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Max Euwe vs Vasily Smyslov
FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), The Hague NED / Moscow URS, rd 4, Mar-09
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Chigorin Defense (C98)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: Well, there are many drugs out there now that help with focus, at least over a limited period of time, which is why there should be tests for them in any serious chess competition.

In 1948, I doubt they had anything matching the effects of adderall.

Good ol' caffeine can be considered, however, or even nicotine pills.

Oct-19-10  Hesam7: <Everett: In 1948, I doubt they had anything matching the effects of adderall.>

Are you joking? Adderall is just a combination of various amphetamine salts. Methamphetamine is a more potent relative of amphetamine which was synthesized in 1919, Nazis used it on a wide scale to improve their soldiers performance.

Oct-22-10  acirce: <Well, there are many drugs out there now that help with focus, at least over a limited period of time, which is why there should be tests for them in any serious chess competition.>

Thank you. I'm tired of hearing that doping tests in chess is "nonsense".

Oct-22-10  SugarDom: Nonsense...
Jan-23-13  SirChrislov: 35.e5+?? is an act of tragedy. White could have completed one of the best Ruy Lopezes of the century-exceeded, perhaps, only by Capablanca-Marshall, New York 1918 and Tal-Hjartarson, Reykjavik 1987-if he had found 35.Qf3!, whose threat of 36.Qf5 mate wins in all variations. --Soltis

The game Euwe vs Najdorf, 1953 reminded Max of this game vs Smyslov in which he sac'd two knights brilliantly but ended up losing. "And no one now remembers that game," he said.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Zenchess: What about 35...Be6?
Jul-25-13  marljivi: It looks to me that after 35.Qf3Be6 the move 36.Qf8 wins for white.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: From this position-

click for larger view

Euwe took 45 minutes to decide on


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Now from this position, white to move:

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<"With his Queen en prise, Euwe sacrificed both Knights. The atmosphere was charged with excitement. One teller was so unnerved that he dropped some pieces off a wallboard. Everyone was keyed up as <<<the sacrifices looked so good>>> and yet so impenetrably vague. Then Euwe missed the correct line and Smyslov wriggled out of the mating net. Euwe adjourned in a lost position. The pathos exhibited by the faces of the audience was so visible that even Euwe's face turned red all over. But it was too late.>

-D.A. Yanofsky and H.J. Slavekoorde, "Battle Royal... A Round by Round Account of the Thrilling Contest for the World's Chess Title."

"Chess Life and Review" (April 1948), p.14

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: The career matchup between Smyslov and Euwe is, I believe, the second most lopsided in history: +7 =0 -1 in favor of Smyslov. The most lopsided is Lasker's 3-0 score against Euwe, despite being about 32 1/2 years older than the latter. No wonder that Euwe is commonly thought of as "that guy who became world champion because Alekhine was drunk." Incidentally, before beating Alekhine in 1935, Euwe played many matches against leading players, including Alekhine, losing all of them that I know of.
Oct-04-13  Olavi: <FSR> In 1932 Euwe played two matches with Flohr, +2-2=4 and +1-1=6.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Olavi> Thanks. Incidentally, when I referred to most one-sided matchups in history, I meant to say matchups <between world champions>.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <FSR>

Before 1935, these are the two matches <Euwe> lost to players who were, or who had been, world champion:

Alekhine-Euwe Training Match (1926)

<Euwe> +2 -3 = 5


Capablanca - Euwe (1931)

<Euwe> +0 -2 =8

Oct-05-13  thomastonk: <WCC Editing Project> The Dutch newspapers report 'only' 30 minutes of reflection time for move 17, e.g. and

And here is Euwe's description of his thoughts and oversights:

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <thomastonk>

Interesting. Different reporters, different watches?


I was wondering if you had time/inclination that you might translate the gist of <Euwe's description of his thoughts and oversights>?

