Smyslov on the Couch: A Review

Smyslov on the Couch,

by Genna Sosonko, published by Elk and Ruby, (http://www.elkandruby.com/) is broken down, like Smyslov at the end of his long life, into three parts. This review will, therefore, be in three parts.

Part 1: The Real Vasily Smyslov

The author writes, “He possessed an incredible memory.” Most, if not all, World Chess champions were blessed with a memory far above most human beings. Some no doubt contained a brain possessing an eidetic memory. How else can one explain Bobby Fischer

recalling a speed (that was five minutes and only five minutes per game ‘back in the day’) game that had taken place decades earlier? (…just prior to his historic match with Taimanov, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Fischer met the Russian player Vasiukov and showed him a speed game that the two had played in Moscow fifteen years before. Fischer recalled the game move by move.) (http://billwall.phpwebhosting.com/articles/Memory.htm)

Smyslov says, “Oh Genna, don’t wake my memories. What’s done is done, done to oblivion. I don’t remember a thing! I’ve been blessed with the ability to forget. There is an uncanny pattern to things, though; you best of all remember what you should forget.”

“His style was very clear-cut; he was considered a wonderful master of the endgame. Jan Timman,

known as the Best of the West during the eighties, who grew up on Botvinnik’s games, once said that he thought Smyslov’s style, due to his original strategic vision, lucid play, and virtuosic endgame technique, was the best.”

“Indeed, Max Euwe,

who had a very poor record against Smyslov, would say, “This amiable giant of the chess world (who) makes moves that, frankly, any other grandmaster could make. There’s just one small difference: Smyslov wins, but the other GM’s don’t. His playing style is really slippery; he doesn’t attack you head-on, doesn’t threaten mate, and yet follows some path that only he sees. His opponent’s are caught off-gaurd and fail to see his secret plans. They think they have a perfectly decent position….The suddenly they realize something isn’t right, but it’s too late! An attack is building up against their king and they can’t beat it off. Yeah, Smyslov is an amazing player, an amiable and obliging man, but so dangerous to play against.”

The author writes, “Or Boris Spassky,

highlighting Smyslov’s incredible intuition, called him “the Hand”, explaining this as follows: “His hand knows on which square each piece belongs, he doesn’t need to calculate anything with his head.” Later on there is this, “We had already said our goodbyes, but then suddenly he stepped off to the side, visibly distressed by something. “I thought of the game I lost to Van Wely yesterday. At first, I had a clear advantage. Then the position was equal. And then…no, it’s terrible, just terrible. Like an apparition haunting me. An evil force led my hand astray.” Shaking his head, he went towards passport control.”

The author, who had earlier emigrated from the Soviet Union, writes, “I visited Leningrad in 1982. Although I already had a Dutch passport by then, I was strongly advised against taking that trip. It was the height of the Cold War, and the consequences of such a visit were unpredictable in the Soviet days.” Genna “follow(ed) his own route,” and “…poked my head into the Chigorin Chess Club a few hours before the ship’s departure from Leningrad. “The doors are all shabby. When are they going to renovate the place?” I blurted out as I walked into the building I’d known since my Leningrad childhood. New “details” of my visit surfaced later on. Sosonko had supposedly come to Leningrad in secret and promised to donate ten thousand dollars to renovate the club.”

“I heard all about your foray into Leningrad, Genna,” Smyslov said smiling, when we met up a month later at the Tilburg tournament. “You decided to make a run for it? Have you completely lost your mind?” he chided me in a fatherly tone.

We faced off in round five. We had drawn all of our previous games, sometimes without trying. Smyslov played passively in the opening, and my advantage grew with every move. When Black’s position was completely lost, he rose slightly from his chair, extended his hand, and congratulated me, “Enjoy this one, Genna, but don’t let it go to your head. I can’t play against my friends.” He moaned and groaned the whole next day, still upset with me: “That guy? Yeah, he’d knock off his own father for five hundred dollars. Him donating ten thousand? I don’t think so!” But then everything went back to normal, with our daily walks around the village of Oisterwijk near Tilburg, where the tournament participants were staying, and long talks about everything.”

