Chess team: The USSR in the Olympics (I). Discover the story!


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The Soviet chess team…

In the summer of 1952, there was much nervousness in the Soviet chess team. The Kremlin had announced that they were seriously considering their participation for the first time, in the Olympics. (Not only in chess, as the same year, also took place the Olympic Games in Helsinki).

Hence, many undiscovered intrigues, mini-assemblies, rumors and secrets were on the aisles.

Finally, the highest spheres had confirmed on the decision – the USSR will be in Helsinki.

Once the western world became aware that the Soviets had decided “to acknowledge” the existence of the capitalist countries, the political analysts were asking themselves this was just an overlapped initiative in search of peace, that part in theory that was always threatened by any possible outbreak in tension.

And it had been like that. The objective of the Soviets was much more humble. To show the world that their athletes and in particular their chess players were the best. They were looking for prestige and respect. The respect was the fear on the part of their enemies.

Based on that decision, began the selection phase and preparations.

However, the final decision of the Kremlin gave rise to an unpleasant internal discussion in the selection phase.

Let us reminisce on the sports facts.

In the 19th USSR Championship (Moscow, 10.11-14.12.1951), Keres brought triumph (with 12 points), followed by Geller and Petrosian with 11.5, and Smyslov with 11. Botvinnik only ended in fifth place with 10 points.

Botvinick…

After the match for the World Championship with Bronstein, this has been the only tournament disputed by Botvinnik, who participated again in the international tournament in Budapest in 1952. His performance in the Hungarian city was very anodyne and uninspired. As he could only draw in 3th place with Stahlberg and Smyslov, losing two games (before Geller and O’Kelly). Two brief matches of training with Smyslov (in which he lost, 1,5-2,5). And with Kan (winning, 1-5-0,5) did not clear up the doubts.

As he was already 40, many started to wonder if the champion had started its age.

When the Soviet participation in Helsinki was officially confirmed, Botvinnik was reluctant about his participation in the Olympics due to the tight playing program. He was also very annoyed as the other members of the chess team did not support his position on the participation, but on the contrary, they “seemed” to wish his absence. The sports leaders were also curious if that first and special debut of the national soviet chess team in the official competition was the right occasion to trust their first board to a champion that shaky…


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