I'm sure that would be of general interest, and it would be of particular interest to our project to edit the intro to this event here: Game Collection: WCC: FIDE WCC Tournament 1948

Nov-13-15  offramp: This was Euwe's third game in this World Championship tournament. He had lost in round 1 to Keres and in round 2 to Botvinnik but this game shows that he was not discouraged. He really has Smyslov's number for most of the game but (was he influenced by the home crowd?) he overdoes the sacrifices and loses.

Euwe ended up with just one win - just one teeny-weeny win - in the whole of this long, long tournament.

But IF he had won this game in spectacular fashion, as he could have done, what a boost it would have given him and his supporters! Perhaps the whole tournament might have much closer.

Jul-14-17  andrea volponi: 33 Nexg6! fxg6 -Qg4! Bf7 -e5 Ne7 -h4 Nac6 -h5 Nxd4 -hxg6+ Nxg6 -Bxg6+ Kh8 -cxd4 Bg5
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A tragedy for Euwe that undoubtedly to his collapse over the course of the rest of this World Championship tournament (in which he ended in last place with just one win against thirteen loses and six draw).

A brilliant combination and Queen sacrifice by Euwe on move 33 was followed by a flashy but incorrect follow-up sacrifice on move 34 (perhaps playing to the Dutch crowd) which theoretically turned a win into a loss, and then a careless blunder on move 35 which failed to exploit an error by Smyslov on move 34 which had afforded Euwe a neat way to draw.

As Hans Kmoch said afterward: "Euwe was very unlucky in this game after playing so well. It night have been remembered as a famous brilliancy, no it is only a 'near miss.' "

Also apt with the ending comment by Hans Ree: "...the outcome of this game was a tremendous disillussionment for both Euwe and his thousands of supporters. People went home dejectedly. An inglorious end to a magnificent attack."

Going into this game, Euwe was 0-2 (having lost to Keres and then Botvinnik) while Smyslov was 1-2 (having lost to Keres and drawn with Reshevsky and Botvinnik). Had Euwe won this game and moved to 1-2, perhaps he might have pulled himself together as he did after his awful start at AVRO 1938 and achieved a respectable score (instead of going 1-10-6 as he did for the rest of the tournament).

On the flip side, had Smyslov lost and gone to 1-3, would he have been able to go, as he did, 5-3-8 during the remainder of the tournament end up in 2nd place behind only Botvinnik? Indeed, within five years (i.e., by 1953 and until about 1957) Smyslov became the strongest player in the world.

Smyslov might have become a World Champion anyway, but the lucky result here certainly was a giant step in the right direction.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Be7
6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 0-0

"A silent question: What do you think about Marshall's gambit 8. c3 d5?" (Kmoch)

8. c3

"The silent answer: I don't fear it at all, otherwise I would play 8. h3 or 8. a4 or 8. d4." (Kmoch)

8... d6

"Closing the silent dialogue, indicating that he just to know Euwe's opinion but had no real intention of playing Marshall's line.

9. h3 Na5
10. Bc2 c5
11. d4 Qc7
12. Nbd2

click for larger view

A well-known line and well-known position, giving White a small advantage. The problem with playing this line against Smyslov is that he knew this variation of the Closed Ruy Lopez very well. Indeed, he had reached this same position--as White--in his first round game in this tournament against Reshevsky. As a result, Smyslov was able to play quickly and confidently during the early stage of the game and get a significant lead on the clock. Did this make a difference during crunch time of this game during moves 33-35.

12... Nc6

"The oldest defense in this line." (Keres)

One could debate the respective merits of 12...cxd4 (Reshevsky's move against Smyslov in Round 1); 12...Bd7; or 12...Re8 still doomsday. Suffice it to say that Smyslov was well-prepared and knew exactly what he was doing--(for a while at least).

