12th Chess Olympiad: Moscow 1956

<< [ Information || Final A | Final B | Final C || Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 || Statistics ] >>


[ Basic data | Tournament review | Best board results | Best game prizes | Interesting games | Trivia | Books | Missing data ]

Basic data

12th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 31st August - 25th September 1956
City: Moscow, Soviet Union (today's Russia)
Venue: Red Army Central Theatre
Tournament Director: N/A
Chief Arbiters: IA Igor Bondarevsky (URS)
IA Ari Ilmakunnas (FIN)
Teams participating: 34
Players participating: 197 (incl. 20 GMs and 35 IMs)
Games played: 1220 (one 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: MOSCOW 1956
Downloadable game file: 56olm.zip

Tournament review

Thirty-four countries took part in 12th Chess Olympiad held in Moscow, the capital of the state with millions of active chess players and highly developed chess industry. Soviet authorities treated the event most seriously intending to prove superiority of communist regime over rotten West. The event was held with stubbing splendour. The magic barrier of 1,000 games played during one Olympiad was finally broken. We had also seen more than 190 players from all over the world, including exotic newcomers from Mongolia, Puerto Rico, Iran and India, though Sultan Khan might be considered their predecessor. The gigantic Red Army Central Theatre was the venue.

Soviet Union, the title holder, were again strong favourites Their side differed little from that which won at Amsterdam: Keres and Bronstein had changed boards, while Taimanov replaced Kotov. Yugoslavia and Argentina seemed of about same strength, both with 3 GMs in the squad. Czechoslovakia, Hungary and West Germany constituted next group. Such an assessment formed the basis of the seeding for the preliminary groups which were played off from September 1st to 9th. The teams were divided into four groups of 8 and 9 teams. Unlike 1954, three final sections were established. Top three of each qualifying group made for the championship final, teams placed from 4th to 6th place went to final B while the rest were relegated down to bottom "C" section.

USSR were of course 100% favourite for final A place in group 1. Bulgaria were seeded as #2. The battle for last championship final place was supposed to be carried on between Poland, Switzerland and Sweden with veteran GM Ståhlberg on top board. Round first proved to be end of hopes for Poland who were trashed by the Swiss. Since the Poles beat convincingly Sweden in round 2 Switzerland found themselves in excellent outpost for final spurt. Sweden lost to Bulgaria and Poland scored no points vs USSR in round 4 and it was virtually all over as Switzerland and Bulgaria were holding safe, no less than four point advantage over these two. Yugoslavia were bigwigs of group 2, while the rest seemed more or less equal. However the Austrians were in bad form and quickly dropped out of the battle. Denmark started badly, losing to Yugoslavia and dropping valuable two points vs weak France. They recovered soon and accelerated intending to level with Israel and Holland. With two rounds to go they were 1-1½ point behind and they had to face their direct predecessors. In penultimate round Denmark beat Israel levelling on points with the Israeli and Holland were crushed by Yugoslavia, a decisive result as it proved on next day. Israel had easy run facing Scotland whom they beat 3½-½ and were in. Holland had to beat Denmark to go through at a cost of the Danes. Almighty GM Bent Larsen beat Prins after splendid battle and Denmark retained their 3rd position. Less tension we saw in group 3 where Iceland were the only possible contender able to threaten Argentina, West Germany and England. It seemed promising for them since first they mercilessly outscored couple of weaker teams (11/12 record) then drew against West Germany, but round 5 was a nightmare since they lost to Chile by 1-3. They still had some chances since in round 7 they scored 2-2 vs England but the Britons beat Argentina in penultimate round and leveled on points with Iceland. The last round pairing, England-India, Argentina-Iceland gave clear premises about who is going to qualify. Finally in group 4 there were five teams that mattered: Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, the Eastern European favourites followed by East Germany and Colombia. The Colombians drew against Hungary (yes!) and modestly lost to Romania. Belgium were unexpectedly fighting tough, a. o. they beat Philippines and halved with Czechoslovakia. ½-3½ vs Hungary in round 6 cooled down their hopes. East Germany and especially Colombia, who beat Greece 4-0 and then East Germany 3-1, were keeping the pace. Round 8 was decisive as brave Colombians lost after hard battle against Czechoslovakia and were out as well as the Germans who were forfeited by Romania.