Gennady Borisovich Sosonko

vs Vasily Smyslov

Interpolis 6th Tilburg NED 1982.10.06

D46 Queen’s Gambit Declined semi-Slav, Chigorin defence

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. e4 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Bxe4 c5 10. O-O Qc7 11. Re1 Nf6 12. Bc2 Bd7 13. Ne5 cxd4 14. Qxd4 Qc5 15. Qc3 Qb4 16. Bd2 Qxc3 17. Bxc3 Bxe5 18. Rxe5 O-O 19. Rd1 Bc6 20. f3 Rfd8 21. Rxd8+ Rxd8 22. a4 Nd7 23. Re2 Nc5 24. b3 b6 25. a5 Nb7 26. a6 Nc5
27. b4 Na4 28. Rd2 Rc8 29. Bd4 Be8 30. Bb3 Kf8 31. Kf2 f6 32. f4 b5 33. Bxa4 bxa4 34. Bxa7 Rxc4 35. Bc5+ Kf7 36. Rd6 1-0

Smyslov did not care for Fischer Random Chess, and nor do I. For one thing, allowing a computer to choose the opening setup of the pieces is absurd! If the game is going to be played why not put the pawns in their positions and have the player of the white pieces place the first piece, etc.? Smyslov says, “Chess is harmonious just the way it is. Fischer chess is utter nonsense. That setup deprives the game of its inherent harmony.”

Smyslov says, “I have noticed I play better if I treat my opponent with respect, no matter what disputes may arise. That type of attitude cleansed my soul, which enabled me to focus solely on the board and the pieces. My inspiration would wane and my performance would suffer whenever I let my emotions get the better of me.”

Part 2: Match Fixing in Zurich and the Soviet Chess School

This part of the book shines a light on the dark and dirty Soviet School of Chess, where every result can be questioned beginning with the 1933 match between the Czechoslovak master, Salo Flohr,

“…on his first trip to the Soviet Union, and the rising star of Soviet chess, Mikhail Botvinnik.”

Flohr won the first two decisive games of the match, but Botvinnik “won” games nine and ten, the final games of the match, to draw the match to send the fans into a frenzy.

The author blames everything on the “monstrous state system…” He never assigns any blame on any individual, yet a “system” is comprised of “people.” The author writes, “Soviet chess, with its undoubted achievements on the one hand and cynicism and total absence of morals on the other hand, was the fruit of the monstrous state system, controlling everything that was the Soviet Union. And it died alongside that country.” Really? “As Stalin used to say, ‘no person-no problem’.” (Pg. 139 of Checkmate, by Sally Landau https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/checkmate-the-love-story-of-mikhail-tal-and-sally-landau-a-review/) An excellent case can be made that when it comes to Russia today, only the names have changed as Putin continues to eliminate former Russian citizens on foreign soil, and even on home soil, proving if there is “no person” there is “no problem.” It is not the “system” which is corrupt, but the people who comprise the system. The American system is not corrupt, but many, if not most, of the people comprising the system are corrupt, and that includes those at the very top, including the POTUS, who is so obviously corrupt, and corruptible. It is not the “system” that needs be changed, but those in charge of the corrupt system, no matter what system and what it is named, who need to be eliminated, as Malcoln X said, “by any means necessary.”

The author used Former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker

to prove his point when he writes, “Emanuel Lasker had visited the Soviet Union back in 1924. He played in all three international tournaments and, escaping from the Nazis, he moved to Moscow in 1935. In his memoirs, Mikhail Botvinnik wrote about the Nottinghanm tournament of 1936, one of the greatest competitions of the twentieth century: “World Champion Euwe led the tournament for a considerable time, and I found it hard to keep up. At a critical moment in the battle, Lasker unexpectedly turned up in my hotel room. ‘I now live in Moscow,’ he announced pompously, ‘and as a representative of the Soviet Union I consider it my duty to play for a win against Euwe, especially as I’m playing White.’ At the same time, the old Doctor bore quite an alarmed expression. ‘Don’t be silly, Dear Doctor,’ I objected, waiving my hands in the air. ‘If you draw that will be fine.’ Lasker breathed a sigh of relief: Well, that will be easy,’ he said, and then left the room, having shaken my hand. The next day, Euwe, playing to win missed a somewhat straightforward tactical subtlety in an equal ending and lost.”

“Let’s reflect for a moment on the meaning of Lasker’s words,” writes Sosonko. “When learning that the aging doctor, as a representative of the Soviet Union, wondered whether he should play to win against a rival of his new fellow-countryman, you instinctively think just how quickly a person becomes influenced by their stay in a strict totalitarian system. Even a very short stay. Even a wise man and philosopher who was born free.”

Let us reflect for a moment…Lasker had the white pieces and should have, therefore, played for a win. If Bobby Fischer had been playing Euwe the next day he would have been playing to win even with the black pieces!

“Sammy Reshevsky,

who played not only in the 1948 world championship but in subsequent candidates tournaments as well, noted that the Russians always played as a team.”

There are wonderful tidbits in the book. Two of my favorite concern Chess books. “When Judit Polgar was asked about her favorite chess book, she replied almost instantly: “Levenfish and Smylov’s Rook Endings. Those endings arise more often than any of the others. Everything is explained so simply in the book.”