13. dxc5


The constricting 13. d5 looks best, but the text has its points as well:

"Leads to an open game in which White gains the upper hand by establishing a Knight on d5." (Golombek)

"...White assures himself of a long-term initiative and some attacking chances." (Keres)

But, putting a damper on the above laudatory comments:

"...offers White only one slight chance to get some initiative, namely if he succeeds [in bringing] one of his Knights (ordinarily the Queen Knight) to d5." (Kmoch).

13... dxc5
14. Nf1

The most usual choice here and a standard positional idea for White in the Ruy Lopez. 14. a4 is a good alternative.

14... Be6

Once again the popular line.

"Smyslov's idea here is to bring (his) Queen's Rook into play as soon as possible." (Golombek)

Keres was not impressed:

"After the text-move, White gets time to develop his Knight to e3. 14...Rd8 deserves attention."

Both moves are known and both are reasonable.

After the text (14...Be6), the following well-known position was reached:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

In my comments about the effect of this game on what happened to Euwe in this tournament, I failed to mention that <offramp> made this same observation five years ago on this site (perhaps where I got the notion).

Shame on me.

Back to the game.

15. Ne3

"Stronger than 15. Ng5...when Black is ahead in development." (Golombek)

The text, eyeing d5, is normal here and unquestionably best.

15... Rad8
16. Qe2

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16... g6

A good move that deprives the White Knight of the f5 square and thwarts any possible combinations involving the move Nd5..." (Keres)

16...c4 is usual here. But the text, or 16...h6, are excellent prophylactic alternatives.

17. Ng5

There are disputes as to whether Euwe took 30 or 45 minutes to make this move. White has many decent choices here, including the text. All these options (e.g., the text or 17. a4 or 17. b3 or 17. Bd2) are decent and leave an approximately even position. What White (Euwe) could not afford to do is waste time against a superb theoretician such as Smyslov.

17... Bc8

"In startling contrast to Dr. Euwe's time (1 hour 8 minutes), Smyslov had used only 17 minutes so far, presumably because the opening had been so much discussed in Russian circles of recent years." (Golombek).

The text was surely best:

"17...Nh5 is met by 18. NxB fxN 19. g3!" (Euwe). [In this line, 19. Ng4 and 19. Rd1 are much stronger, but Euwe's basic observation was correct.

After 17...Bc8, the position was:

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18. Bd2

Better was 18. a4 as played by Bobby Fischer in his win against Kalme in the 1958/1959 US Championship and as was played by Smyslov himself in Game 10 of his 1957 match against Botvinnik (which Smyslov drew on his way to the title.

Why prefer 18. a4:

"White cannot hope for n edge by peaceful development and subsequent exchanges on the d-file. Here an attack against Black's somewhat weakened queenside had to be initiated by 18. a4. With this move White would moreover have assured the open a-file for his Rook." (Keres)

18... Kg7

"To set up a strong defensive position by h6 and eventually Ng8." (Golombek).

Keres preferred 18...c4, "threatening an eventual Nd4." In fact, the text, 18...c4, as well as 18...Rd6, 18...Rd7, and 18...Bb7 are all quite playable. The choice is primarily one of style.

19. Rad1

Once again, there are many sensible options. Keres argued for 19. a4, and the retreat with 19. Nf3 all leave the game in the balance.

Thus far, a well-played positional game by both players.

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19... h6

"Here 19...Nd4 20. cxN cxd4 would be a mistake due to the simple replay 21. Nf1 QxB 22. Ne6+ winning the exchange." (Keres)

A rare superficial analysis by the usually brilliant analyst Keres. In Keres' line, Black--though down the exchange for a pawn-- is quite fine after 22...Kg8 23. NxR RxN. The way for White to exploit 19...Nd4 was with 21. Bb3 or 21. Nd5 instead of Keres' 21. Nf1.

But to give Keres his due, he alone provided the key comment on 19...h6:

"...the text-move later turns out to be an unpleasant weakening of Black's king-side. It was better [simply to] play 19...c4."

19...Na5 was also superior to the text.

