withdraw after a first-round adjournment.

Our Stockholm correspondent, Z. Nilsson, reports that a FIDE committee meeting in February may add to the World Championship Candidates Tournament qualifiers from the Saltsjobaden event. Four contenders tied for the fifth and last qualifying place and though Averbach qualified on S.-B. points, the tiebreak was extrememly minute.

JamieDelarosa
Kieseritzkys_Revenge wrote:

It wasn't against the rules so it wasn't cheating.  Case closed.

Even if an arguably unethical action is not covered explicitly by the rules, article 12.1 of the FIDE laws of chess states: "The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute."

Case not closed.

Kieseritzkys_Revenge

It was perfectly acceptable at the time.  Short draws were common.  No rules were broken.

billprovince

Honestly, I think of this as a bit of a grey area. While there may not have technically been a rule broken, it clearly gave the Soviets an unfair advantage. The rules *should have* addressed this, but did not.

Where I think there is a failure is that the rules stayed for such a long time so that this practice was repeatable. It would be naive to simply believe that the Soviets did not have a hand in perpetuating the status quo. The status quo favored them; so they kept arguing for it.

AaronGo
Kieseritzkys_Revenge wrote:

It wasn't against the rules so it wasn't cheating.  Case closed.

In all sports (yes, chess is a sport), there is typically a sportsmanlike conduct rule that all of the players need to obide by.  This would be in violation of the ethcial code of the sports.  For example, I cannot bring my 45 to intimate my opponent.

Senior-Lazarus_Long

They played to advance their team.Like the Tour de' France,and the way Kenyan runners compete.That being said;why wouldn't they admit it,unless they felt guilty about it.

Uhohspaghettio1
AaronGo wrote:
Kieseritzkys_Revenge wrote:

It wasn't against the rules so it wasn't cheating.  Case closed.

In all sports (yes, chess is a sport), there is typically a sportsmanlike conduct rule that all of the players need to obide by.  This would be in violation of the ethcial code of the sports.  For example, I cannot bring my 45 to intimate my opponent.

First of all, no way is chess a sport, it's a game. I don't care how people are trying to define sport nowadays, in my view chess is not and will never be anything like  a sport. This isn't a BAD thing, it's not negative, and the only reason it was pushed for that was because of funding.  

Also, I would interpret the "sportsmanlike" or "fair play" conduct rule as only being that you should do all that's in your ability to do as well as you can at an event. So for example agreeing to a draw after 1 move would be fine if it gauranteed you going through (it might even be argued that refusing to draw in such a position could only jeopardize your chances and is therefore unsportsmanlike).   

It is 100% up to the organizers of the competition to do their best to ensure such conflicts of interest do not exist. If the players can somehow benefit by doing the "wrong" thing then the problem is with the competition structure and not with the player behaviour. In some ways it's their duty to try and exploit every last loophole, and this will help fix the loopholes and cheap methods of winning in future. 

The only possible argument against this is the idea that a player should do all that's within his power to win a particular game but that's clearly not practical since it's a match strategy used all the time to draw particular games with a view that you only need a draw or it'll work out better etc., it's an inherent part of tournament play and trying to stop it is stupid. A team or player can be happy with a draw, it just depends on how happy they are with a draw. 

SilentKnighte5

Collusion is always against the rules.

Senior-Lazarus_Long
Areg7 wrote:

Delarosa you seem to have a bit of a dislike for the good old USSR- why is that? :)

The Gulag,for 1.

aman_makhija
[COMMENT DELETED]
Crazychessplaya
[COMMENT DELETED]
sharcashmo
Areg7 wrote:

Delarosa you seem to have a bit of a dislike for the good old USSR- why is that? :)

It's a Delarosa's particular obsession, he writes many posts like this one.

Of course, I don't like either this kind of behaviour, but sadly it's very common in most sports. A very nearly one, the way Marquez won the last GP championship for example. It would seem a bit sickish to me to be claiming because a particular one 64 years later.

In this case it's clear there's a political reason behind this claim.

JamieDelarosa

As I have stated in other blogs, my intent is just to bring to the attention of the reader, for the purpose of discussion and debate, the history behind the FIDE title, and the competitions leading up to it.

Areg7 wrote:

Delarosa you seem to have a bit of a dislike for the good old USSR- why is that? :)

JamieDelarosa

I can not think of a competitive sport (or game) in which pre-arranged results are considered "legal" or ethical.

Kieseritzkys_Revenge wrote:

It was perfectly acceptable at the time.  Short draws were common.  No rules were broken.

JamieDelarosa

No, it doesn't! It is right when it belongs, in an open forum, rather than a closed, private group.

Freddie-Freeloader wrote:

move this to the cheating forum mods, thanks.

JamieDelarosa

@sharcashmo - this may come as a surprise (although the avatars should be a clue), you got the pronoun wrong.

nobodyreally
JamieDelarosa wrote:

I can not think of a competitive sport (or game) in which pre-arranged results are considered "legal" or ethical.

 

Draughts?

p.s. did you ever feed your dog? Don't think you did!

JamieDelarosa

A.k.a. "checkers"

I don't play that game. However, I recall reading about a scandal in professional contract bridge (the card game), in which an Italian team was disqualified for using hand signals during the bidding process.

And someone commented earlier about the Tour d'France competition - it seems bicycling is about as tainted a sport as exists.

People will find a way to cheat, if there exists an incentive to do so. For the Soviets, there was tremendous propaganda value in producing superior chess players and in "winning" competitions. It was a demonstration of the "Socialist model." That thinking also was present in other sporting competitions.

I think we are all aware of jokes about "Russian judges" in things like ice skating and gymnastics. And I recall, just a few years ago, the Chinese using a pre-pubescent girls gymnastic team in their Olympic games.

Some people tend to get caught up in legalisms. I tend to look at these issues as matters of "right or wrong."