11th Chess Olympiad: Amsterdam 1954

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Basic data

11th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 4th - 25th September 1954
City: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Venue: Apollohal
Tournament Director: Mr. Alexander Rueb (NED)
Chief Arbiter: IA Milan Vidmar sr (YUG)
Teams participating: 26
Players participating: 149 (incl. 19 GMs and 38 IMs)
Games played: 916 (1 game was forfeited)
Competition format: Two stage four board round robin. Top three from each group qualified to the final.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: AMSTERDAM 1954
Downloadable game file: 54olm.zip

Tournament review

The War and decade afterwards were the time when Argentina emerged as a new force in the chess world. This stimulated the national federation to undertake the organisation of the 11th Olympiad in 1954. Original plan of undertaking the Olympiad in Sao Paulo as a celebration of 400th anniversary of the city collapsed. Argentinians promised to refund the travelling expenses of the European teams which comprise, as usual, the best part of the competitors. With preparations along these lines in progress everywhere the Chess Federation of Argentina stated that growing financial difficulties prevented them from organising the Olympiad. The only problem was, that it all happened only six weeks before the proposed date. It seemed that the great event would fall through, but two days later Holland, a country to which chessplayers are so much indebted, informed the FIDE bureau that they were willing to organise the Olympiad in spite of the short time in which to prepare. This was warmly welcomed.

More that 30 teams applied provisionally of which 26 eventually arrived. USA were top absentees, and this was caused by mundane financial difficulties (luckily no politics involved this time). All other major teams arrived, usually with all of their top players. Soviet team was lead by Olympic newcomer - World Champion Botvinnik. Najdorf was Argentine #1 again as well as Pirc for Yugoslavia, Pachman for Czechoslovakia, Unzicker for West Germany and others. Another future star that was an Olympic newcomer in 1954 was Bent Larsen from Denmark, a team that had already forgotten their amazing achievements of the 20's. The regulations did not differ much from previous events. All the teams were first seeded according to the results of anonymous poll carried on team captains. Again, there were four preliminary sections, and the top three from each went forward to the championship final. Remaining 14 teams played in final B.

The qualifiers started on 4th of September. There were no doubts about who is going to make the finals in group 1. USSR thrashed Finland at the very beginning and Finland seemed to be a shadow of 1952 team. It was only question about Austria and Iceland fighting for third place behind USSR and Holland. Iceland won direct clash 3-1 in round 2 and retained their position with ease. USSR won all matches but a brisk draw vs Holland. The latter were another team to go through qualifying stage without match loss. Group 2 was even more predictable. Argentina, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, the big shots of this section drew all the matches against each other and outplayed Canada, Italy and Ireland. Group 3 brought some exciting results. Among others, we had Yugoslavia, Israel and bunch of Scandinavian teams there. Norway beat Denmark at the start (Larsen suffered his first loss vs Vestøl!) and France put up severe resistance against Yugoslavia earning 1½ point. Sweden went over Norway narrowly in round 2 and Yugoslavia beat Israel by just one point. Denmark-Sweden 2-2 was a top game of round 3 (second consecutive Larsen's defeat!). Round 4 brought one of biggest sensations in the field of history: Yugoslavia lost to Saar!! After this horrible humiliation Yugoslavia were lying in penultimate place with 6½ points, ahead of their conquerors only. Their position was not really that bad since they still had a match in hand. Indeed - they quickly pulled away at the top beating all three Scandinavian nations, Norway, Denmark and Sweden respectively. Denmark lost to Israel and were out, because Sweden drew against Yugoslavia in the last round and earned required two points. In group 4, far behind the shoulders of Hungary and West Germany, surprisingly tough battle went on for championship final spots. England, Switzerland and unexpectedly Colombia were contenders. Although England lost surprisingly to Belgium in round 1 they beat Switzerland on next day and sensationally went over Hungary in round 4. Colombia scraped full two points vs West Germany. England were in third place before last round with 12 points and they had to play Colombia, the contenders, who had 2 points less and superior tie-break. Colombia needed 3-1 win then in order to go through. Switzerland played poor Belgium and they could still dream about championship final in case they would win without losing a single point. Colombia did their best and beat England, but only 2½-1½ and were eliminated. Switzerland dropped decisive one half of a point missing huge chance since they were out because of their inferior tie-break.