20. Nf3 Be6

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"White hasn't succeeded in bringing a Knight [to] d5, nor did he get a chance for any other action. The position is even; an early draw can be expected." (Kmoch)

As will be seen, Kmoch's evaluation was much disputed. One thing is for sure given the coming fireworks, an "early draw" is not a good description of what was to follow.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

21. a4

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"Very strongly played. Black is to be pinned down to the defense of the Queen-side before White launches his attack on the other wing."

"The best way to save the attacked pawn." (Kmoch)

"White cannot achieve anything here just by attacking on the King-side, and in order to achieve any considerable success, Black also needs to face problems on the Queen-side. Here the continuation chosen by Euwe is good in all aspects, even though it would have been even better on the 18th move." (Keres)

As the above commentators elucidate, Euwe's move was an excellent means of playing on the Queen-side in order to prepare his key goal: a King-side attack. Perhaps an even stronger move to serve this purpose was 21. b3 (with a4 to follow).

Another reasonable idea was 21. c4 to prevent the move Smyslov might have played next (21...c4).

The game was becoming very complicated and very sharp. The Dutch audience must already have been on the edge of their seats. And the roller-coaster ride in this contest was just beginning.

21... Qb8

"A somewhat careless move. Why let the Queen do a job that can be performed by a Pawn? 21...c4 is better." (Kmoch)

"It is curious that Smyslov still does not make the natural move 21...c4, which...would protect the b5 pawn and secondly clear the important c5 square for the black pieces... The text move is still not a direct mistake, but later causes Black difficulties as White now wins another tempo to prepare the Nd5 sally. It is around this point that the main focus of the game takes place." (Keres)

Keres and Euwe speculated that Smyslov feared playing 21...c4 because of the sacrifice 22. axb5 axb5 23. Nd5?!. But then, as Keres and Euwe note, Black would be better with 23...BxN [much better than 23...NxN] 24. exB Rxd5 and Black has simply won a pawn, since--to quote Keres again--25. Bxh6+ would be a mistake [25. b3 is best but leaves Black much better placed--KEG] KxB 26. RxR NxR 27. Qd2+ Nf4 and now 28. Nxe5 would be a serious mistake [28. g3 would be best--KEG] because of 28...Bg5!.

Golombek correctly stated that 21...bax5 would be inferior, but his suggested line thereafter for White (beginning with 22. Qxa6) is weak. Instead, White would get the better game with 22. Bc1 or with 22. Ra1.

In short, 21...c4 was best, but Smyslov's 21...Qb8 was certainly reasonable. It left the position as follows:

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22. Bc1

Remarkably enough, there does not seem to be any commentary on this move, which was hardly best. Euwe could have gotten some advantage and exploited Smyslov's failure to play 21...c4 with 22. axb5 axb5 23. b3 [or 22. b3 Rfe8 23. axb5 axb5] Rfe8 24. Ra1 leaving White with chances on both sides of the board.

In fairness to Euwe and the many excellent commentators on this game, the text was hardly a true "mistake" and White retained some advantage, the position (after 22. Bc1) now being:

click for larger view

Play to this point had been of the highest order. Smyslov now faced a critical decision. Should he just play for a draw by trading Rooks, or were there dangers afoot that warranted taking other precautions?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

22... RxR


While I agree that this move by Smyslov was not best (22...Rfe8 or 22...Rh8 were better), it was hardly the dreadful blunder many of the commentators say it was. As I will attempt to show, this move had little or nothing to do with the reasons Smyslov found himself in a lost position ten moves later.

