For the past several years the Russian chess historian Andrey Terekhov has been working on a biography of Vasily Smyslov. The first volume of this work, focused on the beginning of the chess career of the seventh World Chess Champion, will be released in November 2020. This article describes Smyslov’s first major victories in junior and adult tournaments, which took place in 1938. 

In the history of chess Vasily Vasilievich Smyslov (1921-2010) is mostly remembered as the strongest player of the 1950s, one who battled with Mikhail Botvinnik in three consecutive World Championship matches. More recently, in the 1980s, Smyslov surprised the world by making it through the Candidates all the way to the final match with Kasparov at the age of 63.

Today, however, only true connoisseurs of chess history know that in the beginning of his career, in the years immediately preceding the Second World War, Smyslov was a wunderkind of sorts. His swift rise from complete novice to the youngest grandmaster is the stuff of legend. In the 1930s only Paul Keres’s debut on the world stage could rival Smyslov’s pace of growth. Both Keres and Smyslov made their mark as juniors, and both became grandmasters at the age of 21.

1938 was the turning point in the chess career of the future 7th World Champion. At the start of that year, Smyslov had only been playing in official chess tournaments for two and a half years. In that short time span Smyslov had quickly marched through all the stages of the Soviet qualification system, and in the autumn of 1937 he became the youngest first category player in the Soviet Union. Naturally, Smyslov was considered a “promising young talent”, yet no-one could have predicted the quantum leap that he would make in 1938.

1938 Soviet Junior Championship

Smyslov’s first tournament of 1938 started in the very first days of January. On the 2nd of January the national junior championship, which was officially entitled the “Third All-Union Children’s Tournament,” kicked off in Leningrad, at the newly inaugurated chess section of the Palace of Pioneers. It was a bi-annual event, with the first championship organized in 1934, and the second in 1936. It was the last year when Smyslov was eligible to participate, as he graduated from school in the summer of 1938.

The structure of the championship was rather complicated. There were 18 teams representing the largest cities of the Soviet Union, and both personal and team scores were tracked. Each team consisted of four people: a 16/17-year old, a 14/15-year old, a girl chessplayer and a checkers player. (In the 1930s, chess and checkers were “joined at the hip” in the Soviet Union, with events often running side-by-side, and team competitions usually involving both chess and checkers players. 64 covered both chess and checkers until 1941.) All the players were divided into preliminary groups in their respective categories. The winners qualified for the final competition, with their scores from the preliminary group carrying over to the final.

Smyslov represented Moscow, along with Yury Averbakh, who played in the 14/15-year-old category. Exactly 80 years later, Averbakh recalled in the interview for this book (February 12, 2018) that in 1938 he shared a hotel room with Smyslov during the tournament and that they got along well. Smyslov was somewhat patronizing towards the younger and less experienced second category player. Averbakh explained they were in different “weight categories” at the time, both in terms of chess (Smyslov was already a first category player) and even in terms of their physical appearance – there was a 15 centimeter height difference between them at the time (182 for Smyslov, 167 for Averbakh), and so Smyslov called his younger teammate “a tot.”…

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Jan 12, 2017

Inaugural season of the PRO Chess League

More than 400 players (100+ grandmasters), chess fans all over the world, and the whole team at Chess.com are very excited that the inaugural season of the PRO Chess League will launch this Wednesday.

The PRO Chess League pits cities and regions around the globe against one another in fast-paced online play.

With 48 teams from five continents and top players such as World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the PRO Chess League promises to be a spectacular and revolutionary event.

The format of the league, which is an international successor to the U.S. Chess League, is four-vs-four team matches. Each player on a team plays each player on the other team, so a top GM will not only be playing other top GMs, but also lower-rated players. In chess, we call this the Scheveningen system, which is nearly 100 years old, but this is truly a modern event.

World #1 and #2 Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana are among the grandmasters who have signed up for the PRO Chess League.
World #1 and #2 Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana are among the grandmasters who have signed up for the PRO Chess League
The time control is rapid time: 15 minutes for the game, plus two seconds increment per move.

The 48 teams hail from five continents, broken down as follows: 20 teams from the United States, 16 European teams, four Indian teams, three African teams, two Canadian teams, two South American teams and two Asian teams.

Here’s an overview with all teams and their individual members.

PRO Chess League Guide

Source: Chess.com

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Oct 19, 2021

18-year-old Carissa Yip has won her first US Women’s Chess Championship

Carissa Yip has been in incredible form since losing to Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova in Round 5, with five wins in a row leaving her uncatchable going into the final round. Her penultimate round clash with 2-time US Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze looked like a potential stumbling block, with Carissa herself commenting afterwards:  ” I guess it still hasn’t really sunk in, but I’m so happy I can’t stop smiling! I was really surprised to win this game, because I was mostly thinking Nazi is really solid with White, I’ll just probably have to fight it out for a draw, and then tomorrow just try not to lose, so this was really a surprise.”


Until move 21 it looked as though Carissa might be in trouble, with her Modern opening leaving her a shaky position, but a very healthy lead on the clock. That factor may have been decisive when she played the double-edged 21…h5!?, relying on the resource 22.Bxg5 h4! 23.g4 Bxg4! That continuation would have been good for Black, but Carissa realised that if her opponent essentially did nothing the position would still be tough to play.

Instead 22.f4? left White dead in the water.

See also:

  • Official website
  • All the US Championship games with computer analysis: Open | Women   
Jan 25, 2017

Tata Steel 2017, round 9: Magnus strikes back

Magnus Carlsen joked early on in the tournament that “it’s a shame to waste a White on Loek”, but his game with the white pieces against Van Wely came just when he needed it. He bounced straight back after the loss to Rapport and, with all other games drawn, moved back to within half a point of leader Wesley So. The draw included near misses for Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wei Yi and a wild encounter between Dmitry Andreikin and Pavel Eljanov. In the Challengers co-leader Gawain Jones lost to Jeffery Xiong, allowing Ilia Smirin to join Markus Ragger in the lead.

Tuesday was initially billed as the day Magnus Carlsen could lose his no. 1 spot on the live rating list to Fabiano Caruana. It later turned out that results going against him would “merely” have reduced his lead to less than a single rating point, but such calculations were swept aside in a game where Loek van Wely’s aggressive opening choice soon left him fighting only to draw.

The key games at the top in Round 10 will be Harikrishna-Carlsen, Eljanov-Wei Yi and So-Wojtaszek, while Aronian-Rapport looks like one of the most attractive encounters in terms of style.

source chess24