In the Championship Final the Soviets were dominant all over the field this time leaving anyone else far behind their shoulders. Hungary drew against Argentina in round 1 and Czechoslovakia earned valuable victory over West Germany. The latter went down to home team by terrifying margin in the consecutive round and Hungary halved points with Bulgaria (no drawn games though). USSR only drew against Israel on next day (Aloni beat Kotov!) and Germany who suffered horrible start took fierce revenge on poor Swedes whom they beat 4-0. Hungary beat Yugoslavia in prestigious battle of round 5. USSR were in the lead with 15 points followed by Yugoslavia and Argentina with 13½ points each, then Czechoslovakia with 12½ points and Holland along with Hungary: both 11. Germany beat Bulgaria surprisingly high and since Argentina lost to USSR by very wide margin the Germans came as close as half of a point behind the medal zone. They soon reached it levelling on points with Yugoslavia who lost in one of most exciting matches of entire Olympiad against USSR, despite Fuderer's neat win over Geller. Argentina were second. Hungary and Czechoslovakia lied in wait for decisive chase. West Germany lost 1-3 vs USSR in next round and fell down the table while Yugoslavia earned psychologically essential win over Argentina. Soviets beat Czechoslovakia in penultimate round but they were happy to score the narrowest win possible. Argentina won 3-1 and Hungary lost badly two games with English team dropping priceless points. Before the last round started USSR were far ahead, Yugoslavia and Argentina were in joint runner-up position, Czechoslovakia were 2 points behind and yet another fraction over Hungary and Germany. Czechoslovakia needed 3½-½ victory over Yugoslavia to take them over and win the medals. It was impossible for them to perform and four-draw match accompanied by Argentina's win over Germany gave the South Americans silver medals (a true mystery is that only decisive game of the match, Bolbochán-Schmid is missing and no one, including the winner, doesn't know the moves!). Gligorić failed to overcome Filip in four-Rook ending and this cost Yugoslavs second place. Same happened in Helsinki when Gligorić barely drew with Böök in last round though Yugoslavia needed a win to overtake Argentina and grab silver medals. Czechoslovakia finished in 4th, still unattainable dream for most nations, and West Germany were lying in 5th. Hungary's 6th place was sort of disappointment and Israeli's 7th place was excellent job judging by their potential.

Switzerland who missed main Olympic final by the skin of their teeth won bottom section convincingly despite of their sensational 1-3 Greek slip up. Austria and Canada came in shared 2nd place ahead of Denmark. These four were far better than the rest, not very surprising given they were four teams that finished 4th in preliminaries missing the finals by not much. Norway, who did so decently in the qualifiers went into pieces and finished 22nd, behind Saar and taking over only three bottom nations, namely Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg who once again came last without a single match won.

Opposite to obscure Helsinki triumph this time USSR were absolutely dominant, from start to the very end. Keres completed unbelievable record of 13 wins and a singe draw making it all-time best ever achieved by a human. They earned an ultimate 7 point advantage over the rest and lost only three games throughout the entire event. Their top 4 stayed undefeated. Argentina lead by reliable Najdorf and Bolbochán, who completed his third consecutive Olympiad undefeated, were happy to see themselves back in second place. Yugoslavs were firm as ever, but once again they were too much prone to avoid loss at any cost thus jacking up number of drawn games. Surprisingly it were their reserves who tugged overall team performance, Fuderer scored 71% and Matanović 72%. Czechoslovak 4th place was respectable and well-deserved success. Pachman and Filip proved most effective players scoring 65% and 70% respectively. Other four players of their team won just 7 games altogether, far too few to dream about better place. West Germany were progressing dynamically with GM Unzicker at to board scoring 66%, the rest were swinging around 50% bar except of 2nd reserve Joppen who finished with impressive 68%. Hungary lied down in a bit disappointing 6th place and Barcza with 12½/16 and individual gold medal was their only top-shaped player. Israeli 7th place was their ever best result, huge surprise and well-deserved achievement. They were lacking consistency though, Czerniak, Oren and Aloni (all of them originating from Poland!) gave excellent performance, while their board 1 Porath ended up with miserable 4½/15 and Kniazer, the reserve player, did not manage a single win. Holland's 8th place cannot be judged bad, although they might have dreamt for more. All players (apart from Cortlever with poor 37%) were lying in decent 55% area. Perhaps something more was expected from GM Euwe and IM Donner, their most promising young star. Iceland reached the championship final but here they were definitely the tail-enders. Anderson for Canada won best individual prize for board 2 performance, but we must frankly add that most of his 82% record was constituted by final B wins (13/14). Nielsen and Larsen for Denmark put in impressive appearance again winning most of their games in the bottom section of the final stage. 72-year-old Ossip Bernstein played on top board for France and scored 50%. Another French player Burstein stayed undefeated and won special prize for best individual result at 2nd reserve board. The Amsterdam event did not bring major changes in world's chess hierarchy. The play had been of a high standard and the competitors took leave of each other in the friendly hope of meeting again at Moscow.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Botvinnik, Mikhail URS A 11 77.3
2. Kupper, Josef SUI B 10 14 71.4
3. IM Larsen, Bent DEN B 13½ 19 71.1