But let's hear from the other side (i.e., the majority):

"Black is not aware of any danger. He seems to believe that the draw is a fact already." (Kmoch)

"Black, who was thinking he would simplify the game by exchanging the rooks, is soon forced to conclude that this exchange only hastens the crisis on d5." (Euwe)

"This series of exchanges in itself is not bad for Black, but its execution now is premature. First Black had to protect the b5-pawn sufficiently, so that he would later be able to recapture with his Queen on d8, and thus retain control of the d5-point." (Keres)

Kmoch insisted that 22...b4 is correct. Keres correctly rejected this move, though his analysis is doubtful at points: 22...c4 23. axb5 axb5 [this move given by Keres is playable, but 23...Qxb5 is much better and leads to near equality; and 23...RxR is also superior to Keres' move) 24. Nd5 ["!"--Keres] after which White gets the better of the game after 24...Rh8 [not Keres' weak 24...BxN? (24...NxN, as Keres demonstrates, is even worse) 25. exB Bxe5 26. Nxe5 NxN 27. QxN+ QxQ 28. RxQ after which, to quote Keres "...White wins at least a pawn and obtains winning chances"] 25. NxB NxN 2. RxR RxR 27. Qe3 Neg8 and Black, though having a difficult game, has not lost material and should probably be able to survive.

All of the above, however, is likely beside the point, since--as Keres ultimately and correctly concluded-- Smyslov had a much better way to obtain a near-equal position:

" order to prepare the following exchanges, Black first had to thwart the Nd5 sally by the move 22...Rfe8, then play c5-c4 and only afterwards exchange on d1."

After 22...Rfe8, a possible line (not given by Keres) might be 23. b3 Bf8 24. Nh2 Be7 25. Nhg4 Nxg4 26. Nxg4 c4 after which Black need not fear trading off Rooks.

But let's get back to the actual game after Smyslov's 22...RxR

23. RxR

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23... Rd8

"23...c4 now permits 24. Nd5." (Kmoch)

True, but best for Black here was 23...Na5. The text, however, was not awful.

24. RxR

The position now, with Smyslov yet to recapture, was:

click for larger view

Black has three ways to recapture the Rook. Which is best?

The easiest option to reject is 24...QxR which is "not possible because of the unprotected b5-pawn" (Keres), e.g., 25. axb5 axb5 26. Qxb5 and White should win with his extra pawn.

How about 24...NxR:

"He omits 24...NxR, apparently realizing that 25. Nd5 follows (as Black's King Pawn finally becomes loose)" (Kmoch)

Keres objected to 24...NxR on similar grounds. But is the position then really so bad for Black? I think not: 24...NxR 25. Nd5 (25. Qd2 is probably best for White here though not mentioned by any of the commentators) BxN 26. exB Nxd5 27. Nxe5 Bg5! 28. BxB hxB and Black, despite his doubled g-pawn, is basically OK.

All in all, though, Smyslov probably made the correct decision in playing:

24... BxR

This left the position as:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

25. axb5

Surprising that Euwe failed to play 25. Nd5 immediately. It is even more surprising that none of the commentators mentioned this seemingly obvious possibility.

25... axb5

"Of course if 25...Qxb5 26. Bd3." (Kmoch)

White would indeed be better in that case, but 26. Qd2 or 26. Qd1 would have been stronger yet.

26. Nd5

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"!"--(Golombek)(Kmoch)(Euwe)(Keres)(Wade-Whiteley-Keen- e)

"With this move White achieves his strategic objective, and his advantage is now clear." (Golombek)

"No doubt a surprise for Black who thought this move prevented. It is not only playable but also has a considerable effect. White threatens to win a Pawn by 27. Qe2. He has achieved the better game." (Kmoch)

"With this move White reaches his strategic goal. Black will be unable to capture on d5." (Euwe)

"Finally White takes control of this space with his Knight and obtains the better game." (Keres)

The commentators are surely correct that Euwe had the better game at this point. But the suggestion that this was more than a small edge was simply wrong, as will soon become clear.