Smyslov, “By the way, have you read Tarrasch?

Tarrasch fell out of favor in the Soviet Union, later on, like so many other people did. He was banned, but his book The Game of Chess

is excellent. He explained everything in a very accessible way. You haven’t read it? I really recommend you do. It’s never too late.”

The Tarrasch book always brings to mind NM Guillermo Ruiz and the Chess book. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-chess-book/)

The last part of the book, Part 3, is, The Final Years.

The part about Judit Polgar’s

favorite Chess book is in the final part of the book. “When Judit Polgar was asked about her favorite chess book, she replied instantly: “Levenfish and Smyslov’s Rook Endings.

Those endings arise more than any of the others. Everything is explained so simply in the book.”

This, too, is included in the final part of the book: “July 22, 2004. “You know, whenever I think about Fischer, I start feeling sorry for him. I’m afraid he’ll get sent back to America.He just always needed someone who’d be there for him, take care of him, look after him. He was always a Don Quixote, if you see what I’m getting at.”

Other than a few things, reading the final part of the book was terribly depressing. Since at my age I am knocking on heaven’s door, I may not be the most objective person to review the latter part of the otherwise excellent book. The fact is, I do not even want to review it. The final section detracts from the book and the less said about it, the better. Read the book and judge for yourself, and leave a comment on the Armchair Warrior blog.

I give the first two parts five points each, making a total of ten points. Unfortunately I can only give a couple of points to the final part, so divide twelve by three and…you do the math.

“Tal wins by tricks. I consider it my duty as a grandmaster to beat him properly” ~ Vasily Smyslov

Chess with Suren
Published on Apr 10, 2019

In the autumn of 1959, in the Yugoslav towns of Bled, Zagreb and Belgrade the four cycle tournament of eight candidates for the world crown took place: The candidates were Smyslov, Keres, Petrosian, Tal, Gligoric, Olafsson, Benko and the 16 year old Fischer. Tal was not regarded as one of the favorites. Moreover, a couple of weeks before the start he underwent an operation for appendicitis (later it transpired that the pain he was suffering was caused by a kidney illness). When Mikhail Tal started his rise to the world championship crown, his risky style of play was viewed with disdain by most grandmasters; for example, former world champion Vassily Smyslov commented that Tal wins by tricks. “I consider it my duty as a grandmaster to beat him properly.” What happens next is from “must watch” series. In their first ever encounter Tal chooses an offbeat line in Caro-Kann defense and soon by going for a bishop sacrifice manages to unleash a dangerous attack. Although for some time Smyslov manages to find the most accurate defensive moves but soon he fails to withstand Tal’s devilish pressure and makes a mistake. Using his chance Tal goes for a queen sacrifice, exploiting the back-rank weakness and soon Smyslov’s position goes down quickly!
_________________
Mikhail Tal vs Vasily Smyslov
Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959), Bled, Zagreb & Belgrade YUG, rd 8, Sep-18
Caro-Kann Defense: Breyer Variation (B10)
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 e5 4.Ngf3 Nd7 5.d4 dxe4 6.Nxe4 exd4
7.Qxd4 Ngf6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.O-O-O O-O 10.Nd6 Qa5 11.Bc4 b5 12.Bd2
Qa6 13.Nf5 Bd8 14.Qh4 bxc4 15.Qg5 Nh5 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Qxh5 Qxa2 18.Bc3 Nf6 19.Qxf7 Qa1+ 20.Kd2 Rxf7 21.Nxf7+ Kg8 22.Rxa1 Kxf7 23.Ne5+ Ke6 24.Nxc6 Ne4+ 25.Ke3 Bb6+ 26.Bd4 1-0

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Chigorin Variation Beats Bulletproof French Defense

