03 February 2010

Collusion and Consequences

One of the small tasks in last week's post about Catching up on Maintenance was to review the earliest Interzonals. This led me to an interesting report from the November 1952 issue of Chess Review (p.323) concerning the 1952 Saltsjobaden Interzonal Tournament, which was the qualifier for the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament:
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.

The two-tiered Soviet dominance is highlighted in the following portion of the 1952 Saltsjobaden page that I just referenced.

Of the ten games played between Soviet opponents, only Taimanov - Averbakh was longer than 22 moves. This apparent collusion had a number of consequences. The Chess Review report continued with the following news item.

Our Stockholm correspondent, Z. Nilsson, reports that a FIDE committee meeting in February [1953] 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 extremely minute [numbers are shown on my page]. The fact, moreover, that Averbach's place completed an all-Russian qualification and puts nine Russians to three non-Russians in the Candidates Tournament, very likely was considered.

I'm not sure why Reshevsky and Euwe were seeded into the 1953 Candidates Tournament, although it makes sense that it was because of their participation in the 1948 FIDE Title Tournament, won by Botvinnik. Chess Review added an item about Reshevsky.

Hermann Helms reports in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that Samuel Reshevsky, declaring the 9-3 setup in favor of Russians is inequitable, is unwilling to play in the 1953 World Championship Candidates Tournament for which he is seeded. He is willing to meet any of the leading Russians in straight match play, as he has done with Najdorf and Gligoric, but his challenge to Paul Keres, the Soviet Champion, has brought no reply so far. It hardly seems possible that the addition of three Candidates (one from Communist Hungary) will alter Reshevsky's stand.

I suspect that the 1952 Interzonal and 1953 Candidates Tournament were the origin of later FIDE rules that limited the number of Soviet players advancing from an Interzonal to a Candidates event. With the goal of documenting the findings on my various pages specific to the results of these events, this is worth further investigation and I'll spend a few future posts on the subject.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

In Bozidar Kazic´s book "International Championship Chess - A complete history of the FIDE events", the author gives the rules for classification to Zurich 1953. I can´t remember these rules now (I don´t touched the book in the last 20 years), but I clearly remember the criteria were explained there.