World Chess Championship 1948

The 1948 World Chess Championship was a quintuple round-robin tournament played to determine the new World Chess Champion following the death of the previous champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946. The tournament marked the passing of control of the championship title to FIDE, the International Chess Federation which had been formed in 1924. Mikhail Botvinnik won the five-player championship tournament, beginning the era of Soviet domination of international chess that would last over twenty years without interruption.

World Chess Championship 1948
USSR stamp marking the World Chess Championship
LocationThe Hague, Netherlands and Moscow, Soviet Union
Dates2 March – 17 May 1948
Competitors5 from 3 nations
Winning score14 points of 20
Soviet Union Mikhail Botvinnik
← 1937
1951 →
A Soviet stamp dedicated to the World Chess Championship 1948, showing the House of the Unions where it was held.

Interregnum edit

Previously, a new World Champion had won the title by defeating the former champion in a match. Alekhine's death created an interregnum (gap between reigns) that made the normal procedure impossible. The situation was very confusing, with many respected players and commentators offering different solutions. FIDE found it very difficult to organise the early discussions on how to resolve the interregnum due to problems with money, communication and travel (for example, World War II prevented many countries from sending representatives – most notably the Soviet Union). The shortage of clear information resulted in otherwise responsible magazines publishing rumors and speculation, which only made the situation more baffling.[1] See interregnum of World Chess Champions for more details.

The eventual solution was very similar to FIDE's initial proposal and to a proposal put forward by the Soviet Union. The 1938 AVRO tournament was used as the basis for the 1948 Championship Tournament. The AVRO tournament had brought together the eight players who were, by general acclamation, the best players in the world at the time. Two of the participants at AVRO – Alekhine and former world champion José Raúl Capablanca – had died; but FIDE decided that the other six participants at AVRO would play a quadruple round robin tournament. These players were: ex-champion Max Euwe (from the Netherlands); Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres and Salo Flohr (from the Soviet Union); and Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky (from the USA).

The proposal was modified slightly, in that the Soviet Union was allowed to replace Flohr with Vasily Smyslov, a young player who had emerged during the World War II years and was obviously stronger. Reuben Fine elected not to play, for reasons which are not totally clear (see Reuben Fine#1948 World Championship). There was a proposal that he should be replaced with Miguel Najdorf,[2] but in the end the tournament was played with only five players, and as a five-cycle round robin.[1]

Championship edit

Before the tournament, Botvinnik was considered the favourite because of his victory at Groningen 1946 and his pre-war results. Keres and Reshevsky were veterans of international competition. Although Euwe was the former world champion, he had played poorly since Groningen. Smyslov was not well known in the West, as he had only appeared in two international competitions: a third-place finish at Groningen and shared second at Warsaw 1947.[3]

The Soviets brought a large contingent of about twenty-one including the players Botvinnik, Keres, and Smyslov; their seconds Viacheslav Ragozin, Alexander Tolush, and Vladimir Alatortsev respectively; correspondents Igor Bondarevsky, Salo Flohr, and Andor Lilienthal; member of the adjudication committee Alexander Kotov; leader of the group Postnikov; a private doctor from Moscow; and Botvinnik's wife and young daughter.[4] The U.S. delegation numbered one person—Reshevsky traveled alone and Lodewijk Prins was obtained at the last moment to be his second. Theo van Scheltinga served as Euwe's second.[3]

The tournament was played partly in The Hague (from March 2–25), and partly in Moscow (from April 11 to May 17).

Mikhail Botvinnik, winner of the 1948 world championship

Botvinnik (36 years old) became the sixth World Chess Champion by winning the tournament convincingly with 14 points out of 20. He also had a plus score against all the other players. Smyslov came second with 11 points, just ahead of Keres and Reshevsky on 10½. Former champion Euwe was in bad form, and finished last with 4 out of 20.[5]

Scores edit

Cumulative Scores by Leg (5 rounds)
Player Rd 5 Rd 10 Rd 15 Rd 20 Rd 25
  Mikhail Botvinnik (USSR) 6 9 12 14
  Vasily Smyslov (USSR) 2 4 11
  Paul Keres (USSR) 2 4 10½
  Samuel Reshevsky (USA) 6 10½
  Max Euwe (NED) 0 3 4
1948 FIDE World Championship Crosstable
Player Botvinnik Smyslov Keres Reshevsky Euwe Points
  Mikhail Botvinnik (USSR) ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 0 1 ½ 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 14
  Vasily Smyslov (USSR) ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 1 1 11
  Paul Keres (USSR) 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 10½
  Samuel Reshevsky (USA) 0 ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 10½
  Max Euwe (NED) 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 4

Controversy edit

Since Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik in the 1948 World Championship Tournament, and then won the fifth game only when Botvinnik was already settled as the winner of the tournament, suspicions are sometimes raised that Keres was forced to "throw" games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship.

Chess historian Taylor Kingston investigated all the available evidence and arguments, and concluded that: Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship; Botvinnik only discovered this about halfway through the tournament and protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials; Keres probably did not deliberately lose games to Botvinnik or anyone else in the tournament.[6][7] Kingston published a further article,[8] after the publication of further evidence, which he summarizes in his third article. In a subsequent two-part interview with Kingston, Soviet grandmaster and official Yuri Averbakh said that: Stalin would not have given orders that Keres should lose to Botvinnik; Smyslov would probably have been the candidate most preferred by officials (he was a Russian Gentile while Botvinnik was Jewish, at a time of rising antisemitism among the Soviet elite);[9] Keres was under severe psychological stress as a result of the multiple invasions of his home country, Estonia, and of his subsequent treatment by Soviet officials up to late 1946; and Keres was less tough mentally than his rivals.[10][11]

Keres told Bent Larsen in private that the rumours were false and he lost fair and square to Botvinnik (J.Aagaard).[full citation needed]

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b Winter, E. (2003–2004). "Interregnum". Chess History Center.
  2. ^ From Morphy to Fischer, Israel Horowitz, Batsford, 1973
  3. ^ a b Horowitz 1973, p. 121
  4. ^ Yanofsky et al. 1988, pp. 368, 376 and Horowitz 1973, p. 121
  5. ^ 1948 FIDE Title Tournament, Mark Weeks' Chess Pages
  6. ^ Kingston, T. (1998). "The Keres–Botvinnik Case: A Survey of the Evidence – Part I" (PDF). The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  7. ^ Kingston, T. (1998). "The Keres–Botvinnik Case: A Survey of the Evidence – Part II" (PDF). The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  8. ^ Kingston, T. (2001). "The Keres–Botvinnik Case Revisited: A Further Survey of the Evidence" (PDF). The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  9. ^ "Paul Keres vs Mikhail Botvinnik (1948) Too Big To Fail".
  10. ^ Kingston, T. (2002). "Yuri Averbakh: An Interview with History – Part 1" (PDF). The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  11. ^ Kingston, T. (2002). "Yuri Averbakh: An Interview with History – Part 2" (PDF). The Chess Cafe. Retrieved 15 September 2008.

References edit