26... Ng8

Best. The commentators, however, still (erroneously in my view) see White's position as overwhelming. For example:

"After this retreat the dominating position of the d5-Knoght sedcures White a stable positional advantage." (Keres)

The alternatives were all much worse for Smyslov:

A) If 26...NxN 27. Bxh6+ (27. exN immediately was no better) Kg8 (or 27...KxB 28. exN f5 29. dxB) 28. exN Bxd5 29. Qd1 BxN 30. QxB Qd6 31. Qd3 QxQ 32. BxQ and White with the two Bishops has the better ending.

B) If 26...BxN 27. exB Nxd5 28. Qd2 (better than 28. Be4 Nce7) Nf4 29. h4 and White, though temporarily donw a pawn, has much the better chances.

C) 26...c4 27. Qe3.

After Smyslov's actual 26...Ng8, the position was:

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27. Be3 c4


"Mustard after the meal (as a Dutch proverb says)." (Kmoch)

28. b3


"If one of your pieces penetrates your opponent's position, try to open lones in the neighborhood of that piece." (Kmoch)

"White makes a quick attempt to exploit the currently unfavorable position of the Black pieces." (Euwe)

In fact, the best way to put pressure on the Black position was with the multi-purpose 28. Qd2. Also good, and better than the text, were 28. Bc5 or 28. Qd1.

Fritz and Stockfish disagree on White's best here, but both agree that White has a small edge, but no real advantage with Euwe's actual move (28. b3).

After 28. b3, Black's position was entirely defensible:

click for larger view

As will be seen Smyslov's potentially fatal mistakes had not yet been committed. At this point, it was truly anybody's game (though no one could have anticipated the high drama soon to follow).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

28... Na5

"?"--(Golombek)(Kmoch)(Euwe)(Kmoch)(Wade-Whiteley-Keen- e)

The commentators are unanimous that the text was a bad mistake and the Smyslov should have played 28...cxb3. They are mistaken on both counts. As both Fritz and Stockfish confirm), the text (28,,,Na5) was best and yields near equality while the suggested 28...cxb3 would have been bad and placed Black in jeopardy.

Why did the commentators all get this wrong (apart from the fact that they didn't have the luxury of checking their analysis via computer software)? Probably because they all knew that Smyslov had a lost position within a few moves, so they had to find an error SOMEWHERE. While this conclusion is true enough, Smyslov's 28th moves was not one of the culprits.

The clearest statement for the commentators' critique of 28...Na5 was provided by Keres:

"With this mistake Black loses an important central pawn, and faces a strong king-side attack." (Keres)

It is true that as a result of 28...Na5 Euwe was able to snatch the Black e-pawn and obtain a strong-looking attack formation with Knights on d5 and e5 (and later e5 and f4). But Black obtained a passed b-pawn and--as will be seen--had adequate defensive resources.

As for the suggested 28...cxb3, it leaves Black in trouble following 29. Bxb3. Now, after 29...Nf6 (rightly assigned a "?" by Euwe) White wins with 30. NxN BxB (best but insufficient) 31. Nd7 (much better than 31. Ng4 as given by Euwe and Keres) after which the best Black can obtain is a difficult Queen and Bishop ending a pawn down (e.g., 31...Qd6 32. Qxb5 Qd1+ 33. Kh2 QxN 34. QxB Qd3 35. Qd5 Qxc3 36. Bd2 Qc2 37. Nxe5 NxN 38. QxN+ f6 39. Qd4).

After Smyslov's much (and unfairly) maligned 28...Na5, the position was:

click for larger view

29. Nxe5


"It goes without saying that Black must not capture this piece (29...QxN?? 30. Bd4)." (Euwe)

29... cxb3

"Pawn for pawn. But while the Black passed pawn is still completely harmless, the elimination of the central [White] e5-pawn is the signal for a fierce attack." (Euwe)

30. Bb1

click for larger view

In fact, Smyslov had played well to this point and was--as I will show--perfectly OK.

