Mar 29, 2010

Seventh World Champion: Vassily Smyslov (1921-2010)

Smyslov was never one of my favorite players. Like the masses, I was drawn to Tal and Fischer growing up. My regard for Smyslov, however, has increased with each year that I've been a chessplayer, and I suspect that the event of his passing will not affect that. Foremost, he reached his peak as a chess champion at a time when chess was clearly dominated by the many great players of the Soviet Union. No easy feat. In addition, he defeated Botvinnik for the world championship when Botvinnik was near his prime. And while Botvinnik was likely the only player who ever really had Smyslov's number (+7), Smyslov had a plus score against Botvinnik when counting only their large number of world championship games. Considering everything, it's a little surprising that Smyslov was world champion for only a year.

Smyslov played a highly positional game, deeply worthy of being copied. With that in mind, I can recommend:

It's particularly well-suited to reading with just a chessboard and no computer.

Below, in keeping with one of the opening themes of this site, Smyslov scores against the variation of the Semi-Slav bearing his chief rival's name. Rest in peace.

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