2nd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Anderson, Frank Ross CAN B 14 17 82.4
2. IM Bolbochán, Julio ARG A 11½ 15 76.7
3. GM Smyslov, Vassily URS A 9 12 75.0

3rd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Barcza, Gedeon HUN A 12½ 16 78.1
2. GM Bronstein, David URS A 10½ 14 75.0
3. Nielsen, Palle DEN B 11½ 16 71.9

4th Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Keres, Paul URS A 13½ 14 96.4
2. Bhend, Edwin SUI B 10 13 76.9
3. Scafarelli, Francesco ITA B 12½ 17 73.5

1st Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Geller, Efim URS A 5 7 71.4
2. IM Fuderer, Andrija YUG A 12 70.8
3. Kovács, Zoltan AUT B 9 13 69.2

2nd Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. Burstein, Sylvain FRA B 11 77.3
2. Walther, Edgar SUI B 13 73.1
3. IM Matanović, Aleksandar YUG A 9 72.2

Interesting games

Black greedily took the pawn but at a cost of weakening their dark squares.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Cuéllar Gacharna, Miguel (COL) 1 - 0

Black did not prevent intrusion of White Queen.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Czerniak, Moshe (ISR) 1 - 0

Black made the most of weakened structure of White pawns.
Minev, Nikolay (BUL) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) 0 - 1

Many sophisticated tactical manoeuvres.
Euwe, Machgielis (NED) - Ståhlberg, Gideon (SWE) 1 - 0

According to Pachman the best move of the game was the 26th one (yes!).
Ståhlberg, Gideon (SWE) - Pachman, Luděk (CSR) 0 - 1

Most unexpected but greatly deserved win by White.
Benkner, Otto (SAA) - Yanofsky, Daniel Abraham (CAN) 1 - 0

Botvinnik taking revenge for Groningen 1946 defeat.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) 1 - 0

Enormously strong play by Najdorf.
Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) - Pachman, Luděk (CSR) 1 - 0

A brisk and sharp battle full of tactical swings.
Czerniak, Moshe (ISR) - Neikirch, Oleg (BUL) 1 - 0

Smyslov's endgame play was so simple yet so powerful.
Smyslov, Vassily (URS) - Penrose, Jonathan (ENG) 1 - 0

One of most brilliant and famous Olympic attacks.
Keres, Paul (URS) - Šajtar, Jaroslav (CSR) 1 - 0

Who could stand such long pin?
Weichselbaumer, Ernst (SAA) - Nievergelt, Erwin (SUI) 0 - 1

Modest opening line provoked Black to open their Kingside.
Barcza, Gedeon (HUN) - Prins, Lodewijk (NED) 1 - 0

Once you decide to play Sicilian you need to be aggressive.
Bhend, Edwin (SUI) - Lokvenc, Josef (AUT) 1 - 0

Shortest decisive game of the Olympiad.
Clarke, Peter (ENG) - Jerolim, J. (LUX) 1 - 0

Four Queens on the board after 13th move.
Jóhannsson, Ingi Randver (ISL) - Nilsson, Zandor (SWE) 0 - 1

White Queen facing three minor pieces after colourful play.
Andersen, Borge (DEN) - Fuderer, Andrija (YUG) 0 - 1

"A masterly move, probably the best in Prins' career" -
Euwe on White's 19th move in the tournament book.
Prins, Lodewijk (NED) - Kotov, Alexander (URS) 1 - 0

Famous Olympic oddity. Two Knights vs pawn endgame!
Bobotsov, Milko (BUL) - Bohatirchuk, Fedor (CAN) 1 - 0

Another famous endgame masterpiece. Botvinnik winning Q+P vs Q ending.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Minev, Nikolay (BUL) 1 - 0

White committed couple of minor errors
but this was enough for Botvinnik for neat recovery.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) ½ - ½

Sharp, double-sided Sicilian line with fine ending.
Darga, Klaus (GER) - Barcza, Gedeon (HUN) 0 - 1

Black pieces were hyperactive so no Queen was needed.
Cuéllar Gacharna, Miguel (COL) - Blau, Maximilian (SUI) 0 - 1


Only IM Bent Larsen completed a maximum of 19 games.


Keres' fabulous 96% was best individual result so far. On the contrary Jerolim for Luxembourg scored ½/17 (2,9%) making it worst ever non-zero record. His team-mate Philippe scored 0/11.


The team with most number of points, most number of matches won and most number of games won were Switzerland, final B winners. Of course this is only statistics that says Swiss record was superior. USSR played 12 games less, faced much stronger opposition, scored equal number of points, won equal number of matches and won as much as 40 games.