As the commentators have pointed out, Smyslov had to be on his toes in the above position. 30...QxN?? would lose the Queen to 31. Bd4. (Kmoch). And 30...f6?? would get crushed by 31. Nxg6 (Keres) (if 31...KxN? 32. Nf4+ Kf7 33. Qh5+ Ke7 34. Bc5+ Kd7 35. Qd1+ Kc8 36. NxB Bb6 37. Qd5 and wins) 31...Nc4 32. Ndf4.

Smyslov would probably have been fine with 30...Bf6 31. NxB (f6) NxN 32. Bd4 Nc4.

But best of all for Smyslov was 30...BxN (so much for the vaunted double Knight attack by White) 31. exB Bf6 and Black is in a bit of a shell but secure.

But here Smyslov erred with:

30... Qb7?

But the game was far from lost after this mistake.

31. Bd4!

click for larger view

Euwe now had a frightening-looking attack. But as I will attempt to show, Smyslov should still have been able to defend himself. It took two further errors for Smyslov's position to decline from difficult to lost.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

31... Kh2?

Here all of the commentators on this game appear to have fallen down on the job. The text was a major mistake that put Smyslov in serious jeopardy whereas he could have defanged most of Euwe's attack in its tracks. Yet, not a single commentator I have been able to find faulted 31...Kh2.

Golombek correctly stated that 31...Nf6? would lose to 32. Nf4, but his further analysis of even this variation was flawed (Golombek's 32...Bc4 is lame since it gets crushed by 33. NxB NxN 34. e5), but even after the best try for Black here, 32...Nc6 his chances look grim: 33. NxB+ fxN 34. NxN QxN 35. Qd3.

But all of this is besides the point.

Smyslov's desired to move his King off g7 to avoid a discovered check was certainly understandable, but for now Euwe had no crushing discovered check. Therefore, Black should just cut down the wood with 31...BxN 32. exd5 and then either 32...Bb6 33. Qe4 BxB 34. QxB Nf6 after which Black can likely defend himself since White is down to two minor pieces or, perhaps better still 32...Bf6 after which White's only serious attacking chance, 33. d6, can be addressed wth 33...Nc6.

But after Smyslov's poor 31...Kh7? Euwe's pieces were all poised for the kill:

click for larger view

Now, Euwe would have had excellent attacking chances with 32. f4. But he found an even stronger move:

32. Nf4!

click for larger view

It was here (in what Euwe later called "the critical position" that Smyslov made what should have been the losing move, and which gave Euwe two seemingly surefire ways to win:

32... Bc4??

This lemon--though not criticized by any of the commentators--was simply awful. As will be seen, Euwe's winning lines now all revolve on his ability to move his Queen to g4.

But Smyslov could have avoided all of this and given himself some chances of resistance with 32...Bc8! Now, none of the flashy winning lines the commentators drooled over work. Black's White-square Bishop on c8 holds the fort. The White Knights cannot trade it off, and White's Queen can no longer occupy g4. The only winning chance for White in this position is 33. Ned3 (opening up the diagonal for the White d4 Bishop). But Black is not without resource here (e.g., 33...Bb6). White might still manage to prevail, but it would not have been easy.

By contrast, after Smyslov's actual 32...Bc4, he was a dead duck, as all of the commentators on the game have gone to great lengths to demonstrate, the position now being:

click for larger view

33. Nexg6!

Brilliant play by Euwe which might have earned him a brilliancy prize had he not faltered on his next two moves. Golombek, Euwe, and Keres all report an easier win beginning with 33. Qg4 [<pim> on this site also claims a win with 33. Qg4], but the lines they provide all assume that Smyslov would have responded with 33...Nf6! after which 34. Qg3 is murder. In fact, Smyslov just might have survived after 33. Qg4 with 33...h5!, a move not mentioned in any of the literature on the game.

If there is a win here for White, the sole winning method seems to begin with Euwe' 33. Nexg6!, which left the position as follows:

click for larger view

As is immediately obvious, Smyslov cannot capture the White Queen since 33...BxQ?? runs into 34. Nf8 checkmate.