The main Olympic final once again comprised of 12 teams, Holland and Sweden were missing this time and Romania were another East European newly emerged side. The Soviets started with impressive 4-0 over England and took the early lead. They were chased by Hungary, Yugoslavia, and most unexpectedly Switzerland. Their first failure was round 4 defeat vs Yugoslavia. Same round brought unforeseen and sensational result since the Hungarians beat USSR by 2½-1½! First ever defeat of Soviet team occurred because of GM Barcza who brought off a neat victory against Smyslov. Hungary and USSR were in joint lead then with 11 points each, Yugoslavia 10½ and Argentina 9½ were most dangerous chasers. USSR barely beat Argentina managing only a single win (Bronstein beat Pilnik) and were caught up by Yugoslavia. The Soviets won back the lead after 7th round because they hammered Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia only halved with Romania, one of tail-enders. Round 9 and 3½ points scored vs Denmark virtually sealed their third consecutive win since their advantage over Yugoslav runners-up increased to 3 points. Hungary were down in 3rd, but fairly safe of their medals. In round 10 when Yugoslavia met USSR they needed huge win and of course failed to manage it. Botvinnik beat Gligorić, the rest were draws. Hungary won and together with Yugoslavia were in joint 2nd place. Hungary and Yugoslavia were playing each other in the last round. Because of superior tie-break (Match Points) Yugoslavia needed just a draw and they did it after fierce and spectacular fight thanks to Matanović who outplayed Barcza in cold blood. Argentina's poor finish did not lower their final placing and they came fourth. Bulgaria, nice surprise, and West Germany were in joint 5th place. The Swiss, heroes of the start came down a peg or two and finished 9th, still excellent achievement for them.

Austria won final B, despite of their pathetic 0-4 start a point ahead of Iceland and Sweden. Those three were dominant, Belgium were leaders of the chasing group and won 4th place (16th overall). Netherlands were greatly disappointed with their 18th position as well as East Germany (20th) and especially Poland (23th, worst ever). The bottom final comprised mainly of newcomers and overseas nations. Philippines won earning narrow margin over Saar in last round. They played only with four players and because of this they could not afford extra rest days. Saar, once again lead by experienced Benker, were quite surprisingly the only team that stayed undefeated throughout the finals. Luxembourg came last for the third time in a row.

The Soviets won another trophy but this time it was not so easy. They lost their first ever match (hadn't Botvinnik saved brilliantly his game vs Szabó it would have been even worse) and couldn't overtake their competitors until penultimate round. But still they won five Best board results, among them three gold. Yugoslavia finally overtook Argentina and won their first silver medal. Gligorić lost as much as three game (out of total 5 lost by the whole team) but altogether he did not let his supporters down. Matanović and Ivkov were well-shaped and scored most wins. Hungary recovered after a few years of slump. Their two GM aces, Szabó and Barcza did what they were expected to do, despite Barcza's late breakdown. Benkő was another player who did well. Argentina were outside the medal zone for the first time after the War. Sanguineti was their best player followed by Pilnik. Najdorf scored 60% but he beat only couple of unknown players and virtually all of his important games ended up in a draw. West Germany had very firm and even team with GM Unzicker again brought on board 1. Fourth place was best determinant of their skills. Bulgaria's 6th place was pleasant surprise, still less than a fact, that Milev and Tringov were pillars of their team. Apart from top six nations other outstanding players were Clarke for England, who did not suffer any defeat and scored 9½/12, Larsen for Denmark, who came first at board 1 and was awarded a GM title for his outstanding result, or young Ghiţescu for Romania (75% and no loss at 1st reserve board). From lower sections Dückstein from Austria has to be mentioned as he won special prize for best individual result at board 2. Ólafsson, future FIDE president achieved 3rd best individual result at board 1 and greatly contributed to Iceland's 14th place. Sweden were disappointed to see themselves down in 15th, despite of presence of GM Ståhlberg in their team. Colombia with Cuéllar and Sánchez were promising side. Holland were missing Euwe and Donner and had to be contented with surprisingly modest place. Poland were even worse and seemed as yet unable to repair the losses caused by the War and live up to their past fame.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Larsen, Bent DEN A 14 18 77.8
2. GM Botvinnik, Mikhail URS A 13 73.1
3. IM Ólafsson, Friðrik ISL B 13 18 72.2

2nd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Dückstein, Andreas AUT B 13 17 76.5
2. GM Matanović, Aleksandar YUG A 11½ 16 71.9
2. GM Barcza, Gedeon HUN A 11½ 16 71.9

