World Chess Championship

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The World Chess Championship was organized by FIDE in 1948 after all the leading contenders or claimants for the world title died during or immediately after World War II.

The Hague and Moscow saw the first tournament to decide the World Chess Championship. Botvinnik, Keres and Smyslov of the USSR, Euwe of Holland, Reshevsky of the USA, the great masters of the day, played lively, imaginative and highly distinctive games in this historical event. Harry Golombek, personally acquainted with all of the contestants and an opponent of most of them, studied the tournament games closely. He gives all the games with thorough and complete annotations, biographies of the players and a discussion of the theoretical values of the openings used.

There were many controversies concerning this event that are still debated and discussed today. It was a matter of prestige for the Soviet Union that a Soviet player win to prove the superiority of the Soviet system. What raised eyebrows is that Botvinnik defeated Keres by 4-0. Botvinnik was a Jew and while that was a strike against him, Botvinnik was a staunch supporter of Communism. People I have spoken to who knew Botvinnik have said that Botvinnik really believed in Communism and was not faking it. Keres was Estonian and had played for Nazi Occupied Estonia during the war. Therefore, Keres stood likely to be liquidated after the war, as was Latvian grandmaster strength player Vladimir Petrovs.

Did this really happen? Chess grandmaster and journalist Larry Evans wrote several articles in this subject without reaching firm conclusion. The play by Keres in Round 4 seems especially suspicious. See page 162 where Keres made a series of Elementary endgame blunders that any Class A player would have avoided. Had Keres got the normal score of 2-2 rather than 0-4 in those four games, Keres would have been first. Now, play over the games yourself and come to your own conclusions!

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