Thus, Smyslov had no choice, he had to play:

33... fxN

This left:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VIII

Having achieved a winning position through brilliant play, Euwe threw away all his superb work with:

34. Nxg6?

This move has been condemned by everyone who has analyzed the game:

"...quite unsound and based on a hallucination..." (Golombek)

"Too much of a good thing." (Euwe)

"...a gross blunder..." (Keres)

As everyone has recognized, White wins here with 34. Qg4! Black has various ways to respond, all of which ultimately fail:

(A) 34...Qf7? 35. e5! Ne7 and now 36. h4! [and not 36. e6 as suggested by Golombek, Kmoch, Euwe, and Keres which blows the win if Black finds 36...Qg8!;

(B) 34...Bg5? 35. Nxg6!

(C) 34...Bf7 35. e5 Ne7 and now 36. h4! [and not the awful 36. e6? given by the commentators that allows Black to escape with 36...Be8! and forces White to find some problem moves just to draw] Nac6 37. h5 NxB 38. hxg6+ Nxg6 39. BxN+ Kh8 [not 39...BxB 40. QxB+] 40. cxN Bg5 41. e6! Qc6 42. g3 BxB 43. NxB+ Kg7 44. Qf5 Qe8 (forced) 45. Ne5! and White's pawns are too strong.

(D) 34...Ne7 35. e5! Bf7 36. h4! Nac6 37. h5 NxB 38. hxg6+ Nxg6 39. BxN+ Kh8 40. cxN Bg5 and now both 41. e6 and 41. BxB QxB 42. e6 both win.

But the situation was very different after Euwe's over-enthusiastic 34. Nxg6?:

click for larger view

Now Euwe was dead. All Smyslov had to do was play 34...Ne7! and the game would have been over: 35. Nf8+ Kg8 36. Qf3 Nec6 37. Bg6 Qf7 in light of Black's extra piece.

Once again, the commentators all missed this win for Smyslov here, and none of them objected to his actual:

34... KxN?

click for larger view

Now Euwe could have escaped with a draw with 35. Qf3! Be6 36. Qf8 (forced) Kh7 37. QxB Nc6 38. Bf6 Bf5 ["!!"--Euwe] 39. Qd5 Bg6 40. Bd4 after which White's two strong Bishops and two extra pawns balance Smyslov's extra piece.

But here Euwe committed his final mistake and played:

35. e5!

Now, the game was over and Euwe's brilliancy turned into another zero on the tally sheet:

click for larger view

What followed was a sad finale for Euwe:

35... Kf7
36. Qh5+

36. Qg4 was better as Kmoch noted, but it hardly "offered still some chances" as he erroneously stated.

36... Kf8
37. f4

Euwe aptly characterized this move as a "sad acknowledgment that there is nothing left to play for."

37... Bb6

37...Qf7 was an even faster and easier way to finish off the game.

38. Qf5+ Ke7
39. Qh7+ Kd8
40. BxB+

As Euwe noted, 40. QxQ would get crushed with the intermediate move 40...BxB+.

40... QxB+
41. Kh2 Qe3
42. Qf5 Nc6

click for larger view

After seeing this sealed move, Euwe resigned the hopeless struggle.


Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Since Fischer_Kholmov Havana 1965 16..c4 has considered to be the main line and is why 13 dxc is not as popular as it once was. 28..Na5?! looks awfully risky and double-edged - a little unusual for Smyslov. 30..Qb7?! underestimated the potential danger. Keres recommended 30..Bxd5 31 exd..Bf6 with better chances to defend. As <KEG> pointed out Smyslov with 31..Kh7?! and 32..Bc4?! missed some brilliant tactics by Euwe. Perhaps when making the second piece sacrifice with 34 Nxg6? Euwe overlooked that had he played 35 Qg4+..Kf7 36 Qg7+..Ke8 the black queen and the knight were both protected.
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