3rd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Keres, Paul URS A 12 79.2
2. GM Ivkov, Borislav YUG A 12 16 75.0
3. Möller, Baldur ISL B 11 16 68.8

4th Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Bronstein, David URS A 11 13 84.6
2. Cardoso, Radolfo Tan PHI C 13 17 76.5
3. Tringov, Georgi BUL A 9 12 75.0

1st Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. Sanguineti, Raúl ARG A 9 11 81.8
2. Clarke, Peter Hugh ENG A 12 79.2
3. GM Taimanov, Mark URS A 11 77.3

2nd Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Geller, Efim URS A 10 75.0
2. Ljungqvist, Lennart SWE B 7 10 70.0
3. IM Milev, Zdravko BUL A 9 13 69.2

Best game prizes

Shared prize for best game played in last two rounds.
Dückstein, Andreas (AUT) - Kramer, Haije (NED) 1 - 0
Wexler, Bernardo (ARG) - Enevoldsen, Jens (DEN) 0 - 1

Interesting games

Classical Ruy Lopez attack by Unzicker.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 1 - 0

White recklessly let Black pawn go through.
Bălănel, Ion (ROM) - Szabó, László (HUN) 0 - 1

Very instructive pawn ending.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 1 - 0

Larsen was pushy all the time
but Botvinnik had always been a paragon of defensive skills.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) ½ - ½

Black carried on neat tactical trick but then blundered awfully.
Ólafsson, Friðrik (ISL) - Śliwa, Bogdan (POL) 1 - 0

Pseudo-active Black Queen was in fact out of play.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Golombek, Harry (ENG) 1 - 0

Uhlmann overlooked simple fork in 2.
Śliwa, Bogdan (POL) - Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) 1 - 0

Ultimate mastery in typical, strategic Botvinnik's game.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Ståhlberg, Gideon (SWE) 1 - 0

This time Larsen exaggerated with opening experiments.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Fairhurst, William Albert (SCO) 0 - 1

Black King was hyperactive unlike rest of Black pieces.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 1 - 0

White fell into very basic Ruy Lopez trap.
Dworzyński, Roman (POL) - Keres, Paul (URS) 0 - 1

Unusual routes of both Kings.
Smyslov, Vassily (URS) - Pachman, Luděk (CSR) 1 - 0

Famous Queen sacrifice.
Bolbochán, Julio (ARG) - Pachman, Luděk (CSR) 1 - 0

This excellent game sealed Hungary's sensational win.
Barcza, Gedeon (HUN) - Smyslov, Vassily (URS) 1 - 0

Black took advantage of weakened Kingside.
Barcza, Gedeon (HUN) - Matanović, Aleksandar (YUG) 0 - 1

Never think there is always much time to castle.
Ivkov, Borislav (YUG) - Ingerslev, Age (DEN) 1 - 0

Far-reaching field of fire of pair of White Bishops.
Taimanov, Mark (URS) - Darga, Klaus (GER) 1 - 0

Not the sort of battle one sees every day.
Aloni, Izak (ISR) - Soós, Bela (ROM) 0 - 1

Black got rid of their pawns to clean lines for fire.
Aloni, Izak (ISR) - Bronstein, David (URS) 0 - 1

Black were very confident taking h3 pawn and took it as a pure profit...
Cardoso, Radolfo Tan (PHI) - Thibaut, Georges (BEL) 1 - 0

Beautiful Knight sacrifice gave Bronstein constant pressure.
Bronstein, David (URS) - Rojahn, Ernst (NOR) 1 - 0

Quite inventive methods of attack.
Milner-Barry, Philip Stuart (ENG) - Hänninen, Veikko (FIN) 1 - 0

Surprisingly Black survived immense pressure.
Keres, Paul (URS) - Walther, Edgar (SUI) ½ - ½

Interesting pawn ending worth profound self-analysis.
Golombek, Harry (ENG) - Ólafsson, Friðrik (ISL) ½ - ½

White were 4 pawns ahead but overlooked perpetual check oriented sacrifice.
Dworzyński, Roman (POL) - Dückstein, Andreas (AUT) ½ - ½

Unusual outpost of White Knight.
Safvat, Younus (IRI) - Siaperas, Triantafyllos (GRE) 1 - 0


Dunkelblum was the first man to defend a title of "King of Draws" earned in Amsterdam.


As much as 14 players went throughout the event undefeated.