Tigran L. Petrosian (ARM) 2605 vs Fabien Libiszewski (FRA) 2488

GAMMA Reykjavik Open 2019 round 09

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 d5 (Stockfish 2…c5) 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. Nc3 Qd8 (SF 4…Qa5) 5. Nf3 c5 6. Ne5 (SF 9 plays 6 b3 Nf6 7 Bb2) Nd7 (SF and Komodo play 6…Bd6 7 g3 Ne7) 7. Nc4 TN Nb6 8. g3 Nxc4 9. Qxc4 Bd7 10. Bg2 Qc8 11. O-O Bc6 12. Ne4 Be7 13. b3 Nf6 14. Bb2 Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Bf6 16. Bxf6 gxf6 17. Rfe1 Bxe4 18. Rxe4 Qc6 19. Rae1 O-O-O 20. d3 h5 21. b4 Rd5 22. b5 Qd6 23. a4 f5 24. Qc3 Rd4 25. Re5 b6 26. a5 h4 27. axb6 axb6 28. Qa3 h3 29. Qa6+ Kd7 30. Rxf5 exf5 31. Qb7+ Qc7 32. Re7+ Kxe7 33. Qxc7+ Kf8 34. Qxb6 Ra4 35. Qd8+ Kg7 36. Qg5+ Kf8 37. Kf1 Rb4 38. b6 Rg8 39. Qxf5 Rb1+ 40. Ke2 Rg6 41. Qxc5+ Kg7 42. Qe5+ Kg8 43. Qf5 1-0
https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2019-reykjavik-open/09-Petrosian_Tigran_L_-Libiszewski_Fabien

Alexander Reprintsev (2374) vs Petr Slavinsky, (2062)

RSHSH Masters Cup 2018 Moscow RUS 05/21/2018

ECO: C00 French, Chigorin variation

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qd8 5.Nf3 c5 6.Ne5 Nd7 7.g3 Nxe5 8.Qxe5 Qd6 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Bxd7+ Qxd7 11.d3 Qc6 12.O-O Nf6 13.Bg5 Bd6 14.Qe2 Be7 15.Rae1 Nd5 16.Bxe7 Nxe7 17.Ne4 O-O 18.f4 Qd5 19.a3 b6 20.Rf2 Rac8 21.Ng5 c4 22.Qe4 g6 23.Qxd5 Nxd5 24.dxc4 Rxc4 25.b3 Rc3 26.Ne4 Re3 27.Rxe3 Nxe3 28.Re2 Nf5 29.Rd2 Rc8 30.c4 a5 31.a4 Rc6 32.Rd7 h6 33.Kf2 Kg7 34.g4 Nh4 35.Kg3 g5 36.fxg5 Ng6 37.gxh6+ Kxh6 38.Rxf7 Ne5 39.Rb7 Nd3 1-0

Yuri S Balashov (2481) vs Oleg Nikolenko,(2526)

ch-Moscow 2013 03/28/2013

ECO: C00 French, Chigorin variation

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.b3 d5 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.Nc3 Qd8 7.Bb2 Nf6 8.g3 Be7 9.Bg2 O-O 10.O-O b6 11.Rfd1 Bb7 12.d4 cxd4 13.Nb5 Qc8 14.Nbxd4 Rd8 15.c4 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 a6 17.Nf5 exf5 18.Qxe7 Bxg2 19.Rxd8+ Qxd8 20.Qxd8+ Rxd8 21.Bxf6 gxf6 22.Kxg2 Rd2 23.Re1 Rxa2 24.Re8+ Kg7 25.Rb8 b5 26.cxb5 axb5 27.Rxb5 Rb2 28.h4 Kg6 29.Kf3 Rc2 30.Ke3 Rb2 31.b4 h5 32.Rb8 f4+ 33.Kf3 fxg3 34.Kxg3 Kf5 35.f3 Kg6 36.b5 Kf5 37.Rb7 Rb1 38.Rb8 Rg1+ 39.Kf2 Rh1 40.Kg3 ½-½

The following game was NOT played in the last round, but in the fifth round. If Chess dies it will be from a billion little cuts like the following “game.”

Gyula Sax (2566) vs Viktor Erdos (2453)

Bizovac Metalis op 12th 02/26/2005

ECO: C00 French, Chigorin variation

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qd8 5.Nf3 c5 6.b3 Nc6 7.Bb2 Nh6 8.O-O-O Nf5 9.Qe4 ½-½

Saidali Iuldachev(2550) vs Evgeny Gleizerov (2539)

Teheran Saipa Cup 2nd 09/21/2004

C00 French, Chigorin variation

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qd8 5.Nf3 c5 6.b3 Nc6 7.Bb2 Nge7 8.Qd3 Qxd3 9.Bxd3 Bd7 10.O-O-O O-O-O 11.Ng5 Ne5 12.Be2 N7g6 13.Nb5 f6 14.Ne4 Nf4 15.Nbc3 Bc6 16.Bf1 f5 17.Ng5 h6 18.Nb5 hxg5 19.Bxe5 Bxb5 20.Bxb5 Nxg2 21.Rhg1 Nh4 22.Rxg5 Nf3 23.Bxg7 Rxh2 24.Rg3 Rxf2 25.Bc4 f4 26.Bxe6+ Kb8 27.Rg4 Bxg7 28.Rxg7 Rfxd2 29.Rxd2 Nxd2 30.Rf7 Rd6 31.Rxf4 ½-½